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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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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Film Photography

Shooting Fujifilm Instax Square film

I’ve always been heavily drawn to instant photography, ever since I saw TV commercials for the Polaroid SX-70 in the early 1970s. I owned a Polaroid pack film camera when I was a kid and really loved it. I had to wait 40 years to finally own an SX-70, by which time the original Polaroid wasn’t making film anymore. I tried some fresh film from The Impossible Project, but got soft, muddy results. I later tried some fresh film from the new Polaroid, and the color was better, but sharpness still wasn’t all I hoped for.

Not long ago James Tocchio of Casual Photophile reviewed the Instax Square SQ1 camera and got some encouraging results on Instax Square color film. You’ll never confuse Instax images with those from a Hasselblad or a Nikon F2 in terms of image quality, but James’s photos blew away anything I ever got from my SX-70. I left a comment praising the sharpness and color of his images — and he responded that the Instax Square SQ6 could be had for about $80. I had $100 in Amazon gift cards burning a hole in my pocket, so I bought one and two packs of film.

Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

I’ve been curious about Instax for a long time, but I was put off by the tiny images of standard Instax film. I knew that when I pulled the trigger, it would be on a Square or Wide format camera. I went with a Square camera because I like square images, and because the Wide cameras all seem so large and ungainly. The Square SQ6 (as well as the SQ1) are comparatively trim and easy to handle.

Even though the Square images are larger than standard Instax images, they’re still small at 2.44 inches square. Including the border, the print is 3.4×2.8 inches. A Polaroid SX-70 print is much larger at 4.2×3.5 inches.

I’ll review the Instax Square SQ6 after I’ve shot a lot more film with it. I’m still learning this camera’s ways. But here are my first impressions and some photos from those first two packs of film.

Normally I display images here so they are as wide as the text column. I’m deliberately showing these images smaller than that, because the prints themselves are so tiny. I think this gives you a better feel for the format.

I had the best results shooting my family inside. This is Instax’s sweet spot: in-the-moment photos of friends and family. The flash fires automatically and it lights fairly evenly.

In the sink

The camera has a little mirror next to the lens that you can use to frame yourself for a selfie. Because of parallax error, to put yourself in the center of the print you’ll want to place yourself near the right edge of the mirror. I had hoped the Welcome to Zionsville sign in the background would be readable, but I learned later from the manual that selfie mode places everything from about 10 to about 20 inches in focus.

Outdoor selfie

Shooting outside, I found that the SQ6 tended to overexpose. There is a “darken” mode that reduces exposure by about a stop. I got somewhat better results when I used it. There’s also a “lighten” mode that probably increases exposure by about a stop. I wished the camera had a lighten/darken knob like my Polaroids, for greater control. On most of my outside photos, I would have liked to reduce exposure even further.

Methodist church

At medium distances, say 5 to 10 feet, the SQ6 delivers pretty good sharpness. That makes sense, given this camera’s mission of snapshots of family and friends.

Sidewalk Closed

I wasn’t always impressed with the color I got from this film. This truck is jade green in real life. Distant trees all took on a blue glow on this overcast day. Also, this lens is wide, like 28mm on a 35mm SLR. I’m sure that makes sense so you can frame your whole crew without having to back up. But it’s too wide for the kind of walking-around photography I usually do. I moved to within a few feet of this truck to make this photograph.

Green truck

Parallax error is wicked when shooting close. I centered this bunch of fake flowers in the viewfinder, but as you can see they showed up right of center. Why the viewfinder is all the way over to the far side of the camera is beyond me. At least sharpness is good, and the suncatcher in the background is blurred in a pleasing way.

On the table

I tried the camera’s close-focusing mode a few times and ended up with soft images. As usual, I didn’t read the manual before I did anything. When I finally did I learned that everything from about 10 to about 20 inches is in focus, just like in selfie mode. This sign was farther away than that.

No Outlet

I got better color, sharpness, and detail from these two packs of Instax film than I’ve ever gotten with any film in my SX-70. But I still wish for more. I wish my outdoors shots weren’t so washed out, even on “darken” mode, and I wish colors were more accurate. But this camera and film show promise, and I’ll buy more film and keep going. There’s even a Square monochrome film and I’m eager to try it as well.

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