Instant Cameras

"Instant Cameras"

I love Instant Photography. To me, it’s magic. It’s not some hipster gimmick, it’s something I always liked and not long after I got into photography some 4 years ago, I quickly bought my first Polaroid camera. Yup, that’s before Instagram, folks. Well, before it got huge anyway. 

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This is my Polaroid Spectra 1200si. It cost me about £30 from eBay. The film for it has always been pricey via The Impossible Project but I used to find deals on eBay for old expired film. But there’s less and less old film and more and more from the Impossible Project.

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The film now costs £17 for 8 exposures. Put it this way, a roll of 24 shots of 35mm film is around £5-£7. I can get 24 shots done and developed for less than I’d pay for a meagre 8 roids. That’s a small margin for error for a still-learning photographer like me, meaning I really don’t shoot as much instant stuff as I’d like to.

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But I recently found out Fuji sell film for their instax cameras for £15 for 20 exposures. I immediately laughed off the idea of Fuji instant cameras, I mean before this post I’d never even considered it ‘instant’ photography but ‘polaroid’ photography, such is the power of the polaroid brand in its synonymy with this method of photography. But, I can’t argue that this film is far better value for money, at least in terms of money-to-shot ratio, if we exclude quality factors which I know zilch about. 

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So, I started considering moving away from my old beloved and in with the new. Like most people, I don’t like change and I certainly don’t like modernisation of an old process. I brushed it off quickly, but upon further thought, it, really is a simple choice – stick to an old camera and an old brand and pay over the odds on the basis of some unfounded faith in ‘age’ over modernity and end up not shooting much, or…try a new system and rejuvenate my instant photography. This is an example of Fuji’s standard Instax camera which costs £50-£60, new. 

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Funnily enough, Polaroid do a similar camera for a similar price. Surely I couldn’t go for a Fuji over a Polaroid…that would be adultery. Polaroid were back on the cards, and that made me feel better, for a bit…

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Their film is £10 for 10 exposures. So the competition is pretty close. However, I just can’t shake the modernisation aspect, maybe it’s just a douchey aesthetic thing, I don’t know, it just feels like the commercialisation of a much loved process to try and inspire a new mass market, new users, all because of a recent resurgence in polaroid photography by a dedicated niche of photographers. So the new stuff is saying ‘thanks guys, but screw you, we want to make money off new blood, not you hippies who have brought us back from the dead. Thanks for opening people’s eyes to instant photography, time to refresh the approach and get the instagram generation hooked’. Sigh…

                     

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But then I found Fuji had this funky looking camera. And I realised, yup, a lot of my worries were just aesthetic and this classier camera eased a lot of the new waves issues. This camera has made me feel more comfortable about being a sell out or whatever and switching to Fuji. It retails at about £120 new, so that’s pretty much double that of the plastic chappies, just for a sense of comfort. Then again, you can’t put a price on this comfort, if it inspires a motivation to go make you shoot more. 

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So, all of this is just musings. I don’t know if I’ll stick with what I’ve got, go for Fuji, go for Polaroid and, specifically, which one of their new cameras should I go for them. Continue with an old, expensive format, knowing I’ve already spent the money on a camera. Or, do I outlay potentially £120 and start afresh in the hope that I’ll shoot more regularly and make the most of getting more than double the amount of shots as I do on the old camera? 

                     

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Here’s some maths. As much as money doesn’t motivate my creative stuff, it does when it comes to Polaroid because it is such a tiny, insignificant area of my photography that I’ll only ever lose money on. Who wants to pay for polaroids? I wouldn’t pay me for them. I wouldn’t try and get work with it, don’t know if anyone does. It’s just a passion thing driven by my love for the magic of it. However…the numbers are a factor for me because the money is the only thing stopping me from shooting more right now. Anyway. Cut me some slack though, I’m not a numbers guy but I thought I’d do some numerical stuff.

An initial outlay of £120 on a Instax camera would get me 7 packs of Polaroid Spectra film, equivalent to 56 exposures. So, the price I pay for a camera means missing out on 56 wonderful roids. But the next £120 after that, spent on film alone would get me either 160 exposures on the Fuji system vs a further 56 on Polaroid. With me so far? So, after £240 on the Fuji side, I could get a brand new camera, guaranteed working condition with warranty and support + 160 exposures vs 112 exposures on Spectra. Considering the spectra is old and already has had some issues, it could die halfway through the calculation and make the upgrade more expensive after the choice to stick with Spectra for the first, say £100. So, on balance, I’m getting more for my money by jumping ship and going Fuji. That’s not to mention that I can actually buy the Instax film in real life shops, instead of being a slave to torturous eBay searches or a sucker to the Impossible Project. I could take this camera roaming the world and be able to buy film for it, Fuji are backing their Instax pretty well for now so there is that, financially unquantifiable bonus of ease of access which again will help me shoot more (and spend more, yuck). 

We’ll leave issues such as specs, film quality and all that out. The main thing is that I want to start shooting more prolifically in this side of film photography, and a change of faith would help me achieve that on a purely financially driven level and since the finances have been the limiting factor thus far, I’d say that’s a pretty huge part of it. It’s all pretty up in the air and it’s only a small fragment of my photography, but I’ve spent a fair few hours thinking about this because it is important to me, and if it’s important to you, or someone you know, maybe you’ll find this useful. 

For some more of my Polaroid shots, check out my Flickr set HERE. 

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