Fujifilm has delivered its promised square-format film camera, but the Instax Square SQ10’s surprising feature isn’t about the Instagram-like (or old-school Polaroid, rather) 1:1 aspect ratio. But unlike previous Instax analog cameras, the SQ10 is the first in a new hybrid system that uses both a digital image sensor and processor along with the existing Instax instant film system, Fujifilm says.
Instax instant film cameras are popular sellers for Fujifilm, making Fujifilm the leading brand in the instant photography market for the past several years. While Fujifilm released an $800 2.3-megapixel digital camera with a built-in printer back in the late 1990s, the SQ10 is a new type of digital-analog hybrid. After a photo is taken, the camera can save 1,920 x 1,920-pixel digital JPEGs to internal memory (up to 50 images) or a MicroSD card, or print instantly to the new Instax Square film. Photos can be transferred to a computer over Micro USB, which doubles as the charging port (the battery has enough charge for 160 photos).
Fujifilm didn’t detail exactly how the system works, but we imagine is something like the company’s Instax SP-2 instant film printer, which makes prints from a smartphone app. Except here, the printer is built into a digital camera. It’s similar in concept to Polaroid’s Snap Touch, which use Zink thermal printers. Unlike analog Instax cameras, however, you can now properly frame and preview a photo before you commit to print, which could save money in the long run.
But the SQ10 isn’t just about the convenience of having both a film and digital camera in one. Fujifilm says the hybrid system brings a number of new capabilities to the Instax line. Autofocus is included as well as facial recognition and automatic exposure control, both traditionally features of digital, not instant film. The SQ10 can also take brighter photos in low light and shoots macro as close as four inches from the front of the lens.
A three-inch LCD screen on the back allows users to preview digital shots and add creative effects, including ten different filters and vignetting effects, as well as controlling brightness. The camera also includes double exposure mode for overlaying two images on one and bulb mode for creating long exposures.
The camera’s exterior square-shaped design uses two shutter buttons that also double as function controls to switch the shooting mode. The rounded form-factor allows for easier grip, Fujifilm says, while a lens ring crafted from shaved metal adds style to the body.
While the SQ10 could quite possibly be Fujifilm’s best Instax yet, the digital specs aren’t likely to make many ditch their current digital compact. The CMOS sensor is a very small 1/4 inch and photos measure 1,920 pixels on each side. The lens, however, is a bright f/2.4, though that’s fixed at a 28.5mm equivalent. With the Instax line, it isn’t so much about taking high-resolution photos, but the creativity and instant gratification that people, young and old, find enjoyable.
The physical size of the new Instax film covers a 62 x 62 mm area (approximately 2.4 x 2.4 inches), while the entire film strip is 86 x 72mm (3.4 x 2.8 inches). Fujifilm says the new size continues the Instax tradition of excellent color reproduction based on years of film manufacturing and research. The new Instax Square film format will be sold in packs of 10 sheets for $17.
As for the camera, the Instax Square SQ10 will be available beginning in May in the U.S. and Canada, for $280 and $370 (CAD), respectively.