Monday Mystery Camera: The Polaroid X530 Foveon Sensor Camera

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The Polaroid X530 is a 4.5mp digital point and shoot camera introduced by Polaroid Corproration in 2004. It is the first point and shoot camera to feature the Foveon sensor.

Founded in 1937 by Dr. Edwin Land, the creator of the famous Land Camera series of instant cameras, Polaroid has over the years strayed far from the original company and became known more for selling items they imported/distibuted and rebranding them under the “Polaroid” label, rather than actually making the products themselves.

The actual maker of the X530 camera is somewhat of a mystery which we’ll try to solve today. At its heart, and the thing that distinguishes the X530 from any other low budget point and shoot camera is the tiny but powerful 1/1.8″ Foveon X3 sensor. The official specs say the camera has 4.5mp, but compared to Bayer sensors, it is something more like 1.5mps. I suspect most of our readers will already know about the Foveon sensors used in popular Sigma cameras.

If not, just know that the Foveon sensor is laid out differently from the well known Bayer sensors found in the majority of digital cameras. The difference, as is often said, is that the Foveon sensors can, pixel for pixel, deliver higher clarity, color fidelity and resolution. So a Foveon sensor with for example, a 5mp sensor delivers almost 15mp’s in Bayer terms. That is the theory anyway. As always, if you’re interested in this technology, I recommend my readers to do a little research with that “search” bar on your favorite web browser 🙂

Back to the camera though, while it has the Foveon X3 sensor, the 3x optical zoom lens was made by Ricoh and the camera body itself, apparently made by a company called “World Wide Licenses Ltd” which according to Bloomberg’s company description: “World Wide Licenses Ltd. designs, develops, and markets digital imaging products.”

THE POLAROID X530 IMPRESSIONS

The X530 body itself, to me, looks like it could fit right in with the cheap Vivitar, Sakar, and yes, even Polaroid point and shoot cameras that you might find at CVS, Walgreens, and Best Buy. You know, those really cheap, under $50 cameras that you see while you’re waiting on line in those stores. Let’s face it, we sometimes get curious about those cameras, but since we are more “serious” photographers, we could never get ourselves to buy one of those cheap cameras, could we? 🙂

Anyway, as I said before, the main thing that distinguishes the X530 from those pharmacy store cameras is the Foveon sensor in it, and to its credit, that’s a biggie.

If it sounds like I’m cutting down, aka “dissing” the X530 body, I’m not but maybe I am! For me, I was actually attracted to its low budget looks. I’ve always loved cameras that looked like underdogs, but had monster sensors under their covers. That’s why I loved the Ricoh GR series. That’s why I wanted to love the X530.

The zooming action was smooth, albeit slow. The AF was moderately slow, but perfectly adequate for stills I would imagine.

IMAGE QUALITY

Now right here is where I have to stop. I have to tell you image quality remains a mystery to me. Why? Because the damned thing is not working!!

Well, the camera itself works fine. Everything seems to function, but the sensor itself is dead or seems dead. All I get are black frames. I have tried everything I could to resurrect it, short of taking it apart, which I’m tempted to do.

But most of what I have seen on the very few X530 links on the web shows this camera to have very good to excellent image quality, at its best. It does seem to show that Foveon “pop” that I have seen in the Sigma cameras. This is probably as much of a testament to the talented photographers who used the X530 as it is for the X530 itself.

THE X530 URBAN LEGEND

Legend has it that the X530 was recalled before it was supposed to go to market, but that some shipments were sent without this knowledge or without approval, thus making it into the hands of a few lucky photographers. At least, that’s what I’ve read on the web.

At the same time, I also read a press release from 2005 saying that Polaroid was announcing the X530’s availability in the U.S. through Circuit City and Walmart.

My opinion is that it was indeed available, but only for a very short time before Polaroid pulled the plug on it.

This is not unprecedented. It has happened very recently with a Polaroid product called the Polaroid Socialmatic. The Socialmatic was an Android based camera with a cool “Instagram” look to the design and what appeared to be a working tablet on its LCD screen plus an onboard printer for quick prints.

This product received a lot of hype prior to its release in 2014, but Polaroid quickly pulled the plug on it shortly after it came to market. As I had been curious about the Socialmatic myself, what I gathered by looking at sales and auctions was that the camera had some reliability issues relating to its battery and operations. Most of the ones for sale had dead batteries and could only be used while plugged in using a charger.

