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Intimate Objects – The LOMO’Instant Automat

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With the proliferation of digital photography in today’s modern market, perfection has become the new normal. Photography is an art practiced through initial capture, modern shooters using their camera to anchor a moment in time with as many potential options as possible be it color, tone, exposure or even as technology marches on, focus and perspective.

With such a flexible base, photographers are able to breathe new life into their images through post.

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So often we see today’s Instagram aesthetics essentially emulating the characteristics and quirks of the film emulsion process through a certain set of slightly more cookie cutter techniques. On occasion (when used properly) this can yield stunning results, but more often than not in casual use it creates a marketplace with a pallet that feels wholly inauthentic.

The element of this authenticity that I’ve always identified as the key to an image’s aesthetic in the context of film vs. digital is a simple but not necessarily obvious one. While both film and digital photography create an archive of a moment in time, of the two, only film creates an object.

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With the flexibility of Digital, there is an inherent drive to use the platform to attain intentional perfection. Because the archive is so open to re-interpretation, the artist feels like they must take every step at their disposal to create the image they imagined in its ultimate scenario.

The tangible nature of film, however, adds a certain rigidity to the process. Choice in the images style is no longer relegated to the Adobe suite after the fact, but rather to the moment you load the medium into the mechanism that allows you to solidify time.

Your choices suddenly become more concrete, you choose your camera for the task at hand, your format dictating the levels of flexibility in the creation of an image. Some understandably choose setups that still give them the level of professionally intentional compromise to retain reliability, while other choose a path where the choice you make is to relinquish control and let the format become the driving force behind the images being made.

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Few formats speak better to this decisive delegation of control than those of an Instant nature. Polaroid—whether peel ply or casette—and for more modern shooters of course, the Fujifilm Instax platform. And few cameras offer a better base for an Instax system than the LOMO’Instant Automat.

The Automat falls into the palm very lightly, the construction feels solid but definitely not a burden around your neck during a night out. The controls are simple, but hyper-intentional and very effective in driving the user into a quick and intuitive path of use.

With the lens collapsed and the camera off, it’s more than slim enough to slip into any blazer pocket and an incredibly friendly addition to any camera bag. Instax as a format has an inherent enjoyability to it, the petite images have that Fuji cool color scheme, and paired with the Automat the images have a lovely neutral tone that leaves subjects with clean skin, and scenes with punchy colors with a soft neutral openness.

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Many other Instax cameras rely on a digital readout that all too often has to be painstakingly reset to your desired brightness, autofocus distance, and flash setting, turning the “Instant” nature of the format into a more “Hold on! Just gimme a second!” sort of moment. The Automat, though, relies on a much more straightforward system of designated buttons whose sole purpose seems to be to keep the system tailored to the way you choose to use it.

Manual focus is a huge benefit of this particular camera, the Auto of most other Instax cameras being unreliable on their best day, a quick zone focus system makes the Automat significantly more reliable and intentional to use than it’s other more automated brethren.

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The key to what makes this camera lovable, though, is its relationship to the format it ingests. The reason we love instant film, at its core, is the fact that it leaves us with an object—a token of a moment that we chose to remember in a tangible way. Instant images are a perfect escape from the cold perfection of digital that so many photographers need to allow themselves. Take a deep breath, leave the 5DmkIII at home, and allow yourself the luxury of making some enjoyable nonsense with your art.

I’ve been an owner of Instax cameras since they first hit the market, and I’ve always loved the gratification that comes with these cameras both to my own satisfaction with their images, as well as the enjoyment of those I’ve shot portraits of with this system. Instax allows for a phenomenal interaction between the photographer, camera, and subject in a way that has been all but lost in the digital age.

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The Automat is the camera that most effectively embodies this interaction—small, reliable, enjoyable, and honestly most important, truly fun to shoot with.

This camera more than anything I’ve ever tested embodies all of the things that make this format great, not a mark missed by the designers. I can comfortably and confidently give the LOMO’Instant Automat my absolute 100% OutlierImagery seal of approval. If you are considering an Instax camera, the Automat truly is the king of the hill.

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Typically, at this point in the review, I tend to list my grievances with the system over the course of my time testing it. I can say in all honesty I did not have a single issue worth mentioning with this camera over the course of the test. The camera either delivered on my expectations or far exceeded them.

The Automat is simple and effective, the kit of creative lenses (Wide, Fisheye, Macro) compliment the camera and deliver on their quirky promises, and each shot made during this review proved frame after frame that LOMO has built the best Instax camera available to date.

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It’s rare a camera company truly knows what their customers are looking for when building a system, and even rarer that they manage to check every box without seeming compromise when producing a final product. Lomography only made one mistake when producing this camera, and that’s not calling it a baseball before they knocked it out of the park.

The Automat is the perfect camera for the more intimate moments so many photographers miss in their pursuit of perfection. We don’t choose to remember these instances for their flawlessness, but for their quirks and details that set them apart from the norm. The LOMO’Instant Automat, in effect, is the simplest and most pleasurable path to take when turning a moment or a memory into something you can touch.

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The LOMO’Instant Automat is on Kickstarter now, and has far exceeded its goal—in fact, they’ve raised over $800,000. Click here to find out more or get your pledge in under the wire.


About the author: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer is an NYC based photographer and writer, additionally offering 1 on 1 custom tailored workshops for photographers of all skill level. Visit his website OutlierImagery.com for additional work and booking information. This review was also published here.

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