Dear Fujifilm, Please Give Us a Decent Instax Camera

Dear Fujifilm, Please Give Us a Decent Instax Camera

Dear Fujifilm, on behalf of all instant photography fans, please give us a decent Instax camera — one that excites us, one that inspires us.

I love Instax. I really do. It gives more reliable results than Polaroid, but the choice of cameras we have is rather limited.

Polaroid shooters are spoiled for choice, from the revolutionary SX-70 to the SLR 680 and dozens of models in-between. That's a legacy that Instax shooters don't have. Yet, it started off so well.

In 1999, they produced the Instax 500AF. Autofocus and auto-exposure in an Instax camera, imagine that. To this day, the 500AF has held its value and remains a much-loved model by instant enthusiasts.

Instax Mini 40
Fujifilm's latest Instax camera, the Instax Mini 40.

Every few months, there's a new announcement out of Japan, and we try not to get our hopes up: a new look, a new feature, a new name.

In the last few days, images of the Mini 40 were leaked online. The most exciting thing about the announcement was not the new camera, but the new contact sheet film. It's nice to see they've reintroduced auto-exposure with their latest models instead of making us choose between a sun, a cloud, and a house. 

Auto0exposure is also featured in their best instant camera of recent times, the SQ6. It even had a double exposure mode and came with three colored flash filters, giving us hope that things were getting better and they were listening to us. But with all the latest Instax models, such as the Mini 40 and the SQ1, it's all style over substance. Not quite good enough, Fujifilm.

Why am I expecting such big things? Here's why.

They make a lot of money from Instax. The company reports show that it's the cash cow of their imaging division. Instax generates way more income than the X Series and GFX lines combined and always will.

Although sales were down in 2020, they still managed to ship more than 8.5 million Instax cameras. These are sales figures that other camera manufacturers can only dream of.

There are no figures for how much Instax film was sold, but it has to be in the hundreds of millions of sheets every year. For all the animosity directed at them from the film community, they're still the biggest show in town.

They know how to make beautiful cameras and stunning lenses. X Series cameras effortlessly blend cutting-edge technology with retro charm. GFX cameras have made medium format accessible to thousands of professional photographers.

On top of that, they've also produced some of the most iconic film cameras in the last quarter of a century, from premium point and shoot cameras such as the Klasse S to the stunning GF670 rangefinder. Even the Hasselblad XPan was designed and made by Fujifilm in Japan.

I know that Instax was more or less a hand-me-down technology from Kodak and Polaroid. So, I won't hold my breath waiting for a revolutionary camera like the SX-70.

But in the not too distant past, they've teased us. In an interview with DPReview in October 2018, a senior Fujifilm spokesperson said: "Maybe we should think about interchangeable lens Instax".

That would be a huge step in the right direction, but two and a half years have passed, and still, nothing.

Instax Wide image shot on MINT InstantKon RF70
MiNT Cameras make stunning rangefinder cameras with full manual controls for Instax wide and square film formats.

In recent years, others have filled the gap in the market. MiNT Cameras has models for all three Instax formats. This includes excellent manual focus rangefinders for wide and square formats. Instant Options modifies your ho-hum Instax offerings with much better lenses.

I know there can't be much money in selling an advanced instant camera to enthusiasts. But come on, Fujifilm, give us something.

Until then, Instax is a film format that has yet to reach its true potential, forever synonymous with toy cameras, tween birthday parties, Hello Kitty, and Taylor Swift. I think it deserves much more than that. 

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24 Comments

Tommy Lyles's picture

I don’t see this as much more than a novelty. I do like the idea of a small digital file (6-7mb) on a built-in memory card to accompany the printed version.

Matt Murray's picture

That's the problem, Fujifilm's marketing is hugely successful but many photographers look upon instant as a novelty. Contrast this attitude to the past by when many legendary photographers and artists regularly used instant.

Steve Novosel's picture

They used instant because digital didn't exist. Instant for pros was rarely an artistic choice, it was a functional choice - how can I verify lighting and settings of my camera before shooting the scene. There's no need for that now, and instant film is for the casual shooter.

Matt Murray's picture

While I agree in part re the functional choice, plenty of artists used Polaroid: Andy Warhol, David Hockney, Robert Frank and Ansell Adams spring to mind without even thinking too hard. There is something absolutely magical about pressing a button and having a finished print in your hand 90 seconds later (or in Polaroid's case these days, 15 minutes later).

