In 2016 Leica introduced the Sofort camera that uses Fuji’s Instax film and I couldn't be happier. I have been shooting the Impossible Project film for a couple of years and I have been reasonably happy with the results but have longed for higher quality images.
Having used Polaroid products for over 20 years I was saddened when they discontinued their instant film. I have a Spectra, SX-70 models, and still have my 545 sheet film holder for 4 X 5 cameras. Before digital there were a lot of uses for Polaroid film. From passport photos to vacation snaps and exposure tests instant film was always in demand.
My daughter was the deciding factor for adding the Instax line. She is attending University and those little prints have been a big hit. In our digital world analog really is a conversation starter. She has a Mini camera and recently added a Wide model. I purchased an Instax SP-2 printer last summer to print photos from my iPhone and have been really enjoying my mini printer.
I went to the Leica store to look at the Leica Q and decided against it because of the 28mm lens but while there the Sofort caught my eye. The Fuji instant cameras are kind of ugly but the Sofort is one nice looking camera. I chose the Mint color, white is too plain and Orange is gaudy. So much for fashion.
The Sofort has a lens that is equivalent to 34mm on a 35mm camera. Since that is the most popular Leica lens for street shooters it is very familiar to me. It is smaller than I anticipated which is a nice surprise. I am looking forward to trying the Bub, Macro, and Double Exposure modes. I’m not much of a selfie person but it will be a popular feature. There is even a mirror on the front of the camera to assist with selfies which is a nice touch.
The image quality seems to be the same as the Fuji models. When the Sofort was first released it was implied that the lens was made by Leica but that was refuted after the cameras release. It is easy to use and the images are usually well exposed and in focus. But the reason for shooting this camera is not for quality but to have unique keepsakes and the camera excels for this use. I just love this camera. It is so much fun to shoot “Polaroids” again. As much as I like the Impossible Project film it just feels to experimental. The Sofort and Instax line is just plain fun.
The camera is square and boxy looking. I prefer this to the Fuji cameras that can be best described as puffy. The Sofort is a cousin of the Fuji Instax Mini 90 camera. Both cameras have similar features. You can use both Leica’s and Fuji’s film which both come in color and black and white. The only difference I could see was that with the Leica film the white border around the image was a little gray. Other than that the images were identical. I have really enjoyed shooting black and white film. The prints are 62 x 46 mm so they are smaller than the old polaroids that we remember. A pack of ten shots is about $10 if buying the Fuji film and a couple dollars more if buying Leica’s film. Surprise, Surprise.
The front of the camera is pretty basic. It just has a viewfinder window, mirror for selfies, and the flash which is good to about 10 feet. The innermost ring around the lens is to set the lens to normal focusing distances or close-up which is 3 - 10 feet. The focus mode is shown on the LCD on the back. The back has the chamber for the battery and the film pack. The battery is rated for 100 shots. A little birdy told me that the Fuji battery can be used instead of the Leica battery if you need a spare. Your mileage may vary. The buttons on the back are for setting the camera functions. They are Power, Mode, Flash, Self Timer, and Exposure Compensation.
The shutter button is of course on the top and is slightly recessed. The viewfinder is clear and bright and is perfectly usable for eyeglasses. The tripod mount is offset to the side. The included strap is acceptable and Leica sells colored straps to match the camera. Would be nice if this would have been included as a standard accessory.
Yes the Leica is more money than the Fuji. Of course. This doesn't even matter. I am really enjoying my new Leica Sofort. It seems so long ago that I stopped shooting Polaroid film. Having an analog product in a digital world kind of gives you a warm feeling inside. Cost $300. Go get one.
White: 19100 Mint: 19101 Orange: 19102
Instant camera 62 x 46 mm
Film Type: Leica instant film pack: 10 shots, colour or monochrome, Instax-mini format, speed ISO 800
Lens: 60 mm f/12.7 (34mm in 35 mm equiv.)
Focusing Area: 3 Focus Steps: 0,3 – 0,6 m (Macro)/0,6 – 3 m (close range)/3 m – infinity (far range)
Shutter Speed: 1/8 – 1/400 sec. (mechanical shutter)
View Finder: Optical real image viewfinder 0,37x with target spot and parallax compensation for macro mode
Modes: Automatic, Selfie, People & Party, Action & Sport, Bulb, Macro, Self-timer, Double exposure
Exposure Mode: Time automatic
Exposure Compensation: -0,7 EV/0,0 EV/+0,7 EV
Light Metering: Automatic exposure control LV 5.0 – LV 15.5 (ISO 800)
ISO Sensitivity: ISO 800
Self-Timer: 2 Sec. / 10 Sec. waiting period
Flash: Built-in electronic flash
Auto, Forced on, Forced off, Forced on with red-eye reduction
Temperature working range: 5 – 40°C
Battery: Lithium-ion battery (supplied) 3.7V, 740mAh, 2.6 Wh
Voltage/capacity Battery life (approx.): 100 pictures at 20°
Dimensions (W x H x D) Weight: ca. 124 x 94 x 58 mm
(without battery and film pack): approx. 305 g
Scope of delivery: Camera, battery BP-DC17, charger BC-DC17 with adapter plug (varies from country to country), carrying strap, brief instructions