Fuji Instax Mini has exploded in popularity over the past few years, and along with it the handy and hardy Instax Mini 8, which was a compact, affordable, and dependable camera. In 2017, to keep the momentum going, Fuji introduced the Instax Mini 9 to replace the 8.
What’s the difference between the two cameras, you ask? Well, there’s a selfie mirror on the front.
And… that’s it.
The only other major difference is that that camera comes with a snap-on close focus adapter, which works on any Fuji Instax 9 or 8 camera. Fuji clearly isn’t fixing what isn’t broken.
If you’re new to Fuji Instax, you can’t go wrong with getting the Mini 9. However, if you’re not worried about selfies, the Fuji Instax 8 is the exact same camera, and you may be able to snatch up up for a discount now that there is a new model out.
Controls and Usability
The Fuji Instax 9 has the same control scheme as the 8. Push down on the button next to the lens to start the camera and extend the lens. There are a series of exposure levels that you can select from, and the camera will light up the one it thinks you should use.
Because of this system, the camera is a bit more cumbersome to use than a classic Polaroid. A Polaroid camera will automatically select what setting it thinks is best without any additional input from the user. People who are picking up the Instax Mini for the first time (like a grandpa at a wedding) won’t know to switch the setting accordingly. Luckily the default setting works for most scenarios, but I wish the camera just automatically selected the best setting rather than lighting up an LED instructing the user to do so. This was a problem in the Fuji Instax 8, and it’s still a problem now.
The standout new feature of this camera? One tiny mirror attached to the front of the lens. I had my doubts that a mirror this big would be any help at all, but it works as advertised if you hold out the camera at arm’s length. Group selfies beware, however, as the Instax frame will be too small to effectively get more than two people in one frame. Instax mini is best for single portraits.
The lens of this camera is exactly the same as the Fuji Instax 8. However, it does come with a tiny adapter that allows it to focus within arm’s reach. This lens adapter seems specifically designed for selfies, which along with the tiny mirror on the lens, definitely points towards a self-portrait focus for the 9.
I tried out the adapter, and it does work on the Fuji Instax 8 without a problem. In fact, the adapter is so reflective, it completely negates the need for the mirror on the 9.
The macro lens adapter is a pain to carry around, and it feels like a kludge taking it on and off while taking photos. People are going to want to either leave it on at all times or they’re going to lose it.
The Neo 90 has a lens that can focus closer, so I wish Fuji just popped that assembly into the Instax 9 instead of just adding an easily lost adapter into the mix.
The lens itself is a slight wide angle. The film size itself is the biggest restriction from getting more in frame. As mentioned above, it does best with single subjects. Landscapes and groups are served better by Polaroid and Fuji Instax Wide.
As I mentioned above, the camera indicates which exposure setting you should use. Except when you’re outdoors in bright light, you’ll probably be using the default indoor flash setting.
Like all Fuji Instax cameras, flash fall-off is really hard. If you’re shooting indoors, everything outside of what is immediately being lit up by the flash will be black. I’ve had trouble with Fuji Instax and indoor wide photos, so the Mini 9 is best used for fairly tight portraits.
The Fuji Instax Mini 9 is a well-built chunk of rounded plastic. Unlike its wider siblings, it does not suffer from any obvious design or production defects. The Neo 90 uses far nicer materials and feels more premium, but it is also more expensive than the Fuji Instax 9.
The camera runs on two AA batteries, which I prefer to a rechargeable lithium battery. Instant cameras will often go months between uses for even the most prolific instant shooters, and batteries are a major point of failure over time. Polaroid cameras hold up so well today because the batteries were disposable and restricted to the film cartridge itself. A Fuji Instax 9 stored without batteries will work just as well in 20 years as it does today.
That said, like any piece of electronics, do not store the Fuji Instax 9 with batteries inside it. I’ve cleaned corrosive battery acid in everything from Gameboys to cameras, and it is never pleasant.
If you already have a Fuji Instax Mini 8 or Neo 90, there’s not much of a reason to upgrade to the Mini 9. Also, if money is important, the Mini 8 is still a great camera, and you might be able to score a deal now that it isn’t the latest-and-greatest out there.
However, if you want a simple Fuji Instax Mini camera, and you’re new to the system, the Mini 9 is a great little camera. I would recommend it over the strange digital/film kludge that is the new Fuji Instax Square SQ10 hybrid. That camera is far too expensive and entirely misses the point of instant photography. You’re better off with your phone and a printer at that point.
With the introduction of Fuji Instax Monochrome, and a wide variety of frame colors, it’s never been a better time to shoot Fuji Instax Mini.
If you’re new to the Fuji Instax system, or are wondering how this fits in with the larger Fuji Instax camera family check out my Fuji Instax buying guide.
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