If you are the type of geek who snarls at print and embraced the pixel in the 20th century, then I am sorry to say you will never come to love the Instax NEO 90! When you pay for each shot dearly (yes, film is expensive!), it will not take long before you start using that thing between your ears to decide if the story is worth the fee.
Those who take pride in printing their work, still enjoy scrapbooking and desperately cling to precious photo albums will resonate with the fundamental core of this camera. The instant print, the Polaroid concept, is creeping right back under our noses and making a bit of a ruckus!
10am Saturday morning, Woodhill sands hosted the Auckland equestrian group and we just so happened to be there supporting a good friend making strides in the industry (www.ndequestrian.com). For the sake of a few chuckles and giggles we thought to shoot along side the pro's with the NEO 90. After the first 30 frames churned through the camera, revealing a set of spirited wallet size prints, the Instax 2-3 minute development time from pure white to a thick, rich colour pallet bestowed anticipation and a "give me a look" excitement, even amongst the sceptics.
Capturing the relationship between riders and their four legged friends was a furious challenge. With limited access and the wide focal length lens it took a little imagination to get close and deliver anything representative. Luckily, there is no view finder black out to worry about, none-the-less, accurate framing was almost impossible with a "close enough" design approach to the toy view finder (estimated to be probably 80% accurate).
Initial shots where a little iffy, until you learn the pre focus zones for the different camera modes it is easy to get soft results. The built in approximation view finder gives no indication of focus or exposure. Exposure compensation can be primitively controlled through a normal, dark, light and light + setting, which is easily influenced by the lighting scenario on set, and mistakes will literally cost you.
There is no better tool than the FUJIFILM Instax NEO 90 to chase down the McLaren-Honda MP4/4, a machine once tenderly swung around the race tracks by Formula 1 legend Ayrton Senna. May 1st marked the anniversary of Senna's unfortunate passing and In honour of the three time Formula 1 world champion the Auckland McLaren showroom has been hosting the last of the turbo charged Formula 1 pedigree. Seeing both the classic turbo charged motor sport racer and the NEO 90 going face to face left those amongst us smiling in remembrance of a finer era.
Both engineered with a framework targeted towards form and function the NEO 90 has a solid heft and aerodynamic feel. Grippy rubber around the body with two shutter buttons for vertical and horizontal operation keeps photography repetitive strain injuries in check. The only maddening feature of the camera is when power cycling the unit, all settings dialled in prior are reset, costing valuable slides and missed opportunities when focus and exposure presets are not as historically elected.
Because I grew up in the digital era, the process of loading a new cartridge of film felt very foreign. It is easy to forget that the Instax cartridges only have capacity for ten slides, which seem to disappear surprisingly quickly, especially when a heated moment presents itself and your are paying more attention to what is being photographed than the camera dangling by your side. Even though there is a tick down counter on the back of the camera to gauge your onboard supply, all real photographers can tell you of countless missed captures while the camera was not at the ready. Loading film definitely interrupts a fluid workflow.
On the way home, busy trying to envision the layout and review of the Instax NEO 90 there was one last spontaneous stop at house number 72. The bold colour and eye catching street numbering finished off slide number 110. The last one for the weekend ,which concludes the review and our hands on experience.
If you wanted to categorise the Instax system it is probably best described as the cousin to Instagram. Even though the NEO 90 will never be a working camera, it does provide a very interesting platform for youth photography with instant print satisfaction. If you consider the workflow from capture to print, the associated cost of a single slide is surprisingly reasonable. The last issue I imagine is storage. If you really get behind the concept and start creating 100's of little slide prints you may also want to invest in a mini filing cabinet, like an alphabetic business card holder to maintain some order for your print projects.