Photography has become a less physical activity with the advent of digital cameras. It's easier to leave your masterpieces sitting on a hard drive than to pass them around the dining room table. There is a definite appeal to having the physical record of a memory right in your hands, and an even greater appeal at having it appear while still in the moment.
People who have double nostalgia over old Polaroid instant photos – once for the memory they contain and once for the medium itself – will be pleased to discover the Fujifilm Instax Mini 25, which offers instant gratification in photo form, and it is one of the best Christmas gifts of the season.
The pictures are small – the size of a credit card – but this allows the camera to be a manageable size, and there is a kind of joy at being able to hand a picture to its subject. The photos take just a couple minutes to develop before your eyes. They aren't digital quality by a long shot, but that isn't the point. The only white balance to speak of is the option to darken or lighten the next shot. There are no focus controls. You can toggle the flash – and that's about it. Brightly lit shots are sometimes washed out, and there is minimal contrast in darker images. But we forgave the imperfections surprisingly quickly for the sake of holding each newborn keepsake in our hands.
The Mini 25's form factor is cute and friendly – white and curvy retro design with no sharp corners – and considering the camera's novelty appeal, this is probably the right choice for both kids and adults. A tiny LCD film counter lets you know how many shots remain. Adjacent the lens is a small mirror for taking self-portraits. The camera is fueled by a pair of CR2 lithium batteries, which are included.
There is a detachable close-up shooting lens, but since the Mini 25 has only a viewfinder with which to frame your shot, it is difficult to get a sense of what will be in the frame.
The film comes in packages of 10 or 20, at about 75 cents per shot. To customize this gift, you can buy Instax films that have Barbie, Hello Kitty, cartoon characters or other themes around the edges.
We had a lot of fun taking pictures with the Instax Mini 25 and showing them around, and the person on your gift list will too. If you don't want the camera to be a dusty relic after the first package of film is exhausted, we recommend wrapping this gift with plenty extra.