For the longest time, instant cameras were considered obsolete because Polaroid filed for bankruptcy around ten years ago. Thankfully, the concept is reborn again and a few companies have integrated modern techniques to bring the trend back.
The retro gadgets are back in small form factors, coming at varying prices but all offering the wonderful satisfaction of printing your picture straight from the camera itself.
Best Instant Cameras Reviewed
There aren’t many instant cameras to choose from in the current market. DSLRs and cellphones have dominated the photography niche, and only a handful of individuals still covet the gratification of an instant print of a photo they took.
Yet some companies such as Fujifilm, Mint, Leica, Lomo, and a few others have helped in bringing the trend back. We review the 5 best instant cameras you can buy right now in this article. There’s also a buyer’s guide at the end to help you with your purchase.
Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6
Great Photos and Performance
The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 utilizes the Instax square film to produce vibrant and saturated photos of great image quality. It has a high-quality lens and an automatic mode that makes it very easy to use for the most casual individuals.
The Instax Square SQ6 takes better shots than many instant cameras that are more expensive than it. For this reason, we consider it the best instant camera you can buy right now.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 9
Great Fun in an Affordable Price
This small box of joy is a fun little instant camera that takes pictures using the Instax mini films. It comes in a plethora of colors and has a cheap operational cost to give a Polaroid camera experience at an affordable price.
For kids and young teens, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is a great little camera to provide the old-school Polaroid experience without costing a fortune.
The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 mixes price and performance in a package that is reliable and easy to use. It is a solidly built instant camera that stands apart for its great image quality. It utilizes the standard Square Instax film producing pictures that can match those of the classic Polaroids in quality.
All that is possible thanks to the Instax Square SQ6’s great lens. The lens is sharp, allowing individuals to take great pictures even in fully automatic mode. This makes it easy to use in just about anyone’s hand to take small, detailed pictures of get-togethers or landscapes while traveling.
In addition to auto mode, there are more options that allow you to control exposure and disable flash. You can use these to experiment with different results and take great double-exposure photos if you wish. Additionally, there is also a tripod socket and a self-timer for group shots.
- Great image quality
- Very easy to use
- Competitively priced for the performance
- Large amount of exposures per battery pack
- Small viewfinder
Who knew that one of the cheapest instant cameras would be one of the best. This Fuji instant camera makes for an excellent recreational picture taker and comes at an affordable price. It’s a fun little toy that takes easy snapshots, utilizing the Fujifilm Instax mini 9 films which are also very cheap.
The camera itself is made of plastic and looks toy-ish. It is intuitive to use and does its job well. It doesn’t have the same saturation and image quality as the SQ6 or other Instax models, but given the price tag you get decent images. There’s also a mirror includes in the front for selfies.
With the Instax Mini 9, you get an old Polaroid camera experience at an affordable price. It makes for a great gift for kids to play around with, and the small pictures make great little memories when you want a physical copy. You can buy the Instax Mini 9 in a wide variety of colors.
- Cheap operational cost
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Easy to use
- Flimsy build
- Pictures aren’t as saturated in color
For some extra width in your pictures to capture just that much more, the Instax Wide 300 is a fantastic choice. This Fujifilm camera uses the wider Instax Wide instant film for its photos.
This wider format has exactly double the width of the regular Instax film. This captures wider photos that are more reminiscent of the Polaroid camera of olden times.
The Instax Wide 300 comes with an LCD that gives various information. This includes the remaining photos as well as controls for flash and brightness.
Unlike some of the cheaper instant cameras, the Instax Wide 300 features a zoom lens to capture images from afar. You also get a tripod socket if you wish to mount the camera, along with a lens ring dial for adjusting focus and a close-up lens adapter.
- Easy to use
- Uses wide Instax films
- Features a zoom lens
- Limited exposure control
It looks like a unique piece of hardware, and boy is it one. The Mint InstantFlex uses the Instax film from Fuji, but it has a different way of capturing images that sets it apart from the rest.
Similar to an old Rolleiflex, the Mint InstantFlex TL70 2.0 offers a top-down view with its waist-level viewfinder. Because of its dual lens system, it offers full focus and aperture control, a rarity among instant cameras.
This allows for more control for the user. You can control the aperture to get some beautiful portrait pictures with shallow depths of field. There’s also an integrated flash for capturing photos in low light mode.
The biggest negative of this camera is its price. For a little more than what this will cost you, you could easily get a decent DSLR kit. This makes it an almost luxury item that only enthusiasts would pay for. But then again, aren’t all Instant cameras luxury items?
- Unique design
- Takes great pictures
- Focus and aperture control
- Very expensive
Leica is well known for its high-quality lenses and 35mm rangefinder cameras. Their foray into the world of Instant cameras is somewhat a surprise, but these folks know their optics.
The Sofort is a premium Instant camera that utilizes FujiFilm’s Instax films. Like any Leica camera, the Sofort boasts an impressive Automatik-Hector 60mm lens with an f/12.7 aperture.
You won’t be taking any portrait pictures or macros with this lens, but it’s great for landscape pictures. In fact, this is arguably the best lens you’ll find in any instant camera.
There’s also a built-in flash and a mechanical shutter. You also get several automatic shooting modes. You can also adjust the focusing distance, exposure compensation, and fine-tune the flash settings with this camera.
It demands a huge fee, but that’s what you get when you put a lens like this in an instant camera.
- Fantastic lens
- Takes great pictures
- Multiple shooting modes
Which instant camera you buy should be influenced by the Instant film format that it uses. There are a variety of different instant films available, though the best are Fujifilm’s Instax. Even in the Instax, there are various sizes.
Instax Mini is the small form, about the size of a credit card with an image area of 1.8×2.4 inches. You can get the mini films in either monochrome or regular form. It is the cheapest type and most cost-effective and compatible with lots of different instant camera brands.
Right in the middle lies the Instax Square which is, as the name suggests, a perfect square, much like the Polaroid films of old. There are only a handful of cameras that support the square film right now.
On the other end of the spectrum lies the Instax Wide format. This also comes in either monochrome or colored. They are more expensive, costing $1.2 per shot, but offer a wider image measuring 3.9×2.4 inches.
Buying these in two packs will usually bring down the cost to almost as much as Instax Mini. However, the Instax Wide can only be used by cameras that have wide image compatibility.
The entire point of an instant camera is to snap pictures quickly and instantly get a result in your hands. For this reason, they need to be simple and easy to use. While additional functions are always welcome in a camera, it’s important to buy one that has a great automatic or basic mode for instant photography.
The capacity of an instant camera is how many exposures it can take with a fully charged set of batteries. Most instant cameras use a set of AA batteries to take shots, though some utilize their own battery type.
Keep in mind that the capacity is measured in exposures, not number of pictures. This means that a double exposure picture will count as two instead of one exposure.
Why buy an instant camera?
Instant cameras offer gratification to the user by providing a physical copy of the picture they took. While it may seem like a trivial thing to spend on a camera for, it’s one of the most rewarding photography experiences. The pictures you take also make for great memories.
Why use Instax films and not any other type?
Instax film uses chemical technology that is simply superior to Zink or any other film type currently available. The original old Polaroid films are no longer manufactured due to the unavailability of certain chemicals, and all the other substitutes other than Instax are inferior.
How can I convert digital photos to instant films?
You can convert digital photos to instant films by using a photo printer. We’ve reviewed some of the best portable photo printers in the market right now as well.