While shooting at a small event, I had a random idea pop into my head. “What if I were to attach a small printer like the Fujifilm mini link 2 to my camera?” It was a stupid idea. INSTAX paper (like this) is much more expensive than magnets and photo paper, but it got me hooked on using INSTAX with an SLR body.
Enter NONS SL660 ($599). It is the kind of camera I fantasized about, but I never thought I’d see one released until NONS announced it in 2022. This camera is a large, full-metal INSTAX square camera with an optical viewfinder and an EF-mount, out of all things.
The NONS SL660 has a unique position in the market. On one end of the spectrum, you have the INSTAX SQ40 ($139) – an easy-to-use Square format Instax. On the other end, you can get an Instax square back for a medium-format camera. NONS sells a Hasselblad version themselves for $279. And the NONS SL660 is right in the middle – a full Instax camera with a medium format body.
Using the NONS SL660
If you’ve used an analog Instax camera before, you would feel familiar with the SL660. A lot of the handling of the camera is similar. That said, operating this camera is slightly different, and let me go over how it’s done.
Step 1: load the Instax Square cartridge
It’s an Instax camera, so the “film” comes in sealed cartridges. When you open the Instax packaging, be careful not to apply force. You don’t want to damage it.
Open the door on the back of the SL660. Take your Instax Square cartridge and insert it in with the yellow dot facing you. Close the door.
Step 2: hold the film eject button
Turn the camera on, and hold the film eject button if. This will eject the first frame, a black dud meant to seal the Instax paper from light. After you do this, do not open the door again until you consume the entire cartridge. Otherwise, you will leak light into the Instax paper, damaging it.
Step 2.5: how to set the exposure for the SL660
The SL660 has an internal light meter in the form of aperture suggestions. It’s not very accurate, but it can give you a vague idea of the correct exposure settings. If you have a light meter or a light meter app, I suggest using them as well. (If you don’t own a light meter, you can get one for $79).
Just a reminder, there is a built-in 2x teleconverter inside the NONS SL660. You must take it into account while setting up exposure settings, as the 2x teleconverter “loses” two stops of light. If you’re using an external lightmeter, and it suggests an aperture of f/2.8, you will need to set the lens on the SL660 to f/1.4 to match it. The built-in light meter, while not 100% accurate, does take those two stops into account. If it suggests an aperture of f/2.8, set the lens to about f/2.8.
Step 3: shoot
You are now ready to shoot. Just press the button like you would on any other camera.
Step 4: Press the eject button to eject the Instax photo
Unlike some Instax cameras, the paper will not roll out automatically. You need to hold the eject film button, and the camera will “print out” the Instax photo a second later. The Instax paper will look white when ejected from the camera. That’s okay. Let it rest for a minute, and the image will start appearing. (or you can shake it like a Polaroid picture, #sorrynotsorry). Instax is considerably faster than Polaroid, so It will only take about two to three minutes until a photo has finished developing. Instax is also less fragile, so you don’t need to worry as much about a photo being damaged by light.
Step 5: use the slider to move to the next shot
After shooting a photo, the NONS camera won’t let you shoot another one before pulling down the side slider. I like this little procedure, as it stops me from accidentally shooting again and wasting expensive Instax paper. Just look through the viewfinder to know if you have fully pulled down the slider. The view will be blocked if you haven’t pulled the slider all the way.
NONS SL660 samples
NONS SL660 – camera body
The dimensions and metal build make the NONS SL660 feel like a medium-format camera. That said, while Instax Square is much larger than full-frame, the images printed are in an interesting “full-frame-ish” format. The SL660 uses a built-in teleconverter, so full-frame lenses cover the Instax Square format. If you’re confused about how it works – a teleconverter is essentially the opposite of a speed booster. While a speed booster shrinks the image to fit on a smaller sensor, a teleconverter enlarges it to “zoom in”. So, you end up with a full-frame perspective, but due to the 1×1 image ratio, you see more on the top and bottom of the frame.
Without the teleconverter, full-frame lenses won’t be able to cover the Instax Square format, and you will be restricted to medium and large-format lenses. This is not to say that you should go and get medium-format lenses. You can’t remove the teleconverter, because it is connected to the shutter system, and NONS does not recommend modding the camera, or it will void your warranty. In other words, the teleconverter takes care of getting the right “coverage”, so there is no point in getting medium or large-format lenses.
