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This is what a box of joy looks like. I know that it may look like a box from Amazon with a camera...and a case...and an extra battery...and film, but I can assure you with absolutely no room for doubt that it is a box of pure joy.

But Todd, what is it--I mean, what is it really?

It's the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90. It's (in my humble opinion) the flag ship of the instant camera revival. There are plenty of technical reviews out there so I'm not really going to dive in to that. Why not, Todd? Well, to be completely honest-I got this thing for one reason and one reason only: I wanted to reconnect to the physical magic of taking a picture.  The uncertainty of not knowing if you actually got the shot you saw in the viewfinder until you actually see the picture develop.

That's right develop. As in print. As in a physical photograph. That you can touch. And pass around. And you can't crop it. Or change the lighting in post-production.

Here's what the box looked like about 7 minutes after the above shot was taken:
Yuppers. By this point the camera was unboxed, battery and film cartridge (yes--film! haven't you been paying attention ?!?) installed, and the camera placed in the case I bought for it (which, I have to admit, is growing on me more every day).

This shot shows you about how big the camera is. It's not huge. The prints that come out are slightly smaller than an iPod touch 4th Gen. And that's ok.


I'm not going to lie..in addition to all of the other bad-assery that this particular model has, the first reason I even entertained this model was its look. It's got that retro/vintage camera vibe. In fact the full name of the camera is the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic.  And it really is. It's the old school charm of the instant camera brought in to this generation.

And between you and me, this thing has me absolutely mind-blowingly giddy. If I hadn't made a promise to Jack, I'd say with no reservations that I was "giddy as ****," but you know...I think you get the point.

The above shot is my artsy attempt at capturing everything that came in the box of joy (now I know why Amazon puts a smiley face on their boxes). The irony is, I really wanted to take the above shot with my mini90, but I only ordered one...so...you know.

I'm going to Put In Bay this weekend and I cannot wait to take pix.

The big question I get is 'Why on earth did you want to go back to an instant camera?' (or as my dad says, "well, of course it's cool. It was cool 30 years ago!"  Yes. Yes it was).

So...Why?  I was looking at all of my photo gear...cameras...lenses...periphery equipment...and I've got a shitton of it. Probably several thousands of dollars worth (nothing like a pro-photographer, but definitely more than your average consumer shutterbug).

And in looking at that, I realized that there were two and only two things that brought me pure joy with all of that gear.

  • Taking the shot
  • Holding the finished picture
When I'm taking the shot...whether it's that perfect engagement shot...or the shot where the senior finally opens up and I get a real smile...or the trees are blowing just right...whatever it is, there is a moment where there is such pure joy at the endless possibility of what the final shot will wind up looking like. 

And extrapolating that, when I'm actually holding the final print. A photograph. In my hands. That's it. That's the final destination. And on those rare moments when that joy of taking the shot perfectly aligns with the print in my hand--it is bliss. I know no other word for it.

So...why an instant camera? Because it takes the two things I love the most about photography and gives them to me. Without all of the bullshit in between. I don't have to second guess myself for hours starting at Photoshop or Lightroom. I don't have to hope that the FTP to the photolabs is going to work. And I don't have to wait until they've printed the pix.

Not one single bit of the stuff that drives me mad about photography. All gone. 
Take the shot. (Watch it develop) Hold the finished picture.


And there's a forgotten piece that I remembered after showing this to friends. And it's one that's echoed in another review I read for this camera, but the joy of actually sharing the picture with someone is something I had completely forgotten. Being huddled around the blank print and watching it magically darken and color in all the right places.  That excitement. That elation when the final print reveals itself. And of course every single person has to pick it up and shake it. It's a must.

I've given away as many of the little prints as I've kept. And that's really part of it, isn't it?

I know I've posted the above shot before. But if you see on the camera, you will see the first and (hopefully) last selfie I intend to take with this camera. That's not really the point. The point is to take pictures of others...of events...of times and places to be remembered. And to share.

But more importantly, the instant camera does something else. It doesn't let you overthink the situation.

There are no fancy settings...no focus...no real reason to ape around on the camera.  It's designed to be a part of whatever you're experiencing, not to be a distraction.  It's been 6 days since that box of joy arrived on my door, and I have to say that it still makes me smile.

Or say cheese, if you will.

-A.T.


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