Lomo'Instant Square Review
Lomo introduced the Instant Square as the first analogue camera on the market to use the Fuji Instax Square format film.
It launched via another successful Lomography Kickstarter campaign, and as well as being compatible with the square format film, you can use Instax Mini film by changing the camera's back - making it the first multi-format instant camera in the world.
Other features of the camera include a 95mm f/10 lens, which is equivalent to 45mm in 35mm terms. The camera is fully automatic, but there are a couple of functions which you can control as a user, including a multiple exposure, self-timer and long-exposure (Bulb) mode.
The Lomo'Instant Square is available to buy in a number of different colour ways and packages - we have been using the Pigalle combo, which features a maroon coloured coating, and includes both the square back and the mini back, as well as a range of other accessories included in the box.
The Lomo'Instant Square costs £199.
Ease of Use
p>Using a Lomo instant camera in combination with Instax film is probably about as simple as it gets when it comes to analogue photography.
The Lomo'Instant Squarecamera accepts two Lithium CR2 batteries. If you’re not familiar with this type of battery, it’s basically like a short and stubby AA battery. It’s not quite as common as an AA battery, but you should be able to find them in hardware stores and the like - you can always order online if you’re struggling to find any. The batteries slot into the compartment at the bottom of the camera which is hidden behind a door.
The next thing you’ll want to do is insert the film. As standard, the Instant Square is fitted with the square back, which works with Instax Square film. The film door can be swapped if you’d prefer to use Instax Mini film. A small window in the film door allows you to see whether you’ve already got a pack of film loaded into the camera - if you have it’s important not to remove the back until you’ve used up all the film. That means that while the camera is “multi-format”, you can’t swap between the different formats for every shot.
|Front of the Lomo'Instant Square|
Simply release the Lomo'Instant Squarecamera’s back door and you can insert the correct film. This is a very easy process which just involves lining up two yellow marks, one on the camera itself and one on the film pack. Simply shut the door and you’re done. If you want to swap to the Mini back, it’s a very easy process - if a little fiddly. Unlock the back, and you’ll see a small black pin holding the bottom of the door in place - slide this out and remove the door from the camera entirely. You’ll find the mini back also has the same pin on it, so just swap them out, and push the pin into the relevant hole and you’re done.
Also found on the film back is a “real-image viewfinder”. This is, in essence, simply a hole in the camera to allow you to roughly compose your shots, but it does include some guidelines to show you the difference between the square format film and the mini format.
In its “closed” form, the Instax Square is quite bulky, but with a flat type design it’s not too difficult to fit in a bag - you’ll never get it in a pocket, but remember it has to house the film inside. The camera uses a bellows-type design, which means that when you want to use it, you need to expand the front by simply pulling it out and letting it fall into the correct place. When you want to close it again, push down on the metal arm which is holding the bellows open to close it again. When the bellows are closed, an inbuilt lens cap will slide over the lens to protect it when not in use - this will open automatically when the bellows are opened.
|Rear of the Lomo'Instant Square|
Once the bellows are opened, you’re almost ready to shoot. There are three different focusing options - it’s important to remember to check this before taking your shot as it can have quite an impact. A slider can be used between the three options, with the default option being the 1-2.5metre option. You can also choose a 0.8 metre option, and an infinity option. You should choose the most appropriate one for your subject - with landscapes for example being set on infinity, while closer shots set on the 0.8 metre setting. If that isn’t close enough for you, there is also a “portrait lens” which allows you to get as close as 0.5 metres which is included in this combo box.
On the back of the Lomo'Instant Squarecamera there’s a few different shooting options. You can leave these buttons completely alone if you like, with default options being selected. There’s a flash on/off button (which is on by default), the multiple exposure button, the option to add or remove exposure compensation, the shooting mode (Mode A - automatic is the default selection, a Mode B - bulb - is also available) and you can switch on the self-timer.