The apparent replacement for the Socialmatic is the Polaroid Snap which is still on the market and seemingly doing well. The $99 or under Snap seems to be what Polaroid had hoped the Socialmatic should have been. For me though, I wanted that on board tablet and the Socialmatic’s cool looks so I’ve passed up on the Snap for now. And I’ve stayed away from the Socialmatic too because of its issues.

And I would’ve stayed away from the X530 except I got it for $30 and because I collect old, weird and decrepit cameras 🙂

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

The Polaroid X530 is scarce. At the same time, it’s not like there’s a lot of people looking for them, save for hardcore Foveon fanatics.

I like the Foveon concept and its images, but I don’t think I’m what you would call a hardcore fan. I was a very early Foveon enthusiast in 2003 or 2004, I greatly enjoyed the Sigma SD14 in 2007, and have used several DP models. However, there was always something that kept me from crossing the line into fanboy territory. That’s a subject for another time, another post.

Again, I did not seek out the X530. I was actually looking for something else entirely when I came across this one. I did have a passing interest in the camera many, many years back, but I could never find one when I was looking, plus there was and still is very little info on it.

I got the camera with box and everything for $30. It looked mint, the functions performed smoothly, but as I said the sensor is dead. I use it now as a decoration in my homemade camera “museum” 🙂

It’s hard to put a value on this camera, but I would say a fair price would be, maybe $30-50, certainly under $100.

Do remember that you can get a Sigma DP1 for a little over $100 these days and the DP2/DP2s for a little more than that and they will do everything better than the X530 could.

BOTTOM LINE

The Polaroid X530 is an interesting camera. But as they say, “Pics, or it didn’t happen!” For me, it didn’t happen.

I would not call the X530 a Camera Legend, but certainly an interesting model in the legend of the Foveon sensor with an interesting history behind it. If you can find a working one under $100, consider yourself lucky and I’d love to hear from you.

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Recent Items: “Slow Jams”

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“Love RIP” 2016. Polaroid 180 Land Camera, 114mm f/4.5 Tominon with close up lens attachment.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been reviewing a lot of cameras as of late. It’s not for a lack of cameras to review, believe me. Much respect to my fellow bloggers especially the ones who do it so regularly. There is no glory to this!

However, I do have a new hobby; camera repair. Or “attempted” camera repair anyway 🙂

Here’s my most recent repair attempt. Some of you may remember my review on the wonderful Polaroid 180 Land camera. If not, and if you’re interested in that camera, you can check out the review here.

THE SHUTTER JAM

The camera was great. However, it started not being so wonderful a few months ago. First it started with the shutter intermittently not firing. It would just jam up for no reason, but then with enough pressing of the shutter release it would fire. Then one day, it stopped firing altogether.

Bummer. I thought this might be it for the mighty 180, but somewhere in the back of my mind I suspected it was not the leaf shutter in the lens itself, but that it was the release mechanism.

I remember reading about loosening up the cable that fires the shutter. On the 180, as with most Land cameras, the shutter release is attached to the main head board which also houses the lens. That area is protected by a metal part that is attached by three very, very tiny screws (if this stuff is confusing you, just refer to the pictures, they tell a much better story than I can!)

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“Slow Jam” The shutter release started to jam intermittently, eventually refusing to fire at all which prompted the attempted repair.

When you press the shutter release button (the red one), it actually fires the shutter through a cable, much like a cable release that you attach to your old school SLRs.

Anyway, I did loosen up the cable, but it did not solve the problem. I then tried the opposite, pushing the cable higher thinking perhaps it needed to be closer to get enough tension to fire the shutter. It still didn’t work.

Finally had to loosen up those three very, very tiny screws to take off the part that hides the actual shutter release. This turned out to the the hardest part of the job. It wasn’t supposed to be hard, but I found those screws to be so tiny, even my smallest “eyeglass kit repair” screwdriver wasn’t getting them raggedy screws out.

The space between the front board and the camera means your screwdriver must also be very tiny. There’s not a lot of room to work on this. I don’t have the biggest hands and yet I was having trouble fitting my hand in there while trying to turn the screws loose.

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“Screwed” The actual shutter release is located behind this metal part (top) held together by three very tiny screws.

Eventually, I got them off and I’m able to fire the shutter with my finger. It still got jammed so I put in a dab of WD-40 and it’s better now, but not completely fixed. I tried putting the pieces back together, but I found the shutter would release only intermittently with the cable to I just left it off.

