Fujifilm Instax SQ10 is a digital-print hybrid that prints edited photos, too

Fujifilm delivered its promised square-format film camera, but the Fujifilm Instax SQ10’s surprising feature isn’t about the Instagram-like (or old-school Polaroid, rather) 1:1 aspect ratio. But unlike previous Instax analog cameras, the SQ10 is the first in a new hybrid system that uses both a digital image sensor and processor along with the existing Instax instant film system, Fujifilm says. After launching the camera at the start of 2017, Fujifilm expanded the SQ10’s features with new firmware on Wednesday, November 22 for faster autofocus and even the ability to print edited photos.

Instax instant film cameras are popular sellers for Fujifilm, making Fujifilm the leading brand in the instant photography market for the past several years. In fact, the Instax brand has become one of the pinnacles of the company’s “photography renaissance.” While Fujifilm released an $800 2.3-megapixel digital camera with a built-in printer back in the late 1990s, the SQ10 is a new type of digital-analog hybrid. After a photo is taken, the camera can save 1,920 x 1,920-pixel digital JPEGs to internal memory (up to 50 images) or a MicroSD card, or print instantly to the new Instax Square film. Photos can be transferred to a computer over Micro USB, which doubles as the charging port (the battery has enough charge for 160 photos).

Fujifilm doesn’t detail exactly how the system works, but we imagine is something like the company’s Instax SP-2 instant film printer, which makes prints from a smartphone app. Except here, the printer is built into a digital camera. It’s similar in concept to Polaroid’s Snap Touch, which uses Zink thermal printers. Unlike analog Instax cameras, however, you can now properly frame and preview a photo before you commit to print, which could save money in the long run.

But the SQ10 isn’t just about the convenience of having both a film and digital camera in one. Fujifilm says the hybrid system brings a number of new capabilities to the Instax line. Autofocus is included as well as automatic exposure control, both traditionally features of digital, not instant film. The SQ10 can also take brighter photos in low light and shoots macro as close as four inches from the front of the lens.

A three-inch LCD screen on the back allows users to preview digital shots and add creative effects, including ten different filters and vignetting effects, as well as controlling brightness. The camera also includes double exposure mode for overlaying two images on one and bulb mode for creating long exposures. These creative effects can be applied after a shot has been taken. There’s also a built-in flash that can be disabled.

The camera’s exterior square-shaped design uses two shutter buttons that also double as function controls to switch the shooting mode. An auto/manual switch tells the camera to print straight to film after the shutter button is pressed, or save to memory for printing later (the latter option is handy for not wasting film). The rounded form-factor allows for easier grip, Fujifilm says, while a lens ring crafted from shaved metal adds style to the body. A screw at the bottom lets you mount it on a tripod.

Design-wise, Fujifilm sid the SQ10 was inspired by turntables. In the hand, the camera feels solid but has the plastic quality of an Instax Mini. It also feels much heavier.

While the SQ10 could quite possibly be Fujifilm’s best Instax yet, the digital specs aren’t likely to make many ditch their current digital compact. The CMOS sensor is a very small 1/4 inch and photos measure 1,920 pixels on each side. The lens, however, is a bright f/2.4, though that’s fixed at a 28.5mm equivalent. With the Instax line, it isn’t so much about taking high-resolution photos, but the creativity and instant gratification that people, young and old, find enjoyable.

The physical size of the new Instax film covers a 62 x 62 mm area (approximately 2.4 x 2.4 inches), while the entire film strip is 86 x 72mm (3.4 x 2.8 inches). Fujifilm says the new size continues the Instax tradition of excellent color reproduction based on years of film manufacturing and research. The new Instax Square film format will be sold in packs of 10 sheets for $17. While the new format provides a larger frame, it’s actually smaller than old Polaroid instant film.

Now, the firmware is expanding the camera’s features. Fujifilm says that firmware 2.0 offers a 30 percent increase in autofocus speed. The update also allows users to print edited photos from the camera, using the already existing option to add the photos to a microSD card and transfer them to the SQ10. The update also adds a “part color” option and the ability to delete the camera’s print history.

The Instax Square SQ10 retails for $280.

Update: Added new firmware information.