Spring 2017 Update: Fuji Instax Mini film now comes in an awesome monochrome format! Check out my review for all the details.
Note: Fujifilm Instax Mini instant film is also rebranded and sold as (strangely enough) Polaroid 300 instant film. For our purposes, these are interchangeable.
The first thing to know about Fuji Instax Mini film is that they’re not kidding around about the mini part. These photos are tiny. Wallet-size tiny. It appears that the film is almost exactly half the size of normal (or ‘wide’ as Fuji now calls it) Instax film and is certainly much smaller than the familiar Polaroid 600 frame.
Fuji is the only 20th century film superpower still manufacturing instant film, and they seem to be putting most of their instant film effort behind the Fuji Instax Mini line. 2012 saw the release of the great Fuji Instax Mini 8 camera and Fuji has just announced the fancy new Fuji Instax Mini 90 that promises all sorts of professional quality controls. Showing history has a sense of irony, even Polaroid now makes an instant camera that shoots Instax Mini film instead of their venerable original 600 film. What does the Instax Wide shooter have to pick from? Just the bumbling Instax 210 camera, fatally flawed and cheaply built.
Fuji Instax Mini film looks like it’s going to be sticking around for a while, and there are loads of great cameras that support it. So how does the film itself stack up to its big brother, old school Polaroid, or even Impossible Project film?
As far as I can tell, the Fuji Instax mini contains the exact same chemistry as the 800 ASA/ISO Fuji Instax wide film, which means that it’s very good. Images are very sharp with relatively accurate colors. There are no bizarre defects or streaks, the film is all new enough that it’ll work under any normal conditions without fuss.
The only major letdown about the Fuji Instax instant film line is purely aesthetic: I find it a bit on the dull side. Colors seem slightly muted, and rather than the wildly inaccurate (but exciting) hues of Impossible Project film, everything just seems to have a dreary bluish cast. In my opinion, if accuracy is important, simply shoot digital. I shoot film because it is exciting and unpredictable. Fuji Intax Mini is almost just too predictable.
It ultimately comes down to what you need to use the film for. I would never use Instax Mini for landscapes simply because the frame is too small to contain much detail. The colors are dull and don’t add much to the scene. However, if you’re shooting people at a party, the film simply gets out of your way and always looks good.
Fuji Instax Mini film is durable and solid. There are no issues with humidity or shooting in a normal range of temperatures. I’ve never had developer leak out of the sides of frames. I haven’t experimented with tearing the film apart to see if it does transfers, but I’ll stick with Polaroid/Impossible Project film for those purposes.
One of strongest aspects of the Fuji Instax line is that you can be confident that the pictures will last a long time with minimal color shift. Now that Polaroid no longer makes 600 type film, Fuji is the only kid on the block with durable instant film. Impossible Project film is unproven, and from my personal experience tends to shift in color. If you want to hand your photos out to people, you can be assured that Fuji Instax will last. This is crucially important for event photographers and even reportage photographers who use instant film.
Price and Availability
Hands down, Fuji Instax Mini film is the most affordable instant film on the market. If you need to take a large volume of photos, Fuji Instax Mini is affordable enough not to completely break the bank. With 8 exposures of Impossible Project film starting at 22 US dollars, spending only 14 US dollars for 20 exposures of Fuji Instax Mini seems like a steal. This is yet another reason I recommend this film for weddings and events, as these are situations where it might not be easy to be stingy with how many photos one takes.
Fuji Instax Mini is a great film for those who need to use instant film for practical purposes. Events, weddings, parties, and more will all find Fuji Instax Mini the easiest and most durable film. However, for artistic use, Fuji Instax Mini is simply too small and too dull to ever replace Impossible Project or expired Polaroid film for me. If you’re somebody who wants to experiment with instant film, the Fuji Instax Mini is a decent place to start, but I would personally recommend finding an used Polaroid camera and some Impossible Project film if you really want to experience the fun/frustration of film.
Good luck and happy shooting!