FujiFilm Instax Mini 9 Review
Pros: Good photos in indoor/low-light situations, both camera and film relatively inexpensive, multiple exposure settings, small and durable
Cons: Tends to overexpose when used in bright sun, smaller photo size, limited image settings
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Our Analysis and Test Results
For those that are looking to take instant photos without spending too much, or that just want to dip their toe in before deciding if they want to make instant photos a hobby, the Instax Mini 9 is a great choice.
Despite a relatively low price the Instax Mini 9 performed quite well in all of our tests, earning it a spot in the top half of our leaderboard.
The Instax Mini 9 has a fairly narrow range of lighting conditions in which it can produce really good looking photos. Because of that limitation, we awarded it a mediocre score in our image quality testing. However, that narrow range dovetails nicely with the situations in which most people would use an instant camera, so don't hold that score against it too much.
First the good: the Instax Mini 9 takes great photos in dim, indoor situations. Inside with the lights on, photos come out looking clear with good color composition. In darker situations, like a dimly lit bar, the flash takes over the image, creating a bright and vibrant subject with a dark background. We generally loved all the photos we took indoors with the Instax Mini 9.
Now the bad: the Instax Mini 9 really struggles in brighter, outdoor situations. Sunlight combined with lighter colors tends to lead to overexposure and big flashes of white in the image. Sunlight also tends to make even darker colors look a bit faded and less defined. We were still able to get some decent outdoor shots on overcast days, but any real amount of sunlight and/or bright white areas like snow or clouds will generally lead to a very overexposed image.
Keep in mind that the Instax Mini 9 (like many modern instant cameras) uses film that is the exact size of a credit card. When you factor in the borders of the image, the actual photo ends up being just 1.8" x 2.4". That size still results in a nice little memento, but maybe people may come into the instant camera world expecting something bigger. If you do want something a bit larger, the Instax Wide 300 produces an image that is twice the size at 2.4" x 3.9".
The Instax Mini 9 offers simple point and shoot functionality, earning it one of the highest scores in our user friendliness testing.
General use of the Instax Mini 9 is quite simple. Just press the power button (with a little force), the lens pops out, and then it's pretty much a foolproof point and shoot. This makes it a great camera to pass around at a party, as you can generally get a good photo without any instruction on how to use the camera. To turn the camera off you actually push the lens back in, which feels a bit odd at first but is quite easy.
Accessing some of the advanced settings are a bit more complicated, but still quite simple. The camera has a number of different exposure modes, which can be selected by turning the dial around the lens. There is a light sensor on the front of the camera that will decide which setting would be best for a given situation. However, the camera does not automatically choose this setting, it just illuminates a light next to the suggested setting, you actually have to select that setting yourself. This process is a little odd, but doesn't feel complicated. Also, if you're taking a bunch of photos at a party, chances are you won't have to change the settings too often.
The least intuitive feature of this camera is its close up attachment, which easily pops onto the lens and lets you focus on things as close as 14 inches. However, this attachment essentially narrows the view of the lens without doing so to the viewfinder. To compensate for this you have to remember to use only the lower left quadrant of the viewfinder to frame your photo. Again, this takes a bit of getting used to, but quickly becomes second nature if you like to take macro shots.
Finally, there is a selfie mirror on the front of the camera that helps you in framing all of your selfies. We found this mirror to work quite well. However, the minimal focal distance of the camera is 24 inches, so make sure you either reach far out when taking a selfie, or use the included close up attachment.
The Instax Mini 9 allows for a decent amount of exposure adjustments, but doesn't have much in the way of creative features, earning it a middle of the road score in this metric.
There are 4 different exposure settings on the Instax Mini 9 including indoors/night, cloudy/shade, sunny/slightly cloudy, and sunny/bright. As we mentioned before, the camera suggests which setting you should use, but you can adjust these settings yourself if you want to get a bit creative with exposure.
There is also a Hi-key mode. This setting essentially makes the photo unnaturally bright, lending a softer, almost ephemeral look to the image. Since the Instax Mini 9 already has a propensity for overexposure, this mode should only be used indoors.
Apart from these image mode, the Instax Mini 9 also offers a close-up attachment that lowers the minimal focal range to 14 inches, and a tiny selfie mirror to help you frame selfies. Overall this camera offers enough image settings to get some good prints and have some fun, but it certainly lacks some of the creative exposure settings that really allow you to experiment with the medium. However, getting those settings requires spending more on something like the Lomography Lomo'Instant Wide of the Instax Square SQ6.
Staying true to its Best Buy moniker, the Instax Mini 9's film is some of the least expensive on the market. If you're willing to buy a bulk pack of 60 you pay $35, which comes out to $0.58 and image. If you want to take some black and white photos a 10-pack of monochrome film generally sells for $7.80, or $0.78 an image.
Thanks to a relatively low price combined with above-average performance, in our opinion the Instax Mini 9 offers the best value per dollar of any instant cameras on the market.
Though the Instax Mini 9 lacks all-around performance, its predilection for the dim indoor lighting of most social gatherings and its relatively low overall price make it a great choice for those looking for a fun, simple, and inexpensive way to document time spent with friends.
— Max Mutter, Steven Tata, and Jenna Ammerman