I have had a soft spot for polaroids for a long time yet never invested a lot into the art of shooting with them. Years back I shot around with an old clunker of a Polaroid Impulse on which I had to tape the flash off to keep it from mucking up too many photos. It worked well enough but what I always thought I would end up with was an old foldable SX-70. Once Polaroid closed up shop I gave up on the idea and moved on with other film cameras instead.
I tried using an old Polaroid Land Camera for a while and still shoot with it from time to time but it’s far too bulky to be practical most of the time. I eventually bought into a Hasselblad system which I really love and was excited to discover had polaroid backs available. I took it on its first big adventure when I traveled through India with it and a Voigtlander R3M. While traveling I often pulled the polaroid back out not only for fun but as a means to give something back to those who I was photographing. Many children or shop owners looked at me and my strange looking cameras with a confused sideways glance because I was unable to show them the photos immediately after shooting. The polaroid enabled me to not only share a photo with them but leave a copy of one as well so even at times when there was an obvious language barrier I was able to show my good intention by sharing something in return for their time.
I also took the chemical covered side of the pull apart instant film and made crude image transfers into the journal I was carrying with me on the trip. Looking back on these I found that even when the transfers were only partially successful I was still left with a fuzzy stamp of the moment I captured there in my journal so despite giving away the photo I was still left with a memento which, like the idea of memory itself, is a slightly distorted view of the original but plenty to remember the moment later on.
Some of you may recognize the idea of sharing polaroids like this from photographer favorite, Zach Arias who recently took along a Fuji Neo Classic 90 on a trip to Morocco and used it as a means to break the ice with people he would meet and photograph. I bring all this up because after holding out as long as I could manage, I finally went ahead and bought one of these handy little Instax cameras myself.
I avoided Fuji’s Instax cameras for a long time because I always thought they were too goofy looking and all to clunky to drag around with me in my camera bag. This conception quickly changed when I noticed the little Neo Classic 90 come onto the market. They did away with all the goofiness of their previous models and made something that would fit right in with my day to day shooting habits.
I was surprised to discover just how small the camera is. While I can’t shove it into my pants pocket, it easily slides into a jacket pocket or into the corner of a camera bag. While it is made from plastic the construction is sturdy in a way that you feel you can trust it. The design of the body seems well considered in that they included two shutter release buttons depending on how you want to shoot. The film itself lends itself to shooting a portrait composition but an additional button was added to make it easy to shoot landscaped as well.
While it is a fully automatic camera in regards to exposure there are a handful of shooting modes to help you get the most out of it including multiple exposure mode and one for bulb exposures. It also allows for basic exposure compensation by allowing you to choose one of four different settings, dark, standard, light, and extra light. I love this ability because while I love the bright annoying pop of a built in flash at times, it lets me have enough control over the exposure to shoot creatively without the flash getting in my way.
The photos I have taken with it so far have been well balanced tonally and sharp though they do have that hazy instant film look which I realize not everyone is into. Having a collection of these little prints around is a charming way to look back through memories. There really is nothing quite like using real instant film in both the joy of watching it appear in front of you and having these singular prints around to enjoy. No amount of digital emulation will give you quite the same feeling as using actual film which by now most of us already know.
As long as interest holds strong I have hope that the cost of film won’t soar too much any time soon. At around $14USD for 20 exposures (or less depending on how much you buy at once) it’s more than reasonable unless you’re a particularly trigger happy kind of shooter.
I bought this for YoungDoo and I to share but its quickly becoming obvious that we will end up with two of these around because I am having way too much fun shooting with this joy of a camera. I can easily recommend one of these to just about anyone who enjoys making photographs, digitally or otherwise. If you have any questions about it I would be happy to answer them below.