Camera Reviews

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 is an instant camera in Fujifilm’s extremely popular Instax line. Its mission is fun — photos of your crew at the football game, selfies with your partner, and snaps of your family good times. This camera is point-and-shoot simple: turn it on, frame in the viewfinder, press the button. With a click and a whir, a square photograph ejects out of the top of the camera. It develops in about 90 seconds.

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

Fujifilm has produced a dizzying array of Instax camera models. They all fall in one of three series: Mini, Square, and Wide. Each series makes small images of 1.8×2.4 inches, 2.4×2.4 inches, and 3.9×2.4 inches, respectively.

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

The Square SQ6 comes in five colors: gray, blue, red, white, and gold. There’s also a Taylor Swift Edition with her name plastered all over the front. I went with gold because that color was on sale.

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

The camera sets exposure automatically, but focus is fixed. There are two focal lengths, normal and close, which to my eye look more like wide and normal. I wasn’t able to find any information about the lens, such as aperture or those focal-length measurements. I’m sure Fujifilm thinks this camera’s normal user photographs so casually as not to care about such details.

The Square SQ6 offers several modes: selfie, macro, landscape, light (which adds a stop or two of exposure) and dark (which reduces exposure by a stop or two). Selfie and macro mode use the close focal length; all others use the normal focal length. There’s also a double-exposure mode which lets you press the shutter button twice before the camera ejects the photograph. The mode button is on the back; press it to cycle through the modes, which are arrayed across the camera’s back near the top. A small light glows over the mode you select.

The built-in flash defaults to always firing. You can turn it off by pressing the no-flash button on the camera’s back. The camera also comes with orange, purple, and green plastic filters that snap onto the flash, to cast your photo in colored light.

The Square SQ6 also includes a self timer. The button is on the back with the mode and no-flash buttons. Press it, then press the shutter button, and the shutter fires ten seconds later. There’s a tripod mount on the bottom of the camera so you can put yourself in group photos.

By the way, if you’re into instant photography, I’ve also reviewed a bunch of Polaroid cameras: the venerable SX-70 (here), the OneStep 600 (here), the One600 (here), the Colorpack II (here), and the Automatic 250 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here!

Instax Square photos are small, and sit comfortably in the palm of your hand. While the image area is 2.4×2.4 inches, the print itself is slightly larger at 2.8×3.4 inches. Polaroid SX-70/600/I-Type prints are noticeably larger, at 3.5×4.2 inches. I scanned the images in this review on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II to 1,000 pixels on the long end. I’m displaying them in this review at 500 pixels on the long end. They look small on the screen, but when viewed on the Web it’s still larger than the print’s actual size.

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

Fujifilm produces a color and a black-and-white film for its Instax Square cameras. The color film is good and saturated, as you might expect from a photo system whose mission is to be a part of fun times with family and friends. This film especially loves blue.

Methodist church - Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

I used Landscape mode for the photo above, which put the in-focus patch between 6 feet 7 inches and infinity. I used Normal mode for this photo, which put the in-focus patch between 1 foot 7 inches and 6 feet 7 inches.

Sidewalk Closed - Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

The black-and-white film has a creamy look and a pleasing tonality, though shadow areas block up easily. I favor the black-and-white film and shoot it most often in this camera.

Bowl on her head - Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

It’s a bit much that Fujifilm uses the term “macro” for the SQ6’s close-focusing mode since it lets you focus only from 12 to 20 inches. At that distance you get a lot of horizontal and vertical parallax error because of the viewfinder’s top-left placement. In this photo, I hadn’t figured out yet how much to offset the subject in the viewfinder.

On the table - Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

It turns out that the O in the center of the viewfinder creates the top and right bounds for macro mode. Why Fujifilm didn’t use framing lines like every other camera in the history of cameras is beyond me. Even when I used the O to frame in macro mode, I still cut off some of my image on the right.

Nativity close up - Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

I rather liked selfie mode. There’s a little mirror on the front of the camera, right next to the lens. The idea is that you put your face in the mirror and press the button. But much like macro mode, selfie mode suffers from parallax. To get a photo with your face in the center of the photograph, put your face toward the left of the mirror.