I can use it now as is, but since I have to push up the shutter release by hand, I fear it might induce camera shake. Fortunately, the 180 Land Camera has a self timer function and that is what I use if I’m taking shots lower than 1/60. This plus my limited supply of the soon to be extinct packfilm means this is not a camera I’d use any more for taking shots of the kids, especially since they’re always moving around 🙂

This is still an ongoing project and I figure it might be helpful for anyone having similar issues with their Land Camera.

Just like vintage cars, it’s an awesome thing  and a lot of fun to shoot with a Camera Legend like the Polaroid 180. However, just like vintage cars, these classic cameras require maintenance and are not so fun when they start getting funky on you.

Just for the record, I did seek out service from a repair place that services these cameras. Never heard back from them. And perhaps that’s a good thing since they saved me money 🙂

THE FILM JAM

While taking my test shots, the film jammed in the 180 as pack film has been known to do. The film is discontinued, pricy, and every picture counts so I did not want to waste anything.

In the past, I have ruined whole packs by trying to force it out. In my 180 review, I mentioned of opening the film back ever so slightly which usually eases tension and allows you to get the film out, but sometimes even that doesn’t work.

In that case, what you need to do is in total darkness, open the film back slowly, pull out the exposed film which should be the one on the very top (assuming you had already pulled the tab enough) and manually put it through the rollers. Again, this must be done in total darkness.

The very top photo of the the dead flowers was actually a saved print using this method.

THE BURNING QUESTION

With the shutter jam and the film jam, I had a whole bunch of “slow jams” to deal with while shooting that Polaroid.

The burning question is, with regards to Polaroids and film altogether: Why Bother?

My best answer for that is: You gotta love it man!! 🙂

I know there’s a lot of folks way more experienced at repairing Land Cameras than I am and I’d love to hear from you!

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Photo Of The Day: “The Wacky Bunch”

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“The Wacky Bunch” 2016. Lomo’Instant Wide, 90mm f/8 lens.

This is a recent photo from the Lomography ‘Instant Wide camera. I reached out to Lomography to see if I could get a sample camera for review, but I never heard back from them. I didn’t expect to, but it would’ve been nice. Fortunately, when you love cameras you usually have friends who do too 🙂

Just some brief general impressions: the camera looks great, but feels less great than it looks. I’ll reserve judgement on its build and durability until I can have more time with it.

The camera relies on zone focusing which isn’t really my thing, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the shots I got. The lens is slowish at f/8 and you will be using the built-in flash a lot, but these factors also help to keep the shots sharp.

The lens cap which doubles as a self-timer/remote control is a brilliant touch! That’s what I used to take the shot above after placing the camera on a tripod.

Lomography Instant Wide Camera

The main thing about the Lomo’Instant Wide that appeals to many people (and to me) is that it takes the widely available and larger sized Fuji Instax Wide film, plus it offers a bit more manual control over the picture taking process than any Fuji Instax camera to date.

I have read some reviews on this camera on the net and read many comments about its image quality. I think I have a good idea now of what the lens quality is and I have some thoughts about the Lomo’s  overall image quality, but to be fair I’ll save them until I can take further test shots.

It’s one of the more interesting instant film cameras to have come out in recent years and I hope to get one for a longer period of time. Heck, I might even get one of my own! 🙂

Tuesday Titans: The Polaroid 180 Land Camera

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“Cat’s Meow” 2016. The Polaroid 180 Land Camera with Portrait Lens kit attached, is an instant film Camera Legend and to me, the Cat’s Meow! 🙂

I was debating to myself whether this camera belongs in the “Tuesday Titans” series. Half of my mind says no, but the other half says, well, this IS a rather big and awkward camera to use, once unfolded out of its protective shell. However, it is not heavy, where most of the Titans reviewed before are. Ah well, what’s done is done I guess.

I’ve wanted one of these for a long time. I’ve played with them, seen prints from them, but never owned one till recently.

I got one through a trade deal which involved me getting rid of some digital gear and a lens. Now it would seem perplexing, maybe even dumb to get rid of digital gear which I could use for a long time for an instant film camera whose main “food” is the recently discontinued Fuji FP-100C, which was the last remaining production instant packfilm made.

But most of you who follow this blog already know I have a habit of doing things that you, nor I, would ever expect. Not that this is something to brag about, it’s just the way I do things.

