Perfectly Imperfect #23

August #23
Instax Wide 210 with close-up lens

This sunflower has been a useful subject whilst testing my instant cameras during Instant August. I found the close-up lens for the Instax Wide 210 this morning (it had become buried under the detritus on my desk) so despite the sunflower being way, way past it’s best it was the obvious subject. Especially with a blue sky against which to frame it.

By way of comparison, this was taken at the same time but with a Polaroid 635 camera.

Original prints copied using iPhone

Perfectly Imperfect #20

August #20

The image surface of the Instax Mini film is 46x62mm – which means that most of us using a desktop machine will be viewing the scan above at considerably more than the prints physical size.

The whole point of Instax Mini though is not photographic-perfection but that is that it is fun. It’s not a serious photographic tool, but meant to be something that captures the moment. Pixel peepers need not apply! This was the very first shot from a secondhand Instax Mini 70 camera and despite its flaws captures a spontaneous moment in a way that couldn’t or indeed wouldn’t be captured by the nearest camera at the time – my Fuji XT3 which has a 100-400 lens permanently fitted.

Horses for courses.

365-2019-232
iPhone XR capture

As this was the very first image we captured I was not aware of the light leak, something I associate with Lomography or Polaroid but until now not with Fuji Instax. I found that I could cure the problem by using the case which came with the camera (which is for a Mini 8 but that’s another story). I think I’ve isolated the point at which light is leaking in so it’s either some black gaffer tape or the neat brown, semi-fitted case.

Photography is fun, we all lose our mojo at times, what better way to regain it!

Instant August – the backstory

Disclaimers: Firstly, I wrote this piece at the end of July – and didn’t  get around to posting it. As a result some things have already come to pass that I mentioned in my first draft as being on the cards, not least the Land Camera 1000, although I have hopefully edited those appropriately within the text (apart from the final Land Camera 1000 reference).  Secondly, this failure to post this piece, which I originally wrote in longhand on a yellow legal pad, was in many ways the catalyst for returning to wordpress.com. But anyway, onwards …

1977

  • Elvis Presley dies and has a posthumous number 1 with “Way Down”
  • Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Silver Jubilee
  • I left school and entered full time work
  • Polaroid launched the Land Camera 1000 in the UK

So, a seminal year.

I remember using a Polaroid camera right at the end of my time in the 6th form. Given it launched in the UK that year there is a fair chance I used one of the first cameras sold here in the UK.

Well, long story short, I’m playing with instant film again. Although you already know that if you’ve read any of my other recent posts.

INSTAX SQ6 (i)
Instax SQ6, one of the prints from the first pack of film

What? Why? Surely Dave you’re a “serious“ enthusiast photographer? Why such frivolous pursuits ?

Well, yes, I am serious about my photography but for me that means being open to experimentation too. I enjoy exploring different photographic mediums and trying other processes and alternative technologies.  Most importantly though I like to have a little fun along the way too and frankly, having been confined to base for several months now the fun has dwindled.  So in a bid to inject some fun back into proceedings I gave into a long term itch recently and purchased a Fuji Instax SQ6 instant camera and four packs of instant film.

Let’s get a couple of things out there to start with – this is not a cheap way to create photos. There I’ve said it.  Cost of film packs varies but so far I’ve averaged at 83p per print. Of course that is not 83p per “keeper”! That is for the Instax film; films for the old Polaroid cameras work out at around £2 per print, success or failure, so not for the faint hearted. But more of that later.

365-2019-216
Perfectly Imperfect. Double exposure using Fuji Instax SQ6.

Secondly, if you are a control freak then these basic, mainly plastic, mostly automatic, cameras with virtually no manual controls are not for you.  The latter point in particular is one I’ve heard mentioned a few times recently as a negative but for me the whole essence of these cameras is the lack of manual controls and the focus (pun intended) on creativity. This seeming drawback is in effect their USP. Strangely enough, the presence of a plastic lens in most of them barely gets a mention.

