Until I finally got an Instax Mini 11 for myself, I never properly understood the appeal of instant cameras. It’s not like they were foreign to me; as an elder member of Gen Z, I grew up during film photography’s grand comeback, which included the advent of these next-generation instant cameras. I simply couldn’t justify the cost of the film and the slight inconvenience of carrying around an extra gadget, especially when my phone could accomplish the same task in sharper detail. But I was wrong—pretty much everything looks better when there’s an Instax Mini 11 in the mix.
Before getting my own Fujifilm camera this summer (late to the party, I know), practically everyone else around me had beaten me to the punch. They were inescapable on my college campus, where my friends used theirs to document dorm life. (I also watched at least one fellow coed a week buy their own at my retail job downtown, along with sweatpants and sheet masks—the holy trinity of gifts for college students.) I didn’t have the funds to buy one myself, although I had started to suspect that I was missing out on the fun.
After investing in standard film cameras post-graduation—and waiting impatiently to use up rolls of film and get them developed—I decided it was time to give the Instax a shot. And thankfully, the camera is still just as charming today as it was during school. It comes in a variety of pastel hues, including sky blue, blush, and white. (I own the lavender colorway.) It’s less bulky than the old-school Polaroid cameras I had seen in thrift stores; it weighs less than a pound, making it easy to throw in a tote or work bag. Maneuvering selfies is also a breeze, thanks to an automatic flash and focus, plus a tiny mirror near the shutter to help you center yourself in the frame.
But enough about the specs; we’re here for the vibes. I’ve captured scenes from everyday life with my Instax Mini 11—tomatoes on a sheet pan, my roommate putzing around the kitchen, my first tattoo fresh from the shop—and they all take on a nostalgic sheen in instant photos, lending them a moodiness and sense of life that my iPhone just can’t recreate. Everything looks better on film. And like me, you don’t have to be a serious photographer to operate an Instax Mini 11; you just need to make sure your finger isn’t in the shot.
If you ask me, the absolute best setting for a Fujifilm camera is a party. It can be indoors or outdoors, daytime or past midnight, with an overflowing guest list or just a few close friends; all that matters is that you’re capturing memories as they’re being made. At my Halloween party this year, I used my new Instax to take photos for a costume contest, then handed out the film as party favors on the way out. The pictures were a hit. (The only thing better than free alcohol? Free film photos.)
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