FUJIFILM INSTAX Mini 90 Neo Classic Instant Film Camera review
Cameras have two purposes for me, one is a tool for work, and the second one is an item to have fun with. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic is definitely a camera to have fun with. I usually carry the camera with me where ever I go, including work but I never use it for work, just behind the scene stuff and to have some fun with my friends.
I had seen other Fuji Instax cameras before but they seemed kinda plastic like and more targeted towards young kids or girls so I never paid much attention to them until Fuji announced the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. This looked more like a camera to me, and it promised to have to ability to control the exposure somewhat. The previous Fuji Instax cameras were all just point and shoot, but this was so much more appealing to me. I ordered one as soon as it became available and I have been using it for many years now.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic camera looks very retro and fits in the design philosophy that Fujifilm started with when they released the Fujifilm X100 and it looks and feels very similar in some regards but it not constructed as well as the Fujifilm X100 camera series. The camera is made completely out of plastic, but it doesn’t feel like a toy though. I have used the camera for a few years now, it has traveled with me to hundreds of music festivals, too many countries and although it has gotten a few scratched, it still works perfectly and looks good. It is a well-made camera that would survive the daily rough and tough tussle of normal use.
The camera is pretty basic, it comes with a 60mm lens, that extends a lot when you switch it on. That means when the camera is off, it is compact but it is much larger when you have the camera turned on. On the top plate of the camera, you will find the shutter button and a single camera lug to attach a camera strap. I ordered a 3rd party camera strap for it. The one that camera came with the camera did not suit it in my opinion.
The right-hand side of the camera is the single trip mount on the camera, it is made of plastic, like the rest of the camera but I have never used it. Luckily the camera is not very heavy so the tripod mount should not take too much stress if you use it. I generally hate plastic tripod mounts though, because it is so easy to cross thread the tripod mount if you are not careful though. But for me, this is a handheld camera only.
The front of the camera is dominated by the lens, the flash, viewfinder and the power switch which acts as a second shutter button. The shutter button is also nice and reflective so you can use it if you want to take a selfie with some friends. I have used it before it works pretty well
The back of the camera is the most complex part of the camera, it has 5 buttons to control the camera and the exposure, the battery compartment and the film latch to open up the camera and insert new film. Like most plastic cameras, the buttons are a little spongey and feels like the buttons on a cheap TV remote controller, but they get the job done. This is not an expensive camera, so you cannot expect beautiful tactile buttons to be included with the camera.
To access the battery is really easy, simply pull down on the catch on the battery compartment and it will slip off, exposing the rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The battery is really small but does last for a long, long time. I have only recharged the battery around 8 times in 3 years. It just seems to keep on going, no matter how much you use the camera. Really impressive battery performance on this camera.
The battery does recharge slowly though. It generally takes a couple of hours for the battery to recharge so make sure you charge the battery ahead of time, as this is not something you can rush.
The camera opens up by pulling down the latch on the left-hand side, exposing the internals of the camera.
Installing film into the camera is very easy, once the camera is open, take the new film cartridge out of the protective foil-like paper and line up the yellow color marking on the film cartridge to the yellow marker inside the camera and push the cartridge into the camera. Close the camera up and turn it on. It will automatically eject the film cartridge cover and you will be ready to shoot.
Shooting the camera is really easy, as it is just a glorified point and shoot an instant camera with some basic controls. The viewfinder on this camera is tiny, and it can sometimes be hard to see clearly through it. If you are used to using a DSLR, then the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic viewfinder on the this is about 1/4 the size of those cameras.
The viewfinder is also on the side of the camera, which means that when you are composing any shots that are close to the camera, you have to compensate for parallax errors. Unfortunately, there are no parallax error corrections in the viewfinder, so you are left trying to guess where to compose and you can be very wrong.
The big difference between the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic and the other Fujifilm Instax cameras is that you are supposed to have more controls with the camera. The LCD screen at the back of the camera will display the number of shots left in the film canister and the battery life. To the right of the LCD screen, there are 5 buttons that are supposed to give you more control of the camera. The first button we will look at the button right at the bottom of the camera with the flower on it. This is the macro mode and it is will make the lens change a little. It is supposed to allow the lens to focus on objects a little closer to the camera but with all macro shots, parallax errors will be a huge problem. I have had huge problems trying to get shots in focus when using the macro mode and I generally don’t try and shoot anything to close to the camera now.
The next bottom from the bottom is a type of exposure compensation, you have two levels of darkening and one level of brightening the image. I am not sure that they equal one stop of light, but they do help a little. I would guess that each press of the dark setting is half a stop of light, so it is not the greatest control but it does help. But if you are shooting into strong bright light, even if you are setting it to shoot as dark as possible, then it is still possible to overexpose the image.
Above the exposure control button, there is the self-timer button. I have never used it so I cannot give you any information about it.
The camera can take some nice photos if the exposure is correct. The small photo that the camera will produce seems sharp enough, but it is really hard to judge how sharp the image is though as the overall size of the picture is so small. The biggest problems with focus will only occur when you are trying to shoot something really close and you will run into parallax errors with this as well. But if you are shooting portraits of landscape type shots, you will never run into any kind of focus problems.
The flash can work well indoors and in the dark but you have to be close to your subject. The flash is not very powerful and if you are shooting anything from more than 1 meter away, you will not get even coverage with the light.
There are basically two types of film that you can buy. The first is a color film that can include many different types of borders, from plain white to crazy patterns. The second is a black and white film, which sounded really appealing to me, as I love black and white photography but the film is really expensive and I seldom use it now.
The film that comes with the camera does not seem to be the fastest(I guess it is around iso 800) and the lens seems to be stopped down to F8, so you really need to shoot the camera in good light to get the best out of it. I have a few examples of photos being really underexposed and it really wasn’t that dark outside. If the lens was faster or you had more control of the camera and you could change the aperture or shutter speed, then the film would be ok to shoot in darker locations.
I have really enjoyed my time with this camera. It is a great ice-breaker at work, I usually end up giving a lot of the photos that I take with the camera away but it helps me build rapport with the crowds at work or with the artists that I am shooting. It is great at bars with friends, and the most important thing is that it is fun to go back to old photos and look at them. Having something tangible in your hands is always more fun that swiping past photos on your computer or phones. I have since bought a couple of the basic models of the Instax cameras and gave them to friends to play with. The only downside to this camera is the cost of the film. It can get a little expensive especially if you want to shoot some of the black and white film. It is much cheaper to shoot 35mm or 120film than to use Instax film but those film formats are not nearly instantly viewable and you don’t get to look at the photo and laugh or interact with people at that moment. This is a camera for the moment, shoot it and enjoy the process. It is not about capturing the magic, it is about experiencing the magic.
- Small and light.
- Good battery life.
- Fun to use
- Some exposure control
- Film can get a little expensive
- Limit film types, basically color and black and white.
- Close focus and parallax errors
- The viewfinder is tiny and sometimes hard to try and compose a shot.