Hands-on with Lomography’s retro Lomo’Instant Square instant camera
It’s a really great time to fall in love with instant cameras.
Lomography, best known for its “toy film cameras,” has a new instant camera called the Lomo’Instant Square that shoots Fujfilm’s new Instax Square format film, and it’s just perfect if you’re sick of Instagram and Snapchat.
Just like the company’s first instant camera, the Lomo’Instant, the Instant Square is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. At first, I thought it was a little weird that a company that just turned 25 is turning to Kickstarter to fund its new camera, but it’s actually not if you think about it.
Lomography doesn’t need the funding. It’s capable of producing the Instant Square on its own, but it wants the feedback from the community so that it ships a product people actually want instead of a product that’s designed in a vacuum.
The Instant Square is the second camera to support Fujifilm’s Instax Square film. The first camera is Fujifilm’s own SQ-10. Unlike Fujfilm’s Instax Mini and Wide format films, which are rectangle-framed instant photos, Instax Square film is basically a shrunken down version of the iconic Polaroid Type-600 film.
But whereas the SQ-10 is a round and molded hybrid camera with an LCD display on the back, has a memory card slot for saving digital copies, and settings for adding filters and editing photos live, the Instant Square is the first pure analog instant camera for the new film.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the SQ-10 — it’s a nice instant camera — but instant photography is all about the unexpected analog experience.
You just never know what you’ll get because the viewfinder doesn’t frame shots perfectly, light leaks can greatly affect how a photo develops, and it’s just fun to not know what the results will be.
Lomography let me play with the first working prototype of the Instant Square, and it was a blast to shoot with. It was a pre-production model, so a few things like the accordion-ish foldable bellow didn’t close properly and the film sometimes didn’t develop right, but all the fundamentals worked.
Compared to the SQ-10, the Instant Square just looks and feels different. It’s boxy and has sharp corners, and the retro design reminds of a DeLorean’s aesthetic.
The model I tested was all black and completely devoid of any of the vintage color schemes it’ll be available in, and was sturdy and comfortable to shoot with even in its raw, unfinished state.
You’ll find plenty of essential instant camera features on it, including a built-in flash, 10-second timer, exposure compensation, a slider switch for focal length settings (0.8 meters, 1-2.5 meters, and infinity), bulb mode for long exposures, and a slot for placing gel filters over the flash to create artsy-fartsy filtered photos.
My favorite thing is the included remote control, which is cleverly tucked in the base of the camera. It’s super handy for taking group photos.
Lomography’s made a lovely camera that’s just very fun to shoot with, but that can be said for almost any instant camera that’s half decent.
A few years ago, instant cameras would’ve been considered a serious novelty, and you’d be crucified for being a stupid hipster shooting instant film while everyone’s posting and basking in likes on Instagram.
Instant film gives photos actual value again because they’re truly one of a kind.
But the sheer ridiculous amount of content — mostly just dumb selfies, fake-ass plandids, and #puddlegrams — has actually made many people realize the value of shooting analog photos. Each one is special because it’s 1/1 and can’t be duplicated. You can take a second photo of a person, place, or thing, but the small imperfections of the film will always render each of them an original.
It’s refreshing to own a photograph that truly is unique and one of a kind. It gives photos actual value again, and the Instant Square contributes its part with its pure analog shooting.
Lomography’s selling the camera on Kickstarter starting at $139 with a bunch of sweet extras like magnet stickers and paper frames. The price seems steep until you realize the only other camera that shoots this kind of instant film, the Fujifilm SQ-10, costs $280. You do the math and the Instant Square is clearly a steal.