Compact. Sharp, ultra-wide lens. Automatic exposure. Built-in flash. Selfie mirror. Multiple exposure support. Includes close-up filter and split frame mask. Color and monochrome film options.
Uses CR2 batteries. Instax Mini format is a little small.
- Bottom Line
The Lomography Lomo'Instant Automat Glass instant camera has a sharp glass lens with an ultra-wide view that makes it a great choice for landscape and travel.
By Jim Fisher
Fans of Fujifilm's Instax instant film format should pay attention to Lomography. The company has a growing library of cameras that use Instax, all of which offer more creative control than you get with models from Fujifilm. The Lomo'Instant Automat Glass is very much like the Lomo'Instant Automat—the difference is the lens. The Glass ($189) sports a, surprise, 38mm f/4.5 glass lens—for an ultra-wide field of view when paired with Instax Mini film. It captures the sharpest pictures I've seen in the format, and is a lot of fun to use. It costs a little bit more than the standard Automat ($149), but if you crave a wider perspective, it's the Instax Mini to get.
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The Automat Glass is fairly small for an instant camera. It measures about 4.8 by 3.9 by 2.9 inches (HWD) and weighs in around 12.5 ounces. It won't fit in your pocket, but it's easy to stow in a small bag or carry with you when you're out and about. There are strap connectors, but you'll need to add your own strap, and a standard tripod socket.
In addition to the camera you get a close-up filter, a lens cap that doubles as a wireless shutter release, colored gel filters, a few stands and clips to display photos, some glue dots for mounting images, and a book of shooting tips. You also get the Splitzer, a fun accessory that can black out half or three quarters of the frame for additional creative control when shooting multiple exposures.
The glass lens is a 38mm f/4.5 design. On the Mini format it captures photos with a field of view that's roughly equal to a 21mm lens on a full-frame camera. It's manual focus, with three set positions to lock onto subjects at about 1 foot (0.3-meter), 2 feet (0.6-meter), or from 3 feet (1 meter) to infinity. You can use the included close-up filter to lock on subjects closer than a foot, but you'll have to do some guesswork for framing, as the parallax effect means the viewfinder won't be accurate at very close distances.
To turn the camera on you need to press the lock button, which is next to the lens, and twist the focus ring. The shutter release is also on the front, and doubles as a selfie mirror. Rear controls include a button to toggle the flash output, an MX (multiple exposure) button, plus and minus buttons to adjust exposure compensation, and an A/B button to switch between automatic and bulb exposure modes. If you're not familiar with bulb, it keeps the shutter open for up to 30 seconds, you just need to keep holding the shutter button down. It's a useful setting for long exposures and light painting.
There's a small optical viewfinder positioned at the upper right corner. Film packs are loaded in the rear as well. You get 10 shots per pack, and images eject from a slot at the top. Images take about 30 seconds to start to emerge and a few minutes to develop fully. A bank of 10 lights, visible when looking down at the film eject slot, let you know how many images are left in your pack of film.
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The Glass is powered by two CR2 batteries. The small cells help keep the overall size down, but they aren't as readily available as the ubiquitous AA format. You can get them from Amazon, of course, and your local home supply superstore should have them, but don't expect to find them at a convenience store. Lomography doesn't state how long they'll last, but I used the same set of batteries with the Glass that I bought late last year to power the Lomo'Instant Automat—that's about six packs of film worth between the two reviews—and they're still going strong.
Film and Image Quality
Instax Mini is an established format, and is now available in your choice of color or black-and-white. Costs vary depending on how much you buy at a time—bulk purchases will reduce the cost per shot—but it's roughly $0.75 per image. Quality is quite high—the color film features natural, saturated colors, and the monochrome shows moderate contrast and strong detail.
I find the Mini format to be a little small, with the image area around 2.4 by 1.8 inches. The Instax Wide format, which costs about the same to shoot, is about twice as big (2.4 by 3.9 inches), but with it comes a bigger camera. Our favorite, the Lomo'Instant Wide, is roughly 5.8 by 7.5 by 3.8 inches.
The glass lens delivers crisper results than I've seen from other Instax cameras—the scans of images in this review don't do it justice, but give you an idea of the camera's field of view and the general look of photos. The lens has a tendency to flare, creating a semi-circular ghost in photos shot on bright, clear days. Dim-light shots and images captured on an overcast day don't show this effect. There's also a noticeable vignette, darkening the corners of the frame, but that's not abnormal for a lens with such a wide field of view.
The Glass is a stronger option than most Instax cameras for shooting in dim conditions. You'll still need to use a flash for indoor shots, but you can get better handheld shots at twilight thanks to the f/4.5 aperture. The standard Automat has a 28mm equivalent f/8 lens, and Fujifilm Instax Mini cameras all use a tighter 35mm equivalent f/12.7 lens. An f/4.5 lens gathers roughly four times as much light as an f/8 and about eight times that of an f/12.7.
Instant film fans should take a close look at the Lomography Lomo'Instant Automat Glass. For less than $200 it delivers the best Instax output I've seen, and its wide field of view is a great option for capturing landscapes, environmental portraits, and architecture. We're naming it an Editors' Choice, although it doesn't supplant the Lomo'Instant Wide. If you prefer a smaller camera, wider field of view, and are happy with the Mini film format, the Glass is an excellent instant camera. If you crave a larger image, and don't mind the bulkier camera that comes with it, the Lomo'Instant Wide is a better fit.
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By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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