Instant cameras

From: william (WILLIAMA)25 Jan 23:07
To: ALL1 of 17
I'm genuinely astonished to find that there's a burgeoning hobby around instant film. Not astonished by the idea so much. I mean I remember Polaroid cameras from the 60s. The quality wasn't brilliant, but generally it wasn't awful. And if you were prepared to spend a bit, you could get quite decent results. These cameras were often used by professional photographers to get a quick idea of what the most promising shots would be before a shoot. No, what really confuses me is that the present hobby is based on the most appallingly shit cameras you can possibly imagine. I mean, they look the part. My son has invested in two of these, a Polaroid Now+ (£120) and a Fuji Instax Square Q6 (£125). The film is just daft expensive. The quality of the photos is just unbelievably bad. They are worse than 1960 Kodak instamatics. They are on a par with, possibly worse than, shoebox pinhole cameras - and I'm actually serious. I had a toy camera as a kid: fixed focus and made from the cheapest springs and plastic parts you could find, but it still took better photographs than either of these. It's as though all the years of improvement in budget and middle-grade optics and camera technology since the 50s never happened. The Polaroid has (allegedly) autofocus, but you'd never believe it to look at the crap that it produces. The Instax is even worse, with its 3 fixed-focus positions. Unbelievable. Except it's true.
EDITED: 25 Jan 23:09 by WILLIAMA
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)26 Jan 13:50
To: william (WILLIAMA) 2 of 17
Another stoopid gen-z fad. Can't really blame the poor social media victims, they've inherited a totally shit world and are entitled to their lame tweeness, not that it's going to help or anything. Technically perfect (i.e. digital) photographs can be easily turned into the same drek at no cost. It doesn't work in reverse.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)27 Jan 13:09
To: ALL3 of 17
Leica, the maker of bespoke and uber-pricey designer cameras, has throwed its hat into the ring.
From: Matt28 Jan 15:03
To: ALL4 of 17
From: william (WILLIAMA)29 Jan 00:06
Jesus, I hope my son doesn't find out. 
From: william (WILLIAMA)29 Jan 00:07
To: Matt 6 of 17
Hah! Possibly better value than the real thing.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)29 Jan 11:54
To: william (WILLIAMA) 7 of 17
Shhh, it's a rebadged fuji mini evo.
From: william (WILLIAMA)29 Jan 16:08
So I hear, although apparently it isn't. Leica have licensed just about everything from Fuji and based a lot of it on the mini evo, but they make it themselves. So they say. To be fair, a closer look and the build is different. The Leica has a Leica lens for example, and the body has an expensive glass finish. The photos I've seen online appear better than the ouput of cheaper Fuji and Polaroid offerings, but are still outshone by even the most budget of budget phones.

It seems that the main reason for the poor quality is the limited resolution of the film. Physically the particles it uses are far coarser than on conventional film. It's also very particular about exposure levels and has a very narrow bandwidth for exposures. It seems that back in the olden times, Polaroid instant film was superior in quality, but some of the chemicals used are no longer permitted.

That doesn't quite explain why the lenses on these cameras, Leica or otherwise, are so miniscule. The Leica lens has a diameter of 2.4 mm which is half what a modern camera phone uses. These two Fuji/Leica cameras are hybrids: they store images in memory and then expose film with an internal LED array on demand. Needless to say they use miniscule CMOS sensors, 2.9 by 2.2 mm so the resolution of around 5MP is pretty meaningless.
EDITED: 29 Jan 16:09 by WILLIAMA
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)29 Jan 18:05
To: william (WILLIAMA) 9 of 17
Well, it's got some people hot and bothered, regardless of the mfg. provenance.
From: william (WILLIAMA)29 Jan 22:51
Not surprised. Apparently the difference in picture quality for your monster extra cost isn't great. Plus the Fuji apps are much better. 

No doubt things will improve over the next few years until a vast glossy 10x8 in pin-sharp colour or B&W as you choose will unfurl from your pocket-sized Apple-Snapper. By which time the fad will be done.
From: ANT_THOMAS18 Feb 09:40
To: william (WILLIAMA) 11 of 17
I think the attraction is something fun with an instant physical result. In reality. Hardly anyone prints photos these days, especially day to day photos. So to have something physical in your hand right away is a lovely novelty.

