Today we have another user submitted camera review. The camera we are discussing is the Minolta Instant Pro and the review is by Travis Ennis. Travis has been very active on Facebook in the instant film group and has produced some great images with this setup. You can see more of Travis’ work at the following links.
Minolta Instant Pro
by Travis Ennis
When I started shooting instant film it was after Polaroid went bankrupt. I missed the heyday of instant film and the only films available to me were the excellent pack films from Fuji and the integral film from the Impossible Project. The Fuji film was relatively cheap and you could shoot it in all sorts of cameras so I decided to focus on it. However, with time, the allure of integral film made by the Impossible Project eventually called out to me and I decided to start looking for a camera that I could use with this film. Each kind of integral film had a camera that was desirable to own and use with it. The SX-70 film had the famous, foldable SLRs, the 600 series films had the SLR-680 and the Spectra/Image film had the… Well, that was a good question and one I didn’t know the answer to so I started doing some research.
There were a few very interesting cameras made for Spectra/Image films. The Polaroid ProCam with a wide-angle 90mm lens. The Macro 5 and 3 SLRs, which can focus as close as 3 inches. The Spectra Onyx with a semi-translucent body. The one that caught my eye was the Minolta Instant Pro. One of the few integral film cameras not made by Polaroid itself, the Instant Pro began production in 1990 when Minolta licensed from Polaroid the technology to build a Spectra/Image film camera. In fact, the Minolta Instant Pro looks very similar to the Polaroid Spectra System Pro camera, a camera that was released after the Minolta. However, the Instant Pro is supposedly designed by Minolta from the inside out with its own features, a Minolta lens and coatings that are specific to this camera, and manufactured to Minolta’s quality control standards. Having always liked Minolta cameras and lenses, an instant film camera made by them intrigued me.
The Instant Pro is a relatively advanced camera as far as integral film Polaroid cameras go. On the back of the camera is an LCD panel that displays the current settings and the number of exposures left (unfortunately it counts down from 10, whereas Impossible Project film only has 8 shots per pack). The camera’s controls allow the photographer to choose a wide range of options and adjustments. It has the lighten and darken adjustment that is pretty common among all instant film cameras, but it goes far beyond that in terms of features. It is an auto-focus camera, but with a manual focus override. It has a backlight compensation mode. It does calculated multiple-exposures, which does exactly what you might be thinking it does: you tell it how many exposures you plan to take and it will calculate the proper exposure for each shot so that the final image is properly exposed. It has a time-exposure capability which is made even more interesting by a built-in intervalometer. Want to take a photo of a scene every 10 minutes until the pack is gone? This camera will allow you to do that. The Instant Pro also will mount the Special and Creative Effects filters that Polaroid released for their Spectra cameras, which adds a little bit of fun and creativity to shooting with this camera.
The Spectra/Image film now being produced by the Impossible Project is called PZ680 for color and PZ600 for black and white. It has a unique look in comparison to the other films that Impossible Project produces. I find the color film tends to be a bit cooler than the PX films and also a bit cleaner. It also seems to suffer less from uneven development, although I that could be attributed to the camera itself, which is around a decade newer than my SLR-680. All in all, I find I get more consistent results with the Spectra/Image line of film than I do with other Impossible Project films. Of course, whether that look appeals to you is purely subjective.
Here are a few shots in varied lighting situations. Some using the built-in flash and a few natural light shots.
The Minolta Instant Pro is a fun camera to shoot with. Since it folds up, it is easy to use as a carry-along camera, but because it has enough features to increase creative control, it’s a really fine camera to use for model shoots or for fine art photography.