Long exposure: Japan’s still in love with the instant camera

Digital cameras are super handy, aren’t they? Delete all the blurry selfies and only keep the shots you want.

With an instant camera, the shot’s permanent – as well as printed out straight away, creating a constant reminder. Oops, there’s half of your thumb over the lens.

The revival and current popularity of instant cameras in Japan‘s a mystery to some people. After all, Japan makes some of the most advanced digital and DSLR cameras in the world. Why are they sticking with the mini prints?

Get interested in instant cameras again

The cheki print camera’s revival is a generational thing – just not in the usual way. A surprising number of younger people have never heard of, seen or used a film-based camera before. Like kids who don’t know what the ‘dial-up internet modem’ sound is.

To them, the instant camera‘s a new and fun novelty. You have to actually look through the viewfinder! Wow!

Try not to cover the viewfinder by accident.

Mini prints also have a border, so you can decorate and write on them. It’s a little easier doing that by hand than tapping a screen.

Take it, shake it, check it, love it

Really picky people would point out that an ‘instant’ camera’s slightly less instant than digital. Ah, but that’s when it comes to displaying the photo. The print from an instax camera is near enough instant. It’ll pop out of the top or side in a few seconds.

Mini instant photos are called ‘cheki’ in Japan. From ‘check it’ or ‘check it out’.

If the instant camera’s reinvention feels weird, wait until you hear who’s behind it. Shake it like a… Fujifilm picture!

The one and only, until Polaroid came back.

Fujifilm is leading the way. They’ve even gone ahead and trademarked ‘Cheki’. Polaroid wasn’t quick enough. The company that gave mini film prints their name stopped making point-and-snap models. By the time Polaroid put modern instant cameras back into production, the (cheaper) Fujifilm instax mini was already king.

More on the instax mini range

The instax mini 8 was the first new battery-powered instant camera Fujifilm had made in a decade. It’s got the most simple features in the current camera range. It’s the perfect ‘point-and-shoot’ basic travel camera. Pressing the ‘on’ button automatically charges the flash and brings the lens out.

And this isn't every colour there is.

Try taking a selfie with the instax mini 70. Yep, it has a ‘selfie mode’ and focus settings – and a little mirror on the front. You can’t see as much of yourself when you take the shot, but the added brightness means it should be fine. (Don’t worry if you’ve got a mini 8, there are optional close-up focus lenses sold separately.)

More features come as standard with the instax mini 90. It’s got a proper flash bulb, and it can take double exposures. You can manually disable that flash, and choose to lighten or darken the exposure to your liking. Plus, the battery is rechargeable.

And then there’s the instax mini 25, the most curvy instant camera of the lot. With 2 shutter buttons: at the top and on the front.

Cameras with character (mainly from Sanrio)

Can we get through a single blog post about a Japanese product without mentioning character goods?

Not this time. The obvious one to mention is the instax mini Hello Kitty, in red or pink. The camera’s made in the shape of Hello Kitty’s head, including that iconic bow. It’s the only version that isn’t heavily based on an existing instax mini camera, which is why it doesn’t have a number.

Meta bows.

And Hello Kitty isn’t alone in decorating an instax. Let’s not forget the instax mini 25 Rilakkuma, or the instax mini 8 Gudetama. They have simple designs: white with yellow accents, and a few mini characters on each side. The rest of the camera is basically the same. Here’s what the Gudetama version looks like:

Smile for the depressed egg!

And yes, yes there is a limited edition Love Live! instax mini 8+ camera. It’s finished in pink – what else – and signed on the back by every member of u’s. Love Live! Sunshine!! fans might get their own Aqours version in future… we hope.

Who's your oshi?

With these kawaii cameras, even the photo borders are covered in characters. All of the special editions have their own special rolls of film, with matching backgrounds. Your candid snapshots come out as kawaii as purikura photos.

Point and click (on the DEJAPAN website)

Check it! Order original Fujifilm instax mini instant cameras, direct from Japan.

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