I have on occasion being using a Kodak Tele-Elektra 32 110 film camera. I found it in the side pocket of a camera bag that had an old 35mm camera and some lenses my parents got for me from a charity shop a few years ago. Not instant, film isn't cheap, development isn't cheap. But I do enjoy the process and the lower quality results. I need to use it more as there's pictures on my current film from a few months ago I want to see!
From: william (WILLIAMA)18 Feb 11:01
To: ANT_THOMAS 12 of 17
It's a novelty as you say, and I can see the attraction of having the physical print right there. Plus there's the performance as it snaps out like a big ticket from an old-fashioned bus conductor's machine.

But for all that, the results don't compare with an old 110 camera. With a bit of care, it's possible to get decent pictures  that even stand enlargement (a bit), whereas all of the photos I've see from (all three!!!) of my son's cameras are terrible. I'm talking about picture quality here. The composition is usually quite good, but everything else isn't. He takes a huge amount of trouble over trying to get the lighting right, using flash to fill in etc. but it's like the God of Photos tosses a coin to determine whether the output is going to be OK, or a complete waste of film, or something in between. I would say that it's roughly a three way split, with a third being wildly out of focus or under/over exposed to the point where the bin is appropriate, a third being like mediocre versions of 110 film shots and a third being almost as good. And, by the way, even those shots I describe as OK appear poorly exposed in some way or other, with bland colour or foggy B&W.

Of course, none of this would be an issue if it was only a few pounds being wasted, but I reckon he's spent over a thousand quid in the last few weeks. His latest camera is this, which is £600 in the sale and cost him more. It looks the dog's danglers, and the write-up suggests you are investing in the ultimate in tech and quality. If only what squirts out of the camera was remotely as convincing.
From: ANT_THOMAS18 Feb 14:17
To: william (WILLIAMA) 13 of 17
Jesus christ, yeah that's ridiculous!
Much better things to waste my money on.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)19 Feb 11:33
To: william (WILLIAMA) 14 of 17
Waaay back in the '90s, Polaroid made large-format (18x24" ISTR) instant film that you could shoot in a purpose-built camera/studio for US$25 a pop, at (e.g.) the Boston Museum of Fine Art. The quality was really, really good. They also made b+w instant film that did a pretty decent negative from MF film backs. It's these dumb, modern plastic toys with shit lenses, and grossly inferior 'reverse-engineered' instant film that suck dogs balls.
From: william (WILLIAMA)19 Feb 11:51
There's something odd going on. Maybe I should start a conspiracy theory. Apart from the cameras with tiny fixed focus lenses (more or less) which are a throwback to various points in the C20th, most of these ridiculously expensive toys appear to have all the build features of cameras that actually work. So why don't they? That said, it has been commented that the auto-exposure system on the expensive Polaroid I linked to is really bad. One wonders about the quality of other stuff like shutter etc. Of course, this isn't Polaroid the company that launched instant film. It's Polaroid the recent start-up under the steady hand of the Petters Group. (Yes, the Ponzi scheme that ended with founder Tom Petters in prison for 50 years amidst bankruptcies, drugs, ramapant fraud etc etc). Polaroid (mark 2) simply bought up all the licenses and trademarks.
From: CHYRON (DSMITHHFX)19 Feb 14:52
To: william (WILLIAMA) 16 of 17
Auto exposure of film is a solved problem since several decades ago. It was built into the cheapest point-and-shoot cameras, and performed pretty well, at least in daylight. I think the issue here is the film, poor latitude, stability, and qc in general? I guess it's some kind of a miracle as it is.
From: william (WILLIAMA)19 Feb 19:43
True enough. I think the point I've seen made in a couple of places is that either the components are of the lowest quality under a slick outer shell, or they have been incredibly poorly set up for use with instant film. Or both.* 

Yes, everything you say about the film seems correct, although it's pretty piss-poor if a company at the forefront of film technology like Fuji cant get it right. And yet I've seen artefacts such as a starburst of white at the corner of some shots caused by poor chemical dispersal as the film is ejected, which is just crap.

*I take your point, in fact I think I said something similar at the start of this thread. That said, I am deeply suspicious of just how badly some of these things work. I mean, the basics of decent sounding medium priced music systems were known in the 30s and 40s, but that didn't stop Bose building speakers out of dollar shop speaker-units in budget chip-board boxes and snazzy vinyl wraps. A ton of pseudo-science and they convinced half the buying public that they were the bees'-knees of music reproduction.