Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture

Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 - Neo Classic
Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 – Neo Classic

I’ve been in love with polaroids for a long time. So, a year and a half ago, I bought myself a Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic – one of the cheapest polaroid cameras on the market.

I took about 50 images with it in the summer of ’18, and then stowed it away in the closet. Not because it was bad. I just used other cameras instead.

About a year after having bought it, I took it out from the closet again. And now, I’m finally ready with a little review: First impresssions of the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic – Inferior image quality from a nice and thrilling camera body.

The Camera

Let’s first have a look at some of the practical info – the camera specs.

The camera uses Fujifilm Mini polaroids, giving credit card sized images. That gives an image size of about 4.5 x 6 cm – the images are in 4:4 format.

The lens has a fixed focal lenght of 60mm. The Instax Mini polaroids are bigger than a full frame sensor, so there’s a negative crop factor.

Below is a comparison of the angle of view on the Neo Classic vs. a Sony full frame camera with a focal lenght of 61mm and 35mm, respectively. Notice that the cameras shoot in different image sizes: Neo Classic shoots in 4:3, whereas the Sony shoots in 3:2 format.

As far as I can see, the angle of view/focal lenght is about the same as on a 35mm full frame. So, a moderate wide angle.

Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic 60mm (35mm)
Neo Classic 60mm (35mm)
Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic Mini 90 vs Sony Full Frame at 61mm
Sony Full Frame at 61mm
Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic Mini 90 vs Sony Full Frame at 35mm
Sony Full Frame at 35mm

As far as I know, the camera has a fixed aperture of f/12.7, so don’t expect the camera to be good for night photography. Other than that, the camera has a little, imprecise rangefinder and a built in flash, and a battery, a charger and a strap is also included in the package.

Handling

The camera only does one thing: Snap polaroids. It doesn’t have any interchangeable parts, accesories or the likes, and it doesn’t do video, digital photos or anything. That makes using the camera simple compared to modern digital hybrid cameras – You can learn all the cameras features and functionalities in just about half an hour. I like that:-)

There’s a trigger button on the top and a selfie trigger on the front. The selfie button is also a mirror, so it’s quite easy to frame the selfie well.

You’ll find 5 control buttons on the back of the camera, allowing You to switch macro mode on/off, adjust exposure settings, the timer, flash and photo mode.

Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic Mini 90 - the back side
The camera is easily operated with the buttons and the screen on the back

You can set the camera to full auto or over/under expose an image. There’s also a series of photo modes, ie. night, portrait- and landscape modes. So You can adjust settings according to Your motif based on a few, simple settings.

But do the settings really matter? Let’s have a closer look at the image quality…

Image Quality

To begin with, I didn’t really think the different settings would make a difference – a bit like a real Lomo camera, where You’ve got buttons but they don’t really do anything. But after experimenting a bit with the various settings, it is clear that they make a difference.

Have a look at the examples below, for instance: There’s a lot more contrast in the landscape mode (right) than full auto mode (left). Small details, like for instance the red crane a bit right from the middle, should be sharper in landscape mode. But that’s difficult to tell on such small prints…

Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic Mini 90 - photo quality test 1
Full Auto
Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic Mini 90 - photo quality test 2
Full auto in “landscape” mode

Exposure compensation also works as it should. The examples below were shot in “L, L+ and D” modes, which makes an image “brigther (L), even brighter (L+) and darker (D)”, respectively.

Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic Mini 90 - photo quaility test 3
L, L+ and D

Below: Exposure compensation when the camera is in landscape mode.

Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic Mini 90 - photo quality test 4
“Darker” on the left, “lighter/brighter” on the right

So, the different modes can definitely be used to alter the image. I don’t think the different modes match what is depticted, though. In my opinion, the best shot from the examples above, is the one in “full auto.” The one with the brightest foreground.

In general, the colors, details, the dynamic range etc. are of such an alternative quality, that the funniest way to use the camera is to either go full auto, or to experiment with the “wrong” programme in a given situation, and just hope for the best. And if You’re really in the mood for a bit of experimenting, why not work with double exposures?

Double exposure with the Fujifilm Instax Neo Classic Mini 90
It’s quite easy to make double exposures:-)

The main idea with the polaoids is not to make images of superior quality – it’s more about making photos with an emotional twist, challenging the aesthetics of “perfect” images. So, according to me, its all about pointing and shooting. And the camera does that really well.

X-factor

One of the things I enjoy the most about the polaroids is their X-factor. I brought the camera to a birthday party, and it quickly became a fun little gimmick and an icebreaker.

Taking a polaroid and photographing it for use on Instagram is another great way of using them.

8-house in Ørestad - Shake it like a polaroid
8-house in Ørestad – Shake it like a polaroid picture

Price

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic is cheap. Around 100 Euro. The images are quite expensive, however. Bought in larger quantities, a polaroid will cost around 1 Euro per image.

Last remarks…

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic takes low-fi images, and each and every image is expensive. I still like it, though: Handling is so easy, I just want to fire away, and once the shutter has been pressed, I wait in excitement to see the result…

But once the batch of polaroids has been used, the camera will probably end up in the closet again – at least for a couple of months. It’s just too expensive for daily use. And too fiddly: Scanning or photographing the polaroids in order to use them in a digital workflow is too time demanding.

So. Enjoy – for a brief period. Put it away. And use it for special occasions. Once or twice a year or so;-)

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