A Time Before Digital- and a Fujifilm Instax Camera Review

When you think about the twentieth century it is mind boggling how much has changed.

My grandmother was born in 1912 and traveled by covered wagon from Texas to Arizona when the dust bowl and Great Depression drove her family from home.  85 years later it was possible for her granddaughter to meet, be courted by and marry a man from another continent.  The likelihood of such an event happening to a girl from a poor family and a boy from a moderate middle-income family in any other century is astronomically low.

Various relatives including the round face and blonde head of my Grampie at the end of the row.

Various relatives including the round face and blonde head of my Grampie at the end of the row.

When in Nevada we went to the California Trail Interpretive Center.  Seriously- if you are ever near Elko NV you must, must, must visit the site- it is a spectacular historical center and a highlight of our trip! Our children looked at the covered wagons as a mode of transportation so out moded it bordered on ancient history.  For K. E. and J. to understand that their Great Grammie- who held their hands, kissed their cheeks and played Uno with them- had lived in one for a time was a breath taking moment of historical clarity.

My own life time has changed so much.  I grew up in a world where phone calls were saved up and dialed out on a rotary phone at home on Saturdays because that’s when calls were free, to have traveled on an airplane within the USA was exotic, and photographs were treasured possessions which showed you as the camera saw you.  Each and every photograph was saved regardless of a little blurriness or your double chins!

The Original Polaroid. 1982. Visiting with my Grammie in Floresville TX.

The Original Polaroid. 1982. Visiting with my Grammie in Floresville TX.

I am a self confessed Luddite.  I will happily avoid most modern technological wonders but digital photography  I love. To be able to capture any and every moment you choose- to view it again as a by stander.  I find that spectacular!

BUT… I cannot escape my basic desire to have a photograph in my hand.  To hold the edges with care, press the glossy (or as I prefer Matte) paper onto a sticky surface and slick the clear sheet over it.  What child didn’t paw through their family albums searching faces for their own familiar smile, grimace or dumb look?  What adult doesn’t still scan a page for themselves before acknowledging the stranger faces in the frame?

SweetLittleWood. Instax Mini 8 review


When I first started yearning for the physical manifestation of the moment I did a lot of research into instant cameras because I knew there was an old Polaroid camera available to me for free. Like most family I know there is  usually one in someones attic!  I learned that yes you could still get film and some of the cameras would take modern Fujifilm cartridges.  But it was:

1: very expensive

2: a risk in terms of the quality- it might not actually work. You might fork a huge amount of money out on vintage film and it may turn out the packet is off and every photo is a dud.

So I started to look at other options and I found Fujifilm Instax.  There are other options like the Holga which has an old school appeal but by far the most accessible are the Instax cameras.

So here is my low down on the Fujifilm Instax cameras I have.

Instax 210- wide film instant camera

  • User friendly camera- certainly easier than the Mini 8.
  • Cheaper than other instant options like Polaroid and Holga- often on sale through Amazon.
  • Wide photos are like the vintage Polaroids you remember.
  • Poor light adjustment features- be prepared to waste some film figuring it out. Not good indoors.
  • Not cheap film and the film is less accessible than the mini.  Each photo cost approximately $.80 -$.85 if you buy your film carefully.  I don’t see the film around a lot so I always order it from Amazon.
  • It is big. Really big.  People laugh when you pull it out. But it is also really light.
SweetLittleWood. Instax 210 review

210 prints: neither camera gives really crisp photos- it just comes with the territory. The photos  from the top left in clockwise direction were taken in : cloud, bright cloud, evening light, and midday sun.

 Instax Mini 8- small print instant camera

  • Very self explanatory settings but less strait forward than 210
  • Cheaper again than 210 and other instant options. You can pick this thing up for $40 – $50 on amazon.
  • Little photos are charming and totally fun.
  • Less easy to use- it has a highlighted lighting selection which requires constant attention and isn’t always right in it’s assessment of the light levels. Good in any light if you get it right.
  • Each photo costs $.70- $.75 so over all cheaper than 210 but still not very cheap when you can go through a pack of 10 in no time.
  • Its cute and there are some great cases available for this camera.  So totally portable and it has a cool vibe not to be laughed at!
Instax mini 8.

Instax mini 8. Taken in the car with flash.

Instax Mini 8 print

Instax Mini 8 print. Taken in the car no flash.

 Always when I pull out my camera and the photo rises from the little slot at the top there are gasps and people want to see and know more.  It is an addictive hobby taking photos of complete strangers just to give them the moment!  This summer we went to a country music festival in Santa Rosa and a Marine (I think) proposed on stage.  M. (who thinks quick) grabbed my 210 ran to the stage and snapped a photo of the couple.  He handed it to a security guard who took it to the couple as they had their photos taken by other people- family, radio stations the paper and such.  When the lady got the photo her face transformed from happy to totally ecstatic.  That simple photo in the hand gave the moment  a spectacular tangible memory.  That is magic.  Modern instant magic.

Instax 210 print.

Instax 210 print. Taken outside in bright sun.

All in all I have loved both cameras. Given  a choice of buying one or the other I would go for the Mini 8 over the 210.  I thought I wouldn’t like the small prints but they are totally my favorite.  I hate the light adjustment settings but they give a more versatile camera that out performs the 210 in that respect.  I had planned on selling my 210 to fund my next Instax adventure because I really want to try the Neo-Classic (that will be my next birthday money splurge when I can get it at a good price) but it went to a good home already!

I hope someone finds all that useful and may all your photography dreams come true!


Luddite Jo

2 thoughts on “A Time Before Digital- and a Fujifilm Instax Camera Review

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