After you’ve selected the relevant focusing option and your shooting modes, you’re ready to take your shot. Line it up in the viewfinder, and press relatively firmly down on the shutter release button, which is found on the front of the camera. This takes the shape of a Lomo logo and is a little on the discreet side - it’s easy to find with your forefinger though when holding the camera in a standard orientation.
|Top of the Lomo'Instant Square|
Creating multiple exposures is a fun element of cameras like this. To do it, you press the MX button on the back of the camera, you can then take as many exposures as you like before pressing it again when you’re finished to eject the finished result. It tends to be most effective when shooting two or three exposures, as any more than that tends to get a little messy. A “Splitzer” is also included in the box. This allows you to combine different shots in the same frame by using the multiple exposure mode. The Splitzer blocks off certain parts of the frame, allowing you to make two separate exposures on the same frame. For example, you could block off the left half and take a shot, then block off the right half and take another shot - leaving you with two completely different shots on the same piece of film.
The Bulb mode can be used for creating long exposures - it’s best to use the camera on a tripod when attempting this. In Bulb mode, you press the shutter release down for as long as you want the shutter to remain open. The 10 second timer function is useful for selfies and group shots - again, if you’re creating a group shot, it’s best to use a tripod, or find another stable surface on which to rest the camera. Bearing in mind the 45mm equivalent focal length, you’ll need to stand quite far back to get a good amount of people in a group shot.
In the bottom of the Lomo'Instant Square camera, you’ll see there’s a remote control which can be removed to use for shots from a distance. It accepts a coin-type battery (DL2032). If you don’t want to use the remote control, you can just leave this attached to the camera base and forget about it, but it’s useful to have for group shots and the like. The remote control has two buttons, one which will just take a shot, and one which will set off the 10 second self-timer.
|Front of the Lomo'Instant Square|
For those who like to take selfies, there’s a “selfie mirror” on the front of the camera. This is basically a small square of reflective material which allows you to roughly line up your selfie shots. Try to get your face as central as possible in the middle and it should come out on the film - again, with a 45mm equivalent focal length, you’ll need to try and hold the camera back reasonably far.
The flash is switched on by default, but you may wish to switch it off in very bright conditions. The flash itself is hidden behind a small translucent window on the front of the camera. In the Pigalle combo, you get a few different coloured “flash gels”, which are thin strips of plastic in different colours - you can very easily place these in front of the flash via the small slot at the top of the camera.
Other things which are included in the Pigalle combo box include photo clips, photo stands, glue dots and magnet stickers which you can use to display your Instax film shots. There is also a set of shooting tips cards to help you get to grips with how the camera works.
As is very often the case with Lomo products, the best way to describe the results from the Lomo'Instant Square is “mixed”. In other words, with a camera like this, you can’t, and shouldn’t, expect to get perfect results with every shot - which some people will argue is all part of the Lomo charm.
It will probably take a bit of time to get used to the idiosyncracies of the Instant Square, but spend some time learning how to work with the camera’s quirks, and the results can actually be quite charming.
First of all, it’s best if you avoid pointing the camera towards very bright light. It’s easy to overexpose your shot and in very bright and sunny conditions, this can lead to a purely white frame. If you want to use it in sunny conditions, it’s best to point it in the complete opposite direction to the sun. On the other hand, if it’s too dark, that can also be problematic, as details can easily be lost in the shadow areas of your image.
On the whole colours are well reproduced, with a good level of vibrancy. Detail isn’t what could be described as “super fine”, but they are more than adequate for the size of the print which is produced. You can have fun with the splitzer, creating two (or more) frames within one shot, as well as the different coloured flash gels and the general multiple exposure mode.
Focusing can be a little tricky with the Lomo'Instant Square, but again, once you’ve gotten used to checking the correct focus setting for every shot, you get to know a little better what the lens is capable of. Don’t expect too much from your selfies though - even with the close-up lens attached, the results are generally a little less than sharp.
Occasionally, strange artefacts appear on the Instax film - I’m not entirely sure if this as a result of bending the film slightly, but again, this could be considered a “quirk” which some people like to see.
This is a selection of sample images from the Lomo'Instant Square camera, which were all taken using the This is a selection of scanned sample images from the Lomo'Instant Square camera. setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Lomo cameras are fun to experiment with, and tend to draw some admiring, or at least curious glances. During my time with the Instant Square I was asked about it while out and about - it’s certainly a bit more interesting than taking photos with your phone.
The conclusion we often come to with Lomo products is that it’s good “if you like that sort of thing”, and that’s no different here. While this is a good performer of a camera, with the lens producing decent results, and the colours and focusing coming out well - once you know how to get the best from the camera - you pay quite a high price for the novelty of having Instant shots.
