Fujifilm Instax SQ20 Review
With the release of the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 in late 2018, the instant printing camera game was changed forever.
This unique digital hybrid instant film camera offers photographers a broad range of creative abilities as well as the novel option of being able to choose what to print.
(Previous to this, the SQ6 offered a purely analogue shooting experience, meaning that what you shot is what you printed – there were no options to review images or make any changes prior to printing.)
In addition, the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 shoots with Instax Square film that provides larger prints than the traditional Fujifilm Instax Mini films.
It can capture clear and sharp images, use a number of post-production tools to make them unique, and then print them instantly.
These prints develop in a couple of minutes and allow for images to be used in projects, shared with friends and family or just kept to fill up the fridge door with memories.
Regardless of the purpose of using the Instax SQ20, it is a product that can suit any user regardless of photographic skill – it’s also a good first camera for a child.
Many thanks to Instax Australia for supplying us with the review unit.
Fujifilm Instax SQ20 Specs
- Sleek design and form
- Excellent image quality and low light performance
- Extensive range of creative shooting modes and filters
- Video on an instant camera
- Photo editing options prior to printing
- I cannot find a single one
- 1/5″ CMOS Sensor with 1920 x 1920 effective pixels
- Built-in memory & MicroSD memory card
- Fixed as 33.4 mm (35-mm format equivalent) with F/2.4
- Exposure control -2.0 to +2.0 in increments of 1/3
- Self-timer 10 seconds / 2 seconds
- 119 mm x 50 mm x 127 mm (4.7″ x 2″ x 5″)
- 390 g/13.8 oz. (excluding film pack and memory card)
- 4x Digital Zoom
Build & Appearance
In my opinion, the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 is one of the best looking Instax cameras that Fujifilm have produced.
No matter the angle you choose to look at the Fujifilm Instax SQ20, it has a soft and flowing design that’s both attractive and modern. It begs to be picked up, held and shot.
At 440gm (15.5oz) with the film cartridge full, the camera has a nice solid weight in the hands of the user. The build itself is all plastic but it doesn’t feel like a flimsy material in any way.
In fact, the SQ20 feels really quite solid from the dual rear thumb rests to the flip-out door that allows access to the MicroSD and USB mini connection port.
The overall shape of the camera is that of a soft square with the front and rear having the most prominent features.
On the front face of this Instax, there is a large recessed circular area that surrounds the digital zoom control guide and the lens. By twisting the circular control guide, you are able to shift from a wide-angle perspective (the standard 33.4mm full-frame equivalent) to a telephoto zoom perspective.
In the centre of this control dial is the lens itself and, of course, no Fujifilm Instax Camera would be complete without the convex selfie mirror next to the lens.
Top centre of the Instax SQ20 is a flash – however, this camera does not have an optical viewfinder as a result of its rear LCD screen.
To each side of the recessed circular area, there are two shutter release buttons that at first, I didn’t even notice until I accidentally took a shot.
The reason for having two shutter buttons is to allow for either right or left-handed shooting as well as for more comfortable selfie shooting with either hand.
The rear of this camera is the business end as it features a 2.7″, 230K-dot LCD screen that is used as the electronic viewfinder, review screen for editing images and also for all menu functions.
The screen is bright even in bright conditions and a handy zoom feature allows you to preview your image at a larger scale or even crop before printing – this is mounted high and centre on the flip-out door that allows you to install and remove the Fujifilm Instax Square film cartridge.
The lower half of the rear of the camera is dedicated to a circular array of controls.
The first is a three-station switch that moves from Off to Motion (for recording short 15-second video clips) and then to Photo for still image capture. This is well-designed with a solid click into each location.
Below that is a ring of six equidistant control buttons for various camera settings and functions. Within that is a circular command dial that spins freely to access menu functions and shooting styles.
Finally, inside that, is a large circular Menu / OK button that gives a reassuring click when pressed.
This combination of the screen and circular menu settings gives the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 the overall look of a very modern product designed with ease of use in mind.
Ergonomics & Handling
Fujifilm has put a lot of thought into the ergonomics of the Fujifilm Instax SQ20.
To hold the camera in either hand is comfortable thanks to the clever use of the sunken ring on the front of the camera and the molded thumb rests on the rear.
While the large sunken ring appears to be more of a design element at first, it is perfect for resting two or three fingers in to strengthen your overall grip.
This works for left and right-handed shooting, which is something that not many cameras cater for.
The same can be said for the two shutter buttons which are perfectly aligned for your index finger to rest against and press to take a shot… and given the dual handed grip, you can confidently hold the camera in one hand whilst accessing the menu buttons with the other.
The circular array of function buttons on the rear of the SQ20 has been cleverly designed to ensure easy access and use.
The Off/Motion/Photo slide has just the right amount of resistance and clicks confidently into place. This slider has a ridged texture for greater control and accuracy of making a selection.
The six function buttons that form a ring are Filter, Brightness, Print, Back, Playback and Vignette. The inner circular command dial has a ridged texture and allows the dial to spin to move through menus.
It’s also clickable in four directions again allowing the further flow of menus and playback of images. The Menu / OK button sits inside this.
Thanks to the layout of the function buttons and command dials, navigating both the setup and main menu is easy and natural to follow.
The Fujifilm Instax SQ20 is really quick to focus in both bright and low light. The camera hunts very little for focus and when the focus is attained – it makes a small chime sound followed by a green square appearing on the LCD screen.
If focus is not attained, say when an object is too close, the camera uses its flash as a last attempt to highlight the area and then a red square appears on the screen.
