Fuji Instax vs Polaroid Snap vs Impossible Project

When I was a boy my Dad had an original Polaroid instant camera – black with the rainbow stripes. I was never allowed to touch it which is probably why I was fascinated with instant cameras growing up. I’d forgotten all about instant cameras until my son Michael asked for one for Christmas and started looking into them again.

Instant Camera Choices

There are 3 types of instant cameras on the market, but only 2 are actual film cameras and the 3rd is a digital camera with built in printer. I understand the modernization of many things, but to me instant photography has always been about film and the nuances of the medium. Anyway, here are the main contenders.

1. Fuji Instax

Instax Mini 70
Fuji Instax Mini 70

It seems that Fuji Instax rejuvenated the whole instant camera fad years ago and have a number of models available. They have 2 film sizes – Instax Mini (credit card size or 2.4″ x 1.8″ according to Fuji) and Instax Wide which is close to double the size (4.1″ x 3.3″). While it’d be nice to have large photos, the problem is the cameras for the wide film are freaking huge! Given I’m looking for a camera for a 12 year old boy, the size of the camera body is important, so I limited my search to the smaller Instax Mini cameras.

A few Instax Minis are now obsolete and the current range consists of the Mini 8, Mini 70 and Mini 90.  I won’t go into the details of each, but if you’re interested, this is a good review of them if you’re looking for a kids polaroid camera.

Each photo costs around 80c and the film is bought in packs of 10. Some quick math and it can really add up, but it’s real instant photography with real film, even if the prints are small.

2. Polaroid Snap

Polaroid Snap
Polaroid Snap

So, this is the one that doesn’t use film… which seems to be ironic given it’s from Polaroid. The Snap is only 1 of the models with the other being the Z2300. Both of them use Polaroid’s ZINK, or Zero Ink technology to produce the prints 2″x3″ in size. The prints are borderless, or can beset to leave a white border to mimic the original Polaroid format.

This is a clever way of printing without ink using special paper. From what I can tell it’s a combination of special paper with a thermal process to make the color print. I found some details on the technology here. The paper is cheaper than the Instax film to buy and 2 qualities to choose from.

So the Polaroid Snap is actually a 10 megapixel digital camera complete with an SD card slot and a printer all in 1. For me, instant photography was always about the character in the final product but if a digital image is imperfect it doesn’t have character, it just looks crap. So I’m not too sure about this one, or maybe I’m just being nostalgic. But you know what they say – nostalgia ain’t what it used to be!

3. Impossible Project

Polaroid SX-70
Polaroid SX-70

When I first heard about the Impossible Project I was seriously impressed. Going back into ancient history, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy in 2001, then rose again, then filed for bankruptcy yet again in 2008. After the 2nd time, an Austrian Polaroid fanboy wanted to relaunch the Polaroid instant film for everyone who still used their original Polaroid cameras – enter The Impossible Project.

While the film is available, the cameras are all used or refurbished which is great if you’re an adult (or hipster – sorry, should have said “vintage”), but not so good for a kid. Combined with the cost of $23 for 8 photos and the reputation for Impossible Project film being difficult to use (for an amateur maybe) it’s right off the list. This one really is for pros or nostalgia freaks.

The Decision

In the end, I ruled out the Snap as I think instant photography is really about film. Given the Impossible Project film costs what it does and needs to be used with a 2nd hand, or refurbished camera (ie. expensive) that’s out too. So it left the Fuji Instax range, of which there are a few models.

I’ve actually decided to buy 2 cameras – a Fuji Instax 70 for my son (pictured above) and a Fuji Instax 90 for myself. Looking forward to some father/son time behind the lens.

Instax Mini 90
Instax Mini 90
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