For some time now I have wanted – if I could draw better than a four‑year-old, that is – to submit a cartoon to Private Eye. It would show a medieval king processing past a tightly gathered bunch of men, all of whom are weaving furiously at wooden frames. The caption would read: “Tapestry paparazzi”.
This big, fat, appealingly retro camera, the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic, from clever, resurgent FujiFilm, refers to another art form almost as archaic as documentary embroidery – the Polaroid photo (although the titchy prints the Instax produces are, at 62mm x 46mm on a 86mm x 54mm background, smaller than Polaroids).
Old Polaroid cameras, of course, went through a hipster phase a few years ago when the denizens of Shoreditch and Brooklyn rediscovered them, and the craze even prompted Polaroid to reintroduce nice instant cameras. But the Japanese cutesiness of FujiFilm’s contribution to the genre has made it the ironic choice for the smart and self-aware.
Photos that can’t be viewed on mobile phones or Instagram are an enchanting novelty to people between seven and about 27, while they engender a pleasing retro-buzz for anyone older than that, many of whom are convinced Polaroids disappeared with the chemists who developed and printed their holiday snaps. The Mini 90 Neo Classic is at the top of the Instax range. Its pictures, while not quite Cosway or Engleheart miniatures, are bright, colourful and appealing and the camera itself has a surprising number of amusing features, such as double-exposure mode for making arty statements. The Mini 90 also has a party mode, which enables you, by navigating the rather too retro (ie, not great) LCD menus, to make the festive background to your portraits clearer and better exposed than would be the case with the average point-and-shoot camera.
This is a highly commendable, fun device. And if I were organising a party, I can’t think of anything more insouciantly cool than giving guests a loaded Mini 90 to snap away and enjoy the satisfying whirr of their miniatures being instantly produced. It’s a great improvement on those too-ubiquitous cardboard one-use film cameras and gives guests something really memorable to take home.