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Capturing Moments: The Drama of Fujifilm's Shift and the Quest for Vintage Instant Film

Why was Fujifilm's announcement to cease manufacturing earlier style instant prints so dramatic, and what was the reason? Instant cameras, as well as some not-so-well-known cameras with “integrated printers,” already exist. Anyone today can buy one of these instant cameras for less than $100.00, with film/paper widely available at a very affordable cost. Let’s unpack this from an enthusiast's perspective. However, let’s first address why Fujifilm ceased production.

Instant vintage camera fujifilm

According to the company and some speculation, the market for this type of instant film was very small. Worldwide, there were just a handful of connoisseurs and supporters. It was simply too expensive to maintain the facility and produce this film for such a small market of a few thousand. After all, Fujifilm is monumental in size and was much more interested in appealing to the masses with their Instax line of film. Unfortunately, Instax Film was not compatible with the older cameras. More on this later.

It was dramatic because it meant that a large community of instant film users would no longer be able to use their beloved cameras. Which brings us to the next issue. Why are these shutterbugs so obsessive about this? They can simply purchase a newer model from Fujifilm and continue on their Polaroid journey.

One of the main reasons is manual control (more particularly - the focus), which leads to much more desirable results. Photography enthusiasts almost always prefer setting their parameters. Fujifilm’s line of cameras is plastic, not very attractive, and lacks any kind of adjustment capabilities.

Manual controls vintage camera instant photography

Sure, some models do offer some adjustments; however, these formats are too small to be considered. These are the mini and square line of Instax cameras. Not at all as beautiful and large as the previous film stock. Still, Fujifilm did make a large format film for one single model, which was a far downgrade from the models available from vintage cameras.

Meanwhile, even before this was playing out, there was an Austrian-based company that purchased an old Polaroid factory. The intention was to discover Polaroid's formula. Not having access to all the documents left at the factory, the company did manage to successfully reverse engineer Polaroid’s version of instant film. This was definitely some good news to some extent, with some hurdles to overcome.

The first hurdle was simple. It meant using a different vintage camera. The second hurdle was a little more difficult. The film was difficult to work with and proved to have some unpredictable results. The third hurdle wasn’t so difficult, but it was expensive. Not as much as the inflated price of discontinued Fujifilm products, but still expensive, considering the inconsistent results. Still, I used this for a while and was relatively content. The film stock kept improving. However, the cost never really came down, and as such, it put a limit for most of us from using it regularly. It was used mostly for more important celebrations rather than your average day at the park or the beach. But if money was no object, then it was a great alternative. It is my personal favorite film - even though I have since stopped using it due to its price.

New polaroid vs Fujifilm Instax Wide

This was about the time I discovered a very interesting YouTube video. I was enlightened to discover that some of these older cameras can be modified to fit the modern film from Fuji, which was affordable and about the same size as the more expensive Polaroid reinvented film. In the next post, we will discover the world of camera conversions and what became a new and challenging project which at the time, I believed was beyond my level or engineering ability.

See you in the following segment.

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