The instant camera is firmly back in fashion, but it’s so much more than just a fad. Here are five reasons every photographer needs one in their kit bag.
Read time: 6 minutes
For a few decades, instant cameras were old news, but over the last few years, they’ve been making a surging comeback. While it may seem like nothing more than a passing trend, picked up by the new generation soon to be dropped again, we believe there’s a case to be made for the old classic.
These days though, there doesn’t have to be anything old about it if you don’t want there to be. There’s not just a ton of retro kit on the market – there are brand new instant cameras of all styles, sizes and prices, too.
So stick with us, because we’re about to introduce you to the world of instant gratification. Here are the five reasons you need to be using an instant camera.
Did anybody not see this coming? It’s an obvious point, but it’s a huge one.
In the digital age, everything is instant. You take your photo, you send it to your smartphone, you upload it online, and you do it all within the space of a few minutes. That’s great, and we’re not going to pretend it isn’t.
But what else could you be doing in those same few minutes? Developing a real physical photo that you can hold in your hands! There are many reasons to want a physical photo, and to get one by other means is vastly more time consuming than using an instant camera.
They look incredible
Despite a distinct lack of control – at least in comparison to a digital camera – instant photos almost always look incredible. There’s a raw, honest feel to an instant photo that you just don’t get anywhere else, and call it magic or call it science, even a poorly composed, poorly exposed photo has a certain charm when it’s printed straight from camera.
Instant cameras have an unfair wrap when it comes to image quality, though. Poor image quality only began with cheap, mass-produced systems. Really, it’s very possible to take instant photos of a very good quality – you just need a good camera and a bit of know-how.
They’re permanent & unique
Remember a minute ago when we said there are plenty of reasons to want a physical photo? The best of the bunch is that it’s permanent. It won’t get corrupted, it won’t get lost in the digital nether, and if you take care of it, you can keep it as a permanent reminder for decades to come.
You could print a photo taken on your digital or film camera, of course, but that’s where the second part of this reason comes in. Unlike other physical prints, that of an instant camera is completely unique! All the more reason to keep it forever.
The majority of instant cameras offer very little control over even the most basic elements of photography. You may be able to broadly adjust your exposure and focus, but that’s really it. But what could be seen as one of the largest draw backs of an instant camera may actually be a blessing in disguise.
Accessibility for users of all levels is an obvious plus, but there’s more to it than that. For the more experienced photographers among us, overcomplicating matters is an easy trap to fall into, but with an instant camera, that’s just not possible, and there’s a real beauty in that simplicity.
We’re not going to get too philosophical, but why did you pick up a camera in the first place? Was it to get bogged down in settings and specs? Or was it for the love of capturing an image.
You will become a better photographer
There’s a lot to be said about improving by getting out there and taking as many shots as possible. As Henri Cartier-Bresson said, your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. And while there’s a lot of truth in this adage, there is another way.
When shooting on a digital camera, there’s no real consequence to taking a shot. But when shooting on film such as that of an instant camera, suddenly, every shot is precious. If you consider everything about your shot for just a few extra seconds before you press that shutter, the long-term benefit to your photography can be huge.
As important as knowing your settings and gaining experience is, a good eye can only be developed through real thought and focus.
Now we’re not suggesting trading in your current system and fully committing to an instant camera, but the benefits are undeniable. So, consider picking one up or even digging out your old one, and enjoy the best of both worlds.
Our instant favourites
If you’re sold on the idea of swapping your modern digital for an instant camera – at least some of the time – you’re going to need to know where to start. Here are a few of our favourites.
There’s no doubt about it, the Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera is a classic; it was the first instant SLR camera ever made. Produced in the 70’s and early 80’s, an SX-70 will set you back a decent amount given its age, with refurbished models selling for £359.99 on the Polaroid Originals website. It features a fold-down design, basic manual controls and an authentic vintage look.
If you’re looking to go modern with your instant camera, the Instax SQ6 is one of the best options on the market today, clocking in around £100. The SQ6 offers you some great modern features, like the option of lightening or darkening the automatic exposure, a focusing range of 30cm to infinity, double exposure mode, a small selfie mirror and more. When it comes to the instant prints, you can rest assured there, too, with Fujifilm’s decades of experience when it comes to film.
Instax Mini 9
The photos that the Mini 9 puts out are significantly smaller than those of the SQ6, but it’s also half the price, and as such, an idea introduction to the world of instant cameras. The Mini 9’s controls are basic, but remember that beautiful simplicity thing we mentioned? You can still use high-key mode, there’s a close-up lens attachment, and the photos are idea for scrapbooking or placing on the wall.
Do you shoot with an instant camera? Maybe this feature has inspired you to try it. In either case, show us your instant photos – old or new! Tag us on social media using the handle @PhotonewsPN.
For more great photography tips, take a look through our Inspiration section. Don’t forget to sign up to receive our newsletter below, to get notified of the new issue, exclusive offers and competitions.