I’ve reviewed quite a few of these instant cameras over the years. I also own a couple. Each new model attempts to push more tech into a device popular for its instant, no-frills capabilities. The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1, however, is not one of those units.
Fujifilm, now with a healthy range of options for its Instax range (some would say too many), prides itself with its “less is more” approach of the latest SQ1.
The SQ1 is the successor to the Instax Square SQ6. Yes, I too have questions about the naming conventions here. But unlike many other cameras in the range, the SQ1 is aimed at the purists.
Off the bat, the Instax Square SQ1 continues the design ethos of the Instax range. As a result, it’s easily recognisable from any other brand of camera. Having said that, when you compare it directly to the SQ6, you’ll notice quite a number of changes.
Gone is the two-toned approach we saw on the SQ6. Instead, Fujifilm has opted for a single-tone colour with a matte plastic finish. There are three colours to choose from, Glacier Blue, Terracotta Orange and Chalk White. It sounds fancy on paper but comes across as dull.
What’s worse about the colour and plastic combination is that it looks a lot like a toy. If not for the glass from the lens, flash and viewfinder, you’d swear it was indeed a toy.
While the name is in regard to the type of film it uses, it also speaks to the actual design of the camera itself. It’s not quite a square, though, measuring in at 132x120x58mm. It’s the weight, however, that is a bit of a problem here. At 450g, it’s not the lightest. With such bulk, it’s also not the easiest to use in one hand as the simplicity of the unit should be geared towards.
The rotatable ring for the lens, as with many other units from the Instax range, is how the unit is powered on. Another click to the right (facing it from the front) switches it to selfie mode. To the left of the lens is the shutter button, with the viewfinder right above it.
It’s worth noting at this point that there isn’t a lot of emphases placed on curves or cut-outs to make it easier to grip, other than the rounded and textured grip. This is a clear indication that the device is meant to be operated in one hand. Although the grip itself isn’t the grippiest, the wrist strap does provide some level of comfort in that it won’t fall to the ground in the event your grip does slip.
The rear of the Instax Square SQ1 is quite a fair bit more subtle. The viewfinder is positioned on the top right, with the majority of the centre taken up by the door for the film housing. As with the rest of the range, there’s a neat counter off to the side of the door, which resets whenever you open the door.
It’s not the best-looking Instax camera you’ll find, but it’s not completely unappealing and has some useful additions, while still keeping the main aim in mind, simplicity.
The square images measure around 61x61mm. That’s larger than the Instax Mini 11’s 62×46mm film size. The images produced by the Instax Square SQ1 is solid as well. It looks ever so slightly sharper and brighter than any of the other camera prints I have lying around. Obviously, the results aren’t always 100%, with some images looking blurry or washed out, so be sure to always consider the surrounding lighting.
I’ve never been too fond of selfies. On the Instax Square SQ1 taking selfies poses quite a few challenges. While it does include a tiny mirror to give you some semblance of the image you’re about to take, there’s no accounting for accurate positioning or even focus, even though it’s meant to be manual.
Another aspect worth mentioning at this stage is that you can’t turn off the flash. In some instances, the flash results in worse lighting than without, so you best be sure to do some pre-checks before hitting the snap button. I’d suggest using your smartphone camera with flash to check the exposure and lighting quality. This is to prevent wastage of the somewhat pricey film.
The reason for the always-on flash is due to the small f-stop. It measures just f/12.6, so the recommendation is to always attempt to provide more light to allow more light in when snapping shots.
Depending on the overall composition of the photo, it can take anywhere between 3 and 10 seconds to produce the print. It takes a few additional seconds once it hits the light for it to develop. That’s still an impressive turnaround on an instant camera.
The LED light next to the viewfinder provides some level of feedback to the user while in use. For starters, an LED that is off means that the camera is off. When powered on it will indicate as much. Once you’ve hit the snap, it will flash during the production of the image and stop only once it is ready for the next snap. If it blinks quite rapidly, there are two issues to consider. The first of these is that the batteries are low and needs replacing. The second, more obvious, is that the film is jammed and needs some manual intervention to unjam.
Should you purchase the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1?
The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1 retails at R1,999. The biggest catch on this price tag is that the Instax Mini 11 will set you back around R1,200 – nearly have that price. In terms of feature comparisons, they’re pretty much identical. Where the Instax Square SQ1 does steal a small march is the longer battery life as well as the slightly larger square images. I’m not so sure that’s worth it on paper, but we all have our preferences.
Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1
The latest update to the Instax range has brought a level of minimalism back to its roots. A lot of manual features have been automated, which makes it a very easy to use point-and-click camera.