instantphoto.eu              Instax Wide 300 Option  

The Instax Wide 300 Option is a custom made camera, based on the body of an Instax Wide 300 with a full manual lens. The maker, Option8, is well known for his custom made changements to a variety of Instant cameras. You can pick from a choice of lenses or send your own. It should be a 4x5 camera lens from the 90 to 100 mm range. He tried a wide angle version for me and it worked out fine. The camera is here.

So why choose a full manual camera? Fuji makes wonderful instant film that could be professionally used, but only makes crappy cameras with very limited specifications. A manual camera offers many features that other Instax cameras do not have, as: extended manual modes, B mode with long exposure times, multiple exposure and a flash connexion.

The technical specifications depend on your lens. This one is a simple 4x5 wide lens, 90mm. It's marked "Prinz" which is a re-badged Congo lens. Congo made multicoated lenses following old designs in the 90s with modern shutters. The wide angle Congos are wide field gauss designs (four elements in four groups) comparable to the Kodak WF Ektars. 

Film: Fujifilm Instax Wide Film
Exposure Area: 62mm x 99mm

Aperture: f/6.3, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32, f/45
Lens: 4 elements in 4 groups, f=90mm
Focal range: 0.90m - ∞ , manual focus
Shutter speed: 1/500s - 1 second, B mode
Viewfinder: Optical viewfinder
Shutter: 1/500, 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1, B 
Flash: PC socket
Motorized ejection. Takes 4 AA batteries.
Size: 190 x 120 x 135mm
Weight: 690 g w/o batteries and film

Some pictures of the camera:

Front. Viewer and eject button (ex shutter button). Around the lens: speed and aperture setting, shutter cocking lever, PC flash socket, cable release socket and shutter release lever.

Back side. Viewfinder eyepiece, back opening button.

Top. Ejection slot. Around he lens tube: distance scale.

Bottom. Tripod mount.

Battery compartment open.

Right side. Strap lug near the finder.

Left side with grip anfd strap lug.

Back open.

The lens.

Unfortunately my camera didn't eject the photos. Although it was made from a new body, something was broken in the gearing at arrival. Option8 offered a repair immediately. As I live in France, Option8 is based in the U.S. and French customs are a real pain, we decided that I take the camera apart and he sends me a new modified core. Taken apart it looks like this:

Camera taken apart.

The repair part arrived quickly. I put the camera back together again and made my first photos. The results are not convincing. The lens has heavy flare with outside photos. All photos taken with newest Instax film and measured with a Gossen Digisix. Speed and aperture are noted on the margin of each photo.

Mayor's office in Attaques, a village south of Calais. Heavy flare in the center of the photo. Bright gray sky, no sun.

Calais, town center. Gray sky. The borders are sharp, the center is overall hazy.

Same photo at F16. The haze is more concentrated in the middle than at F8, easily visible on the pole in the foreground.

Calais, theater. Gray sky after rain. Heavy flare in the center.

Veranda, dull light. Focus on the big crystal ball. I don't see any flare.

Same photo at F22. No flare either. Note that the film reacts to longer speeds. The white walls get a slight blue tint.

Calais, quartier Mollien. A bit of sun after rain, the sun is in my back. Flare again in the center of the photo.

Same photo at F11. Flare more extended but less distinct.

All outside photos have flare. With smaller apertures the flare gets more concentrated in the center. There was no direct sun and no possible sun hitting the lens from either side. So  I waited for better weather and made some tests again.

Calais Nord. Bright sunny weather, but the building and the camera were in the shade, I use a skylight filter to see if it gets better. That's obviously not the case.

Same building, detail of a brick wall. I used a lens shade to see if it helps. That's not the case either. The haze doesn't get better on shorter distances, 5m in this case.

So the lens has a problem with outside photos. I have never seen this before, I owned hundreds of lenses. The lens is clear, no dirt, no fungus, no haze on the glass and it's coated. Really strange. Option8 proposed to send the camera back for a full refund. That's what I did. There was no problem, the refund was immediate. So you can buy from him with confidence. With a good lens the results can be phantastic, a friend of mine has one with a Nikkor lens and it's superb.

We agreed that he will make a wide angle Instax for me on the base of 65mm Schneider Super Angulon. This is done now, the camera is

Handling is not as easy as an ordinary Instax camera, it's a full mechanical camera, don't complain, you wanted one. So you have to measure the light, set speed, aperture and focus, cock the shutter and release it. Ejection is via the old shutter button on the body. It's not one push and a cycle, you have to hold it down until ejection is complete. But you have to release it in time, if not, a second photo is moved up. Fortunately the sound of the motor changes when ejection is complete, so it's easy. If you owned ordinary  Instax wide cameras for years, as I do, it's a bit difficult not to touch the old shutter button in order to take a photo, but you get used to it. A handle with a cable release helps a lot, it also could carry a rangefinder if you need one. There is no counter for the photos that are left. So either you have a good memory or you have to take notes. There is no battery charge indicator and no switch to turn the camera off. So be careful not to touch the ejection button, which sits on the camera grip, when you put the camera into a bag or take it out of it. But in principle handling is just as easy as any other mechanical camera with the big difference that you can have immediate results.

The new Lomo Diana Square has some features that facilitate handling. The mechanical shutter release lever is connected to the ejection and it does a cycle on its own. There is a mechanical film counter which is lit by the battery indicator. And you can switch it off or set multiple exposure. These are nice features for future lens customization.