Hands-on: Instant impressions of the Leica Sofort

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We spend a bit of hands-on time with the Leica Sofort instant camera(Credit: Simon Crisp/New Atlas)

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The Leica Sofort feels like it would be more at home on the beaches of Cannes, or backstage at a Milan fashion show, than the German exhibition hall setting of Photokina. But that's where we recently got the chance to try it out. Read on to see what we made of Leica's first instant camera, and whether a premium instant camera makes sense.

The Leica Sofort is an undeniably good-looking camera. We were impressed when we first saw images of it attached to a press release, but in person it's even better. However, up close you also realize how similar it is to a Fujifilm Instax Neo 90. That said, the angular style works well with the mint, white and orange color options, especially when paired with the high-end accessories.

Though we'd expected the boxy feel of the camera, we were surprised by how lightweight the Sofort it. Maybe this is because the unit we used only had a couple of sheets of film in it, or maybe because you expect any device baring that famous red dot to feel like a tank. The Sofort could make a good travel companion, it's not too heavy or bulky, and for certain sort of photographers it will probably be considered a fashion accessory.

Navigating between shooting modes is simple with the Sofort. Given we're all now used to high-res monitors and touch-screens, it can feel a little like you've slipped into a time warp headed for the year 1984. But selecting a mode is easy, and there are plenty here to choose between depending on your subject. These include things like, Party and People, Sport and Action, Double Exposure, Macro, and Bulb.

There is also a dedicated selfie mode, with a little mirror on the front of the camera to help you compose your shot. But whether this mirror, which is like the tiny ones you used to get on mobile phones before the era of front-facing cameras, will cut it for a generation that has grown up taking selfies, we are not so sure.

Once you've snapped your photo, the camera instantly starts churning out your print which, as you would expect, starts off blank and appears over the period of about a minute. The quality of our Leica prints were up there with the best Fujifilm instant prints, had nice bold colors, and were much more vibrant than the images delivered by the Polaroid Snap Touch. However, while Leica describes the frame around its instant film as "warm-white", we'd say it had more of a green-white tint to it. Also, we only got to test the color film and not the monochrome variant.

While the Sofort is a quality piece of kit, it's when combined with the various accessories, which include cases and color matching straps, that it begins to feel decidedly Leica. Given the number of people wanting to try the camera at the Leica stand at Photokina, and ignoring cameras like the Leica T, M Monochrom, and Q, (much to the apparent dismay of some Leica representatives), we'd say it will probably be a success.

Indeed, retro instant cameras were something of a trend at Photokina this year with cameras knocking out photos left, right and center. Fujifilm had an array of Instax cameras on display and announced its new square format instant film. Meanwhile, Impossible Project was showing of its I-1 Bluetooth-connected instant camera, and Lomography was doing its retro thing too. You can check out all of these in our Best of Photokina 2016 gallery.

The Leica Sofort will be available from November and priced at US$299. Leica Sofort color film will come in packs of 10 exposures for $12.95, or 20 for $21.95. The monochrome film will cost $15.95 for 10 exposures.

Product page: Leica Sofort

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