Fujifilm instax SQUARE SQ10: A Very Unusual Marriage

 

Fujifilm’s latest instax, the SQUARE SQ10, gives you an ‘instant view through instant film’. Conchita Fernandes investigates this new hybrid. 

Fujifilm instax SQUARE SQ10

Fujifilm instax SQUARE SQ10

The SQ10 is nothing like the other cameras in Fujifilm’s instax range. It’s gone completely digital, where you can now view the photographs after it’s been shot, edit them, and decide which ones you want to print within the camera. Also, as its name suggests, the SQ10 employs a new 1:1 square format ‘film’ (more a print, in this case), of 86 x 72mm.

Features
The SQ10 features a 3.6MP camera with a 1/4-inch CMOS sensor, and a fixed 28.5mm (full frame equivalent) f/2.4 lens. It has a contrast detect single AF system (no continuous AF), an AF Illuminator, and its focus range extends from 10cm to infinity.

There are three shooting modes—Standard, Bulb Mode (up to 10 seconds) and Double Exposure. Users can also choose between various flash modes—Auto, Forced, Slow Synchro, Red Eye, or Suppressed Flash.

A switch on the right side of the camera that lets you choose between the Auto or Manual mode. However, here Auto implies that as you shoot, the camera will print every image sequentially as you shoot it, and in Manual, you can select what pictures you wish to print after you shoot.|

There are no controls to adjust ISO, shutterspeed or WB. And there is no RAW. However, there are separate controls to adjust vignetting and brightness, and ten creative effect filters that can be applied to the image after it has been shot. These are not permanent adjustments and you can apply or change any of these effects without affecting the original image. In fact, when you download these images into a desktop, the JPEGs have none of these effects applied, which is somewhat odd. One might prefer to have both the edited and non-edited versions of the photo. The SQ10 also copies a small data file (that opens with Microsoft Excel) for each photo, with information on what post-exposure settings were applied.

The camera has an inbuilt memory for up to 50 photographs, with the option of shooting more on a micro SD card. You can also view, edit and print any non-instax JPEG images too, once they have been copied into a micro SD card and inserted back into the SQ10 (albeit only in the square format). The camera allows you to print a collage of four or nine images on a single print. There is no WiFi, Bluetooth or NFC transfer options, limiting the ease with which images can be downloaded, or shared.

The images here are not the actual size of the prints, which are slightly bigger. It takes up to 12 seconds for the photograph to print. / All photographs by Conchita Fernandes, except where specified.

The images here are not the actual size of the prints, which are slightly bigger. It takes up to 12 seconds for the photograph to print. / All photographs by Conchita Fernandes, except where specified.

Handling
In terms of its build, the SQ10 resembles other instax Minis. It has a smooth finish with two subtle thumb grooves on the rear of the camera, for a firm grip while shooting. The front of the camera features two shutter buttons on the right and left side of the lens, making it convenient for both right and left-hand users. Either of these buttons can be customised to disable shooting, or to assign a new function, such as the shooting modes.
The rear of the SQ10 features a 3-inch 460k-dot TFT LCD screen (there is no viewfinder), and a dial below it. You can access all of the camera features here, right from the menu options, to the filters, to finally printing the photograph. There’s also a tripod slot at the bottom of the camera.

Performance
While shooting, the image appears in a square frame on the LCD, thus allowing you to gauge what is included in the frame and what isn’t. This eradicates any form of trial and error, or viewfinder parallax, which often occurred with the other instax cameras with no LCD. The back button on the bottom of the dial reveals all the edits you’ve made to a picture on the LCD.
Under optimal light, the camera is very quick to focus and make an image. However, focus lags in low light. I also quite liked using the camera’s flash. The resulting images weren’t jarring or too bright. As for the quality of the final prints, the camera accurately printed the images, almost just as it appeared on the LCD. The only exception were shades of deep blue, which were rendered as black. You can ‘crop’ your pictures by zooming in, just before printing them out, without really cropping the original file, or saving the cropped version.Images shot on the SQ10’s inbuilt storage can be transferred to the micro SD card. However, it cannot be done by connecting the camera to the computer, via the USB cable. The cable is solely used for charging. The battery life was good enough for a day of casual shooting. In retrospect, I quite enjoyed the freedom to select the images I wanted to print out. But I also missed a certain sense of excitement and anticipation that comes with the traditional instax cameras that have no option to save your pictures.

Conclusion
The previous cameras in the instax range have all been around the price of Rs. 10,000. The SQ10 is priced at Rs. 22,999, and it is an additional Rs. 1397 (price on Amazon) for a pack 10 film sheets. Is it worth paying double the price, just so that you have more control? It is also pertinent to note that Fujifilm also has the SP-2 printer (Rs. 14,502), that can be used with a phone to instantly print images (not in squares, though). Besides, if you think about it, the SQ10 essentially does behave like a phone, allowing you to add filters and edit your pictures… Except that a phone gives you a lot more editing features that the SQ10 currently lacks.
Having said this, if you are a big fan of the instax series, the 1:1 instant film format, and would like to eliminate the ambiguity of finding what your image looks like, the SQ10 is certainly worth exploring.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
3.6MP 1/4-inch CMOS sensor, f/2.4 lens, 10 filters, brightness and vignetting control
22/30
Performance
Good colour rendition, slight lag in low light
25/30
Build Quality 
Lightweight plastic exterior
16/20
Ergonomics
Intelligent placement of the shutter buttons (customisable) on the front of the camera
13/15
Warranty & Support
Two year warranty, several service centers
4/5
MRP Rs. 22,999
OVERALL 80%
VALUE FOR MONEY 3/5
Who should buy it? Anyone who is a fan of Fuji’s instax series, wants more control over the outcome of their photographs, and want 1:1 square instant photos
Why? Since you are in control of the outcome of the image, it means that you are less likely to waste precious film.
Tags: better photography, Conchita Fernandes, Fujifilm, Fujifilm Instax, Gear Review, October 2017, SQUARE SQ10, Test