THE POLAROID 180 LAND CAMERA BODY

The Polaroid 180 is much like other Land Cameras that came before it. It’s a simple but delicate mix. The bellows is probably the most delicate part of these cameras.

I used a Polaroid 360 that was given to me by a friend in college many years back, but I never really liked it. The fiddly operation, the slow f/8.8 lens was disadventageous to me as someone used to 35mm, medium format, and digital cameras.

Plus I have to admit, I was never a huge fan of the Polaroid lo-fi look. I think it only works well for certain subjects, and for a select group of artists of which I am not one of them.

I started enjoying instant cameras more in the late 2000’s when I got myself reacquainted with the medium through the Polaroid 600SE which is probably one of, if not the most desirable packfilm cameras. I really enjoyed the prints I got with this camera and Fuji FP-3000B, also now discontinued.

The Polaroid 180 is also very high on the list of desirable Polaroid cameras. The camera body is genuine Polaroid unlike the 600SE which is really a Mamiya Universal clone, but with an incompatible lens mount to the 600SE.

The 114 f/4.5 Tominon lens on the 180 however was made by Tomoika of Japan. It is roughly the equivalent of a 35mm lens on  full frame camera. At f/4.5 the lens is one of the fastest available for instant packfilm cameras. Only the f/3.8 Tominon on the Polaroid 190 and 195 is faster. Needless to say these lenses are still no f/1.2 speed demons, but in the Polaroid world of f/8 and up, yes these lenses are “fast.”

While many see the 195 as the highest model, I prefer the 180 due to its integrated rangefinder and Zeiss finder. The 195 has separate viewfinder and rangefinder windows, much like the old Leica screw mount cameras, which to me makes it more inconvenient, certainly less speedy to use although I’ve heard some people say they prefer the 195’s arrangement because framing may be more accurate.

The 190 is probably the ultimate because it combines the 180’s finder with the 195’s faster lens.

All these cameras are fully manual and do not need a battery conversion, which a camera like the heretofore mentioned 360 Land Camera does.

The 180 offers aperture settings from wide open at f/4.5 to f/90, shutter speeds from 1 second to 1/500 plus bulb. There is a lever near the lens for M (bulb), X (flash), and V (self-timer).

IN USE AND ISSUES

As mentioned earlier, the 180, while well built has a bit of a delicate feel, but this is due to the nature of the beast, as with many folding cameras. To open the camera, you need to pull out and extend the top “arm” until it makes a noticeable click. You need to be careful not to poke or damage the bellows in any way or you will have light leaks.

The Polaroid 180 uses rangefinder focus and many of you are probably familiar with this, but for those who are not, you simply move the sliding focus bars on the camera until the image in the center is aligned to achieve focus. You cannot focus by physically moving the lens on this camera.

Especially if buying from eBay, you should right away upon receiving the camera, check the overall structure of the camera to ensure that there is no physical damage. Next check the rangefinder and see if it’s aligned. It should give you a good idea, although the real test is with some film in the camera. Check the aperture and shutter speeds, make sure they’re working properly. And check that bellows for any pits, holes, or wrinkles.

It’s a simple camera to use, although somewhat awkward at first if you’re not familiar with the Land Cameras.

As I completely forgot about the way these cameras worked, I lost a couple of shots due to film jamming in the camera back. That seems to be the main issue with this camera. If you run into this issue, this remedy works nearly all the time…

After you take a shot and pull the film tab, if there is a lot of tension, do not force it or you will most likely break the tab and lose the first and/or second shot. Instead, if you pull hard and it does not seem to be moving, open the bottom of the camera very slightly, then pull again until you feel it move. Once you do feel that movement, close the back again and pull until the film comes out. You need to close the back because the film has to come out through the rollers to “distribute” the chemicals that will develop the film.

Do not be afraid that you will ruin the film by opening the back slightly. If you do it right, there won’t be any issues. Admittedly, this requires some practice so be ready to lose a few shots. I know it’s not easy as packfilm is now so expensive! For extra safety measures, you can try to do this in the dark or subdued light if you’re really worried, but I’ve done it in daylight with no light leaks or film fogging.

The problem with film jamming apparently has to do with the metal clips inside the film back putting so much tension on the plastic that Fuji’s packfilms are encased in. Some have had success by pushing the clips in and in some cases, completely removing the clips. I really didn’t want to butcher the camera.

