In recent years, the popularity of instant cameras has once again begun to rise and low-price options have hit the market. They play up the nostalgia of days long past, where Kodak film cameras were used for an easy point-and-click photo format to make beautiful, faded photos filled with memories. Nowadays, Fujifilm is at the forefront of this movement, but many other manufacturers from Canon to Leica have joined the bandwagon and started producing their own cameras.
While digital cameras are reliable and easy, few things beat having an instant print of your photos. Here are our tops picks for instant cameras and how to choose the perfect one for you. Our favorite camera for most users is Fujifilm's Instax Mini 11 Instant Film Camera, with its various modes, easy-to-use design, automatic flash, and other features. Read on for nine other great picks, and read until the end for a buying guide that's been reviewed by a professional photographer.
Melissa Castor is a concert photographer who enjoys traveling for the music, and taking photographs of the sights along the way. There are so many places to see, and she's trying to share a little of what she sees with the world. We asked her for some expert insight on how to choose the best instant camera for you. You can check out her Flickr to see some of her work!
Instant cameras are basically a classic darkroom in a box. By adding chemical layers on top of the traditional photosensitive materials used to create a photo, these cameras make it possible to print and develop a photo without a long wait or special ingredients.
All you have to do is snap the photo, wait for it to print automatically, and watch as the light and air exposure activates the chemical layers on the photo paper. This will develop your picture right in front of your eyes.
While photos taken with an instant or polaroid camera may not be as high in quality as those you take with a professional camera or a smartphone, each one is truly unique. You only get one shot with instant cameras, and this makes them excellent for creating memorabilia or gifts.
Based on careful research, we kept several criteria in mind when selecting our list of instant cameras. These include:
Check out the Buying Guide section for more on these helpful tips!
Instax Mini 11 Instant Camera
Kodak Mini Shot Retro 3
Smile Instant Print Digital Camera
Printomatic Digital Instant Print Camera
Instax Mini 70 Instant Camera -Refurbished
Instax Square SQ6
Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic Instant Camera
Instax Wide 300 Instant Film Camera
Polaroid Originals Now I-Type Instant Camera
Best Analog Camera for Selfies
Best Portable Wireless Instant Camera for Scrapbooking
Best Digital Camera for Beginners
Best Digital Instant Camera for Frequent Travelers
Best Analog Camera for Portraits
Best Analog Camera for Square Format Photos
Best Analog Camera for Advanced Light Techniques
Best Instant Camera for Landscape Photography
Best Analog Camera for Vintage Photos
Best Analog Camera for Photography Buffs
|Dimensions||2.6 x 4.2 x 4.8 in.||6.85 x 6.5 x 5.91 in.||10.59 x 9.41 x 5.87 in.||1 x 4.83 x 3.11 in.||7 x 4.5 x 3.25 in.||6.1 x 6.1 x 4.1 in.||5.5 x 5 x 3 in.||6.6 x 3.7 x 4.7 in.||4.4 x 3.7 x 5.9 in.||5.9 x 4.37 x 3.8 in.|
|Weight||10.4 oz.||1.96lbs.||16 oz.||7.1 oz.||8 oz.||8 oz.||12.8 oz.||33.6 oz.||0.704 oz.||17.28 oz.|
|Batteries||2 AA Batteries||1 Lithium ion battery||Lithium ion battery||1 lithium ion battery||2 CR2 Batteries||2 CR2/DL CR2 batteries||2 Lithium ion batteries||2 AA 1.5 Alkaline Batteries||1 lithium ion battery||1 Lithium ion battery (1100mAh), rechargeable via USB|
|Flash||Constant firing flash (automatic light adjustment)||Built-in flash||Automatic flash||Built-in flash||Automatic Exposure control||In macro mode: Built-in automatic flash; In all other modes: Flash on||Constant firing flash||Automatic built-in||Accurate flash||Built-in vacuum discharge tube strobe flash system|
|Lens||60mm, f/12.7||Not Listed||8mm, f/2.8||08mm, f/2||60mm,f/12.7||65.75mm, f/12.6||60mm, f/12.7||95mm, f/14||94.96mm-102.35mm, f/11-f/64||103mm, f/14|
|Features||Selfie mode, selfie mirror, automatic flash||LCD screen, filter options, bluetooth connectivity, waterproof casing||Adhesive photo paper, built-in editor, MicroSD card compatibility, LCD viewfinder||Micro USB port, adhesive photo paper||Tripod socket, timer, selfie mirror||Neck strap, timer, color filters||Shoulder strap, timer, tripod socket||Tripod socket, landscape format||Neck strap, timer, adjustable aperture, tripod socket||Bluetooth connectivity, iOS and Android apps, timer, neck strap|
Without further ado, here are our top picks of the best instant cameras we found after careful research of reviewer comments. They're ranked based on factors such as their lens, flash features, and reviewer satisfaction.
