Fuji vs Polaroid Smackdown! (Part 1)
Most people who grew up in the 80s knew Polaroid™ as the only company that made instant cameras and films. But today, there is more than one company that makes instant cameras and films. The 2 largest companies are Fujifilm of Japan and Polaroid™. In this article I’ll use Fuji and Fujifilm interchangeably. It’s the same thing.
In short, if you are looking for a simple one off camera for a party event or prom, just grab a Fuji Instax camera. Those are simple and easy to use. They will serve the purpose, but you won’t get artistic pictures. They are what we call “simple-to-use cameras” or “dummy cameras”. However, if you are looking for a camera for your next documentary or project, you might want to read on.
Who owns Fujifilm and Polaroid?
Polaroid and Fujifilm are the two main manufacturers of instant film today. Although Polaroid was the company that invented the system, today Fujifilm sells a lot more instant film than Polaroid. Ironically, Polaroid gave up its last instant film factory in 2008, and then sold it to The Impossible Project (now Polaroid Originals). In a turn of events The Impossible Project, backed by the wealthy Smołokowski family in Poland, now owns Polaroid. They dedicated a line called “Polaroid Originals” to instant film and cameras. We’re happy because we all have film to shoot with now.
While Polaroid is a private company, Fujifilm is publicly listed on the Tokyo stock exchange. Fujifilm has a long history of making cameras. They have a lot more technical resources than Polaroid. I believe all the good engineers at Polaroid left the company after the Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2001.
However, the best part of using Polaroid Originals is because – it’s the original Polaroid! Well, it’s not the real original, but it is still Polaroid. The original Polaroid is long gone. They don’t use the original formula and chemicals for the film anymore. Polaroid invented instant photography, and it is tempting to assume that they possess the best instant film technology. But that is just not the case. The film you buy from them today is very different from the one we used to have in the 1990s.
The 3 things to consider
1. Film size
When we talk about film size, Polaroid is definitely the winner. The gigantic 3.1 X 3.1 inch square picture size is what all photographers envy about original Polaroids. This is what separates Polaroid from Fujifilm, and the main reason why there is still a very loyal following of Polaroid fans.
Fuji boasts a large wide format instax film, but its popularity is dwarfed by its mini and square relatives. Either way, it’s really up to you to decide what you like. I’ll give more numbers about the actual film size, border size and stuff like that in the next article. Meanwhile, please read on…
2. Picture quality
Expect to be experimenting a little when using Polaroid Originals. You will see random blue streaks, faded colors, and occasional light leaks, but that is just all part of the fun. Don’t expect to see vivid bright colors on your Polaroid Originals. But again, who needs vivid images when we have digital cameras in our pockets? I personally think if a Polaroid Originals picture develops well, it looks nicer than a Fuji. Also, the Polaroid Originals formula has improved so much since the first experimental batch in 2010. The thing you should be expecting when using Polaroid Originals film is sometimes beautiful pictures like the ones below:
Or when things don’t go as expected:
And you have very little control over the outcome, especially with the simple cameras, which offer limited controls. Using a camera with more controls will help, if you know how to control it. But sometimes the film is just wacky.
On the other hand, the Japanese company Fujifilm has a more reliable (or you could say boring) formula. The colors are bright and sharp, and it’s really consistent. You shoot a million packs and get the exact result every single time.
3. Cameras that are available
Film size and picture quality are really a matter of taste. Some people like fun – choose Polaroid. Some people like predictable, boring, but reliable – choose Fuji. But most important of all, some of the classic Polaroid cameras were the best, and they are only compatible with Polaroid Originals. The Polaroid SX-70 for sure is the best instant camera ever made and still available. You can also take a look at SLR670, which is an enhanced version of it.
Fuji only makes simple easy-to-use cameras and printers. Lomography makes variations of it, but they are also simple and sometimes a little bit quirky. A lot of enthusiasts have taken matters into their own hands and built custom cameras that are compatible with Fuji Instax. MiNT has a few cameras that uses Fuji, with more controls. We are trying to combine the best of both worlds – cameras that are as good as vintage Polaroid cameras, that uses reliable film.
This is one of the most popular Fuji cameras:
And this is the best Polaroid camera:
I’ll go more in-depth and slightly more technical in the next post about the film characteristics. Comments and questions are welcome!