The best instant cameras combine nostalgia for the past with the latest digital photography, allowing you to take pictures that you can share as a print or digitally with friends and family. Just like the old Polaroid cameras, the new instant cameras print a photo just seconds after you take a picture. However, these new cameras have other features, such as the ability to add filters. Some can even connect via Bluetooth to your smartphone, so you can use the instant camera as a mobile printer for photos you took with your phone.
Best Instant Cameras
Best of all, most of these instant cameras are cheap, thus, making them a great gift for someone who loves photography. But some of these cameras are better than others, so read on to find out what we think are the best instant cameras.
1. Polaroid Originals OneStep+
The excitement was high in the instant photography community when The Impossible Project purchased the Polaroid name and announced the launch of Polaroid Originals, a new line of instant cameras dating back to that golden age. The OneStep+ is the second release, after the OneStep 2 (yes, we know it’s confusing). It’s pretty much the same as the previous camera, with the Polaroid Originals making significant improvements rather than reinventing the wheel – mainly the addition of an 89mm portrait lens for people shots and the integration of Bluetooth connectivity.
These include double exposure, light painting, and even noise shutter release, which allows the shutter to be released with a short, crisp sound like a clap of your hand. It’s one of the best instant cameras on the market, now improved and made even better, an obvious choice for any instant photography fanatic who also wants to enjoy this retro atmosphere. Overall, this is one of the best instant cameras.
2. Lomo’Instant Automat
With its 38 mm wide-angle lens made of f/4.5 multilayer glass, the Lomo’Instant Automat offers you sharper images, better performance in low light, and a wider field of view than its competitors. The automatic mode allows the camera to adjust the aperture (f/4.5- f/22), shutter speed, and flash power. The Automate has a remote control built into its lens cap, making it easier for you to take group shots or exposures up to 30 seconds.
The zone-focusing allows you to measure the appropriate distance for the best shot, and we appreciated its optical viewfinder. The camera and remote control use two different batteries (sold separately). No matter how far I tried it, the pictures from the Lomo Instant Glass Magellan were incredibly sharp. Its size made it handy to carry and it worked well in low light; it didn’t even need a lighting mode to take a few pictures at night in the yellow street lamp in a park. Overall, this is one of the best instant cameras.
3. Polaroid Snap Touch
Smartphone users will be immediately comfortable with the Polaroid Snap Touch’s 3.5-inch LCD touch screen. It features three color modes – black and white, color, and vintage sepia – and also records 1080p and 720p video, which can be stored on a microSD card. The camera can be paired with your smartphone via Bluetooth and has an application (iOS and Android) that offers additional photographic options such as text, borders, emoticons, and stickers.
Unlike other instant cameras, which automatically reject a photo even if it was taken by accident, the Snap Touch allows you to preview, select, print, or discard any photo, so you waste less paper. Images taken outside during the day display true colors and decent skin tones with lots of detail, although some indoor shots are a little dark and muddy, despite the flash. In general, close-ups look better than photos taken from a distance. Overall, this is one of the best instant cameras.
4. Fujifilm Instax mini 11
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 is a truly affordable instant print camera. Powered by two AA batteries, it’s at the cutting edge of instant photography, but its lack of sophistication is hardly a negative – here it just broadens its possible audience, and families with children, in particular, will find it an ideal camera. Despite its plastic-coated structure, its large buttons and bright colors offer visual appeal and simplicity for little fingers, with the ultimate reward being 54x86mm credit card size prints.
A built-in flash that comes on every time, and a front mirror that helps the user to stick to himself (although it also has a whitening effect) when the power is turned on, thanks to a convenient button located near the lens. Shooting modes are selected by turning the camera’s lens ring and are usefully illuminated when in use. Overall, this is one of the best instant cameras.
