Though instant photography has seen a resurgence in popularity lately, it’s been hard to recapture the feeling of a true square Polaroid image. Polaroid Originals (neé Impossible Project) makes film that’s compatible with older Polaroid cameras, and sells brand-new cameras under the brand)—but the original chemical recipe that gave photos their pop was lost to the ages. I think it shows in the flawed-but-characterful square shots you’ll get from that film.
With the advent of Fujifilm’s Instax Square film, you get something resembling a shrunken Polaroid without the unrefined Polaroid Originals formulation. Unfortunately, this option was until recently hitched to a weird, overpriced digital/analog hybrid camera. Fujifilm was beaten to the punch by Lomography, whose fun and funky Lomo’Instant Automat Square was the first analog Instax Square-compatible camera on the market.
Only now do we get to see Fuji’s own analog take on a square-film camera: Enter the Instax Square SQ6. It’s not an unattractive camera, and its squircle-shaped body certainly sells you on its raison d’etre. That is, to take tiny, square instant pictures of yourself, your friends, and maybe even your brunch.
A Virtuous Squircle
For around $130, you get the SQ6, three colored flash filters, a strap, and two CR2 batteries. Unlike the similarly-priced Instax Mini 90, Fujifilm has decided to go with alkalines instead. You won’t find a spare rechargeable battery while on vacation, but the convenience of being able to top-up with a USB charger is something I expected and didn’t get from this Fuji. And that’s not the only cut corner on this product. While the Mini 90 has an LCD screen that shows you the number of shots, flash status, and modes, the SQ6 relies instead on a mechanical shot counter and lights to tell you what settings you’re rocking.
Otherwise, it’s a straightforward Fujifilm camera. It has a few modes of note: a macro function to let you focus on closer objects, a selfie mode, a double exposure mode, and even a simple exposure compensation feature to let you lighten or darken the image. These are what I expected, although the Lomo’Instant Square also came with a multiple-exposure mode and a bulb setting, both of which can be handy if you plan on getting crazy with your shots.
Like many other instant cameras, I found that there’s a learning curve around using the viewfinder. It’s easier to use than the one on the Polaroid Originals OneStep 2 (that forced me to jam my face way into the camera’s backside), but the SQ6 still needs you to compensate for the difference between what you see and what’ll turn out in the developed shot.
Simple but Spendy
All told, there’s something virtuous about the way that Fujifilm has put this camera together. It’s approachable and easy to use. Then again, at this price, it isn’t the cheap, carefree experience one can expect from an Instax Mini. The camera and the film both cost quite a bit more at the entry-level, and if I’m totally honest, the Square film is really more like a wider version of Mini. It’s nowhere near the size of a true Polaroid print and leagues away from the size of Fujifilm’s own Instax Wide pictures.
TL;DR: Film is almost twice the price per picture compared to Instax Mini, cameras are more expensive, and all for shots that are only marginally larger.
And it’s not like you don’t have another option. For my money, the Lomo’instant Square is the best camera for Instax Square film. Sure, it’s not as simple as the SQ6, but it has character and features to spare, especially if you pick it up with the optional accessory kit. Plus, if your film budget suddenly shrinks, Lomo makes an adapter that’ll let you shoot Instax Mini, so you can fall back on cheaper, easier-to-find packs of film.
I get it—square instant film just looks right. Even with the smaller footprint of Instax Square, the ratio is lovely to behold. And for a beginner, the SQ6 represents a good-enough entry point at a price that’s not outlandish. It’s not my fave, but it gets the job done, despite being caught between a cheaper, ubiquitous pick (most Instax Mini cams are way cheaper, consumables included) and a more advanced, creatively-empowering one. I prefer the latter, but for the rest of the instant-curious out there: buy the Fujifilm SQ6.