I love shooting with Fujifilm’s Instax instant film cameras—they’re fun for carrying to parties—but I’ve always felt there was something missing from the experience. The company makes both the cameras and the film that goes inside. There’s the smaller, business card-sized film format called Instax Mini, and the larger Instax Wide. Both are rectangular, which means neither sets alight the nostalgia region of my brain like a good, old-fashioned, square Polaroid.
Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10
Nifty concept merges digital photography with analog film. Compact design is easy to tote. Fuji’s first-ever square film. Ability to reprint photos is handy.
Film is smaller than real Polaroids. The quality of the digital camera is inferior to the camera in your smartphone. No Wi-Fi. The film and the camera are both too expensive.
Fujifilm’s new Instax Square film finally hits the Goldilocks 1:1 ratio squarely on the head.
What I didn’t expect was the weird hybrid digital/analog camera required to shoot Instax Square. The Instax SQ10 takes a low-res digital camera and pairs it with tech that prints your photos onto the analog film. The end result is more or less indistinguishable from a fully analog instant photo, and you still get to watch the picture develop before your eyes.
I can see why Fujifilm decided to go this route. Instant film isn’t free, and Instax Square film is expensive at around $1.50 per shot. But, since it’s part-digital, the SQ10 can help you conserve film. Shooting in manual mode, your digital photos get saved to the camera’s internal memory. You can sift through the photos later, committing only the best to physical media.
There are other perks of going from digital to analog. For example, if you’re kicking it with your pals, you can easily order up a round of reprints, so nobody leaves brunch without a souvenir photo. It’s also a lot easier to tweak exposure, apply filters and effects, since you can see the changes on the built-in 3-inch LCD.
Of course, there are annoying tradeoffs. At $280, the SQ10 is pricey. Purchasing one starts to look more like an investment, especially once you fill your Amazon cart with packs of film.
Even though the new film is up to the high standard set by previous Instax incarnations, it’s still smaller than the square Polaroids of yore. If you were expecting a perfect replica of a Polaroid with all the benefits of the lush, colorful Fujifilm chemistry, that’s not what this is.
The also camera stumbles when trying to bridge the worlds of digital and analog. If you use the camera’s rear LCD to tweak the image, be aware that what you see isn’t always what you get. I found that images often looked very different once printed out on film. Then there’s the disappointing quality of the 3.6-megapixel digital shots, ill-suited for sharing on modern social media. Even if you wanted to share these tiny pictures, the lack of Wi-Fi makes it a pain to get them off the camera.
To its credit, Fujifilm made the camera nice to use. Its squircle-tastic shape makes it look distinct, and it features a prominent metal dial around the lens that doubles as a gigantic power switch. Included in the box is a rechargeable battery (yes, you can charge it via Micro USB) and a wrist strap. The SQ10’s internal memory holds 50 shots, and you can add extra space with a microSD card.
What I’m forced to conclude is that even though Fujifilm finally went square, this experimental hybrid camera doesn’t deliver on its most promising aspects. If I’m going to print digital photos onto Instax film, I’d much rather use my iPhone and an Instax Share printer, which I’ve already been doing for years. My iPhone’s 12-megapixel shots rock for social media, and they print onto Instax Mini film beautifully. Simply put, there are better, more affordable ways to get into the Instax ecosystem, and the new Square film isn’t worth the high price of entry.
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