Also, when pulling out the film, I prefer to collapse the bellows back into the camera before proceeding as it keeps the bellows safe during a potentially “violent” experience of pulling out that film 🙂

A good practice is to clean the rollers with a napkin before loading each pack of film. No need for super wet cloth, just a dry or slightly damped napkin will do. This should keep film coming out smoothly.

When folded, the camera is very compact for a camera of this size, and it’s not a heavy camera the way the 600SE is.

IMAGE QUALITY

I’ve been shooting the 180 with expired FP-3000B. I have yet to put FP-100C in it. I find the lens quality of the Tominon to wonderful for what I want, probably very good to excellent if you want a more magazine friendly description.

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“Baby Is Here” 2016. Polaroid 180 Land Camera, 114mm f/4.5 Tominon wide open. I did add contrast to this image, perhaps too much. The original image is of much lower contrast, but this is just to give you an idea of how you can adjust contrast to your tastes.

The lens has a good soft/sharp quality wide open and becomes very sharp as you stop down, as with most lenses.

The Tominon seems to have lower contrast than many of you may want, especially when compared to modern lenses, but this actually works very well for black and white images. Plus you can always add more contrast during your post processing workflow if you’re planning on posting your images online or just like a higher contrast look.

The results on FP-3000B have that classic look that I’m a big fan of. Again, this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I fell in love with photography by seeing black and white prints from my parents photo albums back in the 70s and 80s and a camera like the Polaroid 180 is capable of giving me that look straight from the camera.

BOTTOM LINE

Why did I get rid of digital gear for the Polaroid 180 which could be a camera living on borrowed time? Because I have other digital gear which makes it redundant.

Plus, I have hope that even if packfilm goes extinct, these cameras are too good not to have someone come up with something to keep them running.

As many of you know, Impossible film’s co-founder Mr. Florian Kaps (who is no longer with the company) recently met with Fujifilm’s representatives in Japan trying to save Fuji FP-100C. While I don’t believe there is a definitive answer yet, I’m not really holding out for Fuji. I thinking of new companies and new films for the future.

The Polaroid 180 Land Camera is an instant film Camera Legend and as I said, this camera is too good to let die.

Just like the innovative Cubans who drive around in classic American cars of the 50s and 60s, I do believe someone will come along with a solution to keep these cameras running. Whether it’s new packfilm or modifying them for convenient use with Instax film, I believe it may take some time, but it’s going to happen. Fingers crossed, of course! 🙂

WHERE TO BUY

If seeking one of these prices are trending on eBay at $200-600, with $600 being on the high end, and $300 being average. On the low end of the price spectrum, it seems to be for body only. On the high end, it seems to be the complete kit with the add on portrait and close-up lenses, plus case and extras. I’m talking about a genuine Polaroid 180 Land Camera, not one of the many modified “tribute” clones you see on eBay.

The most abundant place for these cameras is eBay. You may also find them from time to time HERE.

The gear I traded for this camera comes down to under $300, and for that price I got the whole shebang, portrait/close-up lenses, case, so I’m very happy with this trade. I could easily make this money back if and when I sell it.

But make no mistake, this is not an easy camera to sell as it serves a niche, but very dedicated market. I know of camera dealers who slashed prices on these cameras the week that Fuji discontinued FP-100C film. On anonymous dealer told me: “It’s very hard to sell a camera that they don’t make film for.”

So unless you’re foolish and a hopeless romantic like me, this is actually a very good time to SELL your Polaroid 180. Even as I hold out for hope, there is still the very real possibility that there will be no film left for these cameras in the not so distant future.

If that happens, well, I got my stock of packfilm and I will use it with reserve until it finishes. That means no test shots of brick walls, no focus test on trees or nearby buildings. I will most likely use the camera for portraits of my kids because they are my most precious gifts in life and I would like them to someday look back on these prints and know their images were made on something classic and historic and hopefully relive the magic of instant photography. And if you’ve got one of these babies, don’t forget to stock up on that film before it’s all gone!

 

 

The Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic

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The Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic is an instant film camera introduced by Fujifilm in 2013. The Mini 90 Neo Classic uses Fuji’s Instax Mini film.

I first saw the Mini 90 or Neo Classic (whichever short name you want to use) at its introduction at the PhotoPlus Expo in the fall of 2013. After seeing it in the flesh and speaking with the nice Fuji representative, I knew I had to have one! What I didn’t think of was why? But we’ll get to that later on.