Focus performance is also equally strong when using the digital zoom function of the camera. However, when fully zoomed out, camera shake is far more noticeable than when it is in its fixed wide-angle.
The minimal focus distance for this Instax is around 10cm and this makes for great close up shots.
Low Light Performance
This is one area that impressed me with this camera. Instant film cameras aren’t traditionally very capable in low light, but this one surprised me.
Having tested many different Fujifilm Instax cameras, I can confidently say that the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 performs the best in low light conditions. It has an Auto ISO range of 100 – 1600 which is again the best range on offer in a camera of this style.
The camera also features an Exposure Compensation control with -2.0 to +2.0 in increments of 1/3.
The final additional support for low-light shooting is the built-in flash that can be set to: (i) ‘fire automatically’ depending on the lighting conditions; (ii) forced to fire every time,; (iii) suppressed to prevent any flash fire at all.
Combined with the Auto ISO and the Exposure Compensation, this camera can perform quite well in low light.
The images shot under such conditions will vary of course, but the chances of getting a great shot are far improved.
The images produced by the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 are of great quality, though of course, correct lighting is key to successful shots.
The images are crisp and clear and, unlike other instant film cameras, very rarely will an image be affected by camera shake.
I tested this camera on a range of different subjects and each time I was really impressed and pleased with the outcomes.
Even images captured using the 4x digital zoom produce nice, clear results that are only slightly degraded by the zoom function. Shooting an object at around 10cm distance, I was able to capture a good amount of detail, clarity and contrast.
One of the great features about the Instax SQ20 is that you can actually connect it to a computer via a USB connection and download the images directly to your computer. This opens up the opportunity for further post-production editing to enhance colour, sharpness, etc.
This is a brilliant addition to the Instax range and allows for a whole new level of creativity. Being able to edit your instant film images on Lightroom or any other image editor is a lot of fun, not to mention unique.
Overall, this Fujifilm Square Instax is a fantastic camera with a huge amount of usability as a result of its range of shooting and printing options.
The ability to review and even apply filters to all shots before printing ensures that you are not wasting prints on shots that are not worth keeping.
The camera operates incredibly well especially thanks to its enhanced low light performance and ability to take clear and detailed images in any conditions.
Even without adding a separate MicroSD card to the camera, the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 still allows for around 50 images in Photo mode or 30 seconds of video in Motion mode to be stored on the built-in memory.
Along with the rechargeable battery, this Instax is truly usable straight out of the box without any other accessories.
Other Useful Features
The Fujifilm Instax SQ20 is one of the most feature-packed Instax cameras available. Beginning with the shooting modes, this camera has a Standard shooting mode for everyday images to be captured. This is by far the most common shooting mode and is the default when turning the camera on.
This Instax also offers a Bulb Mode that can be used for long exposure shooting at night. The camera would have to stand on its base as it doesn’t include a screw mount for tripods. There’s also a Double Exposure option, where you can creatively overlap two images onto the one print.
Another creative option is Split mode where you can take several images and put them in different sections on the one print.
For example, you can have the print split in half vertically and have two images side by side. There are other Split options including dividing the print into thirds, quarters and even nine sections.
In Collage mode, you can take a number of images and add them to pre-determined frames with images overlapping one another. This is a great way to get a lot of images onto the one print – again saving on the number of prints you actually need to make.
The final shooting mode is available when the camera is set to the Motion setting where short 15-second videos can be captured.
Surprised to see a video function on an Instax camera? There is genius behind this madness as the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 allows you to select individual frames from the within the video to print.
Further to this, you can create a collage from a video as the camera can capture four different images with just one click of the shutter button. You can set a time difference between each frame from 0.2 to 2.0 seconds.
A worthy final mention for this Instax is that in addition to all of the above shooting modes, there are 11 different creative filters such as Sepia, Skin Brightening and partial colour… all of which can be added to the image after shooting and before printing.
Value for Money
I have mentioned that the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 is probably the most stylish, high performing and feature-packed Instax in the entire range.
Fujifilm really has packed a lot into this little camera – there’s so much that you can unbox it and after a short charge get right into your creative zone.
In terms of cost, this Instax is in the high end of the price range for Fujifilm line ups.
However, for the price, you get the best of the best that Fujifilm has to offer. All the decades of film research, camera manufacture and Instax technology come together in this camera.
The Fujifilm Instax SQ20 really is an amazing camera and I think it’s worth every cent for anyone wanting to have a creative way to shoot and print instantly.
One of the key consideration when purchasing a Fujifilm Instax camera is the cost of the print cartridges.
The Fujifilm Instax Square film packs retail for around US$12 for a single cartridge of 10 prints. Some retailers also offer a double pack of 20 prints at a slight discount, bringing the cost per print down a little.
However, the beauty of having a digital hybrid camera like the SQ20 is that you don’t have to print every single shot you take.
You can be selective of the shots you print and take your time to review, crop, apply a filter and enhance the exposure before even hitting the print button.
Fujifilm Instax SQ20 Review | Conclusion
It’s incredibly hard to fault the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 as it is so competent at what it does, that it makes the creative process of taking a shot and seeing your instant results fun and enjoyable.
Anyone can pick up this camera and take great shots with it… and if you mess something up, you can always erase your shots and start over without printing a single image.
Every bit of this camera from design and comfort to the usability of its menu system has been carefully planned and executed to deliver a winning product.
Fujifilm has really pulled out all the stops to bring together their cumulative knowledge and experience in the photographic industry to bring this camera to market.
As a first time shooter or an experienced shooter looking for a project, the Fujifilm Instax SQ20 is a must-have addition to anyone’s kit or set of craft tools.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.