Instant Moments

Photographs, eh, he asked him knowingly?
       —Monty Python's Flying Circus

Last Christmas I gifted myself a Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic instant film camera. It's a plastic lens camera that shoots Polaroid photos the size of a credit card. The camera has a few creative controls, though nothing mind-blowing. You can increase and decrease EV units a little; set your focus to macro, standard, or landscape; toggle the flash; take long exposures in bulb mode (note there's no input for a remote or cable shutter release); and you can even make multiple exposure images. The Mini 90 doesn't take fantastic photographs in any technical sense.1 The lens is soft, the viewfinder may cover significantly more or less of the image plane depending on the mode setting, and the film itself is neither fast nor sharp.

All that said, it's an extremely fun camera. Over the last year, I've become hooked on instant photography. The medium is free from the fuss and process of digital. An image can't be cropped or straightened. The horizon is straight, or it isn't. The contrast and sharpness are whatever they are. There are no filters. A cartridge only holds 10 exposures, with each frame costing about 63 cents. It adds up. One considers carefully before working the scene. There's only a single copy of each image. You can't make duplicates or share them on Instagram and Facebook because a scan of an Instax2 is decidedly not an Instax.

Nobody cares about them either, these photographic anachronisms, which is a blessing. There are no great Instax photographers of history to compare myself against. I won't be having a gallery showing of my Polaroids any time soon—nobody would expect me to have one, either! And I never ever get asked why I work in computers3 when I have such a gift for taking Polaroids4. I can relax and have fun. It's nice.


  1. The image above is not an instant photo. It was taken with what's left of my Nikon D7000, a wonderful digital camera body, which has seen a lot of miles. I'll have to retire it soon. That will be a sad day.
  2. Fujifilm's instant film line is called Instax. I prefer it over Polaroid's similar line of products (Polaroid being more of a household name). I think Fuji's colors are richer than Polaroid 300, so I mostly use Fujifilm film.
  3. I like my job and think computer programming is fun. It's a great way to make a good living, but it's a living. If I could make the same loot working in an art supply store or taking care of aquarium fishes, I'd rather do that, but I can't make ends meet with those jobs. I've tried. Conversely, if you shake a computer hard enough, money falls out and spills all over your shoes. Programming is a great compromise in every sense.
  4. I have numerous talents and various gifts falling by the wayside and wasted. I have no doubt you have some too. Neither of us owes the world anything. The World has been trying to kill us since we were born.

Paul by Big Thief

Big Thief - Paul