Fujifilm Instax covers a huge range of instant film and cameras created and sold since 1998. Over the past 2+ decades, while the number of other instant film options have dwindled to just enough to count with your fingers and toes, Instax has gone from strength to strength.
In this article, I cover the history of Fujifilm Instax, the different film and camera options available today — including those made by MiNT, Lomography and others — as well as accessories and modifications that allow you to shoot Instax using cameras from Hasselblad, Mamiya and a number of other medium and large format camera manufacturers.
Here’s what I cover in full:
What is Fujifilm Instax?
Fujifilm Instax is a type of self-contained “integral” film, meaning each sheet contains all of the necessary chemistry and agents required to develop an image. You simply load the film, snap the shutter, eject the film and wait for an image to appear.
First released in 1998, there are currently three formats of Fujifilm Instax film: Mini, Square and Wide. Within those three formats, we also have various colour/black and white options, as well as innumerable “frame” options featuring everything from Disney characters, Pokemon, written text, Taylor Swift’s signature (really) and other designs.
Over the past 20+ years, Fujifilm has focused on low cost and easy accessibility for Instax. New (Fujifilm) cameras are churned out every few years year which — although largely free of major feature updates — provide just enough at the right price to remove any second thoughts of shooting a frame. Accessibility for Fujifilm’s Instax means cameras they often retail for less than US$100 alsongside film that’s priced for pocket money.
A number of other camera makers and companies specialising in instant camera modifications have jumped on the Instax bandwagon by releasing their own cameras, rebranding existing models or offering services to “mod” existing cameras with improved lenses/features.
Many “serious” photographers look down on Instax, citing its gaudy, plastic, fully-automated cameras and apparent low-quality images as a reason for not using it. The market, it seems, doesn’t agree. Instax film, products and accessories account for a sizeable percentage of Fujifilm’s revenue. In short, it is a veritable cash cow.
As a business unit, Fujifilm’s Photo Imaging division (photographic film products) accounted for ~¥254B of the company’s revenue in 2018. That’s approximately 10% of the group’s total revenue for that year and more than twice as much as Fuji’s digital camera and lens business combined.
Of course, some traditional film products make up part of that revenue (ACROS, Pro 400H, etc.) but according to Fujifilm, INSTAX and its associated products make up the majority of the Photo Imaging division’s revenue. Exactly how much isn’t clear from their annual reports but Fujifilm does tell us that 7.7 million INSTAX devices were sold during the financial year to March 2018 (200k over target and up from 6.6 million in 2016). If you’re interested in a deep dive on Fujifilm, please check out my extended article here.
Instax was an unqualified failure following its original 2001 North American release. At the time, Fujifilm worked in collaboration with Polaroid, releasing Instax Mini film and a new camera called the Polaroid Mio. They pulled out ~2004.
It took Fujifilm another four years before they tried to enter the US market again, this time buoyed by a growing grey import market and demand from commercial clients. Some might even argue that the collapse of Polaroid might have had something to do with it…
What Instax film options exist to buy today?
As I mentioned up top, the first Instax products (Instax Mini) were released in 1998. As of 2020, there are currently three formats: Instax Mini, Instax Square and Instax Wide. Within those three formats, Mini and Wide have both colour and black and white options. For the moment, Instax Square is only available in colour.
The three formats feature innumerable “frame” options featuring everything from Disney characters, Pokemon, written text, Taylor Swift’s signature (really) and other designs.
These are the Instax film options available today, grouped by format:
|Instax Mini||Colour||54x86mm (sheet)|
|Instax Mini Monochrome||Black & white||54x86mm (sheet)|
|Instax Square||Colour||86x72mm (sheet)|
|Instax Wide||Colour||108x86mm (sheet)|
|Instax Wide Monochrome||Black & white||108x86mm (sheet)|
Each pack of Instax film contains 10 sheets and retail cost vary between US$7 and US$15 per single pack. All Instax colour film options are available in multipack options, some of which can verge on the extreme (especially if you shop at Costco). Strangely, both current Monochrome versions (Mini and Wide) are only available to buy as single packs.
The resolution of Instax films differs depending on the format. Colour versions of Instax Mini and Instax Square are on the higher-resolution side, providing 12 lines/mm. Instax Wide offers 10 lines/mm.
Official data for the resolution of Instax monochrome film has not been specified by Fujifilm although it appears to be higher than colour variants. This may be more perception than reality. It’s also worth stating that Instax monochrome film is not technically “real” black and white. Images can suffer from a light grey/green tint depending on how it’s exposed.
