First Impressions: Lomography Lomo’Instant Square

In the past few years, I’ve learned to trust in Lomography’s ability to churn out solid instant film cameras, and the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square seems to be every bit as solid as lots of camera I’ve seen thus far. It’s the first camera to use the Fujifilm Instax Square format that isn’t made by Fujifilm. With a very classic design that is sort of an ode to old Kodak instant film cameras, this is one of Lomography’s more curious cameras. Lomo decided to go with a glass lens, a bellows system, and more or less the same sort of system the previous Lomo’Instant cameras have had. It borrows a lot from them and personally speaking, I’m pretty glad that I backed it. For ethical reasons of running a photography blog, I typically don’t like to back Kickstarter campaigns, but this is one that I firmly believed in.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from our announcement post

  • Film Format: Fujifilm Instax Square Film
  • Exposure Area: 62mm x 62mm
  • Lens Focal Length: 95mm (45mm equivalent)
  • Auto Exposure Type: Programmed Automatic
  • Aperture: Automatic f/10, f/22
  • Shutter Speed: Bulb Mode up to 30 sec, Auto Mode 8s to 1/250
  • Exposure Compensation: +1/-1 Exposure Values (Ambient Exposure)
  • Film Ejection Mechanism: Motorized
  • Multiple Exposures: Unlimited
  • Built-In Flash Guide Number: 9 (m)
  • Built-In Flash: Automatic Flash & Flash Off Mode
  • Closest Focusing Distance: 0.8m
  • Zone Focusing Setting: 0.8m / 1-2.5m / infinity (pre-set at 1-2.5m)
  • Tripod Mount: Yes
  • Remote Control Transmission: Infrared (front & back sensors on camera)
  • Self Timer: Electronically controlled countdown to 10 seconds
  • Film Counter: LED indication, counting down
  • Battery Supply: 2 x CR2 batteries (6V) — please note that batteries are not included
  • Remote Control Battery Supply: CR2025 (3V) — please note that batteries are not included
  • Filter Thread Diameter: 30.5mm
  • Lens Attachments: Portrait Glass Lens (closest focusing distance 50cm), Splitzer. Available in combo packages.

Ergonomics

Before I go on, I’m going to emphasize that this is a prototype of the Lomo’Instant Square that was in the US for only a few days. 

Now that that’s out of the way, when you look at the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square, you’re probably going to sit there scratching your head a bit. I mean, if you’re one of those folks newer to photography, then it’s going to look alien. And if you’re too old and stick your nose in the air at all things film, then you’re just going to not care. But instead, the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square targets the people who care more about the square format and cool looks at the affordable price point.

The Lomography Lomo’Instant Square has a lens that folds out with a bellows system from the camera. The lens cap automatically comes off and slides when it unfolds. But when it is folded, it’s covered and protected.

Turn to the back of the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square and what you’ll find is the loading area, the viewfinder, and buttons. The buttons on the right side aren’t labeled just yet but in the final version they surely will be. From the rear, it sort of looks like a space ship. I want to call it a retro futuristic design.

Here’s what the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square looks like from the side when it isn’t fully closed. The film ejection port is on the top of the camera.

To close the camera up, you’ll need to use the little bar on the bottom. You push that in and the rest collapses. If you’ve used large format cameras or the Polaroid Land cameras, you’ll get it.

Build Quality

In the hand, the Lomo’Instant Square feels nice. It’s a camera that unfolds to get ready for shooting but otherwise becomes really compact. It’s made of plastic, and I’m okay with that considering the price point. My only concern is the bellows. This isn’t something that adheres just to the Lomo’Instant Square, but to every camera with bellows. One day the bellows on my Mamiya RB67 Pro S and the Polaroid 185 Land camera are going to go. And that will be sad. The bellows here though feel like a soft plastic/rubber. I’m hoping the final version has a bellows that collapses and looks more like an accordion than these ultra smooth ones.

Ease of Use

As far as buttons go, this prototype didn’t label what they did. But you should know that there are going to be a fair number of controls and we should expect the controls to mimic the other cameras from the past. The camera is otherwise pretty point and shoot in its nature with the exception of the focusing. And if anything, that may indeed be the most difficult part about using this camera.

Focusing

So first off, the prototype I tested has a manual focusing lens. The lens will be manual focus to begin with as has every other Lomography lens–but the kicker is that its focus is based off of the distance from the lens itself and not the film plane. What that means is that you’ll need to be a bit further away from your subject than normal. The prototype didn’t show focus markings, but maybe the final version will have that.

Image Quality

In terms of image quality from the lens itself, these photos shot with my iPhone do no justice to the actual prints that come from the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square. These are sharp prints. In fact, they’re right up there with the Lomo’Instant Automat Glass camera in that the lens is super sharp, and the sharpest results come when there is flash. Being such a large film plane too, you have to expect it to have some decent depth of field effects when you’re focusing at the closest distance.

First Impressions

The Lomography Lomo’Instant Square seems to be a really solid camera thus far. Lomography has been refining their automatic exposure system for a while and to be honest, all I really want from them is a rangefinder focusing system with manual controls for the shutter speed and aperture. It doesn’t even need to have interchangeable lenses. But I’d love to have full manual control. The closest thing that I have to that is the Lomography Diana F+ with an instant back. Still though, I’m going to be super stoked for the day someone makes a system with full manual controls.