I've always had a bit of a drawing to instant cameras. Growing up my parents had a Polaroid OneStep Instamatic camera. We used it a lot for family events as it was just easier to use than having to load a film camera and then go and get them developed and prints made.
Digital cameras have made the process of getting images a lot easier than they were in the past, and sharing them lightning fast. There is something about an analog process that is still appealing to many of us. Probably part nostalgia, part simplicity of process. Everyone has a different motivation and I've not the degree in psychology or sociology to get into that kind of discussion.
I own a few instant cameras, of which I've already reviewed the Diana f+ with Instant Back. You can read about my thoughts on that camera, if you wish. That camera looks like the images below.
Diana f+ images © Lomography
I've used the Fuji Instax 210 before, and while it does a decent job it does not have the manual capabilities that a photographer might desire. After doing much research, I settled on 2 options, the Lomography Belair X6-12(review coming on that soon as well) and the Lomography Lomo'Instant WIDE.
So lets dive into the lomo'Instant WIDE world for a while! Please note, I am not going to compare the Fuji Wide cameras versus this. Plenty of other internet reviews already doing that. My only comment for people is going to be this. If you just want to press a button and get an Instax Wide print, no fuss, no muss - get the Fuji. If you are a photographer that likes to experiment, loves tinkering with exposures and having more granular controls - Get the LOMO.
I picked up a used camera in white. Not my optimal camera color, but I'm not one that lets camera color get in the way of a good deal. You should see my m43 cameras. Mostly black bodies and silver lenses because I got better deals on the silver versions.
Lomo'Instant WIDE images © Lomography
Here is the front of the camera:
Across the top, the flash unit. This has slots on it that will accept supplied colored gels. This is not an option that I really use, but it is nice to have there.
Right next to the flash unit is the exposure meters.
Now, going down between the viewfinder and the flash unit is a black switch. This is your shutter release.
The silver ball between the shutter release and the lens unit is the "selfie mirror".
Then, you have the lens. Focus is a manual zone focus. You twist a ring to change from 0.6m, 1-2m, and 3-infinity. A small bump on the side of lens unit is a PC sync port in case you want to use this camera with flash units, you can trigger them that way. There is no hot shoe on this camera.
The top of the camera is where the film ejects and is the only feature there.
Moving to image right is the rear view of the viewfinder.
Below that we have the flash controls. The flash can be manually controlled to fire or not. One light lets you know if the capacitor is charged, the light is red when charging and green when ready to fire.
Next down is the "MX" button which stands for multiple exposure. The number of multiple exposures is unlimited!
+1, 0, -1 are for your exposure compensation settings.
Under that, we have the power switch. The switch in the position you see is the OFF setting. The "A" is auto mode, which gives the camera all the control over the exposure, "B" is bulb mode, and 1/30 is used when you are wanting to add in external flash.
Just to the left of the power switch is the film exposure counter.
The Lomo'Instant WIDE is powered by 4 AA batteries. This is great as they are cheap, plentiful and easy to find.
Oh, and lets not forget to mention the lens cap. The lens cap is not just a lens cap, it is also a remote shutter release and a bulb setting trigger! Pretty cool!
The attached lens is a 35mm equivalent lens( to a 135 film size camera) which means it is a 90mm on a medium format camera. Aperture ranges are either f/8 or f/22 and these are all controlled via the camera. Auto shutter speeds are 8s to 1/250 of a second, the 1/30 for flash use and bulb.
The filter thread is 49mm. You can also get a macro and wide angle adapter lens for this camera. The macro gets you down to 0.1m
IQHonestly, its pretty good for what it is. I'll just let the images speak for themselves below. As with any lomography style camera or film, you need to determine if this is an aesthetic and style that is right for you and the subject you are shooting.
Handling/Weight/SizeBecause of the size of the negative and the film itself, this is a big camera. I've read/watched quite a few reviews about people not liking the lack of a grip like is on the Fuji 210 or 300. I don't really care. I'm not one that uses one hand to shoot anyway, so I'm always supporting the camera underneath with one hand and then triggering the shutter with my other. I also use a strap of some kind as well.
The shutter button is right where you'd want it to be and all the controls are on the back. The thumb of my right hand crosses over the buttons and gives additional support. I've so far had no problems with accidentally hitting a setting button. Others have had some issue with that.
I like the mechanical focusing mechanism. Not a whole lot is going to go wrong with that and the power is not going to camera operation other than metering and ejecting the film.
Personal preference on the viewfinder - a lot of people do not like having the camera obscure the face. I fall into the camp of - I don't care. I can drop the camera for a few seconds and talk to someone if I need to which is no different that working with my digital cameras. What might be of interest to left eyed shooters though is that the viewfinder is on the right side, so your head position is on the opposite side of almost every other rangefinder styled camera out there.
One struggle since moving to a mirrorless kit for a lot of my every day carry needs is finding a place in my bag for this camera. It can be done, but it is not an after thought like being able to take the Digital Holga. Some pre-planning is going to be required!
|This one was a little over exposed. :D|
I'm generally not a fan of zone focusing on my digital cameras. In that world, I use auto focus most of the time. This camera does not live in that world. With the stock lens, you are looking at 0.6m for close up portraits, 1-2m for mid range shots and 3m-infinity for far away shots. My biggest issue is remembering to change the focus distance manually. The viewfinder is not connected in anyway to the view you see through the lens, so I've been known to snap a pic and then realize that I had the focus set to 1-2m or infinity instead. Like this selfie image below. Had the camera set to 1-2m. Oops! lol
ConclusionAs has been mentioned before - lomography, lo-fi, "vintage" type stuff is not for everyone. I love it and love using it from time to time. It is fun for a lot of people and I'm using it professionally and in my private shooting.
Is it worth the higher price tag over the Fuji equivalent? Only you can answer that. For me, I required the flexibility of the Lomo. If Fuji released a WIDE camera that had the controls/features more in line with the Neo Classic 90 - it would have been a more difficult decision.
There are great things coming for instant film. Fuji has released black and white mini/wide film and they just released a square format film and camera as well.
Look out in the future for more reviews for the instant cameras like the Polaroid Sun600 with Impossible Project film, Fuji Neo Classic 90 and we will also review the Fuji Instax SP-1 printer!!!!!!!!!!