The Instax Mini Instant Film Camera – The Best-Selling Camera You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Its image quality is so-so, and it uses something you might have thought was extinct: instant film. But the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 sure is fun.

FujiFilm Instax Mini 8 Camera
Text & Photos By David Coleman
Last Revised & Updated:
Filed Under: Instant Cameras, Reviews
Topics: Fujifilm

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Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, Cobalt Blue
  • New selfie mirror; Auto power off time: 5 min
  • New macro lens adapter for close ups 35 centimeter to 50 centimeter; Shutter speed: 1 per 60 sec
NB: Since I originally posted this review, Fujifilm has released a new model: the Instax Mini 9. It’s very similar but adds some new colors and a handful of new features like a selfie mirror and a close-up lens attachment.

Fujifilm has become known in recent years for making some of the best high-end digital mirrorless cameras on the market. They have excellent optics, top-notch features, and superb image quality. But what may be their best-selling range of cameras has next to nothing in common with those. And they even use, um, film.

Their Instax range has become more than a fringe novelty item. If you look up the best-selling cameras on Amazon, for example, they take out most of the top 10 or so spots, above the GoPros and the Nikon D3400. Polaroid must really be kicking themselves for missing this one—it’s the kind of camera Polaroid made famous, but this isn’t a Polaroid camera, it’s one by FujiFilm. (Polaroid does have something quite similar, the Polaroid Snap, but it hasn’t caught on in the same way.)

FujiFilm Instax Mini 8 Camera

The image quality is so-so, there’s room for improvement in the usability, and it’s bigger than you might expect and won’t fit in your pocket. But reviewing these with an eye on any of the usual concerns like image quality is rather missing the point. These are designed to be fun.

I’d never used one of these before but was curious about them. So we gave one to our 4-year-old for his birthday, which would also give me the chance to sneak in some time with it. In short, he’s had a blast. Once we showed him how to line up the viewfinder and push the shutter, he was off. He puts quite a lot of thought into the photos, and with a surprisingly high success rate, he’s built up a collection of fun photos of the kinds of thing a 4-year-old cares about like family and friends and pets.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, Cobalt Blue
  • New selfie mirror; Auto power off time: 5 min
  • New macro lens adapter for close ups 35 centimeter to 50 centimeter; Shutter speed: 1 per 60 sec
The controls are about as basic as can be. To turn it on and off, a light push makes the lens pop out. You can rotate a dial around the lens for some different settings such as for cloudy or sunny conditions, although that might well be overkill for some users. It’s fixed focus, so you don’t have to mess with that. And the built-in flash fires automatically.

After you take a photo, the film starts pushing out of the top. And exactly like the old Polaroid film, you have to wait a minute or so as the image gradually appears. That’s definitely an element of delayed gratification, but it’s just as well spraying the shutter too quickly chews through film in a hurry.

Want to post it to Instagram or Facebook? Good luck with that. You will literally have to take a photo of the photo. But that’s kind of missing the point–there’s something about each photo’s uniqueness that adds to the appeal. It’s a one-off, and that makes it special. And it’s a real throwback to be able to hold it in your hand.

FujiFilm Instax Mini 8 Camera
The shutter button.
FujiFilm Instax Mini 8 Camera
The viewfinder is small and a bit finicky to use, but it works.
FujiFilm Instax Mini 8 Camera
The slot where the film is ejected after you take a photo.
FujiFilm Instax Mini 8 Camera
The exposure options dial.
FujiFilm Instax Mini 8 Camera
The back door open for inserting the film cartridge.

FujiFilm Instax Mini 8 Film

These cameras have a dedicated kind of film: Instax Mini Instant Film, which you can by at Amazon. They come in packs of 10 shots, so it’s worth picking up a few boxes. I’ve found that the bundle packs often present good value, and it’s handy to have spares on hand.

The film is ISO 800, so is usable under flexible lighting conditions. The size of each piece of film is about 3.4 x 2.1 inches (8.6 x 5.4 cm). Like the old Polaroid film, though, a good chunk of that is taken up with white border frame. The actual image window is 2.4 x 1.8 inches (6.2 x 4.6 cm).

It comes out to around 75 cents per photo for the basic film, and you can buy it in bulk.

You can also get versions will all sorts of cutesy frames in place of the usual white, including rainbows, stripes, or stars, if those are more your style. Something that might appeal more is that there’s a monochrome film version for classic black and white.

Sere are some examples:

FUJIFILM Instax Mini Monochrome Film - 10 Exposures
  • Country Of Origin : Japan
  • Expands The Potential For Artistic, Fashion And Street Photography
Fujifilm Instax Film, Airmail
  • Includes 10-frame, instax Airmail film.
  • Each frame looks like a classic airmail envelope.
Fujifilm Instax Mini Candy Pop Film - 10 Exposures
  • Includes 10-frame, instax Candy Pop film.
  • Fun polkadot frame
Fujifilm Instax Mini Black Film - 10 Exposures
  • Black border film to help fuel your creativity
  • 10 Exposure film pack
Fujifilm Instax Mini Instant Film (10 Sheets, Finding Dory)
  • Designed for use with Fujifilm instax mini series cameras
  • Image size: 6.2cm x 4.6cm

Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Film Camera Accessories

The most important accessory for this camera is the film, but if you’re so inclined, you can accessories your Instax Mini in all sorts of ways. Many of them seem to be aimed at kids, but you can also get things like understated retro cases.

Wrap Up

This isn’t an ordinary camera, and it can’t really be compared with all that much on the market these days. And yet is has become an unlikely best-seller.

Having used it and seeing it being used, it’s undeniably fun. It’s simple enough for a 4-year-old, and they’re just as much fun for grown-ups. They’re also very popular at wedding receptions–they’re often put on the tables for the guests to help themselves with taking photos. And they’re a fun gift idea.

You’ll find a huge range of different colors, the film, and accessories on Amazon.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera - Ice Blue, 2.7x4.7x4.6 (Instax Mini...
  • Takes 2 AA batteries; Picture size 62 x 46 millimeter; Viewfinder real image finder, 0.37x, with target...
  • New selfie mirror, shutter speed: 1 per 60 sec
Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, Flamingo Pink
  • New selfie mirror; Auto power off time: 5 minutes; Constant firing flash (automatic light adjustment);...
  • New macro lens adapter for close ups 35 centimeters to 50 centimeters; Shutter speed: 1/60 seconds
Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, Cobalt Blue
  • New selfie mirror; Auto power off time: 5 min
  • New macro lens adapter for close ups 35 centimeter to 50 centimeter; Shutter speed: 1 per 60 sec
Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, Lime Green
  • New Selfie Mirror, Picture size: 2.4 X 1.8 Inches
  • New Macro Lens adapter for close-ups - 35cm to 50cm
Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, Smokey White
  • Takes 2 AA batteries
  • New selfie mirror; Picture size: 62 x 46 millimeter and shutter speed 1 per 60 seconds (fixed), the flash...

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Text & Photos by David Coleman

I'm a professional photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. I've been shooting for 30+ years, and my my photos and time-lapse videos have appeared in a bunch of different publications from major newspapers to magazines and books, billboards, TV shows, professional sports stadiums, museums, and even massive architectural scrims covering world-famous buildings while they're being renovated. You can see some of my travel photography here and here.