Fun fact: Out of all the useless skills I’ve got, being able to develop film may just be at the top of that list. It’s a skill born from an age where digital cameras were still a product for the wealthy, bulky devices whose megapixel count was in the single digits and smartphone cameras were only capable of producing blurry squares of pixelated snapshots that required your subject to remain still long enough for the sun to set.
These days? I’ve got a camera in my pocket that photographers would have died for back in the heyday of film. At the drop of a hat, I can take a 40 megapixel snap that is vibrant, sharp and instant. Which is great! And yet also, not that fab as the art of taking a photo feels somewhat diluted in the current age of instant gratification and ease of use.
There used to be a personal stake in taking photos, where your chances to get a great shot were limited and the time between capture and production was lengthy. We’re all so wrapped in what we can do, that we seldom give thought to how we should take a photo and how to treasure the moment that a great image recreates for all eternity.
That’s not to say that you can’t find film cameras on the market today, as Fujifilm’s Instax SQ6 aims to address a gap that smartphones have yet to fill: Instant photos that don’t exist on a digital plane, but rather a more physical one. The Instax SQ6 is a fun device, a boxy camera with a neat gimmick that actually yields great results.
On the surface, you’ve got a decently sized piece of plastic and hardware, that houses a capable 66mm f/12.8 lens, selfie mirror and a handy self-timer mode. A solid body overall, with a lens that can retract back inside of itself and a flash that is bright enough to leave you momentarily dazed. The Instax SQ6’s primary party trick is that of a camera which happens to house a printer inside of it, with a surprisingly gentle learning curve to it.
Merely pop the back open, insert a square pack of light-sensitive squares which happen to be housed in a convenient cartridge and close it up. Easy as that, with each cart offering an entire ten snaps worth of photos for you to take. From there, you’ve got a suite of photo-options that you can make use of: A regular auto-mode tries to get the best photo for you, or you can trust your eyes and use the viewfinder to switch between macro, landscape or even double exposure snapshots.
A large shutter button is complemented with a satisfying click on the front plate, with the camera itself being properly bulky so that it can house the prints inside of it. Here’s where things get tricky. Mostly reliable, the SQ6 isn’t entirely perfect when it comes to balancing light and distance, with the odd photo here and there having a blurry effect from time to time.
It’ll work most of the time, but with a cart costing R189 on average, a bugger-up can be a pricy blunder. Most of the time, when the camera works just fine, the results are pleasingly quaint. This isn’t the latest in camera technology you’re holding, but a more dedicated throwback to the past whose results produce softer and more subdued images. Battery life wasn’t too bad either, with the supplied charges easily lasting through two cartridges of afternoon work.
Unlike the cameras of today which heighten saturation and snap off photos which are sharp enough to cut through a Christmas fruit and mince pie in February, the SQ6 creates photos that have a pre-2000s feel to them. It definitely functions best when your subject happens to be within two meters of you and you’ve got a handle on rudimentary lighting techniques, but overall? It’s a charming piece of instant Instagram that can be ejected from the camera.
Fujifilm says that you’ll have an image ready to show off within one to two minutes after printing, although with the photos I took, it was closer to around three to four minutes to see a photo develop properly. And that’s even when I was shaking and flapping the image around, a technique that I have no idea as to why I even use it.
That’s the SQ6 for you. It’s funky, aimed at a niche market and it works pretty well most of the time.
Last Updated: March 7, 2019