Pictures have a way of capturing The Moment™ much better than even the most finely tuned eidetic memory ever could. Tracing all the way from cave paintings to Instagram, it’s clear humanity loves to show off what happened, who was there, and remind you you’re missing out on all the fun. If you’re sick of missing out and want to be at the center of all history, it’s high time you get your anxiously clicking fingers on the best instant camera.
These cameras combine the nostalgia of instant Polaroids with the convenience of modern technology. They bring the best of the past and the now together, giving you something much better to record memories on than a boring smartphone, but still with the instant gratification the modern man just loves. They’re great for parties, travel, or just starting a whimsical record of your life. We’ve put this selection together to give you an idea of which camera is best for you, so take a peek through the lens and check it out.
The Best Instant Camera
If you want the best instant camera to cover all your photography bases, then the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera is a picture-perfect choice. Evolving from previous models, it now comes with a built-in selfie mirror, and an additional macro lens to get those close ups just right.
While the automatic exposure measurement may take some fun away for experienced snappers, it’s ideal for beginners who just want to take pictures and will focus on the technical side, oh we don’t know, eventually. There’s also a high key mode, which ensures brighter pictures while still maintaining that classic soft Polaroid look.
New built-in selfie mirror
Macro lens adapter for close-up shots
Automatic exposure measurement
High key mode for taking brighter pictures with a softer look
- ModelInstax Mini 9 – Smokey White
- Weight1.1 pounds
Fast printing Polaroids
Easy to use for beginners and experts
4 environment settings
Slightly larger than pictures appear
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Instant Film Camera is a step up from the Mini 9 and comes with a plethora of advanced, highly useful features to take your photography to the next hipsterific level. Most useful is the automatic brightness detection to adjust the flash and save many wasted shots on poorly lit photos, which is especially useful considering the price of Instax film.
The Double Exposure Mode is also fun, giving you a chance to get creative with more ordinary scenes, and the Bulb Mode makes for interesting light trail shots which you could spend hours attempting on your smartphone. Its Lightness Control feature also offers a variety of shots types to ensure you capture the perfect ambience and clarity.
Automatic brightness detection to adjust flash
Double exposure mode
Bulb mode for light trail shots
Macro mode for short distance photography
- Weight1 pound
Classic, retro camera design
Strap, battery, and charger included
Wonderful picture clarity
Difficult to center subjects
There’s perhaps no one alive who doesn’t have fond memories (real or not) of the Polaroid camera and this Polaroid Snap Instant Digital Camera is an exceptional re-imagining of a product that defines an era. The self timer and optical viewfinder are cool nods to the past while the indicator function for battery and paper level reminds you you’re holding something much more advanced than whatever came before it.
We also love the design which while still clearly an instant camera, looks more like a proper, bona fide digital one. For more serious photographers, this could be a bonus by avoiding the toy-association of other models which may put you off your purchase.
Indicators for ink, battery, paper, and storage space
Pop-up optical viewfinder
USB cord to charge and transfer pictures
- Weight13.4 ounces
Easy to use with point, click, and, print
Zero ink or toner
Compact design fits in shirt pocket
For people who just want the best instant camera to record happy memories and special occasions, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 70 Instant Camera is the best value for money you’ll find. Even though it’s cheap, you still get several cool features to impress friends and relatives (and randoms on the street) and casual photographers, you won’t feel you’re missing out on more advanced functions.
There’s built-in selfie mirror, and Fujifilm have improved the picture quality to perform better in low-light situations, which prevents over-exposure of faces that plagues previous models. The casing has also been redesigned to be more sleek and streamlined, fitting comfortably in your bag or jacket pocket to take out when you know there’s a picture to take.
New sleek, streamlined design
Selfie mode with built-in selfie mirror
Improved picture quality, especially in low-light
Multiple other modes for versatile photographs
- Weight14.4 ounces
Tripod socket for mounting
Instax Share App allows you to print directly
Automatic exposure control
Battery life could be longer
For an instant photo camera which guarantees quality results, the 10 mega-pixel Kodak PRINTOMATIC Digital Instant Print Camera is something to seriously consider. It comes with a rechargeable battery so you never miss the perfect shot and ensures 40 prints per charge while the microSD slot (up to 32GB) allows you to take pictures with no paper loaded.
When you want to take advantage of its instant photo features, you can print with ease by just tapping a button. These pictures come out cleanly and ink-free to prevent smudging like you used to find on archaic photo printers of the early 2010s. They also have an adhesive back, so you can stick them into photo albums, scrapbooks, or telephone poles.