To put Instax’s resolution into context, one of the finest grain photographic films in the world, Fujifilm Velvia 50, is capable of resolving 160 lines/mm (according to Fujifilm, of course). 10-12 lines/mm seems like a huge difference but considering that Instax was meant to live on the sheet and not be enlarged, I feel it’s an unfair comparison to make…even though I just made it.
Further technical information about Instax films can be found in the following datasheets:
Instax Mini format colour and black and white films are also available as re-branded/licensed “Leica Sofort film”.
Instax cameras you can buy today
If you’re new to Instax, you’d be forgiven for thinking that only Fujifilm makes Instax cameras. In truth, there are half a dozen or so camera makers producing fully manual and/or fully automatic Instax cameras, as well as Instax accessories such as film backs for cameras like the Hasselblad V-System. There is also a very healthy Instax modification/hacking community which I get to at the bottom of this section.
Let’s start by taking a look at Fujifilm’s Instax cameras:
Fujifilm Instax cameras
A quick aside… Fujifilm’s first instant film cameras weren’t for Instax film. Released in the early 1980s, the company’s Fotorama / F-series of cameras such as the F-10, F-62AF and 800x along with accompanying Fotorama FI-10 and FI-10LT film.
With the creation of Instax film in the 1990s, Fujifilm’s first Instax camera was the Instax Mini 10, which was also sold by Takara Toys as the PockePi, in two different Hello Kitty versions and as a special Mickey Mouse edition by Tokyo Disneyland.
Fujifilm Instax Mini cameras
The initial 1998 release of Instax Mini was limited to Japan and certain countries in the Far East. It was followed by the Mini 20 and 30 in 2002 with near-worldwide releases (excluding North America). The Instax Mini line has seen little variation in basic design principle since its initial release, focusing heavily on what has been called a “cutest camera” philosophy. No surprises there considering that for the first ~decade of Instax’s life, the target customers were teen girls. It worked.
In 2013 Fuji released the Instax Mini 90, swerving the cutest camera design trend in favour of something a little more unisex. Again, it worked and the same principle was applied to tother models.
Today there eight current Instax Mini camera models, all of which are concurrently available for purchase:
- Instax Mini LiPlay, effectively a tiny digital camera/Instax printer
- Instax Mini 90
- Instax Mini 70
- Instax Mini 25
- Instax Mini 11 (released 2020)
- Instax Mini 9
- Instax Mini 8 and…
- …Instax Mini HELLO KITTY, which is shaped like the aforementioned kitty’s head
For a sign of things to come, albeit short-lived, there was 1999’s Fujifilm FinePix PR21. A precursor to the Instax Mini LiPlay (above) and Instax Square SQ10 (see below), the PR21 was a 2.3MP digital camera mated to an Instax Mini printer. It gave users the option of taking a photograph (or copying one onto the SmartMedia card) and printing it at their leisure.
Ahead of its time, it would take another 18 years before Fuji would release a similar product.
Fujifilm Instax Wide cameras
Instax Wide film was released in 1999 along with the Instax 100 camera. At the time, Instax Wide film was simply called “Instax”. The Wide moniker wasn’t added until nearly a decade later and roughly timed with the reintroduction of Instax products into the US. Like the Instax Mini 10, both the new film and camera were initially limited to Japan and the Far East for several years.
Just two months after the Instax 100 hit the shelves came one of the most desirable Instax Wide cameras ever made: the Instax 500AF.
The Instax 100 was replaced in 2009 by a slimmed-down Instax 210 and in early 2015, the company released the current model: Instax Wide 300.
Fujifilm Instax Square cameras
Fujifilm’s third and newest Instax format is called Instax Square. It evokes memories of Polaroid, so it should be no surprise that at the time of writing both Fujifilm and the Polaroid brand owners are fighting it out in the US courts.
For the 2017 release of Instax Square, Fujifilm tried something new: a hybrid camera called the Instax Square SQ10. The SQ10 is essentially a digital camera paired with an Instax printer. It has a screen, memory card slot and built-in image editing tools.
You can use the camera as normal – take a photo and eject an Instax sheet – or you can choose to first edit photos with the built-in filters before printing. Even photos taken with other cameras can be edited and printed using the camera.
In response to demand for a “true” Instax Square camera, the company released the Instax Square SQ6 in 2018. No digital bells and whistles, the SQ6 is an all analogue Instax camera.