Alex Zenzaburro's picture

We used polaroid backs to verify exposure and focus, not because we liked polaroid ^^

Matt Murray's picture

Forgot to mention that Fujifilm make cameras that store digital files which give you the option to print the ones you want - the SQ10 and SQ20. I had an SQ10 but sold it, the shooting experience is fundamentally different to shooting a traditional instant camera and not for me.

Michael Lambert's picture

And the "Liplay" which I have. It also acts as a printer, and you get much better results taking the photo with a phone and then bluetoothing the image to the Liplay to print.

TIMOTHY HUNOLD's picture

Lomography has cameras, and the abortion that was the "Leica" Sofort. I had the Belair 612 but it used a terrible hand crank that left pressure marks. Love the new film though. Really a new large format like the HC100 would be interesting.

Thomas Starlit's picture

It's beyond me why Fuji does not release a 4x5 Instax version, for use in large format cameras. They would probably get a good crowd of large format shooters using their 4x5 Instax quite quickly

Michael Lambert's picture

Instax Wide is 4 by 3. Not quite there, but pretty big!

Steve Novosel's picture

There aren't that many large format shooters out there these days

Steve K's picture

I was at a shop that specializes in instant cameras recently, and on the wall they had a selection of pictures shot by the staff on Instax Wide film. I noticed that some of the images showed incredible sharpness and clarity with shallow depth of field far narrower than that captured by any Instax camera. As if someone had used a professional portrait lens instead. Sure enough that's what it was, they had modified a medium format camera to shoot Instax Wide film. The results were really stunning. I really don't understand why Fuji can't give us a camera capable of utilizing the Instax film to it's full potential.

Matt Murray's picture

I agree! Instax has so much potential. A more expensive better spec Instax camera will not sell anywhere near as many units as a Mini 11 or Mini 40, but it would be so good to showcase the format.

Richard Haines's picture

Well Fuji has the brilliant fun and creative instax mini 90 neo classix. It has: double exposure, bulb long mode, macro mode, party mode, kids, landscape, self timer, flash on/off, brightness adjustment, and 2 shutter release buttons. It's a great little camera and close to the SX 70 Polaroid in spirit as you can currently get.

Matt Murray's picture

It's certainly one of their better instant cameras, but it was released 8 years ago. To quote Janet Jackson, Fujifilm - what have you done for me lately?

Michael Ernest Sweet's picture

I understand the sentiment, especially coming from more serious photographers. However, I think Fujifilm likely does not see enough potential in an SX-70 type camera for the instant market. Mint makes good cameras but I suspect that they do not sell in numbers anywhere close to what Fujifilm would want to see in order to produce a mass-market high-end Instax camera. Like it or not, fair or not, the majority of Instax users are tweens and the Taylor Swift crowd. And they want simple point-and-shoot cameras that make cute little photos. You can bet your last marble that Fujifilm knows where the actual money is to be made in this segment.

Matt Murray's picture

Their marketing is good and they know their biggest target audience well. Is it too much to ask that they give us something more as the years roll on? A better lens, autofocus, limited edition films like Polaroid... something to keep us interested :)

Michelle Maani's picture

I think this is nostagia for oldsters. Young people like cellphone digitals because they can get nice shots they can share instantaneously with their friends.

Matt Murray's picture

Maybe... but there is something magical about pressing a button and seeing a print in your hand 90 seconds later. Some of my favourite photos of my family are imperfect Instax and Polaroid images.

Juan Garcia's picture

Seems like such a small market. I cant see how Fuji can make money off of it.

Matt Murray's picture

They make a ton of money off Instax, so there would be money to be made :)

Gary Pageau's picture

Many of the comments are here are along the sentiment of "I don't know why Fujifilm won't make a camera specific to the narrow niche I am interested in."

Matt Murray's picture

Fujifilm have sold well over 20 million Instax cameras in the last three years alone, what other camera manufacturer can boast those kind of sales?

Richard Freedman's picture

In the event that Fuji is reading this: when it's time to upgrade the SQ20, please consider a bigger sensor and much bigger file size; improve the LCD screen (bigger/better); put the tripod mount back; add Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity (as per the LiPlay); even consider a built-in ring light.