Reviewing the Lomo’Instant Cameras (Instax Mini)!

Hey everyone!

This week we are finally breaching a topic which many Lomography instant film fans and users have been curious but have never been able to find out: comparing the line of Lomo’Instant instax film cameras (excluding the Lomo’Instant Wide camera which uses the instax wide film)! It has been a curious thought in our minds ever since we got our hands on the original Lomo’Instant camera, the Lomo’Instant Automat and the recently-released Lomo’Instant Automat Glass camera!

Of course, Lomography will typically have generic descriptions as to the experience of using their instant film cameras, but our review intends to go deeper than words, and show our readers some of the differences in using the various cameras and their accessories!

Disclaimer: We are no camera experts; we are only camera enthusiasts who are curious about the extent of the Lomography instax film cameras’ capabilities. This article is written in our own perspective, and all comments and opinions are ours. All image exposure is subject to the lighting when the instax films were taken. No alterations to the metering were made except when stated. All information is accurate as at the date of this post.

This article is structured as follows:

  1. Introduction of the current Lomo’Instant Cameras
  2. Comparing the Technical Specifications
  3. Our Test Shots
  4. Conclusion

Introducting the Lomo’Instant Cameras

Lomo’Instant Camera (“LIC”)

The first Lomo’Instant camera was announced in May 2014, and boasted a variety of modes and functions that surpassed the Fujifilm instax cameras. Indeed, the variety of multi-coloured skins, accessories (such as wide-angle lens, fish-eye lens and close-up lens) and its marketing efforts indicated that the Lomo’Instant camera series was primarily aimed toward youths or young adults who desired something different from the boxy, plain look and limited functions of the Fujifilm instax cameras, and to allow the user to be creative and different. The Lomo’Instant camera gives the user some degree of control, such as bulb mode, some aperture/exposure modes and multiple exposures; however it has a ‘normal’ automatic mode.

DSCF5942 (2)
Our camera is the limited edition Lomo’Instant Boston camera; the striking red and blue colours certainly makes us feel youthful and catches the eyes of passers-by!

Lomo’Instant Automat (“LIA”)

In August 2016, the Lomo’Instant Automat was introduced, and was touted by Lomography as “the most advanced automatic instant camera.” It was developed to alleviate users of the ‘stress’ of manual photography, by developing a camera to deliver the best instax film in differing conditions. Like the original Lomo’Instant camera, it boasts the same variety of modes and functions; however, it differs aesthetically, and as mentioned above, it is intended to be used as an automatic camera (but it can be used manually, to a limited extent).

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Our Lomo’Instant Automat South Beach camera, which we bought from the original KickStarter project.

Lomo’Instant Automat Glass (“LIA Glass”)

In March 2017, Lomography announced the new Lomo’Instant Automat Glass, which boasts a larger aperture (of f/4.5; the largest in the instax film camera market) compared to the above models (of f/8) and an in-built wide-angle glass lens. Its funky exterior pays homage to pioneering voyages and early travellers, and is intended to ‘pave the way for new discoveries’. Because of the glass lens, it has been said to produce better quality images compared to its predecessors.

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The first version of the Lomo’Instant Automat Glass Magellan edition.

Comparing the Lomo’Instant Cameras

Of course, descriptions only go so far, and Lomography have helpfully produced the specifications for each camera, which we have compiled into a table below:

Comparison between Lomography Lomo (image)

Some observations are immediately apparent:

  1. The aperture system is oddly vague for LIA and LIA Glass; the LIC has a ‘exposure compensation’ dial which actually changes the aperture blades, but the LIA and LIA Glass’ system is unclear.
  2. Changes to the LIA and LIA Glass seems to be aimed at improving its appeal to the ‘mainstream’ consumer; this includes a remote control, and a heavily-marketed ‘automatic-only’ mode.
  3. Following from above, only the LIC has a shutter cable release mount for long exposure shots. It would seem the mount is not needed for the LIA and LIA Glass as the cameras come with a remote control lens cover.

Comparing the Test Shots

This section takes a deeper look into some of the functions and specifications of the various Lomography instax cameras which we were thought were important for readers to find out about:

(1) Cameras taken at their “default” setting – ie: the Auto Exposure, No Flash, Infinity Distance

Results: By comparing the three lomo instant cameras at their default setting, one would notice that all three cameras produces strong vignetting (lomo style). Of the three, the LIA Glass appears to capture the sharpest image, living up to its reputation of having glass lens.

(2) Aperture and Long Exposure Test Shots: The aim of this test was to check out how much of the aperture we could control with the various cameras. The long exposure images were shot at 10 seconds, with varying settings. The daytime shots (of the playground) were taken with the cameras’ automatic mode settings.

Image (47)a
LIC Long exposure shot
Image (48)
LIA – Exposure comparison
Image (49)d
LIA Glass – Exposure comparison

Observations

For the LIC, the ‘exposure compensation’ dial actually allows the user to change the aperture of the LIC.

In contrast, it is unclear how the ‘exposure compensation’ dials for the LIA and LIA Glass work. Based on the test shots shown above, the ‘exposure compensation’ does not work in bulb mode for the LIA and LIA Glass, resulting in all the long exposure shots being captured the same way. Further, for the LIA, the various ‘exposure compensation’ settings did not work at all, even in the automatic mode. We concede that this could be a technical fault on the part of our camera, but if anyone has noticed the same problem (i.e. exposure compensation not actually changing the exposure for the LIA), please let us know!

Lens Attachments

As a bonus feature, we decided to test the lens attachments as well, as we are sure that this would be a relevant consideration for prospective buyers!

(3) Close Up Lens

Results: All three cameras came with a close up lens attachment. These are the results. Note, for the LIC, the ‘A’ exposure setting is at f/16, which resulted in a dark picture.

When using the close up lens attachment for the LIA Glass, the focusing distance should be set to 0.6m and not 0.3m:

LIA Glass: Here is an example of what happened when we use the close-up lens at the 0.3m setting.

(4) Fish Eye Lens

Both the LIC and LIA came with a fish eye lens attachment.
Because of the different focal length, the LIA fish eye lens does not work when attached to the LIA Glass.

(5) Wide Angle Lens

Among the three cameras, only the LIA comes with an additional wide angle lens attachment! Again, more vignetting and slight distortion can be observed.

Because the LIC and the LIA Glass have in-built wide-angle lens, we were curious as to what would happen if we manually affixed (by holding the attachment in front of the camera) the LIA’s wide-angle lens to those cameras:

Image (47)b
Results: There is stronger distortion and vignetting as as a result of overlaying the wide-angle lens with a wide-angle lens attachment!

(6) Portrait Lens

Image (51)
Results: The LIC portrait lens does not fit onto the LIA and LIA Glass, but by putting it in front of those camera, it can be used. We suspect that better results can be obtained for the LIA Glass if it was set at 0.3m instead of 0.6m (as is recommended for the portrait lens).

Conclusion:

Although we feel that we have only scratched the surface in comparing the various cameras, it is clear that the changes to the LIC (in the form of the LIA and LIA Glass) were done to improve its appeal to the masses. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, and we have taken some good pictures with the LIA and LIA Glass. Even though we have all three camera models, we understand that our readers may only have one or none at all.

We were quite tempted to recommend a camera, but we feel that we should not be passing judgment over which camera we think suits you! Therefore, we hope that our review will have covered some queries as to the Lomo’Instant cameras!

Till next time,

Damianwithsandra

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