Fujifilm Instax camera list
The following table contains a list of all Instax cameras released in chronological order.
|Instax Mini 10||Nov 1998||Instax Mini||60mm f/12||1/30 to 1/400 second||2xCR123A||119x113x58mm|
|FinePix PR21||Nov 1999||Instax Mini||35mm f/3.2||1/4s - 1/1000 second||4xAA||113x127x60mm|
|Instax 100||May 1999||Instax Wide||95mm f/14||1/64 to 1/200 second||4xAA||171.5x91.5x119.5mm|
|Instax 500AF||Jul 1999||Instax Wide||95mm f/12.8||1/8 to 1/125 second||2xCR123||174.5x76x120mm|
|Instax 200||Nov 2000||Instax Wide||95mm f/14||1/64 to 1/200 second||4xAA||178.5x94.5x117.5mm|
|Instax Mini 20||Dec 2002||Instax Mini||60mm f/12||1/30 to 1/400 second||2xCR2||115.5x121.5x52mm|
|Instax Mini 30||May 2002||Instax Mini||60mm f/12||1/30 to 1/400 second||2xCR2||122x106x52mm|
|Instax Mini 55||Mar 2003||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/30 to 1/400 second||2xCR2||112x96.5x49.5mm|
|Instax Mini 50||Sep 2003||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/30 to 1/400 second||2xCR2||112x96.5x49.5mm|
|Instax Mini 7||Jun 2004||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/60 second||4xAA||119.5x121.5x70.5mm|
|Instax Mini 7S||Jun 2008||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/60 second||4xAA||119.5x121.5x70.5 mm|
|Instax Mini 25||Jun 2009||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/30 to 1/400 second||2xCR2||112x121x50.5mm|
|Instax 210||Jun 2009||Instax Wide||95mm f/14||1/64 to 1/200 second||4xAA||178.5x94.5x117.5mm|
|Instax Mini 8||Nov 2012||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/60 second||2xAA||116x118.3x68.2mm|
|Instax Mini 90||Sep 2013||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1.8 to 1/400 second||1xNP45A||113.4x91.9x57.2mm|
|Instax Mini Hello Kitty||Nov 2014||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/60 second||2xCR2||169x145x69mm|
|Instax 300||Mar 2015||Instax Wide||95mm f/14||1/64 to 1/200 second||4xAA||167.8x94.7x120.9mm|
|Instax Mini 70||Sep 2015||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/2 to 1/400 second||2xCR2||99.2x113.7x53.2mm|
|Instax Mini 26||Mar 2016||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/60 second||2xCR2||108x139.7x146.1mm|
|Instax Mini 9||Apr 2017||Instax Mini||60mm f/10||1/60 second||2xCR2||116x118.3x68.2mm|
|Instax Square SQ10||Oct 2017||Instax Square||28.5mm f/2.4||1/2 to 1/29500 second and Bulb||1xNP-50||119x47x127mm|
|Instax Square SQ6||May 2018||Instax Square||65.75mm, f/12.6||1.6 to 1/400 second||2xCR2||118.7x128.1x58.1mm|
|Instax Mini 50S||Sep 2019||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/3 to 1/400 second||2xCR2||112x96.5x49.5mm|
|Instax Mini 11||Mar 2020||Instax Mini||60mm f/12.7||1/2 to 1/200 second||2xAA||107.6x121.2x67.3mm|
|Instax Square SQ20||Mar 2020||Instax Mini||33.4mm f/2.4||1/2 to 1/7500 second||Li-ion battery (Built-in, non-removable)||119x5x127 mm|
Lomography Instax cameras
Lomography has had a relatively long history as an Instax camera maker, starting in 2009 with the Diana F+ “Instant Camera Back”. This add-on takes Instax Mini film and mounts onto the rear of the 120 format Diana F+ camera. It was sold as both a kit (camera plus film back) and a standalone film back. Mrs EM has one and it’s pretty fun to use. Just remember to take out the compensating lens when you switch back from Instax 120 film.
Following the Instant Diana F+ came the LC-A Instant back, another Instax Mini film back, this time allowing the Lomography LC-A and LC-A+ to be converted to shoot Instax film. Expect some vignetting but as with the Diana F+ Instant Camera Back, it’s a lot of fun to use.
In March 2014 the company released its Belair X 6-12 + Instant Back and Belair Instant Back kits. The Belair is a 6×12 format camera and makes good use of the Instax Wide format
You might be interested in...
Lomography was still missing a dedicated Instax camera so, in November 2014, that’s exactly what they released: the Lomo’Instant. This was closely followed by the Lomo’Instant Automat in Spring 2016. In 2018, the company released the Lomo’Instant Square and dedicated Diana Instant Square cameras.