Outdoor selfie - Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

I’m not a double exposure kind of guy, but I tried double exposure mode anyway to see how it worked. Here’s a picture of our garish loveseat in front of the living room window plus a bathroom mirror selfie. Yawn. But as you can see, this mode works.

Double double - Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

The viewfinder is the SQ6’s fatal flaw. It’s just so inaccurate, which makes it hard to get a photograph that matches what you frame. When I made this photograph, the house filled the viewfinder. I also forgot to turn on Landscape mode so it would be more in focus.

Old house - Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

I used the Square SQ6 to photograph my family’s Christmas celebration. Perhaps I should have chosen color film for it, but I had one pack of Monochrome left and that’s what I shot. I found that when I filled the viewfinder with the person I was photographing, I got images like this, with lots of surrounding context. How frustrating. Why can’t what I see in the viewfinder reasonably represent the image I’m making?

Christmas

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 gallery.

The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 is a fun camera for making snapshots of family and friends. It’s tricky to use this camera for anything else. The Square SQ6 just isn’t a great camera for the kinds of subjects I usually photograph. The film is pretty good for instant film, but you’ll never mistake it for Tri-X or Portra. The viewfinder’s top-left placement creates parallax that takes skill and luck to overcome, and is this camera’s fatal flaw.

Even though I’ve owned a few hundred film cameras in my lifetime, only a handful of them were brand new when I got them. Of them, only this one was still available for sale new at the time I wrote a review of it.

But if you want one, act fast: Fujifilm might have discontinued this camera, as it’s no longer listed on the official Instax site. You can still buy them here and there, but probably only out of available stock. Once that dries up, you’ll have to turn to the used market to get a Square SQ6.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Photography

Weekend update

It took a few days for the shock of Rana’s death to pass. Then I was very tired for a few more days — I slept 9 or 10 hours a night and needed a nap every afternoon. That’s passed, and now I’m spending my time finding things to do that take my mind off this staggering loss.

Nikon N90s, 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor, Ilford HP5+ at EI 1600, HC-110 B

I took the week off from the blog, which is why there’s no Recommended Reading today. It’ll probably return next week.

My company gave me two weeks off to grieve, rest, and recover. I wasn’t sure at first that I’d take it all. When my dad died, I took no time off. That was different, though. I knew for months that his time was short, and I’d processed through a lot of losing him before he died. Losing Rana was entirely unexpected and I don’t believe I would have been capable of working.

I did test the waters a little on Thursday. I had an interview scheduled for an open position on my team and I went ahead and did it. I also scheduled an hour with my boss to catch up. I got through them, but afterward I was surprisingly exhausted by the interaction.

So I’m going to take my company up on the second week off they’ve offered. I’ve nothing to do — Rana’s mom handled making all of the arrangements (obituary here) and as far as I know they’re done. All that’s left for me is to show up at the memorial service on Saturday.

I must go. I need to go. But since the divorce I’ve deliberately separated my life from my ex-wife and her family. I’m going to see some or all of them again for the first time since 2004 under these horrible circumstances, and I feel some trepidation over it.

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Road Trips

Surveying the Michigan Road from end to end

In 2008, I slowly documented Indiana’s Michigan Road from its beginning in Madison on the Ohio River, over 270 miles to Michigan City on Lake Michigan. Working at it on spare weekends, it took me a solid six months to complete.

I wrote extensively about this survey on my old Roads site, which I’m deprecating. With this post, I begin bringing that content here to my blog. Some of it overlaps or duplicates content I’ve written here in the past, but I’m choosing to allow it for continuity’s sake. I expect to create 20 to 25 posts, sharing them at a rate of one per week. We’ll be at this for a while!

This post sets the stage, telling the Michigan Road’s history in thumbnail and telling why I am interested in this historic road.


I grew up four blocks from Michigan Street in South Bend. I always assumed it was called that because it led to Michigan.

Later, I would live about a mile from Michigan Road in Indianapolis. At first, I thought it curious that a road would be named Michigan so far away from Michigan.

I learned later that these roads are one and the same, connecting not only Indianapolis and South Bend, but the Ohio River and Lake Michigan. For 30 years in two cities, I had lived near an important element of Indiana history. So I determined to drive the entire road, all 270 miles of it, and complete Indiana’s original coast-to-coast trip. Along the way, I learned about the road’s, and some of the state’s, history.