I got one as soon as they were released in 2013 and at Urban Outfitters of all places.

THE INSTAX MINI 90 CAMERA BODY

Upon first glance, you can see why Fuji named this camera “Neo Classic.” It really looks like an instant classic, literally and figuratively! It looks beautiful.

Upon first touch, your feelings may change a bit. Now here’s a camera that I would say looks better than it feels. It feels lighter and I don’t know how to say this nicely, but it feels “cheaper” than it looks. Maybe it’s better to say, it looks like a metal camera of yore, but feels like a plastic camera. It doesn’t feel like a cheap camera, but as I said, cheaper than it looks.

The Mini 90 has a very smooth power on. With the flick of the little switch, the lens protrudes very smoothly and quietly. I just love the way it works. The only negative might be that it’s very easy to hit the switch accidentally so be mindful of this if you have the camera in your bag of goodies.

Like most instant cameras, the Mini 90 has a slow 60mm f/12.7 lens making it hard to not use flash indoors or get any kind of bokeh unless you get really close. Fortunately, the camera has a built in macro mode which lets you get as close as around 11 inches from the subject.

The Mini 90 is probably the most full-featured of the current Instax camera line. In addition to the built in macro mode, it offers a stronger flash, the ability to turn off the flash (not available in some other Instax models), double exposure, bulb, brightness adjustment, kids mode (for moving subjects), party mode (brightens the background), and landscape mode.

For the most part, this is an automatic camera. You cannot control the aperture or shutter speed, except for bulb. Keep that in mind and feel good knowing that the camera generally produces good results without your help 🙂

IMAGE QUALITY

The image quality coming out of the Mini 90 and Fuji’s Instax Mini film is generally excellent. But here’s the pun…it is excellent for what it is.

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“Cheeri-O” 2016. Fuji Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. Macro mode used to get in closer for a more effective portrait. Baby Zay believes in the power of a good breakfast. She starts her day off with a healthy dose of Cheerios and works her way up from there 🙂

Remember when I wondered WHY I got one? Well, my main issue is with Instax Mini film in general. The 2.13″ x 3.4″ credit card sized prints are just a little too small for me to really enjoy.

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“Vanilla Fudge” 2016. If you’re a fan of that old vintage look, you can do it with the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. This was taken recently, but it looks almost like a print from the 70s!

That said, I think that’s kind of the whole point of it. It’s supposed to be small and fun, not some kind of “artistic” tool that we photographers always think we need. But sure, you can definitely put your artistic twist to the pics as with any camera. Me, I just use it as a point and shoot instant film camera for family fun snapshots. It is superb for that purpose.

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“Beauty & The Beast” Part II, 2013. One of my first shots from the Mini 90 Neo Classic. It wasn’t going to win me any awards, but I knew it was going to be a fun camera 🙂

All Instax Mini film at this time is ISO 800. There is also an Instax Wide format film which at 3.4″ x 4.25″ is more to my liking and closer to the size of packfilm. Unfortunately, Fuji does not make a camera currently in this format that is as sophisticated, spec wise, as the Mini 90 Neo Classic.

I find the Instax film to be very consistent, maybe clinical at times, but very consistent in color and stability. I cannot say the same for the Impossible film that I have used.

BOTTOM LINE

In the age of digital, analog photographers should be very happy with the success of the Instax Mini line of cameras. They are so popular that you can find them almost anywhere, from Target to Toys ‘R Us. I read somewhere that Fujifilm’s latest financial release apparently shows Instax sales growing, while digital sales have stalled or are declining. Don’t quote me on this, but do some research if you’re interested.

The funny thing is, while so many photographers (myself included) were raging over the discontinuation of Fuji’s FP-100C instant packfilm, there’s a general consensus that the Instax line is not as well loved by seasoned photographers.

Why? Well, camera selection is one thing to be sure. As I said, there aren’t many models, if any at all, designed for the photo enthusiast.

The second reason, and this is my own personal take, is that people just love retro and hard to find stuff man! The Instax cameras are not rare and they are widely available. People may cross it off their list for that reason alone.

As I said, people just love retro. In fact, it’s probably the Mini 90’s retro looks that caught my attention in the first place.

But yeah, people. You give them a high quality audio CD and they will find that the scratchy analog records sound better. You give them a modern car with all the amenities and they will say, “They don’t build ’em like they used to.” You give them 42 megs and the ease of digital, and they’ll want to shoot an old film camera and deal with the hassles of development and scanning dusty, scratchy negatives.