*Please note that these products were chosen through extensive research and by combing through customer reviews by our staff at mybest. They are not necessarily affiliated with Melissa Castor.
|Dimensions||2.6 x 4.2 x 4.8 in.|
|Batteries||2 AA Batteries|
|Flash||Constant firing flash (automatic light adjustment)|
|Features||Selfie mode, selfie mirror, automatic flash|
|Dimensions||6.85 x 6.5 x 5.91 in.|
|Batteries||1 Lithium ion battery|
|Features||LCD screen, filter options, bluetooth connectivity, waterproof casing|
|Dimensions||10.59 x 9.41 x 5.87 in.|
|Batteries||Lithium ion battery|
|Features||Adhesive photo paper, built-in editor, MicroSD card compatibility, LCD viewfinder|
|Dimensions||1 x 4.83 x 3.11 in.|
|Batteries||1 lithium ion battery|
|Features||Micro USB port, adhesive photo paper|
|Dimensions||7 x 4.5 x 3.25 in.|
|Batteries||2 CR2 Batteries|
|Flash||Automatic Exposure control|
|Features||Tripod socket, timer, selfie mirror|
|Dimensions||6.1 x 6.1 x 4.1 in.|
|Batteries||2 CR2/DL CR2 batteries|
|Flash||In macro mode: Built-in automatic flash; In all other modes: Flash on|
|Features||Neck strap, timer, color filters|
|Dimensions||5.5 x 5 x 3 in.|
|Batteries||2 Lithium ion batteries|
|Flash||Constant firing flash|
|Features||Shoulder strap, timer, tripod socket|
|Dimensions||6.6 x 3.7 x 4.7 in.|
|Batteries||2 AA 1.5 Alkaline Batteries|
|Features||Tripod socket, landscape format|
|Dimensions||4.4 x 3.7 x 5.9 in.|
|Batteries||1 lithium ion battery|
|Features||Neck strap, timer, adjustable aperture, tripod socket|
|Dimensions||5.9 x 4.37 x 3.8 in.|
|Batteries||1 Lithium ion battery (1100mAh), rechargeable via USB|
|Flash||Built-in vacuum discharge tube strobe flash system|
|Features||Bluetooth connectivity, iOS and Android apps, timer, neck strap|
Besides being small, handy, and perfect for people on the go, what else should you be looking for in a camera? Here four major points to keep in mind as you shop.
Taking a good photo often requires a lot of thought in the placement of the object you want to capture. The photo format, which defines the overall end result of your image, is also a huge consideration when buying a camera. Wide and square are the most common formats. Here's how to choose between the two.
The two most popular formats of polaroid photos are rectangular or square. The rectangular format is quite small - usually measuring two by three inches - and can fit nicely inside your pocket or your purse.
There are also many instant cameras that produce square prints. It can be difficult to perfectly center and balance the images in a square frame. You might need to practice a few times before getting the hang of it.
However, square formatting offers a nostalgic effect. It looks like a classic Polaroid image - a nice all-round photo frame that is perfect to use for amateur photographers and professionals alike.
Consider what you want to do with your photo once it's printed. Are you going it in your wallet to look at often? Scrapbook it? Frame it and hang it on a wall? There are many possibilities and that will help determine what format frame you will want to use.
At a party or any other occasion where you have a lot of friends and family gathered, it's always a good idea to capture moments with photos. However, oftentimes, it can be a struggle for everyone to fit into the picture frame, especially if you're attempting a selfie!
An instant camera with a wide format allows you to fit more people into the picture without having to squeeze everyone into the frame. However, accommodating this format type means the camera has to be designed a bit bulkier and heavier. Wide formats are also perfect for landscape and panoramic-type shots.
Wide formats will allow you to fit more in the frame, but you will lose some of the details you would get with a closer-up photo. These cameras also tend to be heavier, so keep in mind the weight of the camera if you'll be traveling with it.
Focal length and aperture are the two basic indicators of lens performance. In this section, we'll show you why they are important!
Focal length is represented in millimeters (mm) and determines the field of view or how much of a scene is captured by your camera. A short focal length would be around 14mm, and 35mm could be considered as a wide field of view.
A camera with a short focal length will allow you to capture more of the scene in front of you. Meanwhile, a longer focal length like 85mm and 105mm means a smaller angle of view. It's useful when you want to take a photo of an object that's far away from you since the distant object will be magnified to fit in the frame.
