The Leica Sofort is the first venture into instant cameras – and a leap back into film – for the legendary German manufacturer. Announced late last year, the Sofort uses Fuji Instax film and can produce images in both colour or monochrome. Find out how it performs in our Leica Sofort review.
At £229, the Leica Sofort is by far the most affordable Leica camera you can buy, but for an instant camera it’s probably at the top end in terms of price. But as you’d expect from a Leica, it has some nice features to walk the walk.
The Leica Sofort offers the user a bit more control than basic point and shoot. Users can choose from a range of modes, such as Auto, Party & People, Sport & Action, Self-Portrait, Double Exposure and Macro, as well as settings for multiple and timed exposures.
The Sofort also boasts a built-in flash, which you can leave on its auto setting or switch on or off. And to aid self-portraits, the Sofort provides a mirror on the front of the camera to help frame your image.
Other features include freedom to set the focusing distance independently of the program mode you’ve selected, and a monochrome film option for black & white photography.
The Fuji Instax film it uses can be readily found for about £10, and a film pack contains 10 exposures. You can also buy it in twin packs of 20 for about £15.
Leica Sofort Build and Handling
The Leica Sofort features a pretty minimal body design. The camera itself is a square shape, and on the front is a fixed lens which retracts into the body when the Sofort is turned off. There is also a focus ring around the lens to help you fine tune your focusing.
On the back is a viewfinder and all of your main controls. There are just five buttons: your power button, a Mode button, flash button, the self-timer and a button for adding exposure compensation.
These buttons are stacked on top of each other on the left side of the camera, and a narrow display adjacent illustrates their activation, as well as shows you battery power and how many frames of film you have remaining.
On top of the camera is your shutter button and nothing else.
The Leica Sofort body is made of plastic, but overall it’s build feels very robust, which is what you want from a party camera.
How to load film to the Leica Sofort
For those of you like me who cut their teeth on film cameras, adding film to the Leica Sofort will seem like a breeze. But for many out there who have grown up with smartphones and digital cameras, loading film for the first time might be a little nerve-wracking. No one wants to accidentally expose all 10 frames of film!
Thankfully, you can’t. Leica has made inserting film to the Sofort very easy.
- On the back of the camera you’ll see a slider next to the control buttons. Slide this up and, like a secret room behind a book case, the buttons and display area pops open.
- Next, take your Fuji Instax film cartridge out of the packaging. You’ll notice a yellow band on one side on one end of the cartridge, and another yellow band inside this now-revealed film compartment. Simply insert the film cartridge so the two yellow bands touch, and you’re done!
- When you close the film compartment, the Sofort will make a sound and it will look like a print is emerging from the camera. Don’t worry, you haven’t taken a photo! This is the Leica Sofort simply opening the film cartridge and discarding the cover.
- You’re now ready to start taking photos! Simply frame your photo via the viewfinder, then press the shutter button on top. You’ll then hear sounds from inside the camera as it begins to generate your print.
Leica Sofort Performance
The Leica Sofort is just small enough to fit in the pocket of my favourite hoodie, so taking it out and about with me has been a fun experience. The looks from people when I pull out a powder blue, square camera rather than a smartphone make for a great conversation point.
Start-up is very fast, as is loading new film, as I described in the section above.
And as it’s minimalist design would imply, the Leica Sofort is very easy to use. Find your subject, select the most appropriate shooting mode, and away you go.
The biggest challenges I found using the Sofort are probably framing and focusing. As you would expect from an instant camera, the viewfinder here gives you some guidance in composing your shot, but it’s not really something you can rely on for great accuracy. In other words, don’t think of it in the same way as a DSLR viewfinder.
After some use, I found myself framing shots a little wider than I would naturally want to in order to avoid awkward crops on my subject.
Focusing also took some getting used to. There is a focus ring on the lens, but it’s hard to ascertain when a subject is going to be in focus. Generally, wider angle shots or those where your subject is farther away – those were my sharpest images. I didn’t have much success shooting close-up, but then how do you define success with an instant camera? Was it fun to use? Yes, very much.
The key to getting great pictures from the Leica Sofort, I found, is trial and error. Through use you’ll figure out how far away you need to be, how wide to frame your image and so forth.
I found myself thinking about my images a lot more. I chose subjects more carefully and experimented with my composition before finally pressing the shutter button. And this gave me a better feel for the camera’s ideal conditions.
In terms of exposures, the colours in my prints looked a little washed-out at times, but this is part of the charm of these nostalgic throwback cameras. And if you want more saturated colours, the Leica Sofort has a bulb mode that lets you keep the shutter open longer.
Another important point in the Sofort’s favour is that Leica claims its battery lasts for 100 shots. So when you’re shooting film at 10 frames per pack you’ve got a lot of leeway. You’re probably not going to burn through 10 packs of film at one dinner party.
Leica Sofort Verdict
The Leica Sofort doesn’t produce the sharpest images or the strongest exposures, but that’s also part of its charm. While you wouldn’t want this from your DSLR or CSC, these qualities are quite delightful in an instant print.
It’s a beautiful camera, as you’d expect from Leica, and it’s very easy to use. But it’s pretty limited in scope. It’s not an all-purpose camera, and the prints are quite small. So unless you digitise them, your photos will only ever be the size they’re at.
Nevertheless, it’s quite capable of producing some nice images and capturing your memories in fun snapshots. And it’s also a very cost-effective way of owning a Leica.
- Battery lasts for 100 shots
- Colour is a little washed out at times, but it works in that nostalgic film kind of feel
- Thought about what I wanted to shoot
- Bulb mode is surprisingly good
- Viewfinder and resulting image are a little off
- Close-ups a bit hit and miss
- It takes a couple minutes for the image to set