When I was a child, I remember when my family got a Polaroid SX-70. Launched in 1972, it was revolutionary and ground-breaking – the fact that you could take a picture and within seconds, have a “print out” of the photo in your hands. Even today, you can find photographers using the SX-70. But smartphones and digital cameras overtook the popularity of the instant camera. Suddenly people were snapping photos, storing them, and then printing them out on their printers at home. But these types of instant cameras are coming back in style. Fujifilm introduced a line of cameras that mirror the functionality of instantly printable photos. But it’s the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 that caught my attention for one main reason: it was a blending of the “old” and the “new.”
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 has a classic look but is filled with modern technology. The thing about smartphones and digital cameras is that you can literally take hundreds of photos and choose the best one. And, you can manipulate them using filters and other digital controls. With a single-shot, instant camera like the Instax Mini 90, you simply don’t have that. And that is part of the attraction of amateur and young photographers. You have to frame and compose the photo first in your mind, and then do the same through the viewfinder. Once you push the shutter button, that’s it. There is no going back to “fix” it or change it in any way. And, unlike digital photos, you can only share the photo with one person and that sharing is physical. No copies, not posting to social media (unless you take a digital picture of the Instax Mini 90 picture), and if you lose the photo, it’s lost forever.
I’d like to return to the “classic” look of the Instax Mini 90. Fujifilm actually calls it the NEO CLASSIC and for good reason. It could hide in plain sight with antiques. In fact, it is dramatically different from its more playful and colorful sibling, the Instax Mini 8 (which comes in Raspberry, Grape, White, Pink, Blue, Yellow and Black colors). There is even an Instax mini HELLO KITTY version. In contrast, the Instax Mini 90 comes in only two “classic” colors: black and brown.
All of the Instax cameras use Fujifilm Instax Color Film, which honestly isn’t that cheap so choose your photos wisely. The picture size is 2 inches by 3 inches (62mm x 46mm), which is dramatically smaller than the original SX-70 sizes which were 3.1 inches by 3.1 inches. The Instax Color Film comes in packs of 10 prints, meaning you insert the film pack into the Instax Mini 90 and you have 10 shots available. When you take a photo, the print ejects from the camera.
Watching an instant photo develop is part of its magic. When the print spits out of the camera, it is initially white but as time passes, the image magically comes into focus and colors come out. After about ten minutes, the image is fully developed and permanent. Personally, I found the print size to be pretty small, but my daughters who have used the Instax Mini 90 as well as the Instax Mini 8 seem to not notice the small print size. This is “new” technology for them, despite it being something that was around long before they were born.
One nice features of the Instax Mini 90, apart from the classic look and feel are the modes. Using the dial on the lens (or a button on the back which I found to be more convenient) and viewing your selection on a discreet LCD screen on the back, you can choose a variety of shooting modes, specifically:
- Party – This mode lights up the background of the image, ensuring that more is captured in the image.
- “Kids” – Children rarely sit still, especially for pictures. This mode allows the photographer to capture fast-moving children, even when the lighting is not perfect.
- Landscape – This mode sets the focus deep, so that objects in the distance can be more easily seen in focus. According to the specifications, this mode handles 3 meters to infinity.
- Macro – Want to get a close up? This mode is for you. Specs says this is good for 0.3 meters to 0.6 meters.
- Normal – This is where most of your shots will most likely happen and it is good for 0.6 meters to 3 meters ideally.
- Adjust Brightness – With this mode, you have the ability to lighten or darken the face of person you are taking a picture of. (You can also use the built-in flash.)
- Bulb Exposure – If you are in a particularly darkly lit room, you can use this mode to open the shutter up for up to 10 seconds. You can manually hold down the shutter button to enable streaks of light (think about headlights of cars driving down the road) or bringing up the lighting in a dark room.
- Double-exposure – If you really want to be creative, you can superimpose one image on top of another. This mode is truly for the artist in you.
The Instax Mini 90 also has a rechargeable battery with a charger that you plug into the plug. It is tripod mountable, which is quite handy.
You turn it on via a switch on the front. Even this is classic in its look. It’s round with a knob and you rotate it down to turn it on or off.
There is a built-in flash (which also has red-eye reduction). It’s an automatic flash with the ability to adjust the brightness. And you can force it to go off if you want it do.
The lens folds in and out when the camera is turned off and on. It has a focal length of 60mm, F=12.7. That pretty much means that the lens will reproduce what your eye sees, not including the peripheral vision. The shutter speed is electronically programmed, 1.8 – 1/400 second, but as I mentioned, in bulb mode, you can manually hold the shutter open for up to 10 seconds. The Instax Mini 90 has an ISO800 with manual lightening and darkening modes.
The LCD uses icons to show a variety of settings or options including the remaining shots, if the camera is in Macro mode, if the self-timer is on (yes, you can have a countdown timer to get yourself in the shot), flash on/off, brightness indicator, and mode display.
The camera is very light weight, mostly due to the plastic body. It’s big enough for larger hands (like mine) but works fine with kids. There is a shoulder strap that you can attach which has the camera hang sideways. My daughter actually asked that I remove the strap to try to keep it more classic looking.
So how does it shoot? Quite well, actually. The viewfinder is a bit hard to look through but it is a real image finder. You have to get used to NOT seeing the image on a large screen. There is an impulse to just point and shoot. Part of this is due to users being used to digital camera and the abundance of storage. Given that each film pack holds only ten photos, you have to be selective in what you choose to take a photo of.
My daughter and I tried a few different modes including the Macro, Landscape and Multiple Exposure. Selecting the mode via pushing the button on the back was easy enough.
I recommend for outdoor shots, having good lighting (e.g., more sun than not). This helps to bring out the colors. As we took photos and got the instant results, my daughter kept saying “this is so cool” as the magic of the film processing took place in front of her eyes. We were particularly proud of her multiple exposure shot (which she actually shared on Instagram):
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 NEO CLASSIC retails for $199 and you can currently get it on Amazon for about $139. Film for the camera has a list price of about $60 for a pack of 10 (which equates to $6/photo so shoot wisely). But you can get the film for less money if you shop around (currently on Amazon for $39.50.)
If you have a photographer in your midst, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 is definitely a fun addition to any photographer equipment. And it’s truly fun for kids who don’t know about this new/old technology. It makes the photographic process just a bit more creative, forcing the photographer to uses their eyes and creative brain for composition well before the shutter is clicked. While it is a bit difficult to do much experimentation, simply due to the cost of the film, this can actually be a good thing as it forces photographers to slow down and think before madly shooting away.
Disclosure Text : I have a material connection because I received a gift or sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period. All opinions within this article are my own. More information can be found in my About page.
HTD says: The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 is a classic-looking instant camera that brings old film printing technology back to the present in a fun and creative way.