tokyo camera style

Mar 16 2013

Fujifilm Instax 210 & four pictures taken in Shinjuku in about 30 minutes yesterday

I’ve been shooting with this camera quite a bit lately- it’s actually my second, replacing one that dropped 1 meter to a carpeted floor after the strap came undone and broke last fall.  ( trouble with gravity, again)  But they’re cheap enough to replace without too much worry/money.   It’s an odd camera, one that’s bulky but light, strangely semi-automatic and noisy. 

The Instax 210 has automatic exposure, but manual pan-focus settings which you have to be aware of when shooting on the streets.  The default setting is at 0.9~3 meters,  with the second being 3 meters to infinity. The sweet spot on the lens is just at 2 meters.  This is fine if you’re interested in working in close quarters but not as great if you suddenly decide you want a sharp image of something happening more than 3 meters away.   On the other hand the camera comes with a close-up adapter which shortens the closest distance you can shoot to 40-45cm but at this distance the parallax issues really become apparent.  Actually, the finder is pretty much useless no matter where you are since it’s so far off to the side from the camera.  Since the lens is so wide you’re not going to miss much- indeed, I just shoot it from my chest.  

The shutter is a quiet little “plink” kind of sound, quieter than a Leica and almost as silent as a Mamiya 7. There’s a slight shutter lag, about the same as my GRDIII or a Konica Hexar RF in AE mode.  The shutter is quiet but after you take a shot the camera noisily labors to release the picture out the top to the tune of a laboring electric motor and servos.  

Protip:  You can manually delay the release of the photograph by holding down the shutter button- as long as you keep it pressed the picture won’t come out.  Take your shot, hold down the button, and release the image when you want.    

Instax Wide film comes with 10 sheets per pack and is cheaper than Impossible Project by almost half the price, but it’s not fair to compare either film against the other as they work very well on their own terms.  The film is rather slow and when shooting on the street if you don’t keep the camera absolutely still things often get blurry even in bright sunlight.   It also has a tendency to blow out highlights.  But when you nail it, the picture can be really something special.  As for archival issues, I’ve got some shots I took back in 2002 which are as vivid and crisp as the day they were taken. Should be fine for a long time.

I’m planning on doing a show at Totem Pole in July with pictures taken with this camera and it’s little brother, the Fujifilm Cheki.  It will take at least 150 Instax Wide pictures side by side to seamlessly ring the gallery with one row of images taped to the walls- mixing in Cheki pictures, which are exactly half the width of the Instax Wide prints,  will push the number of images quite a bit higher. I’m shooting(!) for at least 300.  Should be fun working with so many little pictures, something different than the usual black and white darkroom work I normally exhibit.   

Want one?  Japan Exposures offers the Instax 210 and instant film in their store. 

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