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For many Lomography’s Diana+/Diana F+ lovers, the instant back that uses Fujifilm Instax Mini film came as a surprise bonus. After introducing the many optional lenses like the wide, super wide, macro, fisheye and telephoto to ‘supplement’ the Diana camera re-make, Lomography decided to introduce more ‘fun’ to it. So is the Instant Back a good replacement for other instant cameras like the good old Polaroids and Fujifilm’s Instax cameras?
A first look
The Instant Back promises to allow Diana+/F+ users to operate the camera as per normal. No additional settings and no change in the way photos are taken. The Instant Back attaches directly to the back of the camera, of course with the original back removed. You will have to carefully remove the plate at the bottom of the camera which holds 120 film before installing the Instant Back. You will also be supplied a ‘correction lens’ which fits to the back of the lens barrel (from the inside of the camera). Lomography claims that this ‘correction lens’ will allow the camera to treat the Instax film as a ISO400 film instead of the original ISO800. Without it, I guess it will be quite a challenge taking photos outdoors on sunny days. It also claims that the ‘correction lens’ helps the other optional lenses focus correctly when using the Instant Back.
Example of a photo with ‘hotspot’ in the middle
For early (read ‘excited’) buyers of the Instant Back, there might be a problem when taking photos outdoors on sunny days. There are ‘hotspots’ (aka bright patch) right in the middle of the photos in some situation. Lomography has acknowledged this and offer replacement of the ‘correction lens’ for those who bought the earlier batches.
Power: Just like the Instax 55i camera, the Instant Back is powered by two CR2 batteries.
Features: Once the Instant Back is installed, just open the back cover by pushing a cover lock at the back of the Instant Back and pop in a pack of the Instax Mini film. Similar to Instax cameras, you will have to make sure the yellow line (on the pack of film) is visible through a little window at the back of the Instant Back. Power on the Instant Back by pushing a switch also located at the back, right beside the big round film eject button. Read about some ‘problems’ I faced with this placing later below in the ‘Thoughts’ section. With a new pack if Instax film in it, press the film eject button once to eject the protective sheet (black) and you are ready to have some instant fun with the Diana+/F+ camera.
Usage: Use the camera like you would normally do and taking into consideration that you have ISO400 film loaded. Setting of distance and aperture are as per normal. Once a photo is taken, just press the film eject button and out comes a photo. Easy? There is more fun to it. You can do multi-exposures before ejecting the film. Of course when doing this, you might want to set to a smaller aperture to ensure the shot is not over-exposed.
Thoughts: Some personal thoughts after using the Instax Back for a while …
- Button & switch – I find that the power switch is placed a little bit too near to the film eject button. Sometimes, by mistake I will press the film eject button when what I wanted to do was to switch off the Instant Back. Well this is definitely a user problem, so perhaps this is not really a design ‘flaw’ after all. I have developed a habit of switching on the Instant Back only when I need to eject the film, and switch it off immediately after that. This will ensure I won’t accidentally press the film eject button (and scream when one shot is wasted). Shoving the camera into a back with the Instant Back powered on might also accidentally trigger the film eject button. So do not cry when you open up your back to see the entire pack of film being ‘spit’ out already.
- Power drain – A friend who forgot to switch off his Instant Back (with a set of new batteries) realized that the batteries were depleted after 1 day. So always remember to switch it off after using it.
- Unlike some of those lenses for Diana+/F+ that Lomography offers, the Instant Back doesn’t come with a ‘viewfinder adapter’. This means what you see through your viewfinder is not what you are going to get on your Instax photo. The manual suggests that you place your main subject smack in the middle when you compose a photo using the viewfinder. It takes a little bit of getting used to … after taking some photos of people without heads etc. Oh well … that isn’t really a bad thing because you do get unexpected results that are really neat sometimes.
The Instant Back I had was replaced by Lomography after the film counter went dead. They made me ‘smash up’ the Instant Back before sending me a new one because it will be too costly to ship it back to them. Due to this, I found out that the Instant Back is one tough cookie! I wasn’t expecting it to be this tough but after trying to burn it, hammer it and stepping on it … it was way tougher than I expected. This means it will probably survive a fall or two and still work fine. Please do not try this at home because while the Instax Back might be tough … the camera is probably not.
After ‘burning’ a few packs of Instax Mini film, I think I’m in love with it. Well I sure wish there is a Diana Polaroid Back but I guess I’ll have to make do with the Instax one for now. Getting a decent exposure is pretty important because the film is not as ‘forgiving’ as negatives and washed/blacked out shots are something you’ve to get used to.
If you already own a Diana+/F+ camera and hate the ‘perfectness’ of the Instax cameras … grab an Instant Back and you won’t regret it.
[Written by Guest Editor Andrew Kua of Fuzzyeyeballs.com]