When instant cameras hit their major boom a few years ago it looked like they might never stop growing in popularity, and while that phase now seems to have ended, there still seems to be demand for newer, slimmer models.
That’s what’s offered by the Fujifilm Instax SQ40, the latest version of Fujifilm’s chunkier square-format instant film cameras, and it is indeed a really great new option for those looking for a bigger canvas.
- 6.1 x 12 x 13.4 cm
- Strap included
The Instax SQ40 effectively follows the design language that you’d absolutely expect – it’s an Instax camera, just a bit chunkier and wider, to accommodate that larger film format.
Recent Instax cameras have all been styled pretty similarly, with a sort of retro finish that makes them look a little bit more vintage than they actually are, and that’s replicated here. The Instax Mini 40 walked so this could follow, basically.
The build is almost entirely plastic, which makes it decently lightweight for its size, but it’s also solid enough to feel pretty sturdy. That said, this is obviously much more of a challenge to fit into a small bag for a day out, making spontaneity a little more challenging.
It’s still smaller than the full-on Instax Wide options you can get, though, so in many ways this is a bit of a middle ground in terms of Instax camera sizing.
There’s no on or off button here – you twist the lens to open the camera and shift it between standard and selfie distances, and there’s a single button to take photos with.
There’s a flash indicator based on lighting conditions, but this is point-and-shoot stuff, so the controls really are as minimal as that.
Photos spit out the top of the camera, and you can easily open the back to replace your cartridge when you run out.
The viewfinder is one area I’m a little disappointed in – it’s absolutely tiny, and makes the already decent challenge of lining up an analogue shot that little bit harder by having you squint.
There are lanyard loops on either side of the camera and it comes with an included strap, which is nice, but there’s no mounting option at all, so you won’t be able to screw it onto a tripod for more stable posed shots.
Photography and ease of use
- Automatic flash
There’s not a lot of nuance to using a simple Instax like the SQ40 – and that’s very much part of the attraction. You point it at something interesting in whatever lighting you might have, press the shutter button, and hope.
What makes Fujifilm the market leader is that it has the best odds of producing an interesting, accurate and memorable photo rather than a blurry or underlit mess (although you’ll still get duds).
The SQ40 gives you the massive advantage of a bigger bit of film to use – about half again the space of an Instax Mini, orientated in a square format that evokes nostalgic Polaroid vibes.
This makes shooting easier, in my experience, and produces photos that you don’t have to squint at nearly so much. That said, the bag space it takes up does counteract this a little if we’re counting negatives.
The SQ40 has a light meter that will determine whether it uses a flash, and you’ll know if it’s going to come on thanks to a little indicator light on the camera’s front. I’d rather this was on the back so that I could see it while shooting, but hey – the results are solid enough that you don’t really need to know whether it’ll flash or not, frankly.
As with all instant cameras, I got my best photos in good lighting – ideally outdoors, but the Instax lineup has always been decent under artificial lights and that continues here.
When it does flash, basically, that flash is good enough to actually result in a good photo. The autofocus is similarly reliable, harking back to the days before digital cameras when the last few generations of manual autofocus had things down to a T.
The SQ40 is a solid camera that can’t be described as little but does its job well. That said, the same reservations as usual apply – buying film is expensive and you’re still subject to somewhat regular dud outcomes.
It’s chunkier than an Instax Mini and you do therefore get better photos in our opinion, but the added difficulty in carting it around means that I still think a Mini is the better choice for most people, on balance.