Lomography Instax camera list
|Diana F+ Instant Camera||Instax Mini||2009||32 mm f/11||1/60 second and bulb||2xCR2||125x165x76mm|
|LC-A + Instant Back||Instax Mini||2014||32mm f/2.8||2m to 1/5o0 second and bulb||2xCR2||125.5x165x100mm|
|Belair Instant Camera||Instax Wide||2014||90mm f/8 (kit)|
58mm f/8 (wide)
|8s to 1/125 second and bulb||2xLR44||115.5x121.5x52mm|
|Lomo'Instant||Instax Mini||2014||48mm f/16||1/125 second and bulb||4xAAA||107.6x121.2x67.3mm|
|Lomo’Instant Automat||Instax Mini||2016||60mm f/8||8s to 1/250 second and bulb||2xCR123A||119x113x58mm|
|Lomo'Instant Wide||Instax Wide||2016||90mm f/8||8s to 1/250 second and bulb||4xAA||107.6x121.2x67.3mm|
|Lomo'Instant Automat Glass (Mini)||Instax Mini||2017||38mm f/4.5||8s to 1/250 second and bulb||2xCR2||95x120x65mm|
|Lomo’Instant Square||Instax Square||2018||95mm f/10||8s to 1/250 second and bulb||2xCR2|
|Diana Instant Square||Instax Square||2018||75mm f/11||1/100 second and bulb||4xAAA||122x106x52mm|
Leica Instax cameras
Leica currently sells one Instax camera, the Leica Sofort. Based on the Mini 90, the Sofort comes in three colour options and retails for a little under US$300. The cameras are fully compatible with Fujifilm Instax Mini and Fujifilm Instax Mini Monochrome film.
Leica Instax camera list
|Leica Sofort||Instax Mini||2016||60mm f/12.7||1.8 to 1/400 second||1xNP45A||124x94x58mm|
MiNT Camera / Rollei Instax cameras
Founded in 2009, Hong Kong based MiNT Camera specialises Polaroid instant film camera. The company made a name for itself with the refurbishment and repair of Polaroid cameras such as the SX-70 and SLR670; and products like the MiNT flash bar and SX-70 lens set.
MiNT released it’s first own-brand camera in 2015, the InstantFlex TL70. It is a Twin Lens Reflex that uses Instax Mini film and was the first mass-market Instax camera to feature an adjustable aperture.
The InstantFlex was followed up by the InstantFlex TL70 2.0 in 2016. The 2.0 provides a brighter focusing screen and “more stable shutter and aperture mechanism, and a larger magnifier”. The InstantFlex TL70 2.0 was followed in mid-2018 by a special rebranded edition called the “Rolleiflex Instant Kamera“. All three cameras are being sold concurrently.
MiNT released the InstaKon RF70 in mid-2018, which uses Instax Wide film. This was followed up by the RF70_auto in 2019. Similar to the Fuji GA645 family of cameras, the InstaKon is a rangefinder camera which features a collapsible lens and fully manual aperture and shutter speed selection. The RF70_auto adds auto-exposure functions to the basic RF70.
MiNT/Rolleiflex Instax camera list
|MiNT Instantflex TL70||Instax Mini||2015||61mm f/5.6||1 to 1/500||3xAA||141x102x80.2mm|
|MiNT Instantflex TL70 2.0||Instax Mini||2016||61mm f/5.6||1 to 1/500||3xAA||141x102x80.2mm|
|Rolleiflex Instant Kamera||Instax Mini||2018||61mm f/5.6||1 to 1/500||3xAA||141x102x80.2mm|
|MiNT Instantkon RF70||Instax Wide||2019||93mm f/5.6||1 to 1/500||4xAA||124x94x58mm|
|MiNT Instantkon RF70 Auto||Instax Wide||2019||93mm f/5.6||1 to 1/500 second and bulb||4xAA||124x94x58mm|
Jollylook Instax cameras
Jollylook launched their self-titled cardboard folding Jollylook Instax Mini camera on Kickstarter in 2017. Although beset by manufacturing issues since its original release, some copies are available to purchase through retail outlets and Jollylook’s website. The company recently launched the Jollylook Auto on Kickstarter. The camera is based on the same basic design as the original and is constructed using wood-fiber as opposed to cardboard.
Escura Instax cameras
Escura launched their Instant-60s in 2018 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. The camera has a switchable aperture (f/8 or f/11), fixed shutter speed and manual focus. The camera uses Instax Mini film and has a film eject mechanism that is cranked by hand, similar to the Jollylook.
