I’m a little obsessed with cameras. I have lots of them, in various shapes, formats and sizes. I remember sometime back, I used to have this old Polaroid Instant Camera. It was a fun thing to have. You can take quick shots of practically anything, and within 3 minutes, you’d have a picture. Neat. Unfortunately, the quality left a little to be desired. But you usually weren’t taking pictures of Yosemite, just silly stuff, like a quick snapshot of a party, your drunk roommate, etc. The fun factor was usually the primary reason to own one (unless you are a catalog freak and take pictures of everything you own). The Instant cameras back then though were big and bulky so they weren’t very portable.
Technology has since changed and today digital cameras are the new “thing”. Digital photography has opened up a whole new world of taking pictures. Everyone seems to have one, and everything seems to get photographed. We post things on the web, send pictures via e-mail, and share photos like never before. We can take a few hundred shots, then discard all but the few we really want. Digital photos can also be printed out in various formats. (I admit to having made some photo stickers in the past.)
But digital cameras are still relatively expensive. Add the cost of a color inkjet, a computer, etc. and it becomes relatively expensive. Thus the need for something cheap yet fun. The Fuji Instax Mini 10 and the Polaroid iZone are two such products. They are “inexpensive” (we’ll get more into this later), instant cameras that are used primarily for amusement. The Instax takes small “2R” pictures while the iZone takes little photo sticker size shots. Both cameras are relatively simple and straightforward to use. It’s as easy as loading the film, sticking in the batteries, turning it on, and pressing a button.
This is one of those “trendy” gadgets that I saw a lot during Christmas in Japan. There were numerous young girls (and guys) walking around with either one of these two (the Instax won in popularity though). They just love taking pictures of each other in Japan, with two fingers giving the “peace” sign (Hai, chi-i-zu!, CLICK) – you gotta love it!
The Instax, while being the much larger of the two, is also the much better looking of the two. Its shiny silver outside looks much better than the iZone. However, in your hands, it still feels like a cheap plastic camera, but it looks sleek enough that you’d at least consider carrying it around with you. There is also an electronic LCD screen on top that gives you a very basic display. The lens “pops” in and out when you turn the thing on.
The iZone on the other hand is a fat stick. I don’t like the way it feels nor the way it looks, even though it’s smaller than the Instax. There are several different colors and few other models to choose from, but they more or less all look similar to this one. There is no LCD screen so you have no idea the thing is turned on except that you have to slide the dial to the “1” mode to take a picture. A flash-ready light comes on if you select it and you’re ready to take a picture. If you accidentally set the iZone to “on”, it will drain away the battery – a point of irritation when you reach for the iZone and it’s out of battery!
As I said, taking a picture is relatively straightforward — these are no-brainer gadgets. With the understanding that these cameras were designed to be taken less “seriously”, I tried not to pay as much attention to the quality of the picture. Of course the size of the film makes a big difference, with the Instax noticeably bigger. One thing neat about the iZone is that it comes with a reflective “mirror” attachment that you can add on to the camera’s lens so that you can take a picture of yourself.
The pictures are somewhat grainy as expected, and in poor lighting conditions, the color and the picture clarity aren’t very good. But they aren’t too bad, and if you can forgive this minor imperfection, the camera is still really fun to use. I prefer the size of the pictures that you get with the Instax. They are much better to look at, display, and play with. The little “thumbnail” pictures that the iZone takes is just too small to appreciate. Instead of these, I would rather take a few different digital photos and make them into little photo stickers. The quality of the photo stickers that I’ve done in the past is much better than these, not to mention that you have so many different options to choose from on the PC when making them.
While both cameras are relatively “inexpensive” to buy, the Instax, for example, is actually quite expensive PER picture. The instant film is hardly cheap to buy and if you make a mistake or the image comes out blurry, you have to take another one. As a result, if you are considering buying one of these, you might also want to consider a cheap digital camera if you don’t already have one. You can manipulate the output and you can take hundreds of photos and just select the few that you want.
In the end, I guess both cameras have some fun-appeal to them. The iZone, while being more compact is really just a WASTE OF TIME. The pictures are too small to enjoy, and the camera looks just plain ugly. You’d be better off with a cheap webcam. The Instax though has its moments. I think it’s fairly decent looking (although a bit on the big side for my liking), takes reasonable size pictures, and can be really fun if used for the “right” purpose. Consequently, if you already own a few other cameras, and have some MONEY TO BURN (remember that the cost isn’t just the camera, but the film too, so it can get quite costly), why not get one of these things and start taking random candid Instant photos.