Instax Square SQ20

Review: Instax Square SQ20 (Fujifilm)



In the fall of 2018, Fujifilm launched a new model in its Instax Square range, the SQ20, which is the obvious successor to the SQ10 released in 2017. Although it is still very similar to its predecessor, this model introduces many new features. Let’s take a look at the key features of the Instax Square SQ20 through this comprehensive review.

The SQ10 is the only device of its kind in Fujifilm’s Instax range. It is not that old, and yet it is being pushed out by a new, more advanced hybrid model. It features a video mode and more creative tools to create images that combine digital and analog photo paper printing technologies.

Design

Quite predictably, the SQ20 is very similar to the SQ10, so much so that it can be difficult to tell them apart the first time you take a look at them.
The lens has a very central position on the front panel. Right on top of it, you will find a very small and useful flash for situations with low lighting.
Once again, Fujifilm has put two triggers on this model, each placed on either side of the lens. This feature will satisfy both left-handed and right-handed people. They are rectangular this time, not circular, so it may take a little time getting used to this layout when you trigger.
An LCD screen on the back allows you to view and control your pictures. The screen is located above a set of control keys: a circular knob, a central button and smaller buttons that allow you to control the camera settings and navigate through the dense interface.
The entire back opens in one piece to load the Instax Square film cartridges. When the printing process begins, the photo comes out through a slot on the top of the camera.

The SQ20, on the right is smaller than the SQ6, another brother in the Square range released a few months before the SQ6 launch.

The SQ20, on the right is smaller than the SQ6, another brother in the Square range released a few months before the SQ6 launch.

A discreet flap opens on the side and gives you access to the mini USB port to charge the battery. There is also a micro SD port which allows you to connect the device to external storing devices (in addition to its internal memory). The SQ20 is surprisingly compact and smaller than the SQ6, for example, released a few months earlier. It can easily be slipped into a bag or a pouch.
The device is available in two colors, black and beige. There are no updates on other colors being released soon. As a reminder, the SQ10 isn’t available in colors other than the two basic ones, black and white.

How does it work?

The SQ20 remains very similar to the SQ10 in its handling. If you want to read an overview of it, please refer to the SQ10 review.

The pictures taken by this camera can be saved on the internal memory or on an SD memory card. Images are therefore saved in a digital format, unlike Instax cameras which are purely analog devices. Like the SQ10, images can then be modified by using a wide range of filters and editing tools: add Instagram-like filter, crop, adjust the brightness, vignetting (brighten or darken angles)… The photos can then be printed on Instax Square paper with the camera’s image printing function. No more misfires and blurry pictures. Just print the images that you’re satisfied with.
Please note: no need to load a film cartridge into the camera to take pictures. You can also use it as a conventional digital camera. Load your film when you’re ready to print.

Aiming is done through the screen and its real-time display is of good quality.
On the other hand, images shown in playback mode are slightly pixilated—to the point that it is sometimes difficult to get an idea of the final quality. The final print is most often better than expected.
You can zoom in or out of the picture by using a ring around the lens. It is quite small and not always easy to handle.

It will take you some time to review the functions and capabilities of the SQ20.

It will take you some time to review the functions and capabilities of the SQ20.

Let’s move on to the differences with the Instax Square SQ10. Filters can now be applied as soon as you compose the picture, with a real-time rendering on the screen. New filters have been added to an already long list. Four of these filters allow you to play around with colors in the image, isolate certain colors while the rest of the image takes a grey tone. The double exposure function is once again included and is rather well designed as it allows you to do tests before committing to printing.
A new function was added to capture action shots in four steps. The camera will take 4 shots successively on the same exposure, with an interval time of your choice between each shutter release. This allows you to capture an action, or a moving subject and to trace its movement in 4 images.

The camera will then propose different types of collages. For example, three or four shots can be combined on the same picture. You take the photos one after the other, which then fill in the different parts of the frame.
Just to be clear, many of these features are a little gimmicky. After having fun with the most unusual ones, you will likely resort to the classic shots that are less extravagant but most effective.

Editing images

While many options can be used when you compose your shots, these features are also available when you edit your images after triggering.
In other words, you can apply filters to your image, play around with the brightness or the vignetting, and then save it and come back to it later to adjust its settings. You can even combine two filters, by choosing one when you shoot, then adding another one when you edit the file. Be careful not to give in to a creative frenzy though…

The SQ 20 has a special place among Instax cameras, along with the SQ10 it supersedes. These are the only devices that allow you to print out on paper the photos of your choice.

The SQ 20 has a special place among Instax cameras, along with the SQ10 it supersedes. These are the only devices that allow you to print out on paper the photos of your choice.

You can also crop your photo after taking it by zooming in and out of the picture, which means that the image recorded on the camera is actually wider than the one you are composing when you shoot. Surprising.
The wheel, the central button and the ones around it allow you to navigate through the menus. There are a lot of options to choose from so it may take some time to check them all out. Nothing that can’t be overcome but reading the user guide once may be worth it.

Video mode

A major new feature on this camera, which succeeds the SQ 10, is its ability to captures videos. The video mode is activated via the power button. Once the “off” position is passed, the device gives access to the video mode and the photo mode (in that order).
The SQ20 lets you capture very short videos that are only a few seconds long. Filters can once again be used as soon as the video is shot. Some filters are even exclusive to this mode. One of them imitates film-like edges, another gives a retro effect with scratches and small defects that sometimes appear over old recording.
The advantage of the video mode is twofold: first, you can create small video clips that you can download onto your computer via the SD card, but most importantly, you can extract photos from these clips then edit and print them.
Once the video clip has been shot, it is divided into a sequence of up to 45 images! You can navigate with the wheel through this series of images and edit the ones you prefer by applying effects to them, just like any other photo taken in the classic mode. You can even overlay effects on top of images extracted from a video that had used a filter.
This function is fun but a little gimmicky as well. The limited duration of the videos puts the SQ20 in an uncomfortable position: it is neither quite a photographic camera, nor quite a filmmaking camera.
Much has already been said and yet… if we wanted to go into more detail, there would be so much more to say.
The list of features is really impressive and the thickness of the user manual is quite revealing. It contrasts strongly with the manuals of the other Instax cameras!

Verdict

It is worth noting that the SQ 20 goes even further in the hybridization process than the SQ10. Video and image capturing modes, a plethora of filters… The range of options has been further expanded to help you unleash your creativity. It will take some time to fully explore all the available options, but it is clear that the SQ20 is an unmatched camera, whether at Fujifilm or elsewhere. Purists of the instant photographic experience and those who are afraid of technology will pass their turn. Geeks who are drawn to printing on Instax photo paper will appreciate this very original hybrid model.

Even if the SQ20 is the direct successor to the SQ10, which is destined to retire, the difference between the two devices is not that significant in the end.

Even if the SQ20 is the direct successor to the SQ10, which is destined to retire, the difference between the two devices is not that significant in the end.

Advantages and disadvantages of the Instax Square SQ20

We like

  • A unique device
  • A wide range of options to create your images
  • A space-saving camera
  • Works with batteries

We like less

  • It doesn’t embody the instant photography spirit
  • The multi-functions on this camera can discourage people looking for an easy-to-use device.