Ohio River at Madison, Indiana

When Indiana became a state in 1816, most Hoosiers lived along the Ohio River. The state’s first and largest city, Madison, was on the river, and the state’s first capital, Corydon, was near the river. Indiana wasn’t ten years old in 1825 when the capital moved to Indianapolis at the state’s swampy center. People needed ways to get to the new capital city, and so the state built its first roads, which were little more than paths cut through the forest. Sources disagree about how many roads were built, but I do know for sure that the Madison State Road connected Madison, and the Mauxferry Road connected the Corydon area, to Indianapolis.

One-lane alignment

But then in 1828 came the Michigan Road, connecting Madison not only to Indianapolis, but to Lake Michigan as well through lands newly acquired by treaty with the Indians who had lived in northern Indiana. The Michigan Road was complete by 1837 and people began migrating into the north’s flat but rich farmland.

Michigan Road, Decatur County, Indiana

The Michigan Road was, for its day, a grand thoroughfare.  Trees were felled across a 100-foot swath; the trees in the middle 30 feet were “grubbed,” meaning the stumps were dug out. In marshy areas, where horses could lose their footing and wagons become stuck, the road was corduroyed; that is, logs were laid across the mucky road and then covered with sand. In some places, the road was covered with wood planks to provide an even surface. When railroads boomed in the mid-1800s, private interests took over the road, covering it in gravel and charging tolls to travel on it. The rise of the automobile led the state to create a network of good roads. By the 1930s, the state had taken over and paved most of the Michigan Road. Many towns had grown to prominence along the Michigan Road, and because the Road was how people traveled between these places, the state maintained much of this road as it built bigger and faster highways along corridors that had become strategically more important to state and interstate commerce.

Michigan Road at I-465

This remarkable sequence of events preserved the Michigan Road. It has been moved in a few places, such as around a horse track near Shelbyville and when a new bridge was built south of Logansport, abandoning an old one-lane alignment. It has been bypassed in a couple places causing some of its route to be lost, such as over a railroad track near Rolling Prairie. And I-74 disrupted the road southeast of Indianapolis, moving brief segments of the road so exits could be built and even burying several miles of the road underneath its lanes. But from Madison, you can drive straight through to Michigan City along most of the road’s original path with only a few brief detours that quickly return you to the road. Along the way, the road takes on many different characters, from almost-forgotten farm road to country US highway to major city thoroughfare to Interstate highway.

Plenty of excellent goodness remains along the Road. Two one-lane 1800s bridges remain, as do two short one-lane alignments. One long segment has never been part of the state highway system and rolls with the terrain. Despite being paved and two lanes wide, driving it is as close as it gets to recalling travel on it in its early days. And along the way there are a whole bunch of houses, churches, and cemeteries placed along it in the 1800s when the road was new.

This trip report takes you along the entire Michigan Road county by county through all 14 counties on the route.

Next: A look at Madison, the city that anchors the Michigan Road on the Ohio River.

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Preservation

Carnegie libraries in Indiana

Not long ago I shared a photo of the Carnegie library in Thorntown, Indiana, and linked to an old post of a few other Carnegie libraries I’ve photographed. But I’ve photographed so many other Carnegie libraries that I thought it’s time for a new post full of them.

The first one I ever knowingly saw was in Greensburg. I came upon it when I surveyed the Michigan Road from end to end in 2008. It looked like this then:

Former City Hall

As far as I knew, it had always been the City Hall. But on a subsequent trip, the City Hall sign had been removed to reveal “Carnegie Public Library” beneath. I believe this building is a private residence today.

Carnegie library

I came upon the Carnegie library in North Vernon in 2010 while exploring US 50 across Indiana. I believe this building is used for some municipal purpose today.

North Vernon library

I have photographed the Carnegie library in Kirklin more than any other. I like little Kirklin, it’s not very far from my home, and it’s on the old Michigan Road.

Kirklin Pvblic Library

I found the Carnegie library in Paoli in 2012 while exploring the old Dixie Highway in southern Indiana. I don’t think this is used as a library anymore.