The EF mount on the camera doesn’t have any electronic contacts, so you won’t have access to autofocus, image stabilization, or digital aperture control. The lack of aperture controls is the most troubling issue here, so I suggest sticking to lenses with a manual aperture dial.
On top of the camera, there is a 0.5-inch OLED display, which gives you a lot of useful information. On top of the display, there is the suggested aperture for a correct exposure. On the bottom of the OLED is the remaining battery charge and the remaining amount of shots in the cartridge.
Unlike many other instant cameras, there is no built-in flash on the SL660. Instead, you can use an external flash with the basic hotshoe mount on top of the SL660. You won’t have ETTL support, but using the manual mode on a flash will work just like on any other camera. The flash sync will work up to the maximum shutter speed of 1/250s.
The shutter speed dial on top goes from 1s to 1/250s. 1/250s isn’t that fast, so I’ll recommend investing in ND filters if you plan to shoot with an open aperture. If 1s isn’t long enough, switch to “B” on the shutter dial, and you will enter a standard Bulb mode. In this mode, you can hold the shutter open for as long as you keep holding the shutter button (with a 999s time limit). There is a quarter screw mounting point at the bottom, which is useful for long exposures.
You charge the camera via the USB Type-C port. The battery itself isn’t removable, but according to NONS, the battery lasts over 100 shots on a single charge. If it were a digital camera, it would be atrocious, of course, but this Instax. I doubt anyone needs to shoot more than 100 Instax photos in a row. But, if you are such a person, you can always just use the SL660 with an external power bank.
When you look at ergonomics, the camera feels like holding a hollow metal box with a lens attached. (Yeah, I know that’s essentially what a camera is). The wooden grip does help, but to be honest, it is not the most comfortable camera in the world. That said, the full metal body and wooden grip do make it feel high quality and premium. The shutter button is satisfying to press, as you don’t just hear the noise of the shutter; you also feel the vibration. It makes each button press feel more impactful.
You can customize the SL660 quite well; you can change the shutter button like you can on a Fujifilm camera or add straps to the side buckles. Additionally, the viewfinder is compatible with the Nikon DK-21 eyecup ($5) and DK-20C diopter corrector ($15). If you are a farsighted photographer, the diopter support is extra useful, as you don’t have an optical adjustment of the viewfinder on the camera itself.
The optical viewfinder
The NONS SL660 is equipped with an optical viewfinder. “So?” you might be asking. “It’s an SLR; it’s not rare to see an SLR with an optical viewfinder”. Here’s the thing: for a normal SLR, you would be right, but for an Instant SLR? It’s incredibly rare. Instead, Instax and Polaroid cameras typically feature a rangefinder.
But, a traditional rangefinder is a problem on a camera with swappable lenses, especially one without autofocus capabilities. The rangefinder won’t show you what’s in the frame, much less what’s in focus. That’s why, for the SL660 to work, NONS designed its own mechanism, which you can see if you open the back of the camera. It’s a special viewfinder design that is connected to the camera’s shutter and built-in teleconverter. The channel “In An Instant” showed it well in their video.
But the viewfinder isn’t perfect. Due to its design, you can’t see the entire frame through the viewfinder. The cropped view is still useful to see if you’re in focus, but it makes compositing tricky.
NONS 35mm f/2.4
NONS also offers a couple of lenses to go with their Instax cameras. If you don’t already have EF lenses or a vintage set you can adapt, the NONS lenses are worth looking at. The one I tested is the 35mm f/2.4, and there is another 50mm f/1.8 lens. Both are small and light despite being fully made of metal. They almost seem like vintage lenses, except for their native EF mount.
I find the lens quality decent enough but remember, this is an Instax camera, so the photo resolution is very low. I am not sure how they will perform on a digital sensor, but for Instax film, they are great.
I find the NONS SL660 extremely enjoyable. True, it is massive compared to typical Instax cameras, but this is part of what I like about it. That said, the experience of shooting with the camera is very unique. Not for everyone, but Instax enthusiasts will love it.