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Review:  Fuji Instax Mini 7S

April 2013

nstant film was a remarkable invention, especially for its time.  The ability to take a picture and get a print-- right now, straight out of the camera-- was unprecedented, and yet many of us took this technology for granted.   At the time, many serious photographers were too busy with 8x10, 4x5, or 120 to give instant film much of a thought.  Only after Polaroid stopped making their instant film did many advanced people say "You know, I really should have done more instant film photography". 

Well, now you can.  And you don't have to be an advanced photographer.  There's no digital trickery here, either.  Instant photography has returned in its classic form:  on film, the way it was meant to be.

The Fuji Instax Mini 7S is a very futuristic-looking camera.  Actually, it reminds me of something from the sci-fi films of the Seventies.

The Instax Mini 7S runs on four AA batteries.  Pick up your Mini through this link and help support this website!

There was always something unique about the look of instant photographs, even among other types of film.  The pictures have that look that many today associate with the "old photo" look:   subdued tones, slightly soft focus, and an overall aspect that is vaguely surreal and dreamlike.  That makes it great for artistic use:  cover art for music albums;  scrapbooking;  or just looking for cool stuff to photograph.   Fuji instant color film is actually a bit more vibrant than the old Polaroid stuff, but it still has a peculiar quality.

This film can really capture the soft blue sky of a sleepy afternoon.

The camera has four settings:  "Sunny", "Fair", "Cloudy", and "Indoors", shown on the control dial as little pictograms.

You turn the camera on by telescoping the lens outward.  Just pull;  there's no button or anything.  At first the lights will blink red, and then you'll get a green light.  Then you can set the camera to one of the four settings. 

When you load a new film pack and press the shutter for the first time, you will not get a picture, but instead the plastic cover of the film packet.  Remove this from the output slot;  you don't need to save it.  The next time you press the shutter you will get a picture.

When a picture first comes out of the camera, it looks blank. You might even think the camera didn't work.  Just wait.  After a few seconds you will start to see a faint picture.  Put the photo aside, in a place out of direct sunlight and let it develop fully.  I have found they are completely developed in a couple hours, but they reach near-completeness within about ten minutes.

Technologically, instant film is still one of the most clever inventions.  How did Fuji get this stuff to develop itself so perfectly?  There's not even a contact layer! 

Quick Specs - Instax Mini 7s:

Aperture Values:  f/12.7 ("Indoor"), f/16 ("Cloudy"), f/22 ("Fine"), f/32 ("Clear")
Batteries:  AA alkaline (takes 4)
Exposure Compensation:  Manual
Flash:  Built-in, auto-adjust
Focus:  Fixed
Image Area:  46 x 62 mm (close to a 6 x 4.5 cm film negative).
Lens:  60mm Fujinon
Minimum Focusing Distance:  0.6 m (about 23 inches)
Self-Timer:  None           (if you need a self-timer, get the Mini 50s instead)
Shutter Speed:  1/60th sec, electronically controlled
Weight:  about 11.3 oz

The Instax Mini 7S has a lens that at first seems like you could under-extend it, causing the wrong focal length.  That is, you may think it won't be in focus.  I have not had this problem so far, though.  It's easy to know when you've reached the stop.    If you don't like the moveable lens, I would tell you to get the Instax 50S, which is a little more conservative-looking in its design and also has a fixed lens, but the Instax 50S takes lithium batteries.  It also costs more.  It looks really cool, but I'd actually get the 210 (see below).

Another choice is the Mini 25.  This is smaller than the Mini 7S but takes a couple of CR2 batteries.  It's not a bad choice, but personally, I prefer cameras that take AA batteries.   The Mini 25 also costs more than the 7S.

There's also the Instax 210, which takes the larger size of Instax film ("Instax Wide").  This yields bigger pictures, which are about twice the size of the Mini's diminutive 62 x 47 mm images.  I don't find the smaller images to be too much of a problem, as long as I can scan the photos, but if I didn't have a scanner I'd probably go for the Instax 210.  (I know this is a review of the Instax Mini 7S, but I think the 210 is actually the better deal.  The film is about the same price, but it gives larger pictures.  Since I try my best to help you out, you can help me out by shopping through any of the links on this page.)

The light setting on the 7S is fairly intuitive.  If you're outside on a bright sunny day, you can set it to "Sunny".   If it's sunny with some haze, try "Fair".  Just after sunset, I took the picture at right by setting the camera on "Cloudy".  This camera makes film photography very easy.

Fuji Instax Mini film is ISO 800.  There are ten shots to a pack.  You can order the film through the links at the bottom of this page.

The 800 speed film is great for low-light, especially with the flash.  I don't know if you've ever tried flash photography with slow films (ISO 100), but low ISO doesn't work very well unless your subject is very close.  The slow films will cause the background to be dark.   You won't have that problem with Instax film.

The 21st Century is a great time to have an instant film camera, because not only do you get instant prints, but you can also scan the pictures and make even larger prints.  Pick up a decent flatbed scanner (such as the Epson V600), and it's easy.  Of course, even if you don't have a scanner, no problem:  the camera gives you a print, right now, in full color.  This is great for people with short attention spans.  Just don't lose the picture, because it's unique. 

The pictures have an image area about the same size as a 645 film negative (that's about 6 x 4.5 cm).

The Instax Mini 7S is tons of fun.  If you're feeling like Louis Mendes but don't have the cash to put into a customized Graflex with an instant-film back, then go for a Fuji Instax.  (Or, if you're nostalgic for the Eighties and for Polaroid, get the almost identical Polaroid 300 instant camera.)   For under a hundred bucks you can be out there doing instant photography.  The pictures are not going to be 4x5, but this is so cool you probably won't care. 

If you want bigger pictures, get the Instax 210, which takes Instax Wide film.  As noted before, the pictures are about twice the size of the ones you get from the Mini.

By the way, the most economical way to buy Instax Mini film is in the 10-pack boxes:  that's ten packs of 10 shots each, or 100 shots in all.  "Cheki" is what they call the Instax cameras in Japan.  

Get your Instax film & camera through the links on this page.  It helps me keep this website going.
Instax Mini 7S and Mini Film (10 packs):


If you want only the twin pack of film (20 pictures total) you can get it here, but be advised that once you get this camera, you're going to want to use it a lot.  I would go right for the 100 picture pack.  When I took the test shots for this article, I said, "I'm only going to take 2 pictures".  I ended up taking 6 or 7, and that was being conservative.   This camera is just too much fun to use it only once or twice.

I hope you enjoy this site.  Thanks for visiting!

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