Sure, I’m being a little sarcastic, but not really because I am also one of those “nostalgic” folks 🙂

Anyway, again, I think all analog photography lovers should really be glad that Fuji is still even making instant cameras and instant film.

If you can live with the small sized prints, the Mini 90 Neo Classic is truly a wonderful instant camera that is full featured and fun to use. I do believe it will be a classic, and who knows, maybe one day a Camera Legend.

WHERE TO BUY

The great thing about Fuji’s Instax Mini cameras is that they are very easy on the wallet. Even the Mini 90 Neo Classic runs close to $150 new and around $90-100 used. For the small difference, I’d say just save your pennies and buy new unless you can get one for $50.

For a good selection, you may try HERE and HERE. Thanks for supporting CameraLegend.com!

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Canon SG-201 Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss, 13×19″, 50 Sheets
Lowepro Nova Sport 17L AW Shoulder Bag, Slate Gray
Sandisk Extreme 32GB microSDHC Class 10 UHS-I Memory Card -BULK IN JEWEL CASE

Damn, that looks like a killer package! If you were wanting to get into the professional photography business, ie, portraits, weddings, etc, or you just want the complete package and you have the cash to spend, this is it!

The Fuji FP-100C Discontinued: The End Of Pack Film

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“Peace” 2012. Polaroid 110B converted for pack film, 127mm f/4.7 Ysarex, Fuji FP-100C.

Periodically, I go through periods where I need a mental break from it all. I’m sure there’s more than a few of you who feel the same if you’ve been blogging or posting photos on the internet for some time. “C-B-R” I call it. Crash. Burn. Rise (or try to rise) again 🙂

As mentioned before, putting up a blog with any kind of quality content takes effort and I would rather not post unless I could put up something interesting for you.

Anyway, almost two weeks ago it was announced that Fujifilm would be discontinuing the FP-100C, the last commercially produced 3.25×4.25″ peel-apart pack film. The announcement caused a bit of an uproar in the film community.

The discontinuation of this film has more implications than it first seems. It goes without saying that those who truly enjoy pack film and use it regularly will be most affected. But they are not the only ones affected. With no more pack film, here are just some of the after effects:

  1. People who ever wanted to try a “Polaroid Back” with their film camera will be affected when there is no more pack film because virtually all Polaroid backs, especially for medium format systems, take the 3.25×4.25″ peel apart films. And for the Polaroid backs that do not take this film, such as the 545 backs, film is virtually non-existent, except for really old batches sold on eBay or the cool, but expensive New55 films.
  2. The announcement rendered all Polaroid Land cameras and any other camera that takes this film useless. Well, not really useless right now, but living on borrowed time.
  3. People who make a living selling pack film photos on the streets or at fairs, events, etc, will be affected. Admittedly, there are more people these days shooting with a digital camera and a portable digital printer than there are those using pack film, but I do know a couple of really cool photographers whose unique work was directly a result of shooting with vintage cameras and instant pack film, and some who even make a living from this.
  4. Folks who, over the years, have resurrected vintage Polaroid cameras and have made a living restoring and modifying old Polaroid cameras to take pack film. There was a good market for this, just check eBay. They will definitely be affected by this. Some of these people have started converting cameras to use Instax film, but they’re just beginning. I hope they will continue and wish them success with this.

The surprising thing about Fuji’s discontinuation? Well, from all accounts Fuji’s own line of Instax instant cameras and film are booming! These instant cameras are incredibly popular and according to some accounts, making a better profit over Fuji’s own line of renowned digital cameras.

I’ve read people saying maybe Fuji did not want the pack film market to compete or hinder the sales of Instax cameras so they discontinued the FP-100C. This however doesn’t make sense because Fuji had no competition. There was no other company left that was making pack film.

So why not just shoot Instax? Because at this time, there are no Instax cameras that offer decent manual/advanced user capabilities. Actually, there is the Lomo Instant Wide which takes Instax Wide film and offers more manual controls than what Fuji is offering, but reports on this camera are mixed. I hope to get one for review in the near future. However, so far none of these Instax cameras have anything like the great Tominon lenses on the Polaroid 180/195 Land cameras or the Ysarex lens on the Polaroid 110A and 110B.

