Instant film cameras, like the Leica SOFORT, may seem like a weird concept in the digital age, but they do have their uses. But they have a cost per exposure, the quality isn’t the best, and they have a limited range of applications.
If you remember these things the first time around, the biggest buzz you got from such cameras was seeing the instant images. That seems pretty obvious, but actually viewing a printed image instantly works to the camera’s advantage, but you need an audience.
For example, I’m seeing a lot of them pop up at weddings, so guests can take candid shots throughout the day and post them up on an image wall. Then again, these cameras can be seen as a fashion thing, but no matter the reason behind the use, is the Leica SOFORT a good camera in itself?
Leica has its brand name as the initial calling card on this camera, but it’s what’s underneath that counts. Essentially it is the inner workings of a Fujifilm instax mini 90 and uses instax mini film. These are small cassettes of film, which are loaded into the rear of the camera.
Leica supplies a box of film with a new camera, but every ten shots, you need to reload. This can obviously get costly, so you don’t have the luxury of snapping away as you do with a digital camera. Also, no LCD on the back of the camera, thus no visual feedback. It’s old-school shooting all the way.
The Leica SOFORT is a fully automatic point-and-shoot, but there are some creative controls if you need them. The flash can be switched on and off, there is a macro mode, a timer, a small front-facing mirror for selfies, and even a bulb mode for long exposures. There is a tripod socket located at one end of the camera, which isn’t a very practical position, and the viewfinder is too small and far from the lens for getting a true interpretation of what you’re shooting.
The different modes include macro, bulb, automatic, self-timer, party and people, sport and action, double exposure, and selfie. On the front of the camera, there is the on/off button, along with the flash. There are basic control buttons on the rear of the camera for power, mode, flash, timer, and exposure compensation. The build of the camera is essentially a good-looking box.
The camera uses zone focusing and a ring around the lens – all manual here. A plastic lens is employed, which isn’t the greatest but probably used to simply cut down on costs.
One thing to note is that for each 20 exposure box, there are two, 10 exposure cartridges. This means for every ten exposures, there will be waste plastic for you to dispose of. Some may say this is not so great for the environment.
The Leica SOFORT in Use
The plastic lens is probably the biggest thing that brings the camera down in terms of quality. A glass lens would increase the cost, as would manual controls, but it would at least bring out more quality in the final images.
In many ways, you get what you’re given with image quality, but generally, all the images have an old school feel with a slightly soft look. If you didn’t tell anybody, they would swear the images were from the 1980s.
Movement of subjects usually ends up in blurring, but it gives an artistic quality to the images as they are inherently a little lo-fi. In other words, you’re a bit more forgiving in the final product as you always know you’re not carrying around thousands of dollars worth of camera to produce razor-sharp images.
How Does It Compare?
With so much in common with the Fujifilm instax mini 90, how does it compare? Colors tend to be rendered slightly differently on both cameras, but as for the rest of the image quality, they’re on a par. The Fuji classic has a more old-school camera look, with the silver and black color scheme. This makes the Fuji look a bit more professional than the Leica, but being a Leica means it has a higher price tag.
The decision of which one is best will probably come down to which you prefer the look and feel of as image quality and facilities are roughly the same.
|Leica SOFORT||Fujifilm instax mini 90|
|Film||Instax mini film||Instax mini film|
As a pure instant camera, the Leica SOFORT produces fun and quirky images. It’s a given when you buy one of these units you’re going to have a constant drain of money for film. This can be an advantage in that you take more time and care with each shot.
A digital camera is going to produce better quality images all around, but that’s not really the point here. Having a camera that can produce instant prints, no matter the results is a unique proposition. It’s obviously going to be costly per exposure, but for scenarios like candid wedding shots or any other type of event which can be displayed on the day, can be a great crowdpleaser. In this way, it’s not so much about the quality, but capturing the moment with a hardcopy keepsake.
In total, the SOFORT is a fun camera to use and that should be the main factor or category: fun. It also works as a great fashion accessory; a subliminal way of telling the world, you’re into photography, but much prefer the look of film.
Definitely cooler than a basic digital camera, but as long as you understand the drawbacks/benefits, depending on which way you look at it, this is a social camera to instantly share results. The Leica SOFORT won’t replace a digital camera, but it can be useful in the right scenario.