Fuji announced their new Monochrome Instax in September to great fanfare, and packs started appearing on shelves in October. I picked up 5 packs to try to join in on a Dan K-sponsored contest on Twitter a couple of months ago. Sadly, they didn’t arrive in time to participate, but it did spur me to shoot more Instax, so that’s a good thing, and I’m glad I picked some Monochrome up. It’s different from its colored brethren, somehow more precious, more serious, less spontaneous and fun. It’s still Instax, for sure, just a bit different, and I think the LC-Anstax does it justice.*
Under most conditions, I found Instax Monochrome performed slightly better with an extra stop of exposure in most ordinary lighting conditions (i.e. everything except bright, direct sunlight). The extra light helps to mask the (to my eye) rather narrow dynamic range: without the extra stop, there is decent midtone variation, but highlights blow and shadows go to black super quick; with it, the highlights blow ever so slightly quicker, but the shadows open up some.
I think the only example I have of this, sadly, is this pair of selfies. The first was shot at the recommended 200 ISO; the second at 100. If only I was more obviously smiling in the overexposed one, it might become the long-sought-after new selbstporträt for social media. Well, that and the vastly increased shadow detail reveals just how much my hair is beginning to thin… Hooray for middle age.
The Monochrome seems to emphasize the vignette and general softness inherent to the LC-Anstax a bit more than the color, but only because the color provides some distraction.
One thing to note about the film itself: it takes a long time for the image to develop. A faint image begins to appear within 10 seconds or so, and after 2:30 the full image is there, but mostly in purple. Only after 8 or 10 minutes is everything as resolved as it’s going to get. This isn’t too much of a big deal, but if you’re wanting to share with friends straight away, it’s going to take a few minutes longer in monochrome than in color.
Emulsive has a good review of the Monochrome, focusing mostly on results out of the SP-1 Printer and bemoaning the lack of fine control in the Instax Cameras. This lack of control is, of course, overcome by the LC-Anstax, and the basic ability to focus and have 1 stop of underexposure and 3 stops of overexposure is great, and one day I might try it with flash. I meant to in this week, but I didn’t have an obvious opportunity. It would also be interesting to maybe try a bit of Sunny 16-ish/zone system with it: with the fixed 1/60th shutter and apertures from 2.8-16, it would blow out in bright sunlight, but probably work fine indoors, so that’s something to try maybe.
Overall, I like the Instax Monochrome… it’s different than the color version, more serious, less spontaneous; more arty, less party. If you haven’t tried some, it’s often out of stock, so if you see it somewhere and want to have some fun with black & white, grab it while you can. Note that it’s more expensive than the color stocks, but if we keep the demand up, maybe Fuji will increase production and allow the price to drop. I’m thankful to have three packs resting in the fridge, and I look forward to having a good idea or project to use them on.
* Sadly, the same cannot be said for my scanner: I have something in the works for 35 and 120, though, and I might just find a way to modify the new Scan-O-Matic X for opaque media. Hummm… how would that work? I’ll have to think on that some.