Custom Instax cameras and camera modifications
Instant Options, run by Option8 is one of the oldest and most trustworthy sources of Instant camera mod information and Instax mods, small and large. Check out their website for details of their Instax and other instant/4×5 mod options.
Of course, you don’t have to pay someone to mod your camera. If you have the parts lying around, you can modify existing Instax cameras to shoot the film in other cameras yourself.
This how-to by Peter Bryenton walks you through shooting Instax Wide on a 4×5 camera. Instantphoto.eu also has documentation for DIY mods including battery replacements and changing the lens on a Lomo’Instant Wide.
There are even options out there to mod Instax cameras to shoot other formats of Instax film. If you’re game, check out this how-to (with free downloadable files) for 3D printing a frame that will allow you to shoot Instax Square film in the Instax 100 (wide format) camera. It’s totally reversible and non-destructive.
In addition to their cameras, Fujifilm currently markets two Instax printers, the Instax Share SP-2 and SP-3, which use Instax Mini and Instax Square film respectively. Both printers allow smartphone users to send photos to the printers via Bluetooth for immediate printing.
Fujifilm also provides various close-up and colour filter kits for the Instax Mini 90, Instax Mini 7s and Instax Mini 8. Availability is mostly restricted to Japan and the Far East but it’s possible to find them on Amazon, eBay and other online stores.
In addition to first-party accessories, many off-brand filters and lenses and lens kits can be found if you look hard enough. I can recommend the Tele and Wide lens kit from Holga, which can be purchased from Freestyle for about US$16.
Escura (the same people who make the Instant-60s) also recently released their Escura Hasselback on Kickstarter. As the name suggests, it’s an accessory that allows Instax Square to be shot on Hasselblad cameras. Unfortunately, the device does not allow focus to infinity (the max distance is appx 3 meters). For the money, it has a rather limited use case.
A much better option, then, is the HVSQ v2 Fujifilm Instax Square Hasselblad film magazine, which is currently on limited pre-order and provides a full focus range from infinity to macro distances (depending on the lens used).
And there you go. If you’re new to Instax or thinking about getting started, I hope the information above has been of help. If you’re an old-hand, then all I can hope for is that I’ve given you food for thought.
As ever, if I’ve made any glaring omissions or errors in this article, please let me know in the comments and I’ll correct them!
Links and resources
Fujifilm: put down your pitchforks, it’s survival of the fittest
Fujifilm Instax Mini Monochrome review
Kobe_kko on Yahoo Auctions (Japan)
Camera Film Photo: Fujifilm 500AF
Instax Share SP-2 and SP-3 printers
Jollylook camera on Kickstarter
Escura Instant-60s on Kickstarter
Escura Hasselback on Kickstarter
HVSQ Fujifilm Instax Square Hasselblad film magazine
Squaring the circle: Polaroid rises from the ashes of The Impossible Project
Instant Options cameras and modifications
Instantphoto.eu DIY modifications
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Would love to use Instax film but not with any current Instax camera – instead with my Hassy 500 C/M or Mamiya RZ67 Pro with Polaroid back. I know that there is one kickstarter project (Escura) with limitation in infinity focus on the Hasselblad with this created Instax back. Hope we will see more and affordable options in the future.
The RB67 Instax Square back from Coyote Camera Works looks interesting.
There is another camera that uses Instax mini film – FAO Schwarz which seems to be very similar to the Instax Mini 8. The differences – first in appearance it resembles an older film camera (probably Bilora) & second the film ejects from the side.
In terms of which is better, they all have their merits – the Instax Wide has the largest surface area, although it is bulky & not the best travel camera (but it is light); the Instax Mini is usually easy to carry but takes a small picture; finally, the Instax Square takes a decent sized picture & is easy to carry (but the picture is still smaller that the wide). As to the hybrid digital, as a analog purist it is the only digital camera I would consider buying but for the price.
In the end, as with all things decide which works best for your needs & budget.
The RF70 has auto and manual, the RF70-A is a dumbed down version with no manual shutter speeds.
What a timely article. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about instant photography of late and I’m considering Fuji instax. I can’t yet decide if I do want to spend the money on a camera and if I do, which one… this article is definitely going to help in my research. Thanks a lot Em for the work 🙂
Thanks for the shout out.
Just a footnote: Originally, Polaroid didn’t want to try to enter the Asian market; so they licensed to Fuji Corporation their technology to them just for the ‘Far East’ market.