“The Nons SL660 delivers a rewarding analog photography experience and beautiful images with retro charm.”
Great build quality
An accessible way to get into film photography
Fun to use
Provides unique and beautiful images
Cinema is expensive
Getting focus and exposure right is tricky
The result of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Nons SL660 is now a reality. This unique camera offers the fun of an Instax camera combined with the superior build quality and flexibility of an interchangeable lens system.
Growing up as a digital photographer, I always envied the physicality of film and regretted that so many of my images were trapped on hard drives and memory cards. Printing at home is a hassle and ordering prints is expensive. However, if you are filming rolls of film, you must either develop it yourself or send it for printing. This is where instant film comes in, and it offers an alternative that combines the immediacy of digital with the physical nature of film, while circumventing the difficulties associated with printing your work.
Design and Operation Nons SL660
The SL660 is a big beast of a camera, but despite being the size of a DSLR, it’s nowhere near as heavy to carry around. That’s because a film camera doesn’t need the heaps of electronics that are crammed into your average digital camera, nor a large lithium-ion battery (although it does have a small one built in) . That’s not to say it’s cheaply made, and in fact, it’s one of the most solidly built cameras I’ve used. The metal casing is reassuringly sturdy, which is a welcome change from the plastic exteriors of many modern cameras.
The controls might seem a little foreign to those more used to digital cameras, but it’s really quite simple. The rear hatch opens to insert film cartridges, while on the left side of the lens is the lever that engages the mirror and cocks the camera to take a picture. You’ll have to wait to press it until you’ve identified the scene you’re going to shoot, or you risk accidentally triggering the shutter. The shutter button is located to the right of the lens and functions as any camera shutter button would.
On top of the camera are a cold shoe mount for various accessories, the dial with which you select the shutter speed and a small LCD screen. This screen shows the number of shots remaining in the film cartridge, remaining battery capacity, and your light meter. The light meter reads the light levels in the direction you point the camera and tells you which F-stop to set your lens to for the correct exposure. This camera is best used with fully manual lenses with mechanical apertures operated via a dial on the lens itself.
However, it can also be used with electronic aperture lenses by setting the aperture with the lens mounted on a digital camera before detaching and mounting the lens on the SL660. The electronic lens will retain the preset aperture after it is adjusted using the digital camera. While this is an effective workaround, it’s definitely a problem.
On the back of the SL660 are the USB-C charging port, power switch, and film eject button. Once you’ve taken your shot, simply hold down the film eject button and the SL660 will spit your shot to the side, where it will take a few minutes to develop. Due to the exposed USB-C port and various other unsealed camera openings, I wouldn’t use this camera even in very light rainfall.
I tested the SL660 with the Nons 35mm f/2.4 lens. A 50mm f/1.8 lens is also available, as are adapters for various lens mounts including Nikon F, Pentax K, M42 and Contax-Yashica.
Image quality and performance Nons SL660
To rate the SL660 on image quality based on typical sharpness settings and other factors that define the imaging perfection sought by modern digital cameras would be neither fair nor productive. For one, the SL660’s imaging performance is dictated by the Fujifilm Instax Square film it needs. This film is not high resolution, has very low dynamic range and a rather high ISO of 800. Additionally, the camera uses built-in optics to boost 35mm format lenses to square format film plus big. Shutter speed also maxes out at 1/250, which is really really slow.
The upshot is that the SL660 is best used in low contrast situations, and if you want to use wide aperture settings for beautiful swirling bokeh, you’ll either need to shoot in dim lighting or use filters. neutral density to darken the scene. . Also, due to the nature of film and the camera’s built-in lens system, don’t expect razor-sharp images from the SL660.
Once you and the camera are in sync, its apparent challenges morph into art style ingredients.
All of this needs to be said and understood upfront because the SL660 is a camera that requires you to become intimately familiar with its quirks and weaknesses. Once you and the camera are in sync, its apparent challenges morph into art style ingredients.
Photos captured with the SL660 tend to have a dreamy, aged quality that evokes an odd sense of nostalgia for me. There’s also something truly magical about seeing an image appear on paper the moment you capture it. I also find that capturing a digital photo of the Instax print with the location of the shot in the blurred background makes it a very compelling subject for sharing on social media.
Mechanically, I never had a reason to complain about the SL660. Its various controls are very tactile and easy to use, and I find the sounds caused by the photo-taking process extremely satisfying. A minor issue for me is that the built-in light meter seems a bit unreliable, although that’s probably due to my inexperience with light meters. I find the best strategy is to aim the camera at different points in the scene I intend to shoot, which helps me determine which settings will give the best results. I also had trouble getting precise focus due to the small size of the viewfinder.
As for battery life, I received the camera partially charged and didn’t bother to charge it before taking the picture. At the time of this writing, I’ve taken about 30 images and mistakenly left the camera on multiple times. Luckily, it automatically shuts off after 10 minutes and the battery hasn’t noticeably drained. Depending on the amount of photos you take, your experience may vary, but depending on how I use the camera, I’d be surprised if I had to charge it once every three months.
Price and Availability Nons SL660
Starting at $600, the SL660 doesn’t come cheap. If you want a lens, the 50mm f/1.8 is $50, while the 35mm f/2.4 will set you back $110. For a similar price, you can get a modern digital camera that is extremely capable and capture more detailed images. Alternatively, you can get a Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo camera for just $200, which can capture digital photos and act as a wireless Instax printer in addition to capturing Instax film images. However, the SL660 offers an experience that digital can’t replicate, and it’s a much higher quality option with greater versatility than cheap Instax cameras.
Alternatively, Instax backs are available to adapt professional medium format cameras to shoot with instant film. This will provide higher quality images and a better shooting experience than the SL660, but here you are looking at spending hundreds of dollars on the back, body and lens, which could fetch you well over 1 $000. The SL660’s biggest downside is that the Instax Square film it needs costs $20 for a two-pack of 10 shots each. That means every time you click the shutter, you spend $1, and it’s especially painful when you’re learning to use the camera and making a lot of mistakes.
The Nons SL660 offers a premium instant movie experience
Testing the Nons SL660 was an amazing experience. It opened my eyes to the joys of shooting with film and having physical copies of the footage I capture. When I take a photo with one of my digital cameras, there is little incentive to think before taking the photo, and after downloading the images to my computer, I may not look at them Never again. The SL660 slows me down and forces me to carefully compose each shot. Once the final images are printed, I find myself flipping through them frequently and enjoying them immensely.
This is a camera for creating art and capturing lasting memories outside the prison of a computer hard drive. Even for a photographer like me, who normally shoots with the Nikon Z9 and other high-end cameras, the SL660 deserves a special place in my kit for the moments I really want to savor. It’s by no means perfect, but those flaws count more as character than against. The only really unfortunate aspect of this camera is that the film it requires is so expensive, but that is beyond Nons control.
If you love photography and are looking for an exciting new experience to inspire you and help you hone your skills, then the Nons SL660 is what you’re looking for.
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