Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 Review
Pros: Good photo quality, nice selection of image and creative settings, both camera and photo size a nice middle ground
Cons: Poor performance in outdoor lighting conditions, lack of long exposure ability
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Instax Square SQ6 represents a midpoint in the instant camera field in terms of photo size, camera size, creative possibilities, and price. If you're looking for something that can do almost everything without being too large and clunky, this is a great choice.
Despite taking a bit of a middle road in many of its design aspects, the Instax Square SQ6 generally turned in above-average performances in our tests, earning it one of the higher overall scores.
Falling behind the top tier performers in this category, the Instax Square SQ6 provides good, if not great, image quality.
Luckily, the Instax Square SQ6's strong suit, taking photos in dimmer situations with the flash, lines up quite well with how many people intend to use their instant camera. At parties, restaurants, and pubs we had great luck getting clear, crisp photos.
Unfortunately, that photo quality tends to noticeably degrade when you take the camera outside. On sunny days it's almost impossible to prevent bright areas of the image from becoming blown out and overexposed. If you get an overcast day and are photographing a dark-colored subject you can still get quite a nice image. However, even on cloudy days, a shot of something like snow or a white house is likely to look washed out.
This propensity to overexpose outdoor images is common amongst instant cameras, with the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 being the only model we've found that can at least do a reasonable job on sunny days. However, with that camera you're locking yourself into more expensive film and sacrificing quite a few creative opportunities (like double exposures) so you'll have to decide what is more important to you.
Perhaps the best thing about the Instax Square SQ6 is that it offers a wide selection of creative shooting modes, yet keeps its operational simple enough that you could pass it off to a friend at a party and said friend likely wouldn't be flummoxed by its controls. This earned it one of the highest scores in our user friendliness testing.
The main reason we found the Instax Square SQ6 so intuitive to use is that its control panel very much resembles the dials present on pretty much every digital camera available today. It uses familiar symbols for landscape and macro modes, and other modes like lighten or darken are fairly obvious as well. Instead of a dial, however, you use the 'mode' button to cycle through these modes, with a light above each symbol illuminating which is selected. It also offers an all-useful auto mode, which essentially turns the camera into a foolproof, point and shoot machine.
Using some of the advanced shootings features of the Instax Square SQ6 can be slightly less intuitive, but in general it still offers a relatively small learning curve. For example, the flash button, labeled with the universal symbol for a flash, is actually a flash suppression button. So when the light above that button is on, it's actually preventing the flash from going off, which feels a bit counterintuitive. Also, like many of the cameras we've tested, putting the camera in macro mode does not change the viewfinder at all. When you're shooting in macro mode you have to frame the shot using only the bottom left quadrant of what you see in the viewfinder. There is a dot in the middle of the viewfinder (which becomes the top right corner of a marco image) that helps you do this, but it feels a bit clunky the first few times.
The Instax Square SQ6 offers plenty of opportunities to adjust the image and get creative, but isn't the leader of the pack in that respect.
In general, we were more than satisfied with the adjustability offered by the Instax Square SQ6. In terms of strict image settings, there are lighten and darken modes that allow you to adjust the exposure, landscape and macro modes that change the focal distance to 2 meters to infinity and 30 to 50 centimeters, respectively, and a selfie mode that shortens the focal distance and adjusts the exposure for close subjects (there is also a selfie mirror to help you compose the shots, and a flash suppression mode that allows you to force the flash not to go off). This is all in addition to the auto mode, which allows the camera to make all the decisions for you.
If you want to get creative, the Instax Square SQ6 does provide some opportunities. Possibly the most exciting is its double exposure mode, which allows you to expose the same piece of film twice. You also get 3 different colors of flash filters, allowing you to drench your subject in green, orange, or purple light. Using those filters in conjunction with the double exposure mode can yield some cool results.
If creative shooting is your main priority, the Lomography Lomo'Instant Wide adds long exposures, a lens splitter, and the ability to do as many exposures as you'd like. However, it is also much larger and not quite as user-friendly, so it's only a worthwhile upgrade if you're willing to go through a bit more of a learning curve (and lug around a much larger camera).
As you might expect, the square film of the Instax Square SQ6 represents a midpoint between the mini and wide formats, both in terms of size and cost. The most reasonable way to buy this film is in a 60 pack for $63, resulting in a cost of $1.05 per photo. Black and white film is a bit more expensive, costing around $15 for a 10-pack.
The Instax Square SQ6 certainly isn't cheap. However, if you're looking for something that is both easy to use, and that is capable of some advanced shooting modes like double exposures, it is actually one of the more affordable cameras available.
The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 represents a great choice for those that want a camera that isn't too big or complicated, but that takes larger than mini photos and is capable of taking double exposures.
— Max Mutter, Steven Tata, and Jenna Ammerman