There’s no replicating the feel of instant film. Digital instant-print cameras may come close, but the alchemy of an instant film photo is intoxicating and unique, and there’s a reason that these white-bordered images have become so iconic. Digital cameras may get more sophisticated and megapixel counts may continue to climb, but there will always be a place for the lo-fi charm of the best instant film cameras.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 is the latest in Fujifilm’s long, successful line of instant film cameras. It isn’t doing anything particularly new. In fact, it’s basically the same internally as 2020’s Instax Mini 11: a very simple camera for those who just want to point and shoot. Its main differences are a reskinned design with a textured surface. Let’s dig in a little further and find out what this new model is all about.
• Film type: Fujifilm Instax Mini instant film (62 mm × 46 mm)
• Lens: 2 components, 2 elements, f = 60 mm, 1:12.7
• 0.37x viewfinder
• Minimum focusing distance: 0.3m
• Programmed electronic shutter: 1/2 to 1/250 sec. Slow synchro for low light
• Always-on flash
• Power: 2x AA batteries
• Dimensions: 104 mm × 121 mm × 65mm
• Weight: 330g
The aim of the Instax Mini 40 is simplicity, so there’s not a whole lot to say about it in terms of functionality. You load the film packs, a process that requires a little fiddling, but is easy once you get used to it. With this done, you hold the camera vertically, frame up with the 0.37x viewfinder, and shoot.
That’s it. There’s no exposure control of any kind. You can’t even turn off the flash. The camera spits the image out, and it develops within 90 seconds. The only real control you can exercise is activating selfie mode – which is basically just pulling the front of the lens out to zoom in a little. There’s the obligatory selfie-mirror to help you frame up.
Instax film packs are easy to get hold of. They’re cheaper than, and inferior to, Polaroid film; they’re more expensive than, and better than, Kodak’s instant-print ZINK photo paper used in cameras like the Kodak Step. This is all fine, but what is disappointing is how much single-use plastic they involve – in the wrapping and the packs themselves. This isn’t a problem unique to Instax, but it’s disappointing not to see more effort from Fujifilm on this.
Build and handling
Aesthetics don’t always matter. Few people care that the Canon EOS R5 looks boring. But anyone who buys an Instax camera and says they don’t care about how it looks is lying to you. Aesthetics are the whole point of instant film!
So there’s no shame in saying it’s a big tick for Instax Mini 40 that it looks so much better than the Instax Mini 11. The overly smooth, swimming-pool-toy design of the previous model is supplanted by a textured skin that’s more comfortable to hold, with a stylish silver trim. The Instax Mini 40 just looks cool.
There’s no grip or anything, but the camera handles well enough. The only annoyance I found was selfie mode. It’s activated by pulling out the lens front, but you have to pull hard enough that it feels like you’re going to break the camera.
Instax shooting comes with some quirks, never more so than in a camera as no-frills as this. Exposures tend to be within the ballpark rather than bang on, with a bias towards overexposure. Blown-out highlights are common, to the point where some Instax users consider them a feature rather than a bug.
If you like the Instax look, you'll have nothing to complain about. The colors pop, there’s a decent amount of detail, and the finished product is ready within 90 seconds. As mentioned, the flash will always fire, even if you’re outside in blazing sunlight, which might be annoying if you’re trying to get an image of, say, a pet without startling it.
Shooting is easy, carefree and fun. The 0.3m minimum focus distance gives you a surprising amount of versatility with your subjects. The shot counter on the rear is a welcome quality-of-life feature, as is the fact that the camera is powered by common AA batteries.
If you don’t care at all about looks, the Instax Mini 11 does the same as this, for cheaper. The Kodak Step offers a similar experience that’s much cheaper to run. But the Instax Mini 40 is sleeker and more stylish than the both of them.
Instant photography has been around for decades. You likely know what you’re getting into here – you’re trading technical perfection for lo-fi charm, and digital convenience for physical permanence. All you really need to know is whether the Instax Mini 40 does everything that instant film shooters need it to, and the answer to that is yes.
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