Remember the old Instagram logo? The square-shaped camera icon with a big lens right in front? Imagine if a company created a gadget out of it? It is given that this gadget would have to be a camera but in this day and age when all cameras want to be “DSLR-like”, what company would even want to create such an old-school looking device? Well, if you are longing for a simple, retro looking camera that just takes images and processes them in minutes (an instant camera in short), then Fujifilm might have just the right camera in store for you – we are talking of the Instax SQ6 instant camera, which is the brand’s most affordable square format analog instant camera in the Indian market.
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Them old school Instagram feels
As mentioned earlier, it seems like Fujifilm has taken some inspiration from the old Instagram logo while designing the Instax SQ6. The square-shaped instant camera with curved edges has a plastic build but does not feel cheap or fragile. It looks very stylish and fun and carrying it around will definitely get you some attention. The front of the device is heavily dominated by the lens which is accompanied by the flash on the left and the viewfinder and the shutter button on the right. The top of the camera holds the power button and the photo ejection slot.
Moving on to the back, we find the viewfinder and right next to it are the seven modes that the camera offers. On the left-hand side, the camera houses three buttons vertically, one for the timer, one for changing modes and the last one for killing the flash. The back also holds the compartment for the cartridge. There a toggle right below the modes line, which when pushed down opens the compartment. There is a small cartridge indicator on the bottom right which tells how many shots are left in the camera. The right side carries space for the battery. The device runs on two CR2 batteries that can be simply inserted in the camera to get it going. All of which is pretty much par for the course. There is one rather odd design element to the Instax SQ6. Most cameras that we have handled in the past have the viewfinder on the left or center and the shutter button on the top right but that is not the case with the SQ6. The camera carries, both the viewfinder and the shutter on the right, making it a little uncomfortable to use.
The device measures 118.7 x 128.1 x 58.1mm and weighs 393 grams, which is on the lighter side when you consider its size. It is not an instant camera that you can put in your pocket and carry around, but it can easily fit in a small bag. There is no case for the camera in the box but it comes with a strap, which we would advise attaching, as it will not only help you carry it around but will save it from accidental drops, although we would advise you to keep it from bumping into objects – it is plastic after all.
All in all, the Instax SQ6 will turn heads and looks very retro.
Point, shoot, print….simple and versatile
Unlike digital cameras that can take a bit of learning, understanding and getting used to, the Instax SQ6, much like most instant cameras is pretty uncomplicated and simple in that regard.
In order to take a picture with the Instax SQ6, you will have to add a film cartridge into the camera (this is what gives you that instant picture, if you are wondering) and doing so is very easy as well – just press down that toggle on the back, take you cartridge out of the packet, align the yellow mark on the cartridge with the yellow mark on the camera, shut the back, and you are good to go.
Because it is a square format instant camera, make sure you buy the right kind of film for it. The images measure 2.4 x 2.4 inches and have a negative attached on the back, which can be used for developing further copies if you like that sort of thing. With the film added to the camera, you have to press the shutter, to get it going – your first shot is going to be a blank ( a plain black card will pop out of the camera, which is the cover of the cartridge). After that when you will hit the shutter, you will get your images popping up, in best instant camera tradition. And this is one of the best parts of using the camera – you get a square shape of paper that looks blank. But then as you shake in the air, you will see an image forming in it, and in about two minutes, you will have a full-fledged photograph in your hand. There is something magical about it all.
While instant cameras are known to be simple, they can be pretty limiting, too. Fortunately, that is not the case with the Instax SQ6. It comes with seven different modes that include, Automatic, Selfie, Landscape and Macro. When switched the camera is preset on Automatic mode but you can change that with the help of the Mode button present on the back of the device. A small yellowed LED light indicator will tell which mode has been selected. It comes with Timer and No Flash button as well. The Timer comes in handy while taking selfies (there is a small selfie mirror next to the lens in front of the camera), but the flash is a bit of a mixed bag as it generally fires in all situations, unless you turn it off. The company has also bundled three different colored flash covers that will add different tints to your images.
The Instax SQ6 sports a fixed 66mm f/1.27 lens which extends out when you turn the camera on. It can adjust to three different fixed focus ranges, 30 cm to 50 cm, 50 cm to 2 m and 2 m to infinity, depending on which mode you have selected. In terms of performance, the Instax SQ6 will delight all those who love retro photography – the results out of the SQ6 will often look like someone has applied an Instagram filter but to real life, with a slight tinge of blue or yellow at times. A word of caution here – the results are not going to be anywhere as clear, detailed or brightly colored as you would get out of a DSLR, a point and shoot, even a smartphone but what the Instax SQ6 delivers is completely different from what most digital cameras produce, and those slightly blurred retro shots have their own charm. In terms of general quality, we found more detail and better colors than we got on the more budget-friendly variants of the Instax Mini range. The square-shaped output is also relatively larger and one does not have to squint to see what’s in the shots, making them perfect for pinning on boards! The auto mode on the camera is very consistent and can be used for different situations but we would advise you to select modes and then take images, whenever in decent light conditions, because they generally add a lot of clarity and a pop of color to the results as opposed to the slightly plain results that you might get in auto mode. The positioning of the shutter button right below the viewfinder can make gripping the camera while taking a shot a real challenge at times, though – we sometimes switched to the timer mode simply to dodge this, and not just for selfies.
Unlike its fancier, digital brother, the SQ10, the SQ6 does not come with a preview option which means that whatever you click will be printed – there is no way of knowing what you are going to get once you have taken the shot. This is a negative (pun intended) of the Instax SQ6, as sometimes the images can be out of focus or simply not good enough, but will get printed anyway, wasting the shot. This waste of film can be pretty hurtful on the pocket because a pack of cartridge with ten shots can cost up to Rs 700. This means each shot wasted is about Rs 70 down the drain.
One of the biggest and the most underrated USPs of the Instax SQ6 is the battery life of the camera. A couple of CR2 batteries can last up to 300 shots, which is quite a lot for anyone looking for such snaps. And of course, you do not have to worry about plugging the camera into a wall and charging is a bit of relief. One less thing to charge, eh?
Instantly different, instantly special
We absolutely love the looks and retro, Instagram-y results of the Instax SQ6 and the photo popping out is a theatrical addition that we think is a definite bonus. The camera will turn heads. The photo drying in the air will turn heads. And well, the results will turn heads too, because they are so different. No, you are not going to get the sort of wealth of detail and color that you would get from most phone and digital cameras, but there is something about having a picture to look at on good old paper, rather on a phone or computer screen, isn’t there? Yes, it is nothing like any other digital camera that you may have used to but it is the fact that it is different that makes it really special. True, having no preview is a negative and the cartridges can be a bit of cost to bear but at about Rs 7,500, the Instax SQ6 is hands down one of the best analog, square format instant camera that in the market today. Its multiple modes and larger square-shaped output make it a deal worth considering, if not right out buying, for anyone trying even slightly serious Instant photography. And of course, it does have that “different” feel to it. In 1986, Huey Lewis sang that it was “Hip to be square.”
One wonders if he already knew about the SQ6.