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An Instax camera is one of those things that make for a great gift or fun tech accessory. You don’t buy one of these instant cameras to pursue a professional photography career. It’s more something you bring along on a road trip or sunset visits to beach promenades.
Though with that said, Fujifilm’s range of instant cameras are a proven success and very popular. So much so that new additions to the range deserve a proper shakedown. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 is that new addition, priced at R1 399 and featuring an imitation leatherette façade that makes it stand out from the rest of the Instax models.
After spending a week with the camera and a box of instant film, here’s what we thought…
Dressed for a black-tie event
Weighing 330 grams, the Mini 40 has a solid presence in one’s hand or bag. Its compact design makes it easy to transport with no sharp edges or extended parts impacting portability or packing. All of the elements feel well-built and solid such as the flash and film compartment lid. The only exception is the snapshot button which has a bit of a wiggle to it in its frame, but it’s not going anywhere.
There is one element that had me concerned and that’s the extension mechanism of the lens. Instax cameras come with a dedicated selfie mode that you activate by pulling the lens out further from its resting position. It requires more force than you realise and it left me concerned at first I was going to break it.
The Mini 40 is handsome. Probably the best-looking Instax camera available as it forfeits the traditional pastel colours and instead looks fitting for a dinner party. We can’t fault Fujifilm for not using real leather and the plastic body is hard to the touch. But it still looks good.
It’s very reminiscent of yesteryear cameras from the likes of Leica or even Fujifilm’s contemporary higher-end lineup. I do wonder how durable the silver-coloured frame is over time, though, as it’s likely to suffer from scratches.
Photography is easy
The Instax range is mostly defined by the photographic features each of its cameras has. Mini models keep it very simple. Load up the contact sheets, aim, click, and wait to print. The Mini 40 uses an automatic exposure function to make as much improvement to the final shot as possible. It also has an automatic flash which may not be to everyone’s preference, but it gets the job done.
Placing the contact sheets in the camera is an easy task thanks to the disposable cartridges.
The selfie mode does take some getting used to. Fujifilm says selfies should be taken with the camera distanced 30 to 50 centimetres away from the subject. The small mirror is a very rough estimation of the shot and I found test shots had me aiming the camera higher than I should have.
Capturing old-timey memories
Taking pictures with an instant camera is a double-edged sword. Yes, you can see the result immediately, but you need to get the shot right the first or second time round.
The Instax Mini 40 uses portrait contact sheets that measure 62 by 46 millimetres that take roughly ninety seconds to develop. Brightness is the biggest factor when it comes to good pics.
The camera is very good at auto-focusing. Near and far objects are balanced out nicely. Nighttime shots are dependent on the flash but it is a very bright flash.
Colour-wise, image saturation is usually on the lower end of the scale. Some can look washed out while others strike a perfect balance, particularly when it comes to daytime landscape photos. Part of the allure of instant film cameras is the nostalgia towards traditional film-developed pictures for the photo album. And all in all, the Instax Mini 40 delivers on that nostalgia.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 review verdict
Instant film cameras should be perceived more as a novelty. Something to complement a day trip with friends that gives each of you souvenirs to remember the day by.
Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 40 fits the bill in a neat, well-built package. It’s easy to use and it looks cool (all that it needs to be, really). The device would benefit from some more functionality in regards to its picture setup, and taking photos with instant film will always have a bit of a gambling feel to it.
Feature image: Sam Spiller/Memeburn