Comparing Instax Square Cameras!

Hey everyone!

Ever since Fujifilm announced the Instax Square film in April 2017, this increasingly popular medium has been making headway into mainstream usage. When Fujifilm announced the Instax SQUARE SQ10, many users were left scratching their heads at its apparent “digital-analogue” nature. Lomography quickly pounced upon the occasion and announced the Lomo’Instant Square, a fully analogue camera to be used with the Instax Square film. Not to be left behind, Fujifim announced the Instax SQUARE SQ6 in May 2018, which returned to its roots with a fully analogue camera to boot.

Naturally, all these cameras had us scratching our heads: which camera is the best option? Of course, we discounted any modified cameras that the creative community may have come up with, and after some testings and comparisons, we present to you our Instax Square Camera comparison! This post has been in the works for a long time, but we are proud to finally present it to our readers.

Note that we are not sponsored by Fujifilm nor Lomography (although if these great corporations would like to reach out to us you know who to call), and our comparison/review aims to be as unbiased as possible.

This article is structured as follows:

  1. Introducing the Instax Square Cameras
  2. Comparing Test Shots
  3. Conclusion

1) Introducing the Instax Square Cameras

Instax SQ 10 (“SQ 10”)

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The Instax SQ 10 is a hybrid camera-printer that is fully digital, with an electronic image sensor. This was a clearly intentional move by Fujifilm in light of the shifting technological awareness and appeal by the consumer market. In the place of the truly analogue instant cameras (such as the Instax Mini 7s, 8 and NEO Classic 90), the SQ 10 had a versatile software to replicate many of the functions of their older instant cameras, such as double exposures, bulb mode, self-timer.

Additionally, the SQ 10 has the useful feature of editing photos taken by the user, such as exposure or even colour/gradient filters. As a result, the SQ 10 feels more like a PC with photo-functions, rather than a camera. In fact, we found a nifty trick to be able to print photos captured from other cameras, onto Instax Square film, which we will share another time on our website!

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An illustration of the close-up function and normal automatic mode at infinity.

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As the SQ 10 allows the user to edit photos, we use this two photos to illustrate the ability to change the exposure meter. The photo on the right was taken at -2/3 exposure and the left shows the “normal” exposure when edited.

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The SQ 10 has a range of flash functions, and the three examples here show how they work under lighted conditions.

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An example of the “thumbnail” grid format that is available to be printed via the SQ 10! These photos were not actually taken with the SQ 10 but it was imported into the SD card.

Lomo’Instant Square (“LIS”)

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Lomography clearly seized the opportunity to leverage on the incoming Instax Square film and launched the fully-analogue Lomo’Instant Square, which has been designed with foldable bellows for a nostalgic feel. Despite the seemingly complicated apparatus, the LIS retains the automatic shooting mode, although you can also play around with various modes such as macro, landscape, double exposure and so on.

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The key selling point for Lomography has always been its wide array of accessories, and the LIS can be used with the Splitzer, wide-angle lens, graduated ND filter and various colour lens filters! In particular, the LIS also comes with a remote control which, comes in handy when taking long exposures or wish to take photos from a short distance!

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The various accessories for use with the LIS!

  1. Notably, the LIS also comes with a detachable film back, which allows the user to switch to Instax mini film as well! This is arguably the most useful feature of the LIS, although one should be cautious about removing the back as it will require some dexterity and patience!
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Instax film captured with the LIS, with the Instax mini film on the left and the Instax Square film on the left.

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A comparison of the various filters available for the LIS. We noted that the Light Orange Filter doesn’t seem to make much difference in bright daylight. Further, the graduated ND filter is great for capturing clouds in bright sunlight.

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A comparison of the effective focusing distances for the LIS. One notable criticism of Lomography cameras is the strange way in which the cameras are fixed in terms of focusing distance (3 modes, as seen above). However, given the largest aperture is f/10, this may not be so surprising.

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Exposure control is an important factor to take into account when shooting in bright or dark places.

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One of many funky accessories of the LIS, the Splitzer can capture two different half-images as shown above. In fact, the Splitzer can aid in capturing multiple images, but it all depends on your creativity!

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Surprisingly, flash still has effect on the photo, despite the bright daylight.

