Hands on with the new Leica Sofort instant camera
Leica’s entry into the instant camera market, the Sofort, is both bigger and lighter than it looks. With larger-than-life styling, this camera has a cheeky, almost toy-like appearance. It is like a cartoon Leica.
Yesterday I got my hands on one for the first time at the Leica stand in Photokina. Leica UK’s marketing director, Jenny Hodge, used her influence to pry a bright orange Sofort out of the hands of one of the Wetzlar executives.
So how does it feel? It’s chunky, as you expect from the pictures, and the controls are minimal. We didn’t bother checking the settings, as I posed with Jenny for the sample shot. The pictures are smaller than I expected, quite tiny in fact, but develop more rapidly than I remember from experience with the Polaroid SX70 some 30 years ago. The Polaroid shots, squared off, were larger; the Sofort produces a portrait-style frame similar in proportions to a frame of 35mm film.
Yet it’s great fun to use and I can imagine the Sofort selling well to Leica-brand aficionados at the recommended price of £215. Admittedly, the very similar Fuji Instax Mini 90 is £90 cheaper but then you don’t get the Leica Hektor lens nor any presumable tweaks that may have been made in Wetzlar.
To coincide with the announcement of the Sofort, both Fuji and Leica have introduced black-and-white film packs and I’m keen to try out my instant monochrome skills. So far I’ve read good reports.
The only problem with the Sofort, as with all instant cameras, is that you get just the one print. Should you happen to be Sofort in hand when that decisive moment of a lifetime materialises you might well wish you'd had a normal camera with you. Also, as my friend Robert Parker rightly points out, we will feel obliged to take two shots every time - one for the subject and one for keeping. That's a couple of quid on the tally. If you want to take this instant photography seriously you'll also need to invest in a scanner. Not to worry, though, it's all good fun.
The Sofort is likely to appear on every Leica enthusiast's Christmas present list.