10 mega-pixel, all-in-one shoot and print camera
Zero ink technology
Photographs have an adhesive backing to stick anywhere
- Weight7 ounces
One stop printing
Charming, unique design
MicroSD slot for storage
Prints automatically so you cannot save shots for later
Going back to where it all began, the Polaroid Originals OneStep 2 VF Instant Camera is a blast from the past updated, redesigned, and re-purposed all for the tech generation. The essential self-timer function remains, while the high quality, optical grade lens ensures crisp and clear photographs that can make even drab, depressing scenes and subjects stand out.
This is further achieved with a powerful built-in flash, while the field of view is wide enough to capture substantial landscape shots with ease. If you want to revolutionize your photography, you can purchase a variety of add-ons to further push for greatness, and the already-supplied viewfinder makes framing pictures easier than your average camera.
High quality, optical grade polycarbonate lens
Powerful built-in flash
41 degree vertical and 40 degree horizontal field of view
- Weight14.4 ounces
Multiple add-ons available
60 day battery life
Compatible with all styles of i-Type film
Some issues with the shutter
If you’re looking for a decidedly more modern Polaroid camera, though, then the Polaroid POP 2.0 20MP Instant Print Digital Camera is the one for you. It doesn’t just step into the future, but takes broad, purposeful strides to show that Polaroid is not a company that’s stuck in the past.
They prove this by designing a camera with a massively intuitive and easy-to-use touchscreen, and offering on-board photo editing to add filter, borders, and stickers to your snaps, or leave them exactly the way they are, while still maintaining the iconic Polaroid layout.
Intuitive and easy-to-use touchscreen
On-board photo editing studio for filters, borders, and stickers
Pictures are larger than other instant cameras
- Weight1 pound
No printer, computer, or ink required
Supports microSD cards up to 128GB
Syncs to your phone or tablet via wifi or Bluetooth
Colors could be more vibrant
Our premium choice for the best mini instant camera is the Leica Sofort Instant Camera which stands somewhere between classic design and modern technology, offering something for everyone. It comes complete with a variety of camera settings, including double exposure, macro, selfie, and party modes to ensure you can capture any moment.
As a camera, it’s remarkably simple to use and requires almost zero learning curve, even for beginners. This is accentuated with the straightforward back buttons and easy-to-read screen, which displays flash and brightness settings, battery level, and current focus zone (of which you can choose between 3).
Variety of settings for every occasion
3-Zone manual focus system
Straightforward buttons on reverse
Compatible with Instax Mini Film
- Weight1.4 pounds
Battery charger and carrying strap included
Classic design re-imagined for today
Built-in electronic flash
Flimsy casing requires delicate care
Just like a flash we’ve come to the end of our selection. The Lomography Lomo’Instant Camera offers a unique photography style that both beginners and snapping vets will love. Immediately, you’re drawn to the unusual construction and design, which may be enough for some, but if you’re still not wholly convinced, just wait till you see what it has in store for you.
There are 3 shooting modes to ensure you capture scenes and subjects in an instant. These are Flash-On Auto Mode, Flash-On Manual Mode, and Flash-Off Manual Mode, and are easy to switch between when needed depending on the scene and shooting environment.
3 shooting modes
Ultra-advanced lens system
Largest aperture settings out of all instant cameras
Multiple, unlimited long exposure shots.
- Weight1.63 pounds
Great for parties and capturing special memories
Compatible with Instax film
Different color gels allow you to change flash color
Pictures are a little underexposed at time
Instant Camera Buying Guide & FAQ
How We Chose Our Selection of Instant Film Cameras
Brand - Everyone has a favorite camera brand and most find it difficult to shake from what they know and love. It might be because they have fond memories of the first camera they had, it might be because they’ve had bad experiences with other brands in the past, or maybe they’ve fallen prey to the marketing machine.
Whatever it is, we went through a variety of instant camera brands to find the best for you. The usual suspects are there, as you’d expect, but we’ve also thrown a couple of curve balls in you may not have heard of. This doesn’t mean they’re of lesser quality, though, and if you take the time to check them out, it might surprise you.
Reviews - Admittedly, we’re no photographers, but the people who leave glowing, comprehensive reviews are. Even though we’re not as informed about the nuances of instant cameras (and photography in general) as we’d like to be, we can at least rely on experienced customers to give us a snapshot of what to expect.
These reviews were vital in narrowing down a substantial selection to the nine you’ve seen above. They helped us make crucial decisions between one product and another, and as difficult as these picks were, se knew we were making them for good reason, so thanks reviews. We owe you a beer or two.
Price - We all know how expensive a photography hobby can be, especially when you’re just getting started. With this in mind, we ensured we found a wide range of prices so that every budding photographer could indulge in their passion.
