The Square SQ10 combines the analog charm of instant film with the safety and flexibility of a digital camera.
The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10 takes the fun, nostalgic shooting experience of an instant film camera, combines it with the safety of shooting digital and adds the appeal of a new square print format that's familiar to both Polaroid and Instagram users.
Fujifilm's other Instax cameras are fully analog, which means every time you press the shutter release you get a film print. While this can lead to some great one-of-a-kind shots, you won't always get perfection and the costs of those goof prints adds up. Plus, since you get just the one print, it means to share a picture online you'll have to take a digital picture of it or scan it first.
The Square doesn't shoot straight to instant film, though, but instead uses a very small digital image sensor that captures 1,920x1,920-pixel images (about 3.6 megapixels). With a flip of a switch, you can choose to have every picture you take printed -- like an analog instant film camera -- or you can capture a shot and decide if you want a print after the fact. And, since all shots are stored straight to internal memory (it'll hold up to 50 photos) or an optional microSD card, you have a digital copy to share with friends and family (though Fujifilm doesn't make this easy to do without a computer).
As a digital camera, its image quality doesn't come close to your average point-and-shoot or your phone. That is difficult to accept considering its price: $280, £249 and AU$399 (though it sells for less). It is, however, capable of doing things Fujifilm's other Instax cameras can't like take close-ups as close as 4 inches (10 cm), crop in on your subject and shoot with 10 different filters, vignette control and brightness adjustment.
The Square also trades in an optical viewfinder for a 3-inch LCD for framing and editing pictures before you print. And instead of Fujifilm's 2x3-inch film, the SQ10 shoots new square Instax film that measures 86 mm by 72 mm (3.4 by 2.8 inches) with the actual picture portion measuring 62 mm square (2.4 inches).
That's not a big print size, but the square format lets you easily fit more in. Unfortunately, it also costs more: $17 per pack of 10 photos (£9 in the UK and AU$35 in Australia). Like the camera, you can find the film for less at about $14 a pack. That's still not cheap, but considering you can pick and choose what you print, it's better than a pure analog camera like the rest of the Instax line or Polaroid Originals' OneStep 2.
For all the convenience that digital brings to the Square, Fujifilm's analog instant film cameras are easier to use mainly because they don't do too much. The Square's digital insides let you do more both before and after you shoot, but the controls and the menus aren't entirely intuitive.
For example, Fujifilm used terms typically for exposure modes -- Auto and Manual -- to identify whether you print every shot or choose which shots to print. If you choose to shoot in manual, every time you take a picture it just sits there on your screen until you dismiss it, which slows you down and could potentially cost you some missed shots. The camera does have Standard, Bulb and Double Exposure shooting modes, but they're buried in a menu unless you reprogram one of its two shutter releases to change modes.
Along with individual buttons for adding a vignette and/or filter, adjusting exposure, playing back stored images and printing, there's a dial control that acts as a directional button as well. Sometimes this directional pad and dial can be used interchangeably, but other times it can't, which leads to some frustration when changing settings or navigating menus.
Perhaps one of the bigger letdowns with this camera is the lack of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi to transfer images off the camera and onto a phone or tablet. To get images off you either have to pop out your microSD card or connect the camera directly to a computer, so you can drag the images off. And, if you want to use the Square to print photos from other cameras, you have to drag images onto your card after you rename them to a four-letter, four-number format such as ABCD1234.jpg.
Unless you're dedicated to the art of analog instant photography (and have a fat wallet for buying film), the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10 is a fine choice for getting the analog charm of instant film with the safety and flexibility of a digital camera. For the price, though, it would be nice if it did a bit more or were a better standalone digital camera. Its menus and controls could also use some refinement.