MY EXPERIENCES WITH PACK FILM

Personally, as an available light and night shooter, I much preferred the Fuji FP-3000B, the amazing ISO 3000 black and white version. It was amazingly sharp with beautiful tones. Sadly, this film was discontinued in 2013, but can still be found albeit at ridiculous prices.

For the FP-100C, I find my best results outdoors with plenty of sunlight. The FP-100C needs lots of light. If you have a studio setup, it’s cool, but I’m an available light shooter. I could and have done portraits with flash, but for those Polaroid “party” shots with flash, I’d just prefer to shoot with a One Step.

The great thing with Fuji’s peel apart instant film is that you get two images for the price: an instant print and a negative which you can reclaim through scanning or a bleaching process.

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“Friend” 2009. Polaroid 600SE, 127mm f/4.7 lens, FP-3000B scanned negative side.

Not all is rosy with pack film though. I’ve had issues with broken tabs, film jamming and losing the first couple of shots and sometimes, the whole pack which makes you feel really lousy because these films have become really expensive.

At its best, it’s an awesome feeling because there’s nothing like seeing an instant print develop before your eyes. And with the right camera/lens combo, you can get really excellent pics that can’t quite be duplicated digitally, even with the best “film” filters. At its worst, the film jamming, the underexposed shots, the expense, the gunk, it sometimes makes me say, why bother?

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

As soon as Fuji announced FP-100C’s discontinuation, the price gouging began. The film was selling for around $10 earlier, all of a sudden it went up to $14.99, then $18.99, now $24 and even over $30 in some places.

This is nuts and capitalism at its best, or worst. Strange thing is that the film was never out of stock whenever I looked, before the announcement. Now, it’s out of stock in most places. I know what you’re saying, supply and demand.

People are panicking. But I look at it this way. The Fuji FP-3000C was discontinued in 2013, but you can still find it even today on B&H, albeit at about three times the price before it was discontinued. Surely, once the entire stock is gone, it’s gone. But apparently Fuji had enough stock that, three years later, is still being sold.

Hopefully, Fuji made enough stock of FP-100C to last us a few more years.

THE BITTER END

In Fuji’s press release, they cited declining sales as the reason for discontinuing the film. This is the only thing that makes sense. Fujifilm is a business after all and just like all businesses they’re here to make money, not to appease a niche market of enthusiasts. Perhaps it cost more to produce the film and maintain the equipment that makes the film than they saw worthy.

Ironically, it is this niche market of old film cameras that Fuji borrowed the analog styling for its very successful line of retro styled digital cameras.

There are online petitions to save the Fuji FP-100C with thousands signed. The same was done when the FP-3000B was discontinued in 2013, it yielded no results. I expect the same here.

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“Mini Me” 2016. Pentax 6×7, 105mm f/2.4 Takumar, Fuji FP-3000B.

Some have wondered in the Impossible Project may take up this opportunity and buy out Fuji’s equipment to continue making pack film. I certainly hope they could. They really did do the impossible with Polaroid 600 and SX-70 film and I applaud their efforts. However, I personally feel that they won’t because they are probably already stretched thin as it is, although if any company can do the “impossible” they can!

Fujifilm has always been a different breed and have always made cameras, films, and decisions that were different and often unique. This time, sadly, they did what any corporate business would do and I think all analog photographers have lost something special because of it.

 

The Polaroid One Step Rainbow

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The Polaroid One Step Rainbow. This camera is cheap AND iconic at the same time! A rare combination.

This may not be the greatest picture taking camera in the world, with its plastic lens and plastic build, but the iconic Polaroid One Step SX-70 Rainbow is one of the Polaroids to have if you collect cameras.

And they are quite cheap on eBay. Never pay more than $40 for one of these. As a Camera Legend though, that it is! I think this is the model that inspired the Instagram logo. I mean look at that Instagram logo…The Polaroid One Step Rainbow IS Instagram!

The Instagram icon.

With its fixed focus lens, and virtually no ability to manually control this camera, save for the lighten/darken switch, this camera is perfect for those “ugly” photos I wrote about here. You know, those washed out, faded, blurry photos that people find “artistic” 🙂

Note: The only thing this camera has in common with the original SX-70 I featured before is that it takes SX-70 film, which is much less common that the 600 series film. Other than that, the cameras are night and day in quality.

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The original SX-70. The differences in quality between the One Step and the original SX-70 are night and day. The one thing they share in common is that they both take SX-70 film, which today means film from the Impossible Project.