(Source: www.hardwarezone.com.sg)

Have your filters and print it: Hands-on with Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10

As mentioned in our news piece about the Instax Square SQ10 (henceforth SQ10), this is a camera and printer combined in one, but with one very key difference – the ability to add filters to your Instax pictures. The camera has enough internal memory to store 50 images, but you can easily add storage by way of a microSD/microSDHC card.  However, because it uses Instax Square film cartridges, you’ll still only be able to make 10 prints before you have to reload.

The large ring surrounding the lens is an on/off switch for the camera.

You can configure the shutter buttons as you please.

The camera has a large ring in front of the lens which acts as the on/off switch, and shutter buttons on each side so as to make the camera easy to operate with either hand. If you prefer, you can set one of the buttons to change between shooting modes instead. This gives you another two options – bulb mode, or double exposure.

Three shooting modes are available.

Bulb mode obviously let you do long exposures at night, but double exposure mode works by freezing the first shot you take, then displaying the next shot as an overlay so you can easily see how to place the two shots together. The final result is an overlaid image like what you see above, which can be fairly interesting if you have the right subject matter. 


The controls for the SQ10 are all nested in the center.

Besides the mains set of controls at the rear, the only other physical control can be seen on the side of the camera to select the print mode.

On the rear, you’ll see the Menu button surrounded by a four-way dial that can also be rotated, and six buttons in a ring that correspond to Playback mode, back/cancel, Print mode, Vignetting control, Exposure adjustments, and Photo filters. Flip the camera to the side, and you’ll see the only other manual control – a switch for Auto or Manual mode.

Exposure control is done by turning the dial.

Leave the camera on Auto mode, and it works just like any another Instax camera for the most part – just point and shoot and you’ll get an image printed straight away. Flip the switch to Manual, and the camera only prints when you choose to do so. This means that there is a little you can do in terms of controlling the exposure of each shot, though to be fair the in-camera Exposure adjustments go from -3 to +3 in 19 steps, so you should be able to get your image looking the way you want it.

The digital file seems to have more latitude than print.

(Because the camera doesn’t actually store the filter adjustments to the working file itself, scans of the Instax prints were taken to show how the adjustments appear on print.)

That said though, there is quite a  difference between what the digital file can hold and what Instax ISO 800 film can print, so we’d recommend making adjustments on the side of caution before printing. The image above shows a print with -3 exposure adjustments applied on the left and +3 exposure adjustments on the right, with the original digital file in the middle. 

But it’s obvious to see that the print made with -3 exposure applied has lost all detail in shadows, which isn’t what you’ll see on the rear screen – that still has plenty of shadow information left.  Experimenting with the different values then, is a definite must to get a hang of this camera, but that of course means burning through more Instax film.

Here’s an image from Fujifilm showing how the 10 photo filters are supposed to affect your images:-

10 different filters for slightly different color effects.

Every image you take is stored either to the camera’s internal memory or to your microSD card. And you can change the filter effects at will, so you can easily make multiple copies of the same image with different effects applied to see which one you like best. From our experience with the camera, you will definitely find that certain scenes with a particular range of colors will react better to different filter effects. This is definitely a trial and error process.

Three images with three different filters applied, but all come out looking fairly similar.

Here again with the same scene, we applied three different effects, but very little difference seen.

As you can see from the images above, if the scene you’re trying to capture is predominantly yellow, it may end up looking like a sepia effect whether you choose Sepia, Amber or Marmalade. Likewise, you could apply two different filters to the same image and end up with fairly similar prints. So again, experimenting by printing is going to be a necessary evil to get the best out of this camera. 

Vignetting control is applied by turning the dial.

As the name implies, Vignette Control lets you create a vignette around your images. You can control the degree of vignetting and even apply it in reverse, giving you a glow rather than shadowing. What’s nice is that all vignetting effects, exposure adjustments, and photo filter effects can be stacked, so you can really play around with your images. None of it is permanently applied, so you can always go back and change things around later.

How does the SQ10 do non-destructive editing without shooting to RAW format? Well, we took a look at the files stored on our microSD card, and discovered that for every JPEG file, there’s a corresponding Excel CSV (Comma Separated Values) file.  This must be where the filter and effect values are stored to for each image, and what is being applied to the base image before each print is made. Pretty smart!

What you get when you look at your microSD card.

Looking at the images captured from the SQ10, we do think Fujifilm has done a great job maximizing the quality from that tiny ¼” sensor. Images taken have nice colors and good contrast, though it must be said that the latitude of Instax film is nowhere near that of the rear monitor, so don’t expect the prints to come out as nicely. In particular, we’d advise not to be too liberal with the exposure adjustments as shadow detail really doesn’t show up as well in the prints despite the information being there in the file.

It would have been nice if you could use the camera like a regular printer though, sending it pictures to print either via Bluetooth or by the microSD card, perhaps with some sort of tie-in to Fuji’s own CamRemote app or their instax SHARE app? That would have made the camera/printer more functional overall, and perhaps provided an option to let more people get in on the action. That technology is already present in their Instax Share printers, so it certainly could have been added in. 

Given that latest Instax mini 70 retails for S$199, and the Instax Share printer goes for just over S$200, you have to wonder about the value proposition of the SQ10 at its retail price of S$499.  A S$100 difference translates to quite a few packs of Instax mini color film, and you’d get two devices to play with and arguably a lot more flexibility, so that might be the better way to go. Still, the ease of use and handy layout means we wouldn’t be surprised to see a good take up of this camera by the Instax faithful.

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