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Camera review: Leica Sofort – by Edward CondeCamera review: Leica Sofort – by Edward Conde

Camera review: Leica Sofort – by Edward Conde

It’s been sometime now since I won a Leica Sofort & 10 boxes of Fuji Mini Monochrome INSTAX film from EMULSIVE and Dan K’sFuji INSTAX Mini Monochrome Photo Competition”.

EM has been patiently waiting for my take on the INSTAX camera from this legendary camera company. So here it is; me and my Leica Sofort.

Here’s what I cover in this review:

 

I should say that I am an enthusiast of photography and this is by no means a technical review. It’s my impressions on the camera with a slight comparison to the Fuji INSTAX Mini 90 NEO CLASSIC.

Also…I am not a writer! 🙂

 

 

 

The INSTAX Mini Monochrome photo contest 2016

Photographer: Edward Conde Award: First place Title: Flower Holder (Multiple Exposure) Location: Thousand Oaks, California, USA Camera: Fuji Mini 90 NEO CLASSIC

Photographer: Edward Conde
Award: INSTAX Mini Monochrome photo contest 2016 First place
Title: Flower Holder (Multiple Exposure)
Location: Thousand Oaks, California, USA
Camera: Fuji Mini 90 NEO CLASSIC

In late 2016 EM and Twitter’s Dan K put on a photo contest just after the announcement of the Leica Sofort / global release of Fuji INSTAX Mini Monochrome.

Being a hardcore INSTAX fan, I thought it would be fun to enter the photo above and see what happened. I have to admit, that I was having a difficult time coming up with a shot that I was happy with. It wasn’t until the last week before the competition ended that I came up with the idea of this this shot after eating some delicious tacos with my buddy.

I think the tacos got my creative juices flowing because I won the Leica Sofort & 10 boxes of INSTAX Mini Monochrome!

 

 

 

 

Leica Sofort Overview

Leica Sofort and Fuji Instax Mini 90 together

Leica Sofort and Fuji Instax Mini 90 together

The Sofort is Leica’s first INSTAX Mini film camera. It is basically a Fuji INSTAX Mini 90 NEO CLASSIC in a square shell design. From what I gathered on the internet, the internals of the Sofort are all manufactured by Fuji. The shell design was done by Leica.

The lens seems very similar in focal length and aperture to the INSTAX Mini 90, but Leica calls their lens the “Automatik-Hektor”. It’s a 60mm fixed f/12.7 aperture lens which works out to 34mm equivalent on 35mm film.

The Sofort (naturally) sports Leica’s legendary red dot, something that makes it an instant eye-catcher to the masses.

Like the Mini 90, the Sofort is powered by a rechargeable battery, which Leica say is good for 100 shots without flash – 10 packs of film.

 

 

 

Sofort button layout & viewfinder

The Sofort naturally sits in a landscape orientation with the film ejection slot on the left (from the perspective of the photographer), and the tripod mount on the bottom. The control button layout is vertical and the viewfinder is in a landscape orientation.

The Mini 90 naturally sits in a portrait orientation with the film ejection slot on the top and the tripod mount on the bottom. Button layout and the viewfinder is in a portrait orientation.

The Sofort’s viewfinder provides parallax correction for when you get in close. Speaking of which, the Sofort’s close-focus / macro more allows you to shoot at distances of between 0.3-0.6m (1-2 feet).

Click on the images below for a full-screen view.

Both cameras offer the same shooting modes and functions, even though the button layout and icons might be different.

It’s important to mention that the Sofort has only one shutter button, which is situated on the top side of the camera. The INSTAX Mini 90 sports two buttons – one on the front of the camera and one on the top plate.

This is something that I really like about the 90; whether you are in Portrait or Landscape mode there is a shutter button right at your fingertip.

 

 

 

Image quality

The images produced by the Leica Sofort are similar in sharpness to what I get from the INSTAX Mini 90. I do believe the Leica provides warmer tones in some situations and is also slightly less contrasty.

The plastic lens does very well in capturing colors on INSTAX film and the samples below show a bright sunny day at a local carnival.

As with the INSTAX Mini 90, the Leica Sofort provides a brightness adjustment button for some degree of manual under/over exposure (+/-0.7 stops, according to Leica).

Like the INSTAX Mini 90, understanding which one to use in any given situation is a case of trial and error.

 

 

 

 

Shooting Modes

I have tried all the shooting modes on the Sofort, but my most often used modes on the Sofort are: portrait (selfie) and automatic. There are 8 modes in total:

  • Automatic
  • Selfie
  • People / Party
  • Action / Sport
  • Double Exposure
  • Macro
  • Bulb
  • Timer

To cover the main modes in slightly more detail:

 

Portrait (Selfie) mode

The Sofort has a dedicated mode for this type of shooting. This mode is excellent for taking close portraits (0.6-3m / 2-10 ft). I have started to use this mode for almost all my portraits.

