If you like film photography, but developing your own film is an unattainable height, instant cameras are a great compromise. In the past couple of years, instant photography has regained its former glory, with more and more companies releasing their own instant cameras. Fujifilm’s Polaroid and Instax are still the most affordable and popular brands. Let’s figure out together how to choose such a camera and which brand suits you best.
Film Instax vs Polaroid
The most important aspect that anyone who decides to take up instant photography should pay attention to is choosing the right film. The choice of the camera fades into the background.
Instax film is very different from Polaroid film: both the production technology and the chemical formula are different, and the shooting process and the final results depend on them. Therefore, the picture that you plan to get is determined precisely by the characteristics of the film, and not by the camera.
The first thing that separates Polaroid and Instax is the size and format of the photo. Modern Polaroid cameras use a single unique photo size in a square format, while Instax offers three different sizes/formats (mini, wide and square). The square version of Instax photos is slightly smaller than a standard Polaroid, while the wide version is about the same surface area as a Polaroid.
Instax photo sizes:
- Mini (mini): 4.6 cm x 6.2 cm
- Square (square): 6.2 cm x 6.2 cm
- Wide (wide): 9.9 cm x 6.2 cm
Universal photo size of modern Polaroid cameras (i‑Type and 600):
You’re buying a camera that can only shoot in one format, and you can’t use another format film in the same camera. So what size and format of photo you want will determine which camera options you need to look out for.
Film handling and picture quality
Image quality is a subjective matter for instant photography, and choosing between Polaroid and Instax film is up to your taste. Some people prefer the vintage, slightly faded Polaroid picture, while others prefer the sharper, clearer Instax picture.
There are several main differences in working with these brands.
First, Polaroid film needs a little more light compared to Instax. While both films are generally very light sensitive (cameras often come with a built-in full-time flash), Instax captures ambient light better. This is proven by their ISO (film speed) ratings: the higher the ISO, the more sensitive the film. Polaroid has ISO 640, Instax has ISO 800.
Secondly, Polaroid film requires more attention. The film must be used within a year from the date of production, and it must be stored in the refrigerator. There are also features of operation — if you shoot on a Polaroid in the cold, the pictures may turn out with a bluish tint. In addition, some users report that photos are easily overexposed at high temperatures.
Instax film has neither operating features nor strict storage conditions. There are only a couple of recommendations: it is better to keep the film in a cool place (but not in the refrigerator) and not expose it to heat.
The third aspect is related to the quality of the picture. Again, this is a subjective parameter, and if your opinion does not coincide with the opinion of the author of the article, this is normal.
Visually, Instax film produces a wider dynamic range with dark shadows and bright highlights. At the same time, photographs taken in different conditions do not differ much in quality from each other — everything is quite consistent.
Polaroid shots have a special character — the colors are warmer and the shadows are less harsh. At the same time, specific Polaroid artifacts sometimes appear on the cards: loss of colors in the lower parts of the photo or traces of unevenly distributed chemicals. Some users really love these little imperfections that make photos unique.
Instax film develops much faster — it takes 1–2 minutes to fully develop, while Polaroid takes 15–30 minutes (although this has a special twist).
Instax film is cheaper than Polaroid. This can be partly explained by the size of the photographs.
For example, a Polaroid Original Color I‑type Film cassette for 8 shots costs 2,290 rubles. A Fujifilm Instax Wide cartridge for 20 shots can be purchased for 1,790 rubles.
Instax vs Polaroid cameras
At first glance, it seems that the choice of cameras is huge, but in fact, the models are very similar, both within the same brand and between them.
Conventionally, all models can be divided into entry-level and advanced cameras.
Entry level instant cameras
These models are designed primarily for entertainment. You can start shooting immediately, without having any knowledge. Focusing in the cameras is automatic, and the flash is always on.
The feature of instant cameras is colorful designs from retro to bright caramel shades. You can find a model that will reflect your style.
For each film type, we recommend the following entry-level models:
— Instax mini: Instax Mini 11
— Instax square: Instax SQ1
— Instax wide: Instax Wide 300
— Polaroid i‑Type: Polaroid Now
All cameras on the list have autofocus, so you can simply point and shoot without worrying about settings. All but the Instax Wide 300 have a timer that can be used for group shots.
Any of them is suitable for everyday use. If you are not too fond of experimenting with controls and settings, but just want to please yourself and your friends with commemorative cards, we recommend taking one of them.
The lightest and budget choice would be Instax Mini 11 (6940 rubles). This is a simple automatic camera that uses the cheapest mini film to create photos about the size of a bank card. There is a built-in flash. The camera automatically calculates the exposure, so you don’t have to think about the settings.
The camera has a mirror on the front panel, and the minimum focusing distance is 30 cm, so this is not a bad selfie camera. The device runs on two AA batteries. This is a basic and as simple as possible camera for entertainment with a very budget film.
The initial Polaroid camera is not so budget (14,990 rubles), but it can do a lot of interesting things. For example, it has a built-in double exposure mode, which is not found on any of the entry-level Instax cameras.
The Polaroid Now camera is equipped with a system with two lenses with different focal lengths — portrait and standard (the camera selects the lens automatically, depending on the distance of the object. Similar technology in smartphones).
The brightness of the flash is adjusted automatically depending on the light level and the shooting distance. If you are shooting in good lighting, the flash can be turned off. Polaroid has a built-in battery, so you don’t have to worry about batteries.
If it is important for you to control how the final shots will look, cameras with a large number of settings and controls are made for you. Although Instax has models with more features, the clear winner in this category is the Polaroid OneStep+.
Polaroid OneStep+ can be controlled remotely via Bluetooth from your smartphone. It’s the only camera with true full manual mode — you can adjust aperture and shutter speed through the app. The application also allows you to create double exposures, automatically release the shutter at loud sounds (an interesting feature for parties), work in light painting mode (light painting — for example, you can “draw” something with a flashlight beam), and set a self-timer. Like the Polaroid Now, the OneStep+ comes with two lenses.
The model will cost 20 thousand rubles. This is a great option for experimental film photography: not only do you get Polaroid film with all its artefacts and unique looks, but you also get the ability to manually adjust all settings.
The closest alternatives from Instax, but without Bluetooth and manual mode, are Instax Mini 90 (12 thousand rubles) and Instax SQ6 (11 thousand rubles). Both models have a double exposure mode, dark and light shooting modes (reduces and increases exposure), the ability to turn off the flash, dual lenses and a timer.
Instax Mini 90 allows you to select one of the special modes (“Kids”, “Party”, “Landscape” and “Long exposure” for night shooting from a tripod). There is a macro mode that works on objects located at a distance of less than 60 cm from the lens.
The Instax SQ6 has macro, selfie, and landscape modes, but no long exposure mode. The camera comes with three flash filters (orange, purple and green) for creative effects. Compared to Polaroid, you will have less room to experiment, but you will get predictably sharp and contrasty images.
In general, advanced models are better suited for various art projects. So if you’re interested in film photography, but don’t want to develop, this is a good solution.
Film features are the most basic thing that distinguishes instant cameras of various brands from each other. While most instant cameras available today are very similar, there are a few options to consider when choosing.
For beginners, it is better to start with Instax cameras — the film and the cameras themselves are cheaper. If you need a camera for fun and taking pictures for memory, Instax Mini 11 will be perhaps the most versatile option.
If you have big plans for film photography and need a real creative tool for your art projects, then Polaroid OneStep+ is your option.
* when preparing the article, materials from the resource medium.com were used