So, in a bid to give my mojo a kick I decided in late July to haunt a certain online auction site and pick up a few old Polaroid cameras to complement my two new Fuji Instax cameras. Two? Sorry, yes two, didn’t I mention that a Fuji Instax Wide 300 was recently added to the SQ6?  These cameras are not unduly expensive, they are plastic and basic, it’s the film,  that’s where you pay!

Perfectly Imperfect - Dean Clough
An homage to Bill Brandt … with an Instant camera, Instax Wide 300.

In order to give an added frisson to proceedings I decided at the end of July to take at least one instant film image each day throughout August to complement the ongoing 365 Challenge. Sounds easy, but realistically I cannot shoot dozens of images a day until I get “the one”. I have to nail it within three or four exposures otherwise the project will impair my ability to buy food and wine!  But it is this pressure that is proving to be the biggest motivator.

It’s had an unexpected side benefit too. I’ve started to read about the subject and as a result have also taken an interest in photography beyond what was needed for my daily image. This in turn has led me to read more generally and spend less time sat aimlessly with an iPad on my lap. Last week for example I read three classic novels from my “must read” list and started a fourth expanding my repertoire of authors in the process. In short, I’ve more enthusiasm all round.

August #1
August 1st and the first Instant August image

My online research into all things instant photography led to the purchase of two books, both of which I have now read cover to cover. It also led to the discovery that some instant cameras offer a degree of manual control; enter the Lomography Instant that I mentioned in a post a few days ago.

So there you have it. In a bid to rekindle my enthusiasm I have now added instant photography to my kit bag, or should that be bag of tricks, and whilst it’s still the honeymoon period I’ve a feeling that I will still be shooting instant film as we march bravely into 2020 and beyond.

In the meantime, fast forward 42 years from the last time I remember using a Polaroid camera and I’m awaiting delivery of my latest camera purchase … you’ve guessed it … a Polaroid Land Camera 1000!

Instant August – Week 1

As I’ve already mentioned, in order to mark my resurgent interest in instant photography I have set myself an additional daily challenge for August. In addition to the ongoing 365 Challenge I am also making at least one instant photo a day using the instant cameras that I’ve been acquiring from a well-known online auction site over the last few weeks.

So, the first two weeks are now past and it’s certainly been an interesting couple of weeks. The project is not just about the experience of using these cameras, some of which are over forty years old, and whilst the problem solving is something I enjoy the key element has to be the images themselves.

(c) Dave Whenham

Instant Trials

To mark my resurgent interest in instant photography I have set myself an additional daily challenge for August. In addition to the ongoing 365 Challenge I am also making at least one instant photo a day using the instant cameras that I’ve been acquiring from a well-known online auction site. But, it seems that not every day is suitable for instant photography, at least not when you’re still only a tiny way along the learning curve; my SX-70 Sonar for example uses 100 ISO film and needs lots of light or a tripod.

August #16
Instax Wide 210 – slightly more forgiving with 800 ISO film

The Lomo’ Instant uses Instax Mini film which is rated at 800 ISO so I thought I would use it for my daily image on 16th. Now, I am already liking the aesthetic from the Lomo Instant – I am amazed at how differently it renders images than say the Instax when they are using the same film stock. One thing however that is becoming very clear is that setting the correct exposure first time is going to come from experience. My Fuji Instax cameras generally do very well in Automatic mode and do it consistently but results from the first pack of film in the Lomo Instant are certainly not consistent and I am already sensing a tendency to underexpose.

LOMO TEST STRIP
Three test shots – Lomo’ Instant and Fuji Instax Mini film

For my first shot I left the camera on the Automatic everything setting and the result was very under exposed so I then shot another at Automatic but with +2EV of compensation set with much better results. For good measure I also shot a third image at +1EV for comparison. The results are shown above. In the end I used the version from the Instax Wide 210 shown at the top of the page for my Daily Instant but I have to say that the Lomo has the potential for much more atmospheric images once I’ve mastered it’s foibles.

To be fair this was not an easy scene on a dull day when it was actually raining but it’s an exercise I can repeat on a brighter day to see what happens in different conditions. I will also put the camera on a tripod and play with an external light meter to see how well the camera settings relate to light meter readings.