Let's get a few things out of the way first: yes, the Fujifilm Instax mini 90 is a three-year-old camera. No, it is not a digital camera. Yes, it was my favorite camera of the year. Now let's proceed.

I bought the Instax mini 90 in March, but I spent almost two years up until then talking myself out of buying one. It was hard to justify the expense to myself. I have access to many nice digital cameras, and I always have a phone on hand, why buy a little plastic film camera that costs about a dollar per exposure? I put it to the back of my mind, but a little pang of jealousy struck every time I saw someone else carrying one. 

The mini 90 isn't my first instant camera. I bought a Polaroid at Best Buy during college, which must have been during the very last days that anyone could buy a Polaroid at Best Buy. It was sort of cumbersome and it definitely wasn't cool-looking, but there was something about it that got everyone excited about when I brought it out. I took plenty of snapshots of friends, but eventually ran out of film and didn't buy more. Now it sits in a drawer at my parents' house.

One of many ridiculous baseball game instant photos taken this year.

It was spring when I finally realized I should just buy the mini 90. After that, it was with me for pretty much every milestone event of the year. It was there when my sister visited and we went to one of the first baseball games of the season. I brought it to North Carolina where my boyfriend and I caught up with friends and met their babies. It came along to a tennis tournament with my family, when friends visited and to more baseball games than I want to admit to attending.

I can easily retrace my year in instant photos because they're arranged on the wall by my desk. For every photo that made the wall, though, there were a lot of terrible photos – overexposed, underexposed, blurry, group selfies with somebody cut right out of the frame. But I guess I like the trial and error part of the process too. You work within the constraints of the system, learn what works and what doesn't and gradually get better results. Even a bad instant photo is one that I feel like I actually made, and I learned something from the process. And when they come out looking just right, well that feels pretty good.

This goofy shot is probably my favorite photo of 2016 and I had a horrendous head cold when it was taken.

Obviously, one of the main joys of instant photography is that you get something you can hold at the end of the process. I don't print many photos lately, so having it built into the process by the nature of the thing is kind of a treat in itself.

And I think that's one of my favorite things about an instant photo - you can physically give the photo to someone else. You don't get to text someone a copy, or tag them on Facebook, or email it to them later. I mean, you can snap a picture of it with your phone and do all that, but handing someone a photo that doesn't exist anywhere else is pretty special. I gave away a lot of photos this year, and by that measure, it was a pretty good year indeed.