Tech review: Fujifilm instax Square SQ20

Operation-wise, the Fujifilm instax Square SQ20 is a much faster camera than its predecessor.
Operation-wise, the Fujifilm instax Square SQ20 is a much faster camera than its predecessor.PHOTO: FUJIFILM

The Fujifilm instax Square SQ20 is the direct successor to SQ10, a hybrid digital instant camera printer. It allows users to store their candid moments digitally as well as printing them in Fujifilm's instax Square format.

At first glance, the SQ20 looks no different from its predecessor with its square-ish design and curved edges. But there are subtle design differences.

In front, a large circular dial encircles the centrally-positioned lens. Turning this dial now changes the digital zoom instead of powering up as in the case of SQ10.

Above this dial, there are two rectangular buttons where your index fingers rest when you hold the camera. Both buttons function as the shutter release. Previously, these buttons are circular in shape.

In addition, there is now a small square mirror on the dial for you to take selfies easily.

At the rear, you will find a 2.7-inch LCD screen that works as a viewfinder. Below the LCD screen is a switch that toggles through power off, motion mode and photo mode.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $299

    IMAGE SENSOR: 1/5-inch CMOS

    LENS: 33.4mm f/2.4

    DISPLAY: 2.7-inch LCD with 230,000 dots

    SENSITIVITY: ISO 100 to 1,600

    WEIGHT: 440g (including film pack and memory card)

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 3/5

Below this switch is a circle of six control buttons that encircle a command dial and a main Menu/OK button. The top three control buttons let you change filters, exposure and exposure-compensation, while the bottom three buttons are for playback, print and back functions.

On the left side of the camera, a microSD card slot and a micro-USB port (for charging and transfer) are hidden under a compartment.

Like the SQ10, the SQ20 uses the instax Square format (1:1) prints. Flip open the entire rear compartment to load a pack of 10 instax Square prints ($16.90 per pack).

The new motion mode is probably the biggest differentiator from its predecessor. This mode captures videos of up to 15 seconds and allows you to choose and print the perfect moment from the resulting 15 frames. Furthermore, the camera can focus on a subject as close as 8cm. Great for shooting macro.

Operation-wise, it is a much faster camera than its predecessor. It takes 1.7 seconds to power up and shuts down almost instantly, compared to 2.6 seconds (power up) and 1.6 seconds (shut down) for the SQ10. But autofocusing is still slow, taking up to 2 seconds to get a sharp focus even under bright sunlight.

In addition, the display is really bad with visible colour shift when you put the camera slight above or beside your head. Thus, you cannot really gauge the exposure even though the camera lets you adjust exposure compensation. But if you leave the camera to auto, there is a tendency to under-exposure by as much as one stop.

The images captured have a resolution of 1,920 x 1,920 pixels. Do not expect much details or sharpness. The photos can be quite grainy in low-light conditions.

However, you can use the different shooting modes available to take photographs. For example, you can choose Collage mode whereby you can take up to six photos in a single frame using different available templates.

The SQ20 allows you to apply filters, from sepia to partial-red, on the photos before printing them. It is quite fun to see the effects of the different filters.

There is no way to transfer the photos to your smartphone via Bluetooth to print. But you can transfer photos taken by the SQ20 to your computer using the microSD card or micro-USB port. You can also transfer photos taken with other cameras into the SQ20 via the micro-SD card to print them as instax Square prints.

It takes around 11.8 seconds to fully print out an instax photo. Print quality is what you'd expect from an instax print. Not exactly sharp, but good enough.

Battery life is not bad. After printing out 20 instax photos, there is still 50 per cent battery left.

At $299, the Fujifilm SQ20 is much more affordable, compared to the SQ10's $499 price tag. But it is still about twice the price of most Fujifilm instax cameras.

Verdict: If you cannot decide between film and digital, the Fujifilm instax Square SQ20 is the perfect camera for you.