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.

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.)

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.

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.

The shutter button.

The viewfinder is small and a bit finicky to use, but it works.

The slot where the film is ejected after you take a photo.

The exposure options dial.

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 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.

Images and product information from Amazon PA-API were last updated on 2020-02-29 at 07:28. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon Site at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.

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  • I'd dig instant camera - if it wasn't:

    a) so ridiculously expensive cost per photo

    b) produced decent size photos (atleast as big as old Polaroids)

    As it is it's just cheaper to run Canon's portable photo printer... sure it doesn't have the cool factor of Polaroid-like form factor but it does the job while not draining your wallet.

    • Yeah, I was recently looking at the options for a full-sized Polaroid like the 600 series. The cameras are easy to pick up, either old used one or new third-party revival versions, but the film is very expensive. I think it's great that someone has at least started manufacturing the film again, but the price per shot is very steep.

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