Last year, my dear Mom gave me a Lomo LC-Wide with the Instant Back package for it, and since she was gifting a LC-Wide, she picked up a pack of Instax Wide film for it…
My employer uses this Bravo! thing for employee recognition, and after several years* I built up a bunch of reward points…
What does one have to do with the other? And what do either have to do with the entry of a new camera into my collection? Well…
I set the pack of film on the shelf, and it taunted me for months. I thought about selling it or giving it away, and took it along on last fall’s Polawalk and to Polacon 4. I didn’t need another camera, and, in fact, haven’t been shooting much at all, but the film kept taunting me.
I wanted an Lomo’Instant Wide, but am sitting on some debt and couldn’t justify the $200, just to shoot through a 2-pack of Instax Wide.
But then, near the end of 2019 when I got the notifications about all the Bravo! points I had to give out* and went to distribute them, I also decided to see if there was anything I wanted to spend my accumulated points on. Well, lo and behold, the Fuji Instax Wide 300 was there… “Hummm,” I thought. “It’s much more limited than the Lomo… no multiple exposures or manual controls at all… but ‘free’? or $200 that I don’t have and won’t for awhile?… but all that manual control… but I didn’t like the Lomo’Instant Square, and only rarely use any ‘creative controls,’ so…”
Bravo! shipped the Fuji Instax Wide 300 remarkably quickly. I put the order in late on a Thursday, I think, and it arrived Saturday morning. (I suspect Amazon fulfillment or similar was involved.) But other than the super excited-looking selfy (above) I let it sit for weeks.
Speaking of Polawalk, I started a pack of B/W Polaroid Originals on it, and finished that pack in Arkansas in late October. I immediately loaded a pack of Polaroid Originals Color, took one frame of Mom’s deck, and then didn’t shoot it at all either.
So… hummm… let the a/b commence, I guess!
So how does Instax Wide 300 (and film) compare to Polaroid Impulse SE (and film)?
Well, first off notice the format: oblong rectangle vs. square. And then there’s the color too, the Instax black is, well, black, while the Polaroid Originals black is sorta blue. Now, this could be because I loaded the Polaroid Originals pack maybe a month after its use by date, and then let it sit around for 4 months (if you notice, there’s a good amount of banding and color shifts…) but the Instax Wide film sat around, un-refrigerated, partially in the sun, for 8 months before it got loaded, and then for another 2 months before I shot anything.
The lens on the Polaroid Impulse SE is a bit more tele than the one on the Fuji Instax Wide 300, and believe it or not, the Impulse SE finder is really far closer to accurate than the one on the Wide 300, though neither are really spot-on. I think I have an easier time with the Impulse because it’s easier to hold with two hands, it’s sorta shaped for two hands, and the Wide is much more a one-handed thing (for me, anyway), but the Wide’s finder is a maybe 85% finder (I wear glasses), while the Impulse SE finder is closer to 95%.
Full disclosure, for some reason the exposure slider thing on the Impulse was pushed to darken for most of these shots. I don’t recall doing it, and don’t think it made a huge amount of difference, really. This pack of Polaroid Originals film was just a total disappointment.**
It’s really not a fair comparison, I think. Polaroid Originals film is finicky, and the late 2018/early 2019 batch should’ve been shot by August or September 2019 at the latest. Instead, I let it sit in the fridge until October, loaded it, then left the camera to sat on the shelf until February 2020. Oh well, and all, but still, there’s something I like about the Polaroid Originals, or, really, the Impulse SE more than the Fuji.
Both camera lenses have some softness. The Fuji lens is surprising to me. I half-expected it to be sharper than it is and the slight diffusion is pleasant, organic, and takes a bit of edge off of the contrasty, precise film. The Impulse SE, probably in concert with the Polaroid Originals film, is far less sharp, and hits a sort of ‘dimness of memory’ look, a nostalgic pose that I think I prefer, at least when the film is fresh-enough and all.
But the Instax media is rock solid, and there it wins over Polaroid Originals. I like the format of the Instax Wide too. I’m used to shooting 35mm, mostly, with brief dalliances into 6×6, 6×7, 6×9, and 4×5, almost all oblong rectangles rather than absolute squares. I don’t like Instax square. It’s too small, really, and I don’t much like the Lomo’Instant Square camera either (maybe I should give it another chance, especially since no one seems interested in buying it). I love regular Instax film (the Mini kind), but only really in my LC-Anstax and LC-Wanstax.
Anyway, this is a first impressions review of the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 and a brief compare/contrast between Instax Wide and (out of date, poorly stored) Polaroid Originals 600. I should redo this test with fresher Polaroid stock. Anyway, let me get back to it.
I like the camera. It’s a bit big, maybe, and I’d prefer the closeup lens to be integrated (as it is in the Impulse SE). Exposure is generally spot on, though backlit landscapes can be tough.
But, in general, exposure is fine, focus is good-enough, and it’s pleasant-enough to shoot with. I wonder why I’ve never tried a Fuji Instax camera, why I’ve only shot the Lomography variants (and one pack through the JollyLook) till now. Really, the Instax Wide 300 is pretty much everything you need for most shooting, or everything I need anyway. Having shot with it for only one pack, I see the draw and kinda wish I had an Instant Winter-type project to shoot with it, and I really look forward to shooting with it again.
*As a manager, I get a pile of points to distribute for good performance. I should give them out for special occasions or projects or something, but I usually just whack them up among the team at the end of the year.
**Many people had many horrible experiences with Impossible Project film, especially in its early days, but I got in late and have had a mostly positive-enough experience with both Impossible and Polaroid Originals. Neither are as stable, consistent, or precise as good, old, long dead Polaroid, but they’ve both been stable, consistent, and precise enough for me.