Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1 Review
The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1 uses the Instax Square Instant Film format. Square print sizes measure 62x62mm (or 86x72mm including the border) and take about 90 seconds to develop once the paper is ejected after a picture is taken.
If we had to choose between the Instax Mini print size that's more commonly used or the Instax Square size (62x62mm), we'd always go for the latter.
In the hand, mounted to a wall, stuck in an album, the larger square format gives subjects that extra room to breathe.
Exposure control is fully automatic and measured through the AE Light and Flash Light sensors onthe front of the camera - so don't cover them up when you are shooting or else the shot won't come out properly!
We really appreciated not having to fiddle between the exposure modes like in some instant camera - auto exposure means one less thing to think about. There really shouldn't be much at all to think about with an Instant camera.
The auto exposure control method in the Instax Square SQ1 is through a fixed f/12.6 aperture lens and a variable shutter speed range.
In the Instax Square SQ1, there is a variable shutter speed range of 1.6 sec to 1/450 sec, with a slow synchro for low light and a built-in flash that has an effective 0.3m to 2.2m range.
The paper itself has a sensitivity of ISO 800, which at a basic level is a multi-purpose paper. The sweet spot for this paper and shutter speed range combination is outdoor overcast conditions or in the shade.
In bright light, the minimum 1/450 sec, fixed f/12.6 aperture and ISO 800 combination is still too fast for exposures not to blow out in the highlights. For example, sunlit bright white clouds lack detail. Extending the fast end of the shutter speed range to 1/800 sec would for the best part solve this problem.
One other factor regarding blown out bright highlights is 'metering'. If there is a range of shadows and highlights in a scene, the AE light sensor seems to favour the shadows. In general, you'll want to capture scenes that feature a similar brightness level all throughout.
On the opposite end of the spectrum in low contrast light, the 1.6 sec maximum shutter speed with slow synchro flash is a big improvement on most instant cameras.
With slow synchro in the Instax SQ1, more detail is revealed in those darker areas outside of the flash range.
Prints from the Instax Square SQ1 are reasonably pleasing, with a decent amount of warmth and depth and with a good impression of detail at this small size.
Images from the SQ1 are best in good light, but the automatic onboard flash does its best to illuminate darker shots. These work fairly well for portraits and party shots if the subject is fairly close.
An always-on flash can be limiting. If you have more than one subject at various distances within the 0.3 to 2.7m flash range, the closest one will likely be too bright. That would be true of any flash, but here you don't have a choice to turn the flash off.
The Instax Square SQ1's minimum focus distance is 0.3m, which makes taking selfies easier.
While images are never going to be critically sharp, at least pictures using the selfie mode are more likely to be in focus. Just make sure you stretch your arms as far as they can go!
Technically, the selfie mode works well for close up shots because it narrows the focus range to 0.3m to 0.5m, ensuring that that main subject is sharp rather than the background.