It fills the frame nicely and the flash output is pretty accurate and does not normally overexpose the shot.

 

 

Automatic mode

When out shooting on the streets, I will generally leave it in its default setting and try to get close to my subject. On occasion I will change the lens to focus on longer distance if I am looking to capture a scene. If it’s a bright day, I will set the light setting to dark.

 

 

 

Double Exposure

This one is one of my favorite modes on the Sofort. I’m often experimenting with creating double exposed shots on INSTAX. This is the mode I used on my INSTAX Mini 90 for the photo competition.

Just like the Mini 90, the Sofort makes it super easy to tap into your creative side.

 

 

Bulb Mode

This is a 10 sec bulb mode to capture long exposures. I have tried this many times on the Sofort but the results varied. I need to spend more time perfecting the steps to get some good long exposures.

 

 

 

A typical day with my Sofort

With the Sofort being super compact, it’s really a no brainer to take with me to work or on a weekend trip with the family. In fact, I prefer to take Sofort over my other cameras to places like Disneyland.

When I am with the family, the Sofort is just an easier camera to take. The camera is not intrusive and I can quickly take snaps and move on.

When I am street shooting, I will normally pull out the Sofort to shoot a few frames with it. This helps to see things happening around from a different view. There have been many photo walks where i have stopped shooting my normal cameras and switched to shooting INSTAX film. It changes the way I shoot and how I see things.

 

 

 

Differences with the Fuji INSTAX Mini 90

I have mentioned throughout this post some of the differences between the Mini 90 & the Sofort. From a day-to-day point of view, there are two important differences but first, here’s a quick side-by-side with these cameras:

Back to those two important differences:

 

Shutter Buttons: One feature I like that the Mini 90 has over the Sofort is the twin shutter button. The placement of each button makes it super easy to push if you shoot in portrait or in landscape mode. The Sofort only has one button for the shutter.

Lens Focus Distance: With the Sofort, you can change the distance mode by a twist of the lens. Close and Far. With the Mini 90, it all depends on which mode you are in, and the 90 will select the distance for you.

 

One thing I have noticed with the Sofort is that when I change the lens distance it automatically turn off the flash. This is not the case with the Mini 90.

When the Mini 90 is set to Mountain (infinity) mode, the flash is still enabled. I have to manually turn this off before taking the shot.

As with the Mini 90 and all other Fuji INSTAX cameras, the Sofort will revert to its default settings when the camera is powered off.

 

 

 

 

Leica Sofort accessories

Leica released different color straps and cases when the Sofort was released…and that’s about it. From my testing with my Splitzer adapter I have for the Fuji Mini 90, it works on the Sofort.

I thought it would, since the Sofort’s lens construction is identical to the 90. This is the only accessory I own for my INSTAX Mini cameras.

 

 

 

What would I change?

Glass Lens: I would ask for a glass lens to be add to the Sofort. Lomography has created a new model of the Automat with a glass lens. Leica could easily do the same.

Variable Aperture: It would be nice if they could design a lens to have variable aperture. Right now it’s f/12.7 and that’s it. With a variable aperture, could give the camera a wider range of usable conditions. Something like f/4.5 – f/16 would be great!

Autofocus: This would be fantastic if they can add a simple AF system to the Sofort. Something similar to what was used in older film point & shoot cameras would be perfect.

 

 

Sample images

Here are a few more sample images taken with the Sofort. As above, simply click on a thumbnail to open a full screen gallery.

 

 

 

Conclusion

The Sofort is a fun INSTAX camera to shoot. In the short time that I have owned it I have captured a lot. It is an eye-catcher and definitely a conversation starter. People see the red dot and they start asking questions.

That said, there is a hefty Leica tax that comes with the Sofort. Compared to the Fuji INSTAX Mini 90, a camera that is pretty much identical in every way, the cost difference would be hard to justify for me.

The Sofort is currently retailing around $300 vs the Mini 90 at $130 (USD). That is a big difference and using the savings from buying the Mini 90 you could stock up on a lot of Instax film.

If Leica had created something that was distinctly better and set apart from the Mini 90 I would have been more interested in purchasing one. So with that said, on cost alone, I could not recommend the Sofort.

All said and done, I am so grateful to EM and Dan that my photo was picked as the winner of the contest!

I now have two INSTAX Mini cameras at my disposal and often take them both with me on trips with different films in them.

