In a world full of digital cameras and DSLRs, instant cameras bring in an element of fun (albeit slightly retro) to photography. Clicking the shutter button, hearing the buzz and seeing the film pop out of the camera is definitely a little more thrilling than just checking images on a digital screen.
One of the most popular brands in the instant camera league is Fujifilm’s Instax range which has now almost become synonymous with instant cameras. And one of their most high profile sub Rs. 10,000 instant cameras is the Instax SQ6. The instant analogue camera is the most affordable square film format instant camera from the company, giving you shots that are of a slightly bigger size than you would get on entry level cameras.
But is the instant click and result of the SQ6 worth your time and money? Well, we used the Instax Sq 6 for a while and this is our take away.
Looks like an Instagram logo
The minute you look at the Instax SQ6, it will remind you of the old Instagram logo with a square camera and big circular lens bang on the front. Much like most instant cameras, the Instax SQ6 is nothing like the modern day cameras many of us are used to.
The square shaped camera is bulky yet light (slightly under 400 grammes), which is not a very traditional combination for cameras. This is thanks to the plastic build of the device. The square shape with slightly rounded off sides makes it easier to hold and carry, plus it comes with a neck strap, so you do not have to worry about accidental drops. Of course, this being an analogue camera, you would need a film to use it.
This is available in the form of cartridges, which can be easily inserted into the back of the camera. You just have to align the yellow mark on the camera with the yellow mark on the film and you are good to go. Just remember not to open the back of the camera once you have inserted the cartridge.
The camera does not come with a case. As it is pretty bulky and not at all pocketable, carrying it becomes a task. So, you would either have to carry it using the band which comes in the box, and let it dangle around or would have to carry a separate bag for it.
Multiple modes and flash gels
While instant cameras can be a little limiting, Instax made sure the SQ6 is reasonably versatile. The lens is nothing to rave about but is retractable and not fixed, which means that you do get some variety.
The company has also added a number of modes to make the camera more functional. These include automatic, macro, selfie, double exposure and landscape. You can switch between modes with a small mode button present on the back of the camera.
A small yellow LED light will indicate the mode that you have selected to take a shot. The camera also has a button for flash and for a ten second timer to help you take selfies — there is a tiny mirror next to the lens in front to let you snap selfies.
Bundled with all those modes are three different coloured flash filters that can be easily slotted over the white flash. These flash gels are different coloured flash covers which when used will give you a tinted result at the end, adding to those retro feels.
No charging blues
How many times have you taken a device out of the bag and found it to be out of charge? Or have had to go through the sheer hassle of putting everything on charge before you use them.
Well, the Instax SQ6, saves its users from the blues that batteries often bring along. The device runs on two CR2 batteries that can last up to 300 shots which is about 30 film packs. So, you can just put those batteries in and forget about it.
Utterly easy to use
One of the best things about the Instax SQ6 is how easy it is to use. The camera when switched on, gets set on automatic mode which works perfectly for most scenarios.
If automatic is not what you are looking for, then you first need to select your mode, look through the tiny viewfinder and click on the shutter button present on the front of the camera and voila! That is it.
There is no complicated user interface and no settings to get jumbled in. From putting batteries in the device to putting film to actually taking pictures, it is all just very simple.
An odd viewfinder and shutter combo
It may be a child’s play to use the Instax SQ6, but getting used to the device is no joke. Most cameras traditionally have the viewfinder on the left and the shutter button the right which makes using the camera comfortable but the first thing you will notice while trying to take a picture with the Instax SQ6 is the weird placement of both, the viewfinder and the shutter button.
The company has placed the viewfinder on the right and the shutter button is also present on the right. That’s not all. The shutter button is often placed at the top of the camera but here it is placed on the front. Taking pictures just felt very uncomfortable and unless we wanted a flipped shot, we had no choice but to use our left hand to take selfies!
Instant result with a slightly retro feel
What can be the best thing about any instant camera? Well, the fact that you get printed results instantly (duh!). Yes, in a digital camera you can review the picture after clicking it, but does it seem as amazing as getting a tangible printed result you get in hand with the Instax SQ6?
We do not think so — we in particular like how a relatively blank sheet pops out of the camera and then we actually see a picture form on it as we gently shake it in the air (it takes about 90 seconds). The results are nothing like what you get from a digital camera, though. While we obviously are not getting into the quality battle, the instant camera mostly delivers good colours but in a faded retro kind of way.
It is not going to be super detailed, super accurate terms of colours and can lose a bit of focus sometimes. The modes are handy but we would suggest sticking with auto for best results And notwithstanding the presence of the flash, we would not recommend using this in low light conditions or indoors. It can be inconsistent, but those dainty, retro results will definitely charm the Instagram generation. The images measure 2.4 x 2.4 inches and have a negative attached on the back, and in terms of quality are better — significantly so — than the ones we got on Instax’s Mini range.
Note: make sure your photographs are dried out well before you keep them inside, so that they don’t stick to each other. Also store them away from sunlight and humidity to preserve the colours.
Missing a preview and those cartridge costs hurt
Taking pictures with the Instax SQ6 may be fun but one of the biggest problems with the device is the fact that you cannot really pick and choose which image you want to print. Whatever you click, the camera automatically prints — with no preview whatsoever.
Yes, there is the element of surprise, but the risks of getting a poor shot are high, as this is not exactly a camera built for high quality shooting. No, we did not expect high-end quality from the device as it is an instant camera, but it often lost focus and even delivered a couple of blank shots.
And every shot which was out of focus, or was generally a bad picture or the blank ones, is going to cost you. This is because the Instax SQ6 on its own may not be that expensive but the cartridge of the device can burn a hole in you pocket. A pack of ten films will cost you about Rs. 700. Every misfire costs about Rs 70. Ouch, that will hurt!
Grab one? Well…
Launched at Rs. 9,999, the Instax SQ6 is now available for Rs. 7,490 (at the time of writing), which makes it a sweet deal for anyone looking for an instant camera with some shooting options and with a relatively large output. At least the pictures from it did not have us squinting at them unlike the tiny ones from other, lower priced instant cameras.
If you can put up with its inconsistency and do not mind shelling out the bucks for film cartridges, we would say the Instax SQ6 is a terrific option for instant photography fans. In terms of photo quality, it is a clear notch above the Instax Mini 8 and 9, which are more affordable. Which is why we could call it perhaps the best option for anyone wanting to really try out instant photography. Mind you, if you can spend a little extra, go for the Instax SQ10, which lets you preview images, but is available for approximately Rs 13,000.