I have been waiting for the Fuji Instax Wide 300 for a long time.
The Fuji Instax Wide 210 was and continues to be a… mediocre camera, to put it nicely. However, if you wanted to shoot Fuji Instax Wide film, one of the best and most affordable instant films made today, it was the only camera out there. So you’ll understand my excitement when I heard that Fuji was releasing a new Instax Wide camera to replace the crap-tastic Wide 210. And while I’m happy to report that the Instax Wide 300 is indeed better, I must also say there is much, much more room for improvement. I’m honestly baffled as to why Fuji struggles with making a decent Fuji Instax Wide camera, especially as they continue to churn out fantastic Fuji Instax Mini cameras.
This is a review of the camera itself, if you want to know more about Fuji Instax Wide film and how it compares to Polaroid or Impossible Project film, you can read all about it here.
So let’s dive into the Fuji Instax Wide 300 and see where Fuji has improved the instant film experience and where it still needs improvement.
The Fuji Instax Wide 300 is not a sexy camera. It will not inspire lust in the eyes of gear hounds and jealousy in the hearts of other Polaroid cameras. However, it is not the melted-lump-of-plastic eyesore that the Fuji Instax 210 was either. One of my co-workers put it best when he said that it looked like I was taking pictures with a VCR from the 80s. Adjust your expectations accordingly.
It looks like somebody took the design cues of the fantastic Fuji Instax Mini 90, blew it up, and made it out of cheaper materials. No longer the bulbous design of the 210, it has a utilitarian body that feels good to hold. It’s all cheap, hard plastic, but at least it’s sturdy. The Fuji Instax 210’s battery door barely stayed on; this one actually confidently clicks into place.
For power, this camera takes 4 AA batteries. While that seems like an insane amount of power for a modern camera, I’m glad that it still uses standard disposable batteries. The Fuji Instax Mini 90 uses a rechargable lithium battery, which is not optimal for cameras of this type. I only pull out my Instax once in a while for a shoot, so I want to be able to throw in whatever battery I need for that shoot. Lithium batteries need care, so if you need the camera after weeks of disuse and find that the battery is dead there’s no way of swapping in a new one unless you buy expensive spares.
Other minor features include a place where you can attach a strap and a tripod socket. I’m not sure why you would need to place a camera like this on a tripod, but I guess it’s better to have it than not.
The controls are a huge improvement over the Fuji Instax 210’s layout. Instead of throwing all the buttons in an awkward bunch on the side, functions are all where they should be and are easy to figure out. Power is a switch by the shutter and easy to access while holding the camera. Focus mode is toggled by twisting the lens. The only two buttons on the back are a flash on/off and a darken/lighten switch. It’s all very easy to understand and use.
However, that does bring me to one of the biggest flaws of the Fuji 210, a flaw that unfortunately continues with the Fuji Instax Wide 300. The lens can either be set to focus .3m-3m or 3m-infinity. First, this raises the issue of how to focus when a subject is approximately 3 meters away, which is a scenario that occurs almost constantly if you’re taking pictures of people. So while this setup already isn’t optimal, it’s further exacerbated by the fact that when the camera is turned on it defaults to the .3m-3m setting. So if you whip out the camera and take a picture without changing any settings, everything further than 3 meters or 10 feet is going to be out of focus. I constantly wasted film by taking out of focus shots, because every time I turned off the camera it automatically reset back to the .3-3m mode. It’s an infuriating design choice that I’ve never seen on any camera other than Fuji Instax wide cameras.
The finder is unremarkable, about on par with the cheapest Polaroid cameras out there. It’s tiny and hard to look into with glasses. It sticks out of the side, which can also be a bit awkward to use. Because the body is so big and flat, it feels a bit ridiculous to use.
Lens and Image Quality
The lens itself seems to be exactly the same one as in the Fuji 210, so there are no upgrades here. Like I mentioned above, the biggest issue is simply that the lens focus mechanism is extremely counter-intuitive. There is no autofocus here, and no general fixed focus either like in a cheap Polaroid camera.
Exposure seems to be pretty hit and miss. I would recommend stopping down slightly, but you’ll have to experiment for yourself to find the right spot. Especially outdoors I found that my pictures were slightly blown out and the flash was sometimes a bit aggressive indoors. I still scratch my head as to why a 30-year-old Polaroid camera is often able to get exposure correct more often than a modern Fuji Instax camera.
The Fuji Instax Wide 300 is the best instant film camera out there that uses Fuji Instax Wide film. However, the only competition comes in the form of the underwhelming Fuji Instax Wide 210. If you can snag a 210 for cheap, it’s still the same actual glass and will have the same image quality. However, if money doesn’t matter and you’re planning on buying new, the Instax Wide 300 is the way to go.
It’s unfair to compare this camera to Polaroid or even Fuji Instax Mini cameras, as they all use very different film. However, as far as cameras themselves go, this one would find itself near the bottom of the pack. However, if you’re new to the world of instant film, it’s best to first figure out what kind of film you want to shoot, and then pick a camera based on that. If Fuji Instax Wide is your film, this is your new camera.