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Leica SOFORT Instant Camera Review

The SOFORT is an instant camera that features the famous Leica badge but is the Leica price tag really worth it? We find out.


|  Leica SOFORT in Film Compacts
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1/25 sec | f/2.8 | 10.4 mm | ISO 160
 

Leica, the brand most associated with expensive rangefinder cameras, has turned its attention towards a younger, more hipster audience with the introduction of an instant camera. Sporting the famous red dot and a chunky, square-shaped body, the Leica Sofort is certainly a head-turner but with a £229 asking price, is it really worth the investment? We ripped open some instant film and loaded the camera ready to find out. 

 

Leica Sofort Features

The Leica Sofort has a very retro feel to it with its boxy shape and we're not sure if it's the design that grabbed people's attention in the office or that fact that it sports a Leica badge but either way, it was a conversation starter. 

Available in orange, mint and white, the Sofort is accessorised with black trim and a large black 60mm f/12.7 lens which dominates the front of the camera. Turn it around and you find where the film cartridges go along with the battery compartment. There's also a thin LCD on the back which shows you the camera settings and the buttons to access these. To the side of the 0.37x optical viewfinder is the 'Designed by Leica Camera Germany' slogan while the famous red badge sits proudly on the front alongside the flash and a selfie mirror so you can perfect your self-portraits. 

 

Leica Sofort)
 

As with many other instant cameras, the Leica Sofort uses Fujifilm Instax Mini film which costs around a £1 a photo over on Amazon but you can save a little money in the battery department as the Sofort actually uses a rechargeable battery which should last for 100 exposures. A film pack of 10 shots is loaded into the back of the camera and there's a counter which tells you how many shots you have left. You can also use Leica-branded film, available in colour or black & white, which have warm cream-coloured frames. 

When compared to some instant cameras, the Sofort is surprisingly quite compact and fits in the hand well. There are also eyelets for securing a strap if you don't mind the odd curious glance in your direction while out using it. The camera is constructed from plastic but it feels far from flimsy and as you'd expect from Leica, it is really well built. There are colour coordinated camera pouches that you can match to your camera and strap if you do want to give your camera a little more protection from the elements, though. 

 

1/25 sec | f/2.5 | 10.4 mm | ISO 160
 

For those who like to get a bit more creative, you'll be happy to hear that the focusing distance can be set independently from the selected programme mode and there are 8 shooting modes available: Macro, Bulb, Automatic, Self Timer, Party and People, Sport and Action, Double Exposure and Selfie. In Bulb mode, users can keep hold of the shutter button for as long as they like to capture a longer exposure and it was actually a lot of fun to experiment with.

If you're just wanting to just have a bit of fun with friends on a day trip then the A mode will be perfectly adequate for you as all you have to do is frame your shot, press the shutter button and wait for the camera to kick out your photo. Plus, in true Leica style,  the camera takes advantage of available light for as long as possible when shooting in auto mode, without triggering the built-in flash – resulting in pictures with a more natural and authentic look. 

 

Leica Sofort
 

Flash can be left on the automatic setting, or the photographer can choose to switch it on or off, depending on the nature of the pictures they wish to take. The viewfinder isn't the biggest but it's useful for giving you a rough idea of what you're about to capture. Having said that, you might not even want to use it as one of the joys of using film is you don't really know what you've captured until it's developed. 

 

Leica Sofort

 

Leica Sofort Performance 

The quality of image instant cameras produce will never be everyone's cup of tea but overall, the Sofort performed really well, even in low light situations. In fact, we actually used bulb mode hand-held to capture a bit of light painting and we had no problems with shake. Capturing selfies one-handed can be a little tricky and a couple of times, the prints were blurry and flash can be a little harsh. The double exposure feature is fun to use and can produce some really creative shots but really, you can just keep the camera on Auto as it handles the majority of situations without too much of an issue. 

Yes, there are bright spots and some shots aren't completely in focus but this is what many actually love about instant film as it gives you the opportunity to capture something incredibly quirky and creative. 

The whole photo taking process is fun and when you hit the shutter button and a print appears almost instantly, it's rather gratifying. It actually makes a nice change to have a physical print in your hand that you can pass around or stick on a wall rather than looking at a photo on a mobile phone you're never going to do anything with. 

The camera's really easy to use and the modes available give the user a little more control over the image that's produced should they want it. 

The prints are of a nice size and the frames just further add to the retro uniqueness of the shots produced. The prints that come from Fujifilm have a white frame while the frames surrounding the prints from Leica have a warmer tone. It takes a couple of minutes for the image to appear and it's actually rather novel watching your capture slowly appear in frame. 

Leica Sofort Sample Photos
 

Value For Money

At £229, I'd be lying if I said I thought that the Sofort is reasonably priced but then again, it is a rather inexpensive Leica if you do want to be able to say you own one. Other instant cameras around a similar price point include the Lomo'Instant Wide which is priced at £199 but it does come with a variety of lenses. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 isn't far behind it at around £119. The Instax Mini cameras are slightly cheaper at around the £60 price mark and so is the Polaroid Snap Instant Digital Camera at £89.99. The Fuji Instax Wide, which uses the same film as the Lomo'Instant Wide, is available for around £99. 

 

Leica Sofort Verdict 

As we thought it would be, the Leica Sofort is fun to use and definitely grabs people's attention. It's perfect for parties, days out with friends and for those who don't take their photography too seriously. Instant photography is about having fun, experimenting and not necessarily getting everything right in camera but still producing really cool shots. 

A downside of these cameras is that it's really easy to rattle through 10 shots with almost no thought at all which turns it into a rather expensive pastime. Having said that, these cameras do make you realise how important printing images actually is and perhaps it'll encourage more of us to actually do something with our digital files. 

The prints may be expensive but this isn't because of the Leica name, all film for instant cameras is available for around this price point but we can't really ignore the overall price of the Leica Sofort as it is expensive for what it is. Yes, there are other instant cameras available for around the same price that don't have the Leica name and build quality associated with them but in reality, it's a lot of cash for something you're just going to have a bit of fun with. 

Having said that, the camera is designed well, it looks cool and it's really fun to use so if you can justify the cost, or have always wanted to own a Leica but they're normally out of your price range, then the Leica Sofort is well-worth considering. 

Leica Sofort Pros 

  • Well made
  • Stylish
  • Fun
  • Variety of shooting modes 

Leica Sofort Cons

  • Expensive
  • Film isn't cheap

 

Features4/5
Handling4/5
Performance4/5
Value3.5/5
Overall Verdict


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