Film Photography

Shooting Fujifilm Instax Square Monochrome

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

I continued my exploration of the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 camera with a pack of the Monochrome film. The color film didn’t wow me (see some images here), but I’d seen images from the Monochrome online that showed promise.

I’m still learning the camera, too. I almost have the controls down; my remaining bugbear is using close-up mode when regular mode would work better. I’m also getting a feel for how wide the lens is and how much the viewfinder doesn’t line up with the lens.

I instantly (see what I did there?) liked the Monochrome film more than the color film. It’s not perfect, though.

After I scanned these prints, I tweaked the scans in Photoshop until they looked like the actual print. That had the effect of turning the border gray, when it is actually bright white. No matter; it’s the image that counts. Here’s our granddaughter putting a bowl on her head.

Bowl on her head

The SQ6’s viewfinder infuriates me. When I framed this electric tower, it was horizontally centered and it filled the frame. Why did Fujifilm put the viewfinder so far away from the lens? Could they not have at least positioned it top center on the camera so horizontally centered subjects would be horizontally centered on the print? But notice how well the Monochrome film captured these clouds. Very nice.

Power tower

My ideal Instax camera would also have a longer lens, in the ballpark of a 50mm lens on a 35mm camera. I get it, Instax photography is about putting your besties in the frame at medium range, and a wide lens lets you capture your whole posse.

Clubhouse

The Monochrome film is capable of reasonable midrange tonality. But it always blocks up in the shadows and often blows out in the highlights, sometimes in the same photograph. This photo shows Monochrome’s blocked-up/blown-out tendencies best: the grass is black, the street is white.

Front yard

The subject of this photo is a dwarf tree full of pink blooms, grass below and sky above. Now, I do shoot with the camera set to Darken outside, which is probably -1 EV. But if I shot at normal exposure, it would probably lead to slightly more shadow detail and a completely blown-out sky.

Dwarf tree

In scenes where contrast is managed, Instax Square Monochrome film does a reasonable job of capturing detail.

6516

I tried one selfie in this pack. I tried to frame myself enough to the side in the mirror next to the lens so I’d appear in the center of the print, but I didn’t manage it. It’s tricky to frame things accurately with this camera, period. I can live with every other limitation of this camera, but this one could well be a deal breaker.

Selfie

I’m sure I’ll try at least one more pack of the Monochrome film, and maybe one more of the color film, before I decide whether to keep this camera. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. I can learn to live with the wide lens, but I am willing to try only so long to figure out the viewfinder for accurate framing. It’s hard for me to justify keeping cameras I don’t at least solidly like.

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18 thoughts on “Shooting Fujifilm Instax Square Monochrome

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    You know the original Polaroid SX-70 came into the market in 1972, when I was a senior in high-school. Every studio I worked for had a few, just for the stylists to take quick picks of models with outfits on so they could remember what they put together, or for the product stylists to remember what they used in a shot. In addition, most people I knew had one just for their personal “art” shots and the like.

    I think a lot of people today would have loved that camera. I WANT to like these modern instant cameras, I want to buy one, but every review I read of them the technology, usage, and results seems so “amateur” and “meh” compared to the original, I can’t even convince myself to buy one and try it out.

    Polaroid is going to go down in history as one of the great “lost” technologies. The peel-apart film was integral to my film photography process as a test for my Hasselblad camera before switching the back to film, and ditto for my 4X5 sheet film camera; and the SX-70 was a valuable component to any studio. The idea that the technology known for producing those films, and the machines that made them were destroyed is a crime against science.

    The idea that almost 50 years after the introduction of the SX-70, people have an interest in instant pictures, but their options are a vague shadow of what was once available is sad. If the development had been financially allowed to carry on, or the company wasn’t mismanaged into destruction, it would have even ended up better than what was, instead of a marginal product.

    • The pack film Polaroid cameras could be excellent. I had a Polaroid Automatic 250 for a while that was quite capable. Too bad it took a strange battery and didn’t play very well with the Fujifilm packs (which weren’t as rigid as the Polaroid packs).

      The Instax cameras are meant to be for consumers. They sell very well for Fuji and they are laughing about the poor IQ all the way to the bank.

      • Andy Umbo says:

        SX-70 was also meant for consumers, it was never meant to be adopted by pros, pros just found a lot of uses for it…I read an interesting essay about the demise of Polaroid saying that one of their many management problems was that “perfect was the enemy of ‘good-enough”. They had spent millions on digital technology as well, but wouldn’t release a camera because they couldn’t imagine anyone wanting a 2 megapixel photo over a SX-70 print. All very interesting…

        When it comes to photography today “good enough” is the enemy of professionalism!

  2. Jim, is it worth sacrificing a couple of frames to shoot something like a rule or scale or grid on a wall, just to see where the centre of the viewfinder is compared with the centre of the final frame? Then you’d know going forward how you’d need to line up the scene in the viewfinder to ensure it came out centred.

    I did a similar thing with a Superheadz Black Slim Devil, a clone of the Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim. The lens was 24mm, and the VF, such that is was, was about right for a 35mm lens. I took some measured shots to figure out how to get what I wanted in the frame and didn’t keep cutting stuff out or not having it centred.

    Aside from that, I’m following these posts with interest as I’ve been looking at one of these – or more likely the SQ1 – and to shoot with monchrome film. I had hoped you would get better exposures, but they do have a lo-fi vintage charm, which is much of what images made with these cameras are about, a nostalgia trip for the instant cameras of 40, 50 or more years ago.

    • What a terrific idea, to photograph a scale. I’d do it at various distances to see how the VF performs. It’s totally worth it so I can learn how to compensate for the VF. I wish I didn’t have to compensate, but that’s the reality.

      I long for an instant format as good as the old pack film was.

      • Also I remember getting to the point with film cameras where I’d write notes on a tiny bit of paper and tape on the back, to remind me of any particular quirks of that camera, because I never remembered a few months and a dozen cameras later.

        With the instax perhaps you could put a tiny dot on the bottom of the VF with a fine permanent marker, just large enough for you to see where the centre of the composition would be in the final image, then you could always line up your compositions with that dot in the centre, rather than judging by the actual centre of the VF area.

  3. kay says:

    The Lomo instant square‘s lens is 47mm (compared to 35mm Film camera). Maybe it fits better to your needs.

  4. I mean I like crushed blacks and blown highlights. But it is a great idea to use such a camera for some more experimental stuff where image quality is secondary to just testing things out. I got a used Fuji XQ2 for the same…I am thinking of turning it black and white only mabye with square aspect…

    • I’m having fun with the SQ6 and I shouldn’t discount that. I hope I can figure out how to get the best performance from this camera after 1 or 2 more packs of film, and then just make the best photos with it I can, within its limitations.

  5. I actually have the Fuji SQ6 and Lomo Square … love them both. I am a huge fan of instant film. The way to REALLY see how the film shines is to get an Instax back for a Mamiya RB67 … with good glass the film is WAY better than the plastic lens on the SQ6.

  6. Great review Jim I’ve been wanting to pick up one of these for a while and now I just might thanks to your results!

  7. Jon says:

    Using the Fuji wireless printer with the same film rather than this camera would give you far more control over the final print, solving both the framing and exposure problems, the benefit of better lenses and more flexibility of focal lengths. I found all the same problems you experienced. The film is too expensive not to make the most of it.

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