When taking selfies, you want an average focal length, since wide-view, shorter lengths can distort the face. In fact, portraiture photographers usually choose lenses that are 80mm or more!
However, instant cameras give you much less choice in terms of focal length adjustments, so if you like a camera that doesn't have 80mm or more and your main focus is on taking selfies, then choosing a camera with a selfie mirror and dedicated selfie mode will ensure that you have an instant camera that can still take great selfies.
If you have a shorter focal length, take the picture from further away to get the best angles for your face!
Picture in your mind's eye what you want the picture to look like before you snap the shutter! Are you going for a close up, or do you want an entire landscape? What will you typically be shooting with an instant camera?
If you'll only be shooting friends and family close up, that will require a different type of focal length compared to photographing a wide landscape scene.
Aperture is defined as the opening in a lens where light enters the camera. It's expressed in f-numbers such as f/2, f/8, f/14.
A low aperture allows more light to enter the camera. So if you tend to take photos in a low-light situation, go for a camera with a smaller f-number such as f/1.4 and f/2.8. A low aperture can create the shallow depth of field that makes your subject stand out while blurring your background. So it's great for portraits as well.
On the other hand, a high aperture number like f/16 means that less light can enter the camera. So, make sure your surrounding is well lit so that the photo doesn't turn out dark. Also, a high aperture can show everything in focus and is great for group shots or landscapes.
You can't always control the light in which you'll want to take a photo, and that's okay. That's why cameras have aperture to allow for more or less light. The bigger the f-stop, the less light will come in. The smaller the f-stop, the more light will come in. It's opposite of what you would expect!
Maybe film photography is a long-time hobby of yours, or maybe you just want a camera to help you capture brief moments at social events. Whatever you're shooting and no matter what skill level you are, there are certain camera features that can help you get the picture you want.
One of the unfortunate problems of taking a large group photo is that one person is nearly always missing - the photographer! This goes doubly so for instant cameras, which tend to be point-and-click.
Make sure to look for an instant camera with a self-timer if you plan on taking these types of pictures. You can just set the time on the camera, prop it up on something, and then join the group for the photo!
There isn't always a friendly stranger around willing to take a photo for you, and that's where the beauty of self-timers come in. Self-timers allow you to be in the shot with friends or to take photos of yourself when you're alone! It's a great feature to have on any camera, especially an instant camera.
You may want to purchase an instant camera with a flash setting, especially if you enjoy taking photos with your friends at night parties or dinner events. Some instant cameras are equipped with basic flash and brightness settings, which will help you compensate for low-light environments.
Some instant cameras do have a built-in flash, but they are usually more simple than other types of cameras. For instance, the Instax's flash only offers a limited range of about 60 centimeters to 2.7 meters, so anything beyond will not be illuminated by the flash and will stay dark.
Depending on the product, you'll be able to adjust the flash's intensity yourself, or you may have to depend on the camera's auto-flash adjustments. Either way, it can also be helpful to consider the basic rules of lighting and flash utilization. For starters, make sure to take keep any natural or additional light behind your camera.
Using your flash from a greater distance will create harsher-looking light on your subject. If you want that soft, warm glow that's generally ideal for portraits. If you're able to adjust your camera's flash intensity, a brighter flash will also create harsh light at close distances. Try using your flash at a distance of 10 feet or less.
Selfies are an important feature to consider when buying a camera. The selfie mirror is an extremely convenient tool that can help make sure that your selfies come out perfectly!
Though a selfie mirror isn't always included with instant cameras, you can often find attachment mirrors sold separately. They help you to center the image and understand where you're pointing the camera in relation to yourself, so it's a feature you should definitely consider if you plan on taking lots of selfies.
There's nothing worse than taking a selfie and having your friend's head get cut off. Selfie mirrors help solve that problem! They aren't perfectly clear like camera phones, but they do allow you to see yourself. Some cameras have a little mirror built in, but if not, you can buy an attachment that will simply clip onto your camera lens.
Many instant cameras have automatic features such as automatic exposure control or automatic flash. With them, you won't have to think too much about all the settings and can take your photo right away.
However, for those who want to take control of the photo, look for an instant camera with a manual mode. It will allow you to manually change the settings yourself and be creative!
You don't need to be a professional photographer to enjoy using an instant camera, but sometimes it is nice to have more control over your settings. Automatic isn't always the best option depending on your lighting situation, and manual mode gives the control you want to switch features around.
Whether you want to amp up your simple point-and-shoot photos or you want to evolve your instant film hobby into a lifestyle, there are plenty of add-ons that can enhance your photography experience.
Do you love instant cameras and their features but still want the convenience of newer technology? Nowadays, many instant cameras have new digital features along with their classic analog charm. Specifically, some products are rechargeable via USB, so there's no need for batteries!