From effective budget models great for getting started to more expensive options you graduate to once you’ve finally cracked the code to perfect pictures, there’s something for everybody. As elitist and exclusive photography can feel for some, this comfortable, versatile price range guarantees Polaroid photography will not die the sad, slow death we’ve seen other retro hobbies suffer from before.
Features To Look For In Instant Film Cameras
Film Capacity - Before buying your instant camera, find out its film capacity. This is the amount of Polaroid camera film the camera accepts at any one time. Fujifilm Instant Cameras fits a cartridge of ten camera papers inside while products such as the Polaroid Snap can hold as much as twenty in a single cartridge.
With digital instant cameras that allow you to mount a microSD card, you don’t have to worry as much about taking the perfect picture every time as you can save them for later and decide which ones you want to print.
Selfie Mirror - Even if you’re not a selfie guy, there will be a time where your partner or buddies convince you to take one, so you may as well make it easier for yourself by finding an instant camera with a selfie mirror. These make framing the picture and ensuring everyone is in the shot simple proving you don’t need the front facing camera of smartphones or a selfie stick to take the perfect self portrait.
Battery - Battery anxiety is a real thing in this device-obsessed age and it’s no surprise such anxiety can also affect photographers, too. Having fully charged batteries ensures you won’t miss out on fascinating, groundbreaking shots, and means you’ll be able to capture anything and everything around you.
Instant cameras are available with either standard batteries or rechargeable lithium ion batteries. For peace of mind and photo security, ensure you bring replacements or a charging port to swap out should you need to.
Exposure Measurement - Different exposure levels allow for different levels of light to be present in your photo. Having a camera with several exposure levels gives you more versatility in different light situations and helps you capture quality photos in all kinds of environments without you struggling to discern what’s what after it prints.
Paper Type - The paper type becomes a Polaroid photograph once you take the picture. This is inside the cartridge and what comes out after snapping your photo. To ensure you can get out there taking photos as soon as possible, check your paper type is compatible with the camera you’ve bought.
Fujifilm has their own line of paper that while expensive are certain to work with your camera and will often work with any camera that prints. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, though, and may not be true for top competitors such as Polaroid, so be diligent when buying printing paper so you don’t end up having to go through the hassle of returning them.
Accessories - To get the most from your instant camera and to explore a variety of different shooting techniques and settings, you can invest in a range of camera accessories. These accessories will vary between fish eye lenses and color gels to alter the hue of the flash.
Depending on what you want from your camera, they are a cool way of experimenting with your creativity and trying something a little different to regular Polaroid pictures. They can also be beneficial for helping you discover your niche or favored shooting technique.
Not everybody needs accessories, and they might not be relevant for casual photographers, but those serious about exploring as many possibilities, settings, and modes as possible will find a lot of value in testing out different instant camera accessories.
Instant Camera FAQ
Q: Do Polaroid pictures fade?
A: They do, but not any faster than a standard photograph taken with a digital camera and printed on photo paper would. Polaroid pictures look faded and washed-out by default, so account for that when thinking of where you will display them. If you’re really concerned about keeping them fade-free, it’s advised you store them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight, which is the biggest cause of fading for photographs.
Q: Do you need to shake a Polaroid picture?
A: Contrary to a belief popularized by a generation of kids taking Andre 3000’s word as gospel you should not shake a Polaroid picture. The practice became so widespread that Polaroid had to come out and warn customers that shaking it does more harm than good. There are probably still thousands of people who continue to shake a Polaroid after printing, they might not even realize they’ve doing it, kind of like it’s ingrained in our subconscious.
While past Polaroids may have required shaking, the technology for development has evolved so much that there’s no need for moving or shaking any longer. Instead, you’re best off placing it somewhere flat where dust and debris won’t interfere with its development and waiting for your awesome photo to come fully into focus.
Q: Do Polaroid cameras need ink?
A: Some do, some don’t it entirely depends on which camera you purchase. More recent models of Polaroids and instant cameras rely on digitalization and an inkless printing process created by Zink, which we assume probably stands for Zero Ink.
If you’re an old soul, then you can still find Polaroids that rely on ink, but there’s a chance they’ll soon die out, so get your hands on one while you still can, or be ready to embrace the future of instant photography.
Q: How do instant cameras work?
A: Instant cameras work how other filmed cameras do, only they cut out the middleman negatives and instead produces the photograph immediately. It releases the chemicals and combines the colors which fill in the outline that’s taken when you press the shutter button.
This picture needs to come out straight away though (or close enough to straight away for us to call it instant). After taking the photo, the camera rolls the film paper out, which helps to distribute the colors accordingly. As it reacts with the light outside the camera, the developer dye comes into effect, which results in the photo you eventually see.