As with numerous other historical technologies, or even fashion, there’s been a resurgence of analogue cameras in the past year or two. As such, companies of old have seen a revived brand, such as Polaroid, with no signs of slowing down. A few months back, Fujifilm also attempted to recapture the feeling of nostalgia with the release of their hybrid Instax SQ10 unit, which was, for all intents and purposes, a digital camera with a built-in printer for on-the-fly photos. In addition to this, the unit was a little overpriced, something that has been highlighted many times over.
When Fujifilm announced the release of their latest Square camera, the Instax SQ6, no doubt it was met with a lot of scepticism by fans and experts alike. But, unlike its predecessor, the SQ6 is a fully analogue camera, allowing owners to use square-film to take instant photos while having fun. There is one lingering question, however, is it worth it?
Build and Design
Part of the approach to recapturing the nostalgia of classic, analogue cameras is to incorporate the look and feel of the original designs some 20-30 years back. To put it bluntly, the Instax SQ6 isn’t a very pretty unit. It’s chunky and awkward to carry around. That, however, is part of the allure of such cameras. Standing out across the design is the large, circular lens on the front, which auto-extracts when powered on and adjusts through each of the modes you choose. The rest of the front face layout consists of a mirror and sensor on the lens, the shutter release button to the left of that, the viewfinder on the top left and the flash on the top right.
…the Instax SQ6 isn’t a very pretty unit…
The Instax SQ6 is available in three colours, which includes the Graphite Grey, Pearl White (the unit we received for review) and Blush Gold. While all colours have a matte plastic finish, the Pearl White by far looks the most simplistic, with the other two colours appears somewhat glossier. In the packaging contents, you’ll find the SQ6 device, three flash filters in various colours, a strap and two CR2 batteries. The batteries are a bit of a talking point, as they’re not rechargeable, as well as not being readily available at all stores. This will no doubt make your travels a bit tricky when you run out of juice, as there’s no clear sign of the remaining battery, with no option to use rechargeables either.
The rear of the device is also fairly straight-forward. The left-hand side has houses three buttons, the first to switch between the various modes, a timer button, as well as a toggle for the flash. The top side includes seven indicators for the different modes, which includes A (for automatic mode), Selfie mode, Macro mode, Landscape mode, Double Exposure, Darken and Lighten modes. These modes are all fairly self-explanatory. Moving further to the right is the viewing end of the viewfinder and a grip on the right-hand side. Towards the bottom right, there’s an automatic counter, which resets to 10 whenever you add a new film and decreases until it hits zero. The centre of the rear has a fairly large door, which opens via a slider on the top. Once opened, you can take out the old film casing and fit a new “roll.”
The Instax SQ6 may seem like a straight-forward, point-and-click camera. There is, however, a lot going on behind the scenes. Let’s start with the specs.
The unit includes a retractable lens with f = 65.75mm. The focal area ranges between 0.3-2m for best results but also achieves pleasant results beyond this. The unit also sports an electronic shutter, as well as an automatic flash, which has a range of 0.3-2.7m. In addition to this, the charge time for the flash averages around five seconds but you may be better off waiting at least 10 seconds before taking another flash photograph.
…the light has to be balanced really well in order to make the most of these filters…
Snapping a photo imprints the image on the Square film, which starts to produce an image after around two seconds or so. The image is exposed from a combination of heat and light, as an image slowly starts to appear darker and more colourful.
The viewfinder is an interesting ‘feature’ on the Instax SQ6. Because of its positioning, it isn’t the best at finding an accurate representation of the cropped image you’re about to take. Instead, the best it can achieve is to indicate the vertical alignment of the image. You’ll then have to manually adjust the camera to what you’d assume to be the centre. It takes some getting used to but isn’t overly difficult to achieve.
Already mentioned previously are the additional flash filters, which create a new colour scheme for the image. Initially, I figured it was as simple as adding the filter and taking a few snaps, but it’s very important to note that these effects won’t really work in full sunlight, as the effect of the flash has been minimised. The lighting can also not be too dark as the additional filter added onto the flash tends to darken the images as a result. This means that the light has to be balanced really well in order to make the most of these filters.
Performance and Image Quality
In terms of the device performances, there’s quite a lot it has to offer, with the majority of the options working wonderfully. Between the various shooting modes, there is a mix of results. Starting with the automatic setting. For the most part, it does a good enough job. The colours are good and solid but not overly saturated. Switching to the Selfie mode, you’ll notice the adjusting of the lens changes the focus to something within arm’s length. The little mirror on the side of the lens provides something of a view of yourself, but due to it being off-centre you may have to adjust by a centimetre or two to align.
I found the Selfie mode to be a bit tricky to get used to.
I found the Selfie mode to be a bit tricky to get used to. Having been given additional film, I thought it best to get each of the modes working correctly. The Selfie mode is the one I struggled most with. After completing a 10-image test, I was still no better than I was at the start, as the focus never reached optimum levels. It turned out to be an expensive test when running the numbers.
The Macro mode should supposedly allow users to take a few close-up snaps of minute objects or perhaps to get close enough for additional details. Users will have to allow for a minimum of about 30cm of room between the camera and the subject before clicking. Failing to complete this task means that you’ll often be left with blurry and unusable, square images. Moving to Landscape mode will create quite a few decent shots when out in full sunlight. Images of bright colours, such as grass, plants and flowers make for good subject matter when capturing images.
The Double Exposure selection allows users to take two images, which is then morphed into a single image to be produced. It will probably take you 2-3 attempts to get the images the way you had envisioned it. Users can select this mode, capture an image and then capture a second image before the film is exposed to the light from the sensor. The Darken and Lighten modes are just that, they change the lighting settings on the print, allowing you to increase light in your night shots and vice versa.
The Fujifilm Instax SQ6 is a beautifully nostalgic camera that will take you back to a time before digital image storage and the likes. The analogue images are produced relatively quick by most standards, as it attempts to recreate the feeling from the late-70s to 80s. The RRP for the SQ6 is R1,999, which is reasonable and while worth your consideration. Where the costs start to escalate is the replacement of the 10-pack cartridge. After a quick research, most refills cost between R130 and R170. It isn’t the most expensive by any means, but does make you have to rethink your purchase with some really tough questions.
While the costs may be an issue for most, the Instax SQ6 is still quite a nifty, portable, analogue camera with instant “print” capabilities. Capturing such in the moment events will be fun in almost each shot, which makes it more than simply a camera, but rather an experience to create memories with friends.
I loved my time with the Fujifilm Instax SQ6 review unit and would really enjoy having one as it’s extremely fun and niche. That said, I would have to get over the R150 average of replacing the 10 pieces of film per packet.
Fujifilm Instax SQ6
The Fujifilm Instax SQ6 will make a great addition to your camera set, which already includes your DSLR and smartphone. The images are uniquely retro, although doesn't quite capture the brilliance in colour reproduction of older devices. Buying additional film isn't cheap, but is incredibly fun to use once you've perfected the technique.
- Fun and nostalgic
- Additional filters included
- Great retro design
- Fully analogue
- Film is a bit pricey
- No rechargeable option
- No readily available batteries