Itchy Tangents

My practice is tangential at the best of times and often favours my most recent purchase. One of my itchy tangents over the last year has been instant photography. I had a bee in my bonnet about it when my son was born. I had all sorts of lofty metaphysical ideas about producing a ‘one off’ image, an image that can be scanned and photographed, but where an original would remain.

I managed to get over it, at least for a bit, and then it cropped up again. I asked around for advice and found that spoiled as I am I wanted a really ‘nice’ instant camera, they however cost more than I’m prepared to spend. I dispelled this GAS, and moved on to other things, only for it to raise its head again more recently.

In its most recent incarnation it has manifested itself in a vacillation between two models of Fuji Instax camera. I knew that I was going to get one or the other, it was just a question of which, and both have been in my basket at least once in the last few months.

Which camera to get.

The Instax Mini 90 is sensibly priced, and has a bunch of features to play around with, it was the favourite. The only thing I’d like to change about it is that it shoots the Instax Mini film, which is about the size and shape of a credit card. It packs a f/12.7 lens, which would be the slowest in my collection so far, but it would help with the zone focus system.

The next contender was the Instax SQ10, which shoots the square film I want the mini 90 to shoot. As a hybrid camera, (a digital camera with an in-built printer) one can choose which images to print. This one is a chunk more expensive, although by my calculations it would take less than a hundred ‘not-printed’ images to save the difference.

(Square Camera – Mini Camera)/cost of prints = 93.8

I do however already have a number of digital cameras with which I can either print, or not print my images, and this isn’t the instant experience i’m gunning for. My foray thus far has been limited to the Instax range it’s because they’re the biggest player in instant photography. The film/photo costs for the ever reincarnating Polaroid cameras are high, perhaps too high, even for me, even as I try not to think about that combination of the classic square frame shape and its white border.

The nice people at Lomography were the first to the market with an actual instant camera that takes the Instax Square format film. Much of what it written about it is positive, but I’m not sure I want to throw that kind of money at what might be, at best, a toy.

The Method

It was at this point that I was informed that I was not getting ‘another camera’. Upon receipt of this information, I arranged to borrow one. That nice Mr Gill of 35mmc lent me his Leica Sofort, which is, as it happens a nicely repackaged Instax Mini 90. After messing around with it for a bit I started to wonder what would be a good way to test it.

Playing with it at home was fun, and indeed garnered my favourite instant ‘photo’ thus far, (the one at the top of this post), but what to do beyond that. A thought struck me: as luck would have it some friends of mine were tying the knot. I ordered a stack of film.

I should preface this by saying that I don’t know what do with myself at weddings any more. Crossing the carpark to meet the groom last week, I actually quickened my step when I saw people fitting their button holes, only to remember that I was there to celebrate, rather than document the day.

Having been to more weddings as a photographer than as an guest I get a sweat on when I’m watching wedding photographers do things in their own way, and I don’t want to be the guy getting under foot when the couple’s choice of photographer is tyring to work.

(I do take a camera; partly because I would feel lost without one, partly because if get anything good I can give it to my the couple, and partly so I can hide behind it if conversation should dry up).

This time I took the Sofort, the film and that was it. (aside from a half-frame camera, which I didn’t shoot). It was really nice. I remembered how to relax at a wedding, and took some fun pictures.

A Perfect Pfaff

So, what have i learned? Instant is fun, hard to do well and not actually what I want to do. The scans of the images attached to this post will confirm how dusty Instax prints (or my scanner) have become in quick time and how badly they scan. (I’ve also tried photographing the images with a smartphone).

The advantage of all of this vacillation and procrastination is that I ended up waiting exactly long enough for Fujifilm to release a new camera, one that fits my original brief precisely. They’ve  announced the Instax SQ6, a charming little beast that includes the square format that I’ve been lusting after with the simplicity and price tag of the mini 90.

What’s funny is that now I’ve had a change of thought. The f/12.7 lenses are too slow for me and I’m not very good at zone focusing. I like a shallow depth of field, (and to be honest a better quality of image). I’m an idiot.

If I want to shoot square images, then I can, with my Hasslblad, if I want to take expensive photos with a massive fuji camera then I can shoot my GW690. What I want to do is this –

So this is a render, when I went to meet my niece last week I took my trusty mkIV and 50mm combo, because it’s my favourite. What would be really nice would be to be able to ping something like this out in the moment; enter the Instax Share SP-3. It’s a wireless square format instant printer that connects to my phone, and my camera connects to my phone already –

 (Canon 5D + Google Pixel)x Instax Square Share Printer = A perfect pfaff 

I can throw it into my bag and print quality images once I’ve tweaked them on my phone, and then give them to people and stuff. This is not what I set out to learn, and I still really fancy one of those new SQ6s, but one of those printers could be a more suitable and useable solution, plus it would be ace.

It’s a shame that I’m not allowed one of those either…