And with an instant camera with an option for Bluetooth connectivity, you can easily share your best photos to a smartphone or other device. You can enjoy your printed photo and save a digital copy for your Instagram feed! This function allows you to print photos directly from your devices as well.
Some of these cameras may require you to download an app for these results, so be sure to read up on the requirements for each one. Instant cameras with SD card slots are also becoming more popular. You can purchase one of these if you want to save copies of your photos digitally and upload them to social media later on.
Why not add a color close-up lens to your instant camera to enhance your photos? With lenses coming in colors such as blue, red, or yellow, you can play with your photos to get different filter effects depending on your target object and surroundings.
They're often simple to attach to your camera and are a fun and easy way to get creative with your pictures.
You never know when you will get the best opportunity for a great shot. With a camera strapped around your neck, you'll always be ready. You won't have to dig around your backpack to find your camera, meaning you won't miss your chance for the perfect shot!
Being able to carry your instant camera on your neck also means an extra layer of security. Even if it slips out of your hand, it'll still be safe with the strap attached and won't fall to the ground, where it could crack and break. Some instant camera bundles include a strap, so read product descriptions carefully.
Straps are available to wear around your neck or on your wrist. Both are convenient ways to keep your camera handy without worrying if you may drop it.
I highly recommend having a strap on your camera to keep it safe at all times, and a lot of cameras often come with a strap in the box when you purchase it.
Make sure you keep your camera protected with a camera bag. While traveling, your camera is often one of your most important items, so treat it as one.
There are many different designs for camera bags, ranging from extremely simple ones to many-pocketed ones. You can choose from harder or softer fabrics, depending on your preferences - though hard cases are a bit safer if you're afraid of dropping the camera too much.
There are water-resistant options for cases and bags if you want more protection, too. You can even take fashion into account when choosing a bag, by color coordinating it with your outfit.
A camera bag is a great addition to your gear. When you're traveling, you don't want people to know what you're carrying, and a camera bag helps keep your gear both private and secure. It will also keep your camera snug as camera bags are more padded to protect gear in contrast to a standard purse or backpack.
Unsatisfied with only simple, white-bordered printed photos? There are so many more options for frames that instant cameras can offer. You can choose to change the type of film you use and purchase ones with fun colors or character borders.
This is a fun way to be creative while taking pictures and adds more charm to a photo album or gift. Certain cameras are only compatible with certain kinds of film, though, so double-check the product description for both the camera and film before purchasing!
Looking to get creative with your shots? Not every instant film camera can do this, but a couple can be used to take beautiful double exposure shots. In double exposure, you allow the camera to take two shots layered on top of each other in unexpected and oftentimes aesthetic ways. To learn how to do it, take a look at this video by Photography Concentrate.
Here are a few common questions some users have about instant cameras to help you with your own purchasing decisions.
You may see people shaking their Polaroid shot on TV to help it develop faster, but according to experts, this is actually an ineffective gesture. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, instant photos are developed through a series of chemical reactions. While some of these are light-sensitive, the amount of air that touches your photo has no effect on its development.
In fact, a few instant camera companies have even issues warnings against shaking printed photos, saying that the sudden and intense movement could actually cause damage. It's better to be patient, set your photo on a clean surface until it develops, and enjoy the results.
The film for your instant camera does have an expiration date, so please ensure that you use it in a timely manner. If your film expires, not only will the quality of your photos dramatically decrease, but the film's chemicals may even leak inside of the camera.
Most types of instant film should last up to a year if you keep them in a cool, dry place. However, this can vary depending on the brand and the type of development chemicals applied to the film, so please check the box when you purchase your film.
Nothing is more frustrating than taking a carefully planned shot with your instant camera and getting a whited-out photo. There are a couple of reasons this might happen, but the most common is usually overexposure. This happens when you take a photo in a bright area with your camera's aperture set for a low-light shot. This will allow too much light in and white your photo out.
Another common mistake users make is using expired film can lead to faded or white photos. As we mentioned earlier, it's always best to keep the expiration date of your instant film in mind as you use it.
Finally, your photos will print out white if you leave unused film in a bright area for too long. This will activate the light-sensitive chemicals ahead of time, once again leading to an overexposed photo. When you store your extra film, it's best to leave it in its box and keep the box in a cool, shadowy spot.
Now that you have your instant camera picked out, you might be looking for some accessories or additional memory storage devices to go with them. Check out the links below for more!
If you love taking pictures with your phone, you don't want to miss out VSCO, an editing app recommended by photographer Michelle Tirronen. It offers a lot of filters and editing features that will help you tap into your creativity!
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