Paoli Carnegie Library

I photographed Sheridan’s Carnegie library in 2015 while on an outing with my Olympus Trip 35 camera. The building is still a library. Sheridan is in the county north of Indianapolis.

Sheridan Carnegie Library

From a road trip along the National Road in western Indiana in 2015, here’s the Carnegie library in Knightstown. It’s still a library, I’m pretty sure.

Carnegie Library

In the west Indianapolis neighborhood where I used to go to church, a Carnegie library has been converted into a community center.

Hawthorne Center

In Brookville, in southeast Indiana, the Carnegie library appears to still be a library. I photographed this late last year.

Brookville, IN

In Thorntown, in Boone County, the Carnegie library has been expanded and remains a library. I made this photograph in 2018 on color slide film.

Thorntown Carnegie Library

In Lebanon, also in Boone County, I’ve never photographed the Carnegie library in total, but I did photograph this detail last year.

Carnegie Library

What’s remarkable to me is how no two Carnegie libraries I’ve encountered look anything alike!

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COVID-19

A lousy holiday season

Christmas Day was nice, but then overnight Christmas night our younger daughter had a diabetic emergency and had to be rushed to the hospital, where she spent two days recovering. And then on the day after Christmas our son’s girlfriend came over for a couple hours. Monday our son texted us the bad news: she had tested positive for COVID. Turns out she came over to our house while not feeling well — she left our house that day to keep her appointment for her COVID test.

I’m glad Margaret had the talk with her about how unwise that was and how much risk she exposed us to. I was so angry that if that talk had fallen to me, I couldn’t have held back the unkind words. Margaret was a lot kinder than I would have been in telling our son and his girlfriend that they are not welcome here if they have so much as a sniffle. Be fully well or stay the hell home.

I didn’t spend any real time with the young woman while she was here. Our youngest son did, however, and he got COVID from her. Fortunately, he was double vaccinated — he had a couple bad days with it where all he could do was lie in bed, but he’s been sicker in his life. He’s almost back to normal now.

I bought a bunch of in-home COVID tests while we push through this. I was fortunate to find some still available to be shipped here from Walgreens.com — I must have got the last of them, as they’re now out of stock everywhere. Our son tested positive, of course, but the rest of us keep testing negative. Margaret and I are triple vaccinated; perhaps that’s helping us. Margaret is his direct caregiver and she’s so far avoided catching it. We’re being extra cautious — Margaret and our son are largely isolating upstairs, and I’m largely isolating downstairs, sleeping on the pull-out couch.

And then of course on New Year’s Eve, my oldest daughter was found dead in her home. So we’ve had a straight-up terrible holiday.

Because our son’s positive COVID test was done at home, it doesn’t register on the official count of cases. Have a look at the stunning post-holiday case spike Indiana is having.

Source: https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/2393.htm, January 5, 2022

News reports are saying that COVID-19 is on its way to becoming endemic — a new normal, and something we will have to live with forever. I hope that along the way, they find better vaccines and more effective treatments.

At the moment I’m out of grace for people who won’t be vaccinated, like one of our sons. I know the arguments against it. Most of them don’t hold water. The ones that have some validity are not strong enough, in my opinion, to overcome how much better off we’d all be today if more people had done it the minute it became available to them.

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Photographs

14 signs

Elbow Room
Nikon F3HP, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor, Fomapan 200
Stout's
Minolta Autopak 470, Lomography Tiger
Centerville, Indiana
Canon PowerShot S95
Antiques
Nikon F2AS, 135mm f/3.5 AI Nikkor, Fujicolor 200
B. L. Horwitz
Pentax ME, 55mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M, Kentmere 100
Rife's
Pentax ME, 50mm f/2 Pentax-M, Kodak Tri-X 400
Five Guys
Pentax K10D, 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SMC PENTAX-DA AL
Bardstown, KY
Canon PowerShot S80
Wild Beaver
Olympus XA2, Fujicolor 200
Standard Oil
Pentax ME, 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A, Fujicolor 200 (at EI 100)
Bob-O-Link
Pentax K10D, 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SMC PENTAX-DA AL
Shoals, Indiana
Canon PowerShot S80
Whiskey Cold Beer To Go
Canon PowerShot S80
Terre Haute
Kodak EasyShare Z730
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