We have a fondness for the Instax brand of of instant cameras here at the office. We have also reviewed the vast majority of this nostalgia-inducing products, which is why we were intrigued to try our the latest offering – the Instax Mini 40. At R1 399 (RRP), the retro styling does not come cheap, so the bar has set fairly high in terms of what the Mini 40 had to produce.
Unfortunately though, it proved one of the more frustrating review experiences and, despite looking great, the photos it yields are far from what we desired.
We unpack all of this below, so if you have been weighing up the Instax Mini 40, carry on reading as to why you’re probably going to want to try a different Fujifilm instant camera instead.
Before we delve into what disappointed us, let’s talk a bit about the stylings, which Fujifilm has truly nailed for the Mini 40. The design feels more in line with the retro-inspired SQ series of instant cameras from Fujifilm, which we are also big fans of.
While it is swathed in plastic, the Japanese company has tried to imbue the camera with some old school details, such as the pebble grain-esque pattern of the Block body. The silver trim also accents things nicely to create a device that will nature garner questions of interest from onlookers.
Front on especially, the Instax Mini 40 looks great. It is also well balanced in terms of weight at 330g sans batteries (two AA in this model’s case) and never feels unwieldy to use.
On the rear, however, things start to look less impressive. There isn’t a whole lot to explore for one, with only the viewfinder, counter for the instant film and enclosure for the film itself present. Where other Instax cameras try to throw a few features into the mix for users to play around with, the Mini 40 is a little bare bones in that department.
Either way, there is a distinct disconnect between the looks of the instant camera and its capabilities.
Roll of the dice
Now let’s focus on the images it yields, and here things became quite frustrating. This as objects we thought were framed correctly while using the viewfinder were anything but once the instant film began to bloom. It seems like objects we thought were centres, which is marked by a small circle within the viewfinder, were actually off the the right a little.
It is quite puzzling considering the Mini features the same lens setup as the Mini 11 and Square SQ1, which are both Instax cameras released last year, so the technology should stand up.
As such there is very much a hit or miss element to using the Mini 40, as the images below can attest.
Like we said, this can become quite frustrating especially if you are trying to capture once off of fleeting moments only to find out that the camera was not framing properly. Added to this is the amount of instant film we wasted on poor shots, which was almost half of the pack. That wastage can certainly add up considering a pack can cost R169 for 10 prints.
Fujifilm Instax cameras are not the cheapest instant cameras on the market, but the trade off for the premium price tag was a similarly solid performance and images you can cherish as they tapped into that difficult to grasp sense of nostalgia. On the Instax Mini 40 that experience is severely dampened by a lens and viewfinder at odds with one another that ends up wasting quite a bit of the already expensive instant film packs.
While we really do like the stylings of the Instax Mini 40, the performance is not up to the standard we have come to expect from Fujifilm and therefore we cannot recommend to those wanting an instant camera. That said, older offerings from the Japanese brand will certainly do the trick, with this new camera blemishing a relatively impressive lineup.