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Finally, the bulb mode for the LIS is made usable thanks to the remote control. Holding the shutter down is a thing of the past for this camera! The star filter on the right photo makes bright focused lights emit a starry reflection, as seen above.

Instax SQ 6

In May 2018, Fujifilm swiftly announced their “return-to-roots” fully analogue Instax Square camera, the Instax SQ 6. With a sleek metallic design similar to the Instax Mini NEO Classic 90, the SQ 6 also has a variety of user modes such as double exposure and macro. The key feature in the SQ 6 is the “selfie” mode, and the use of colour strips on the flash bulb to create funky-looking photos.

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Requires a distance of at least one arm’s length, or 0.6m. The front mirror on the SQ 6 was helpful in composing the shot!

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These flash filters are essentially a strip of coloured, translucent plastic “flash-covers” that is slipped in front of the SQ 6’s flash.

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With a fixed aperture of f/12.6, it is crucial to note that setting the “light” mode on the SQ 6 is essentially slowing down the shutter speed.

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Example of the flash effect on SQ 6 photos!

2) Comparing Test Shots

Here we come to the most important section of this post: how the various modes of the cameras compared with each other! Here, we compare the a) automatic mode at infinity, b) the double exposure mode, and c) various shots taken at night (including bulb mode). We selected these three main aspects of instant photography that we believe our readers will be interested in!

A) Double Exposure

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These double exposure shots were taken with the first image being Damian’s hand and arm against the sky, and the second image of the trees below. The intention was to create a “silhouette” of Damian’s arm and hand. We felt that the LIS and SQ 6 created the better double exposure shots compared to the SQ 10. This is consonant with our personal views that digital cameras do not really do double exposures well (but feel free to correct us!)

B) Shooting in Automatic Mode (at Infinity)

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The following images above aim to demonstrate the various focal lengths of the three instant cameras. The LIS has a longer focal length (95mm) than the SQ 6 (65.75mm) or SQ 10 (28.5mm, on a 35-mm format equivalent), and that is evident from the LIS (infinity) shot above. However, by using the wide-angle lens with the LIS, one can capture the same image as the SQ 6 and the SQ 10.

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For the LIS and SQ 6, we compared the focusing abilities at closer distances, using the portrait lens of the LIS and the macro mode of the SQ 6. Interestingly, the latter two images seem to look the same (in terms of composition) even though the LIS was taken from 0.8m and the SQ 6 was taken with the macro function. As explained above, this is likely due to the longer focal length of the LIS, which means one would have to stand further back to capture the same composed shot than with the SQ 6 (at macro mode, one would need to capture the object from 0.3-0.5m).

Lastly, it was not possible to use the SQ 10 to compare close up as it does not have any macro/close-up mode (although it can focus from 10cm to infinity).

C) Shooting At Night

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While the LIS and the SQ 10 had no problem capturing shots at night with bulb mode, the SQ 6 notably does not have a bulb mode. Instead, the SQ 6 can only open its shutter for a maximum of 1.6 seconds, which resulted in the dark photo captured. It is a bit disappointing that the bulb mode was not implemented in the SQ 6, and it is hoped that future models will do the same.

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Likewise here, the SQ 6 could only open up to 1.6 seconds, which resulted in the darker photo compared to the LIS and SQ 10 (although the SQ 6 arguably captured the finer details of the fireworks better). The LIS and SQ 10 had their shutters opened for about 5 seconds.

3) Conclusion

We hope this review has been helpful in aiding our readers to consider which of the three Instax Square cameras you would like to get! The SQ 10 is the perfect camera for casual photographers who also want to print their own photos on the SQ 10, whereas the LIS is the camera for analogue photographers who are serious about their craft. The SQ 6 lies somewhere in between, good for more serious photographers but also for interested persons keen to try their hand at instant photography.

If we were asked which Instax Square camera we preferred, it would have to be the Lomo’Instant Square, simply for its versatility (in terms of functions and mode) and sharpness. The SQ 6 has some way before it can catch up with the LIS, and that’s not even mentioning the various accessories that the LIS has! Although the LIS is a bit bulky and even feels flimsy when trying to open it, the trade-off for its quality images more than makes up for it.

Our vote: Lomo’Instant Square

Till next time,

Damianwithsandra

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