This camera has also been billed as being special for being the first “multi format” instant camera. While it’s true that you can switch between backs, it’s a little fiddly to do it, and can only be done once you’re finished with a pack of film - still it means you don’t need to have two instant cameras if you like both of the film sizes.
At the time of writing, Instax Square film costs around £8.99 a pack. That makes it roughly 90p per print - given that you’ll likely find yourself with a few duds, be prepared to invest quite a bit of time and money in getting to know this camera. Still, it’s nice to see an analogue camera which uses the Instax square format, rather than just the digital cameras which have been available up until now.
It’s easy to see why Lomo aficionados backed the successful Kickstarter for the Instant Square, and it’s great to see it made into production. Yes, it’s a high price, but if you’re a fan of the quirky, and have the resources to invest in the camera, then you’re probably going to enjoy using it.
As always with Lomo, the unpredictability of it is part of the charm - don’t expect perfection every time and you should be more than happy. The price of this camera is quite expensive, but as it is so easy to use, some people may feel this is value for money - it may also come down in price as it spends longer on the market.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||3.5|
Listed below are some of the rivals of the Lomo'Instant Square.
The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10 is a new hybrid instant camera that blends the digital and analog together, capturing 3.7 megapixel images and printing out 62mm square prints, all from the same device. Does it offer the best of both worlds? Read our Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10 review to find out...
The brand new Impossible I-1 is the first new camera system in over twenty years for the original Polaroid photo format. Read our Impossible I-1 review now to find out what it offers...
The brand new Leica Sofort is the German manufacturer's first ever instant film camera. Entering a market dominated by Fujifilm, the Sofort (German for "instant") can take both colour and black & white pictures, and features a small mirror for easier selfies. Read the World's first Leica Sofort review now to find out what it offers...
Born out of a successful Kickstarter campaign, the Lomo Instant is the most advanced instant camera on the planet. Using the widely available Fujifilm Instax Mini film, the Lomo Instant offers advanced features like manual aperture control, a built-in flash, and a bulb mode for long exposures. Read our Lomo Instant review now...
The new Lomo Instant Wide uses Fuji Instax Wide film, which is twice as wide as Instax Mini film. The Lomo Instant Wide offers advanced features like three different shooting modes,a fully programmatic shutter, a built-in flash, and unlimited multiple exposures. Read our Lomo Instant Wide review now...
As its name suggests, the new Lomo'Instant Automat Glass is a fully automatic instant camera with a glass lens. Read our Lomo'Instant Automat Glass review now to find out it delivers the best image quality from an instant film camera ...
The new Lomo'Instant Automat is a fully automatic instant camera that promises to take perfectly lit mini shots, anytime. Does it succeed? Find out by reading our Lomo'Instant Automat review now...
The Polaroid Snap is a 10-megapixel instant digital camera which prints out photos onto 2"x3" ZINK paper. A digital copy is also saved onto a microSD card, and you can shoot new images even while the Polaroid Snap is printing. Read our Polaroid Snap review to find out it's fun or a flop...
Reviews of the Lomo'Instant Square from around the web.
Enter the Lomography Lomo'Instant Square. It's the first analog camera to shoot square Instax film. Like the SX-70, this camera is compact, and folds up when not in use. So far, so good…
Read the full review »
When Fujifilm came out with their own Instax Square camera, I found it to be a serious letdown; but now we’ve got the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square. This camera is far different; for starters, it’s actually analog. This will appease so many photographers who wanted something that wasn’t a digital photo being taken and then printed out onto a piece of film.
Read the full review »
No cameramaker embraces that style of imaging more than Lomography, which strives to develop analog tools and imperfect lenses. Its first square format instant camera, the Lomo'Instant Square ($199), is a fine example of this, and a lot of fun to use. It's got a sharp lens, a folding design, and gives you the nostalgic, square instant format at a much more affordable cost per image than you get from Polaroid Originals (formerly the Impossible Project).
Read the full review »
|Cable Release Connection||No|
|Battery Type||2 x CR2 batteries (2 x 3V)|
|Available Apertures||f/10, f/22|
|Shutter Speeds||Bulb Mode up to 30 sec, Auto Mode 8s to 1/250|
|Flash connection||Built-in Flash|
|Focusing Distance||0.8m / 1-2.5m / infinity (pre-set at 1-2.5m)|
|Frame Counter||LED indication|
|View Finder||Real-image viewfinder|