7 Mistakes People Make When Choosing an Instant Camera
1. You should know which film type the camera uses
There are two companies that make instant films: Polaroid and Fujifilm. No, they are not compatible with each other.
Among the same brand, some films are interchangeable. For example, a Polaroid SX-70 can use both Polaroid 600 and 100 film, as long as the camera is modernized or modded. Most of the time though, it’s just one film type for one camera.
So when you’re selecting a camera, make sure you know which film type the camera uses. Not all instant images look the same. Fujifilm looks more realistic, while Polaroid renders a more dreamy artistic feel. They also come in different sizes and color borders. Most film types have both color and B&W versions.
2. What you’re shooting matters
Are you shooting group photos? If you are, Instax mini might be too small. Shooting close-up? Then you might want to use a camera with a close-up lens or a small minimum distance.
Of course, there is no definite answer, since photography is a creative process. The film is just the medium of expression, and you probably won’t be using the camera on a single occasion. Think of what you’ll be shooting the most. I’ve noticed that most photographers have a predominant style of photography. Be true to yourself, and ask yourself what it is.
Usually, the more versatile the camera is, the more desirable it is to photographers (and usually the most expensive!). The Polaroid SX-70 is well-known for its versatility, capable of close-ups to portraits to landscape. No wonder it is so sought after.
3. Film size is a factor
Have you ever bought something online thinking it was a certain size, just to find out it wasn’t what you expected when it arrived? We’ve all been there. Sizes are deceiving, especially if it’s a square or rectangular frame. When you look at a Polaroid frame on Google Images, there is no comparison, and it’s hard to tell the actual size of the film.
The frame might look big, but is actually smaller than it is in real life. Or it might look tiny, but is actually bigger than you expect it to be. If you’re shopping online, you might want to take out a ruler and draw the actual size out on a piece of paper. This will help you make a sound judgement.
4. Where you’re shooting matters too
Location affects lighting, and the lighting affects your choice of gear. Especially if you’re shooting indoors, make sure the camera has a flash. If you’re shooting under bright sunlight, a neutral-density (ND) filter might be required for some cameras. Here’s a short table for your reference.
Fujifilm Instax ISO800 (high, sensitive to light)
Polaroid ISO600/640 (high, sensitive to light)
Polaroid ISO100/125 (low, insensitive to light)
5. Film accessibility
Is it easy to get film in your area? Once you start shooting, you’ll need to refill your arsenal of film. Luckily these days, instant film is quite accessible everywhere as long as you have an internet connection.
6. Don’t forget about the size of the camera
If you’re buying an instant camera, chances are, you’ll be carrying your camera with you. Unless you’re using it only for studio shots or a photobooth, otherwise you’ll be putting it in your bag or hanging it around your neck. You don’t want to be hanging a heavy brick around your neck!
7. The resale value of the camera
Last but not least, you might want to consider the resale value of your camera. Vintage cameras like the SX-70 have a decent resale value because of its rarity and collectible nature. On the other hand, if you’re buying a toy instant camera like a Fuji Instax 8 or 9, expect the scrap value to be zero.
Some people even consider owning vintage Polaroids an investment. For example, prices have actually been going up steadily for the SX-70. The value of an ordinary SX-70 has risen 2-3x in the past 10 years. Although the past does not predict the future, we know that vintage Polaroids are becoming scarcer because production has ceased.
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