Review: Leica Sofort (Fujifilm Instax Mini)

If you take one look at the Leica Sofort, you’ll wonder what makes this camera worth over $300 when there is so much resemblance to the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90. Photographers working with the camera will appreciate its fun and cute appearance in addition to its simple interface. Like all Instax film cameras, it has some quirks and this is less a result of the cameras as it is the film itself. You see, Instax film is set to ISO 800–so it’s always going to allow a lot of light to hit the surface.

But like most Instax cameras, you may not be totally happy with the results. I however and completely fine with them.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Small, compact size
  • Fun to use
  • It wants to be used Landscape style
  • Fair amount of controls

Cons

  • No manual controls, which I expected from Leica

Gear Used

We used the Leica Sofort with Fujifilm Instax Mini film.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the company’s website

The Leica Sofort has a programme suitable for every occasion. Just pick the one you need, concentrate on your subject and let the Leica Sofort take care of everything else. But if you prefer to take control of the focusing distance, flash and exposure compensation yourself, your Leica Sofort lets you do just that – whenever you like. As you can see: the Leica Sofort is focused on you – not only in Selfie mode, but with all its other settings, too:

  • Macro
  • Bulb
  • Automatic
  • Self timer
  • Party and People
  • Sport and Action
  • Double Exposure
  • Selfie

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

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When you look at the Leica Sofort, you start to realize that it’s got a very boxy shape. But that shape is overall still very appealing. It strays away from the retro looks that Fujifilm and Mint are going for and instead goes for something that looks like an expensive but really cool disposable camera.

That’s not a diss at all–disposable cameras are actually fun and this camera is built leaps and bounds better than a disposable.

On the front, you’ll find the lens, the on/off function and the flash.

chris-gampat-the-phoblographer-leica-sofort-first-impressions-3-of-5iso-8001-120-sec-at-f-1-4

Turn to the top and you’ll find the shutter button. This area is overall very minimal–and it’s great that it is.

chris-gampat-the-phoblographer-leica-sofort-first-impressions-4-of-5iso-8001-80-sec-at-f-1-4

Turn to the back of the camera and what you’ll spot is the control access area. You’ll see a small LCD screen, an area to pop film into the back, buttons, and the viewfinder.

Build Quality

The Leica Sofort is unlike many other Instax cameras. Where Fujifilm seems to embrace subtle curves, Leica’s philosophy here is to be boxy. But the boxy look has an odd charm about it that somehow or another harkens back to something probably made in a Soviet controlled factory in Germany. It’s sort of ugly–but the same type of ugly that you’d assign to a Pug or a Bulldog.

With all this said, the Leica Sofort feels well made for an Instax camera though it is nothing like something along the lines of the Mint Camera TL70 2.0 with more metal and a focusing screen built in. It’s about on par with the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 though for argument’s sake, the Leica feels like an actual camera.

Ease of Use

Much of the camera is controlled via the back. Here you’ll access the on/off switch, mode button to switch between various shooting modes, flash setting, delay shooting and the exposure compensation. You see all the symbols for the most part make sense, but there are some oddities like the way that it will tell you that an exposure will be brighter or darker. It shows a sun symbol and the bigger one means that it will be brighter.

Weird, right? I guess it’s weird for more traditional photographers.

Focusing

The front of the camera is how you control the focusing. There are two modes with the exception of the macro mode. A ring around the lens can be turned to focus the camera either closer or further away. It’s a zone focusing setup and much like the Lomo’Instant and the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90.

Remember to focus the camera before you shoot it or else you’ll forget.

Image Quality

The Leica Sofort has a pretty sharp overall image quality despite the plastic lens. It makes me wonder just how much sharper it would have been if there were glass used. As we saw in a previous interview that we did, the film is highly capable. And if it had good glass, there wouldn’t be much of a problem.

That’s not to say that there’s a “problem here” I just really wish that someone else would make a camera that takes the fullest advantage of the film besides just putting plastic lenses on something. Part of this also has to do with the price point. You’re paying over $300 for this camera and in that case it’s tough to justify over the Mint TL70 which has better image quality.

If this Leica had glass lenses and more manual controls, I’d GLADLY pay over $500 and even nearing into the $1,000 territory. But the image quality here doesn’t justify it to me.

 

Vs Fujifilm Instax Mini 90

I’m sure you’re all asking about the image quality of the Sofort vs the Mini 90. Here’s your comparison.

They both tend to render colors a bit different and the Sofort was admittedly having some trouble during this usage due to the back not totally closing up. But the image quality from one to the other is fairly identical.

Conclusions

Likes

  • Cool looking camera
  • Easy to use
  • Fun
  • Fits easily into a jacket pocket
  • Cool colors

Dislikes

  • I really wish Leica did more here rather than creating a “Me too” camera.

If you sit here and compare the Leica Sofort, Fujifilm Instax Mini 90, Lomography Lomo’Instant, and Lomography Lomo’Instant Automat you’ll see that there isn’t a whole lot differentiating them all when it comes to image quality. Sure, they’ve all got cool features but of any of them here it seems like the Leica is the most overpriced option. It’s the most expensive of the bunch already, but then when you look at the fact that there aren’t a whole lot of distinguishing features on it then it becomes a bit tougher to justify it.

With that said though, it isn’t at all a bad camera: just one that I feel doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

The Leica Sofort gets Four out of Five Stars. Want one? Check Amazon for the latest prices.