Fujifilm Instax Mini Monochrome

Fujifilm continues to believe in Instax film format and definitely will be supported in this by a sales trend that is growing and is now reported to be a very substantial part of the turnover of the company. No wonder then that they periodically release new updates of Instax cameras line and that Instax films are very easy to find even in those stores that do not treat anymore analog materials; recently, though, a nice jolt was given to the Instax world community with three announcements in rapid succession:

  • The new Instax Mini Monochrome film release
  • A new square sized film with its camera, that Fuji will release in 2017
  • The release of the first instant camera from Leica, the Sofort, in conjunction with the new mini monochrome film

Available since few days, the Instax Mini Monochrome seems to be an initial response to all those who were complaining of the disappearance, after FP3000 commercial death, of any BW isntant film from the Japanes firm’s catalogue: sure, it’s not the same thing especially for the tiny size but if commercial success would be relevant it is not ruled out that Fujifilm has in mind further steps.

L protective paper shows Color film
The protective paper shows Color film

Meanwhile, it must be said that the new film comes with two different packs, a Fujifilm one and a Leica-branded (dedicated to the Sofort camera mentioned above); the packaging has been more restrained than color film box, as if to give an idea of greater professionalism, and does not exist at the time the double pack by 20 shots. Opening the box, though, we have a little surprise: the protective plastic wrapper is stetaing Instax color! Probably, given that currently only the first production batch is circulating, Fujifilm has not had time to prepare the proper envelope: never mind.

Technically there is not much to say: it is a monochrome integral instant film, with a sensitivity of ISO 800 (as the color sister emulsion); the frame size is 8.6 x 5.4 cm while the image is equal to 6.2 x 4.6 cm. Development time occurred during this first test is about a minute and is slightly longer than the Instax Mini color; the final image stabilization is reached in about three minutes.

It only remains to load a compatible camera and try it even if the current limitations of the available devices for the format makes it a bit haphazardly given the almost total absence of manual configurations; the photographs below were taken using a Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic so you have at least a partial exclusion of flash and exposure compensation as manual commands.

A backlight easy
A easy backlight

Strolling on a late autumn day with some ground fog and clouds in the sky you should find several interesting subjects to capture on black and white film but, this means coming up against the Instax cameras exposure issues as the camera tends to quickly burn the highlights: never mind, in theory we should be able to do some good backlight by finding the right subject! Black seems pretty dense, while the film captures some shade of gray in the sky (see image at right); the sharpness seems rather fade away a little: Fujifilm has not released any information about the film but we assume that resoution is not by any mean different from  the Mini color film; However, with the same camera and subject, the latter seems more defined though not by much.

Even the size of the image doesn’t help to better assess the ability of the film and the judgment therefore remains somwhow suspended.

Backlight with detail
Backlight with detail

Of course if you want to add a bit of detail, however not expecting wonders, it requires action on the exposure compensation (the famous L/D of Polaroid cameras) and increase it of at least one stop: picture begins to regain some shade even in high-contrast images. The highlights remain burned but the greys begin to emerge in the darker areas: the answer to overexposure, at least with current Instax cameras, is one of the factors to be studied in order to better manage the new Instax Mini Monochrome.

The image below shows side by side a normal exposure and one made with the command L + of Instax Mini 90: you can clearly see how the dynamic yield is significantly better when overexposing (although perhaps L + is too much in this case) leaving substantially unchanged the highlights and significantly increasing the detail in the shadows. Still, miracles do not stand to gain from such small images, and then, in our opinion, we should anyway be pleased with the flexibility shown; It is important to remember that the use and enjoyment of the Instax Mini Monochrome is hardly comparable to that of a normal black and white film and therefore expectations need to be recalibrated.

Standard display (left) and L + r
Standard exposure (left) and L +

These two other images, however, show the difference between a plain exposure shot and one made with overexposure set to L; overexposing makes image tones less homogeneous at the expense perhaps of some detail:

Standard exposure
Standard exposure

Exposure varied L
Exposure set to L

That said and learning to appreciate the format for what it is, we will be able to derive our satisfactions and working on the exposure limitations, maybe even to extract some small (it’s appropriate to say!) interesting work; the film-camera, however, eschews the classic photographs of “BW lover”:

Trees in the mist, a classic for the BN
Trees in the mist, a classic for the BW

Reflections, more classic
Reflections, more classic

I shoot with flash
Shot with flash

Net of environmental conditions in which we took this test, we can still make some considerations that apply to better understand the opportunities offered by this film:

  • The small size of the Instax Mini Monochrome does not allow us to fully assess the tonal ability and degree of detail
  • The limitations of available cameras probably won’t allow to extract the best from the film in terms of response to exposure
  • The film still tolerated the overexposure
  • Were not detected particular dominant (greenish) in pictures, as seen in other trials

If this new film will succeed, as you might expect, we can only hope two things by Fujifilm: introducing a camera with advanced features in terms of exposure and of controls (and perhaps even optical quality) and the possibility of having this emulsion also Instax Wide format which is definitely more satisfying and able to provide higher quality especially for shooting in black and white.

The Instax Mini single pack is on sale in 10 Monochrome pose at an average price of EUR 12.50 (online).

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