Fu­ji­film In­stax Square SQ10

Ge­off har­ris tests Fu­ji­film’s first hy­brid dig­i­tal/in­stant cam­era

Amateur Photographer - - 7days -

On pa­per, this sounds like an ideal cam­era for the In­sta­gram gen­er­a­tion, kick­ing out cute, square-for­mat prints while also en­abling you to save the unedited JPEG im­ages (1920 x 1920 pix­els) to a mi­cro SD card. In use, you soon re­alise the SQ10 is rather com­pro­mised as an ev­ery­day dig­i­tal cam­era, and at more than £200 plus print­ing costs, is likely to face stiff com­pe­ti­tion from higher-res smart­phone cam­eras and in­stant-print­ing booths. Once you ac­cept the SQ10 for what it is, how­ever, there is still a lot to like.


Of­fer­ing a hy­brid dig­i­tal/Po­laroid­type cam­era is a log­i­cal step for Fu­ji­film. Its older Mini and Wide In­staxes proved pop­u­lar, not only among the younger crowd, but also with trav­ellers – his­tory buffs may have seen his­to­rian Dr Sam Willis us­ing one to record his jour­neys on BBC Four’s The Silk Road. There were some draw­backs, though. The Wide ver­sion was as big as a pro-spec SLR and a pain to squeeze in your lug­gage.

The SQ10, while not ex­actly pocket-sized at 119 x 47 x 27mm and 450g, is cer­tainly

less cum­ber­some than the In­stax Wide. Let’s fo­cus on the SQ10’s dig­i­tal per­for­mance be­fore look­ing at the print qual­ity. The sen­sor is only a 3.7MP 1/4in CMOS chip, so for­get any ideas of sav­ing im­ages be­yond 240dpi. Most mod­ern smart­phone cam­eras eas­ily sur­pass it, though, of course, they don’t have built-in prin­ters. The SQ10’s lens is a fixed 28.5mm equiv­a­lent f/2.4 widean­gle. In terms of ex­po­sure and fo­cus­ing op­tions, again, it’s pretty ba­sic. You only get sin­gle, con­trast- de­tect AF with min­i­mum fo­cus­ing dis­tance of 10cm. To set the AF point pre­cisely, the sim­plest thing is to fo­cus and re­com­pose by half-press­ing the shut­ter but­ton. Track­ing mov­ing ob­jects is much more of a chal­lenge, and you tend to get bet­ter re­sults with static sub­jects, such as build­ings or peo­ple’s faces (face recog­ni­tion is built in). Low-light fo­cus­ing can be a strug­gle, too, as the Auto ISO only goes up to 1600. So the SQ10 feels very much like an auto point-and- click, though there is more con­trol over the built-in flash. You can choose from auto modes, forced flash, sup­pressed flash, slow sync and red- eye re­moval. There are also three shoot­ing modes (stan­dard, bulb mode via the self-timer and dou­ble ex­po­sure) so the SQ10 is not to­tally dumbed down. When it comes to edit­ing the im­age be­fore print­ing it, there is a de­cent choice of op­tions. Bright­ness and vi­gnetting can be eas­ily tweaked via the large rear dial, and it’s also pos­si­ble to ap­ply some ba­sic, In­sta­gram-style fil­ters to the prints (the edited im­ages re­main on the cam­era’s in­ter­nal stor­age or mi­cro SD card, but the ed­its dis­ap­pear when viewed on your com­puter). As well as op­tions such as Mono­chrome and Sepia, you can try Cor­nelius (in­ten­si­fies shad­ows and bright­ens high­lights), Luna (bright­ens the im­age and in­ten­si­fies colours) and even the in­trigu­ingly named Mar­tini, which smooths skin tones ‘with a slight vin­tage feel’. The fil­ters can be eas­ily ad­justed, but you need to be care­ful when re­view­ing im­ages on the 3in rear screen. The LCD is rea­son­ably sharp at 460k dots, but tends to give a false sense of se­cu­rity when it comes to vi­gnetting and un­der­ex­po­sure – you can end up with very strong vi­gnettes and blocks of shadow on the ac­tual print. With the vi­gnette con­trol in par­tic­u­lar, we’d keep it un­der 50% for the best re­sults. It is cer­tainly best to avoid wast­ing prints, as new pack of 10 costs £8.95.

Print­ing and han­dling

De­pend­ing on the sub­ject and light, the print qual­ity is pretty good, with plenty of de­tail and punchy colours con­sid­er­ing the im­age size. There is some­thing sat­is­fy­ing and neat about the 1:1 square for­mat, and its lim­i­ta­tions of­ten make you spend more time care­fully com­pos­ing the im­age. The SQ10 copes best with bright, colour­ful scenes with a clear dis­tinc­tion be­tween the sub­ject and fore­ground. Once the light starts to fail, or the sub­ject is less clearly de­lin­eated, the re­sults are more mixed. By ne­ces­sity you are print­ing

pretty small, at 62 x 62mm, so the SQ10 re­ally comes into its own when shoot­ing a fa­mous build­ing or land­mark, or capturing a clearly de­lin­eated face. So it’s handy for so­cial events, such as wed­dings, or travel, and of course, you get a dig­i­tal copy of the im­age, too. While the re­place­ment print pack may seem pricey, it’s less ex­pen­sive than a con­ven­tional In­stax as you don’t have to print a pic­ture every time to en­joy it. Change to Man­ual rather than Auto print­ing, via a switch down the side, and you de­cide when and if to print the im­age.

In terms of us­abil­ity, it’s a mixed bag. The cam­era is made from plas­tic, but it’s tough plas­tic, and the build qual­ity is sturdy. Bat­tery life is pretty good: you get around 160 pho­tos with a sin­gle charge of the Li-ion bat­tery, which you juice up via USB. On the down­side, we found our­selves hunt­ing for the titchy shut­ter but­ton, as it doesn’t im­me­di­ately fall to hand. A big­ger prob­lem is the im­age trans­fer fea­tures, or lack of them. You need to copy im­ages onto a mi­cro SD card in or­der to view them on an­other de­vice. It’s a clunky process that re­quires a read of the man­ual, and we sus­pect built-in Wi- Fi will ap­pear in fu­ture ver­sions of this cam­era if it takes off.

The square for­mat is good for large, static ob­jects such as fa­mous build­ings

Reasonable close-ups can be ob­tained, with a fo­cus range of 10cm to in­fin­ity

The cam­era pro­duces a 62 x 62mm print

The screen errs on the bright side, so be care­ful with ap­ply­ing any im­age ef­fects be­fore print­ing

The flash op­tions come in use­ful as the auto ISO maxes out at 1600

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