~ Edward Conde

 

 

 

Leica Sofort specifications

Camera nameLeica Sofort
Camera typeInstant camera
FormatFuji INSTAX Mini
Leica instant pack film

(62 x 46 mm)
ManufacturerLeica Camera AG
Manufacture dates2016 onwards
Lens60 mm f/12.7
(34mm in 35 mm equiv.)
ViewfinderOptical real image viewfinder 0,37x with target spot and
parallax compensation for macro mode
ShutterElectronically controlled mechanical shutter

1/8 – 1/400 sec.

Bulb mode

Self timer - 2 or 10 sec delay
FocusingZone focus with three focus steps:
0.3 – 0.6m (macro)
0.6 – 3m (close range)
3m – infinity (far range)
MeteringAutomatic exposure control
LV 5-15.5 (ISO 800)
ISOISO 800 (INSTAX film speed)
FlashBuilt-in electronic flash
Auto, Forced on, Forced off, Forced on with red-eye
reduction
LoadingAuto load
WeatherproofingNo
Power1x BP-DC17 battery. Requires BC-DC17 charger.

Appx 100 100 exposures at 20c (no flash)
WeightWeight: 305g (without battery or film)
Dimensions
(appx)
124 x 94 x 58mm (WxHxD)
AccessoriesPossible to use current Mini 90 accessories

 

 

 

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About The Author

Edward Conde

Photographer in Los Angeles, California observing life, one frame at a time.

8 Comments

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  1. Just looking at those carnival pictures is getting me all nostalgic… sigh.

    Great review by the way, and very cool camera. I’d love to have one myself just to play around with.

    Reply
  2. never planned on getting a Leica Sofort, but I won it on Friday night so I can’t really complain. It was the 1st Place Award for the Leica Store DC’s National Juried Exhibition, and I was the lucky guy

    My only other experience with Instax Mini film was with the Fuji SP-1 wireless printer for my X100T, and I never liked the results from it. I was hoping that the Sofort would change my mind about this format, but so far the answer is no.

    Below are my first shots — I have to say they’re pretty ‘meh’. This is the Leica-branded monochrome film, and I find that the blacks aren’t really black and the highlights are generally blown. On the plus side, the photos are reasonably sharp.

    The camera has three exposure modes — ‘normal’, ‘brighter’ and ‘darker’, so beyond that there isn’t really a way to control exposure that I can see. It’s pretty much just ‘point and shoot’. Most of the photos below were taken at the ‘darker’ setting. Plus you can’t control depth of field at all (it’s an f/12.7 lens), so it’s a bit of a challenge to get creative with it (at least for me!). You’re really just left to use composition/perspective to make anything interesting, so perhaps that’s a good thing for me. Definitely will test my abilities!

    I think the next step is to try out the Fuji-branded monochrome film to see if there’s a difference (I watched a YouTube video that demonstrated that there is), and then check out the colour film options. I’ll post additional photos here as I progress (or regress???).

    For what it is, the camera itself seems reasonably well-made, though it has the cryptic phrase ‘designed by Leica’ (meaning, Made in China) printed on the box. Plastic body and lens of course, though there is a bit of metal here and there (specifically the shutter release button, the camera strap lugs and yes, the red dot). Functionally it’s interesting — you do have some options in the menu (scene-shooting options, flash options, macro, self-timer, plus a couple of other things). It also has a tripod socket, a pretty decent camera strap and a rechargeable battery with charger (along with North American and European plug options). The camera also has an auto-shutoff feature if it hasn’t been used for about 5 minutes, which is both good and not so good: If you have the camera’s menu options set a certain way (flash off, macro on etc), once the camera auto-shuts off, you have to reset everything once you turn it back on to shoot. I have no clue how the Sofort compares with the Fuji Instax Mini 90, but one thing I know is that it’s more than twice the price!

    Overall the camera has potential, but I’m not sure how much I’m going to use it ($1 per mediocre shot will get a bit expensive after a while!). If anyone has any experience with the Sofort or thoughts about it, please do share!
    Good Luck

    Kevin

    Reply
  3. A few reasons why I purshased Leica Sofort: Good Macro, Bulb, intuitive Automatic and precise Self timer. Also, Party and People, Sport and Action, Double Exposure and Selfie modes working great on it.

    Reply
  4. I love that they still make cameras like this. Some people might be turned off by the picture quality but I love how they have that old school vintage feel to them. I need to get one of these ASAP

    Reply
  5. Phil Harrison

    I enjoyed this review very much and echo your thoughts. I bought a Sofort last Christmas and have used it extensively, mainly for family photos. My son and daughter have bought the cheapest Fuji Instax on the strength of my photos. I love the way you’ve photographed your Instax prints against fences.

    Reply
  6. @leica_camera @EdwardConde The lens/focus on Instax cameras is appalling. Who’ve thought a 1/4″ senso… https://t.co/xPljLhGAYn

    Reply

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