Making Instant Film Photography A Blast Again – The Polaroid 300 (AKA Fuji Instax Mini 7)

Polaroid 300 Instant Film Camera, Photographed With A Polaroid 240, Close Up Kit, Fuji FP100C Color Film

Polaroid 300 Instant Film Camera, Photographed With A Polaroid 240, Close Up Kit, Fuji FP100C Color Film

Yes, I know. Last April, when Polaroid announced the PIC-300 (Pic=Polaroid Instant Camera), many here in the U.S. snickered that this was merely a rebranded Fuji Instax Mini 7 camera. Of course it is. But what is this little camera? Fun.  Pure fun. 2/22’s article, Made In Polaroid™, begins to talk about it. This review goes into more detail.

Christmas, 2010-I asked my parents for one of these $89.99 (sold at Target) cameras, and a pack of film. Santa delivered. And what a blast it is. The pictures are roughly half the size of the 600/SX70 shots, and net out about the size of a business card. The ASA/ISO of the film, after I did a bit of research, is rated at 800 speed. The flash is automatic- it fires all the time. More about that later. The prints are colorful and crisp. The colors pop. Due to the grain structure, and the relative small size of the camera, they don’t really scan that well. but with a little bit of the dreaded “post processing” in Photoshop, and by using the aforementioned Polaroid Dust and Scratch Removal plug-in, you can make some pretty nice little scans, white Polaroid borders and all.

The camera is painfully simple. Load (4) AAA’s, and a pack of film. Pull the plastic lens barrel out, as that is your power switch. Hit the shutter button, as the dark slide does not automatically eject. At least, it doesn’t for me. Watch your film counter- you should be at 10 with a fresh pack.

You have 4 “exposure” modes. The defalt is “Indoors-Dark”. Based on environment/conditions, you can also choose “Cloudy-Shady”, “Fine (Sunny”), and “Clear (Very Sunny)”. As I have had the camera since December, I have photographed once outdoors, in the miserably cold New England winter. I brought my son sledding, and brought the 300 along. The results, despite storing the prints in a shirt pocket, were so-so. Because of the cold weather, developing time is long, and your mileage may vary.

OK, my pet peeve the automatic flash. The thing always, ALWAYS fires when you hit the shutter button. There is no manual override or “Flash OFF” switch. So, if you are outdoors, or in bright conditions that you might not necessarly need flast to fire, well, it blasts away.  Certainly the goal is to make it an easy, simple to use camera. but, I think a simple on/off switch would have been nice. The flash is insanely bright for close-ups/portraits, and if you are too close, it will overexpose. The stated range is .6 meter to 2.7 meters.

The great Michael Raso, host of The Film Photography Podcast ( www.filmphotographypodcast.com) recommends taping a couple of cut pieces of clear pieces from a plastic disposable cup. This works wonderfully. Also, I have used a piece of one-stop neutral density gel, which was kindly sent to me from my FPP friend Dan Domme (http://dommephoto.wordpress.com/). I taped it over the lens with gaffer’s tape. With both techniques in place, things do get a bit dark, as you can see here. This is the Colorpack 2, along with The Instant Image, by Mark Olshaker, an outstanding book covering the history of Polaroid through the late 70’s. It is available on Amazon, at http://www.amazon.com/Instant-Image-Edwin-Polaroid-experience/dp/0812824423

Polaroid 300 One Stop ND Filter Flash Diffuser Test Shot

Polaroid 300 One Stop ND Filter Flash Diffuser Test Shot

Now, here is the same subject, different orientation, with the ND gel over the lens, and the diffuser off the flash- opens up the shadows a bit under the TV tray-

olaroid 300 One Stop ND Filter NO Flash Diffuser

Polaroid 300 One Stop ND Filter NO Flash Diffuser

I think this is the combo I am going to use this weekend, to take candid portraits of my son. Fuji also makes a close up filter, which I have seen on eBay, that looks like Mickey Mouse, and also has a mirror for self portraits. I might pick one up sometime, and review it here. To sum up the PIC-300:

Pros:

  • That old Polaroid mystique is back, baby! The sound is magical. The chemical smell when you open the foil pack is the same as you remember. Aromatic, exciting.
  • Film sold at Target, and online.
  • Real Edwin Land-invented and patented, instant film photography- no Pogo, no Zink, no experimental and unstable Impossible films, no cell phone printers.
  • Small and compact.
  • Colorful, poppy prints.
  • Classic Polaroid attention grabber. This camera strikes up conversations wherever you take it. Will a digital camera do the same? Some, maybe. Most, not.
  • Fresh film, long shelf lives. The pack I bought last night has an expiration date of November, 2012. I cold store all of my films, including these. My local Target seems to be selling quite a bit of film, and was, as of last night, completely sold out of the cameras. Heartwarming. People are buying it.

Cons:

  • Pricey for what it is.
  • Prints are smallish, about the size of a business card.
  • ASA/ISO 800 film, with blocky grain structure/ looks great in the original prints, but look up close, especially when scanning- the small print size masks some of this.
  • That flash ALWAYS fires, and man, is it bright.
  • They should have told us in the instructions that you have to hit the shutter after loading a new pack of film. Nothing like trying to take that very 1st shot, and then realizing you have to go through this step with each pack.
  • Yes, the film nets out to a buck an exposure, for a small print.
  • The body construction is a toy-like plastic, but maybe more durable than it looks. Would rather not test its ruggedness.

Overall, I love this little camera. It is an attention getter, and when I have taken it out and about, people always stop and talk to me. I love to talk cameras, photography, and, with people. They always ask- You can actually buy film now?” Yes, you can. Please do. Lots of it.

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4 thoughts on “Making Instant Film Photography A Blast Again – The Polaroid 300 (AKA Fuji Instax Mini 7)

  1. Hey Arthur,
    I have the black 300 also and it is fun. I still can’t get past wanting the classic square Polaroids again though! Seems like all they would have to do is design a camera that used the Instax technology and make the film the classic size and shape. Everybody would have to buy the new camera to start using the new film. The iconic look of Polaroid would be back! Even if this doesn’t happen, you think they will rebrand the wide Instax 210 in the future? Seems like the 300 is doing good, it’s sold out 3 times at my Target.

    • Brock- thanks for reading the blog. The 300 is a nice, fun little camera. The local Target has raised the camera price by 10 bucks, and rounded off film from 9.99 to 10.00. The Instax Wide would be a great opportunity to rebrand, but based on the odd product direction the new Polaroid seems to be going off in, with the Gray Label line, I think they are quite satisfied with one “Classic Instant” camera.

  2. What would you reccommed for someone who is on a budget and trying to fix that over-exposure problem? I have that problem with my Polaroid 300 but everywhere I look for the one-stop ND gel, it\’s always expensive and online. Is there an alternative I could try or somewhere that I could find it locally? I live in FL, if that helps at all.

    • Not sure- I recently tried with ND gel, and it worked wonderfully. You could also try a blank strip of 35mm negative film that has been developed, such as that at the beginning of the leader.

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