5. Lomo’Instant Square
The Lomo’Instant Square features a 95 mm (45 mm equivalent) glass lens that encourages creativity. Its old-fashioned bellows design will be unfamiliar to most people, but it folds flat to about one-third of its operational size, making it more convenient to carry. Various manual controls allow multiple exposures and a long exposure mode that keeps the shutter open for up to 30 seconds. The camera is equipped with a self-timer, as well as a remote control that detaches from the camera.
It also includes four gel filters to give different colors to your images, cards that show how the images will look at various settings, as well as clips, brackets, glue dots, and magnetic stickers to display your photos. The portraits have an evocative quality – clear, with soft flesh tones – while the landscapes offer precise detail and pleasant colors, similar to those of the Lomo’Instant Automat. Night photos, with or without flash, and complemented by the available street lamps, can make any casual photographer a storyteller. Overall, this is one of the best instant cameras.
6. Fujifilm Instax mini 90
Available in brown or black, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 NEO is Fujifilm’s one of the best instant cameras that comes with a rechargeable battery, which, according to the company, can last up to 10 packs of film (the size of a credit card). With its retro styling, it looks like it’s designed for photo enthusiasts, with some manual exposure control and even the ability to disable the built-in flash if you find the pictures too bright.
A double exposure mode expands the creative possibilities for the curious, although the results can be a bit mixed here, as does a shutter release above the lens, which turns into a self-installed mirror (another shutter release is located at the usual location of the top plate). The advantage, compared to a cheaper instant print camera, is that an LCD display strip on the back reveals the settings you’ve chosen. As usual, the viewfinder is tiny but adequate, while the faux leather finish of the body adds a touch of style.
7. Kodak Smile
This simple and inexpensive digital camera has a number of features we really like: A sliding aperture mechanism protects the lens and prevents the camera from accidentally turning on; buttons on the back make it easy to navigate through the menus, and you can view the photos on the Smile’s small LCD screen before choosing to print them. However, the print quality of the Kodak Smile was inferior to that of other Zink cameras, such as the Canon Ivy Cliq+. The whites became a little pinkish, and the other colors were softened. In addition, the digital images stored by the Smile are small in size. Overall, this is one of the best instant cameras.
8. Fujifilm Instax WIDE 300
Powered by four AA batteries instead of the usual two, the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 is the big daddy of the Instax camera range. Its almost identical size to that of a medium-format camera allows it to produce larger prints (it uses WIDE Instax film packs rather than Instax mini) that are closer to standard print sizes. Its size doesn’t really make it practical for home use, but its plastic structure is lighter than you might think.
A lever that surrounds the shutter release on its bridge-camera type handle operates it and extends its lens by 95 mm, while the built-in flash is just as huge (and automatic, except for a fill option). With the prints coming out of the slot on the top plate of the camera, the only little thing here, oddly enough, is the left-center viewfinder, which could have been bigger. The control is limited to adjusting the brightness and flash, but if you want instant prints closer to the dimensions of the “good” pictures, this is one of the best instant cameras for you.
9. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is available in a variety of bright colors: Cobalt blue, flamingo pink, ice blue, smoky white, and lemon green. Combined with its smooth, curved design and dotted strap, it looks like a toy. Nevertheless, it is exceptionally easy to use. The included close-up accessory snaps into place with an audible click. From there, an LED light on the side of the lens guides you to adjust the exposure. A lighting option makes images brighter and helps expose darker environments.
The camera automatically turns on in the mode that best suits your shooting, but you must rotate the lens to the right position before taking the picture and make sure you keep the right distance from your subject. The default 60mm f/12.7 lens has a minimum focusing distance of about 2 feet, while the close-up lens allows you to focus from about 1 foot away. Due to the camera’s automated functions, the customizable settings are limited. Still, this is one of the best instant cameras.
10. Fujifilm Instax SQUARE SQ6
The Fujifilm Instax SQ6 is powered by two small CR2 lithium batteries (included) which, according to the manufacturers, will last 30 packs of the film of 10 shots each. To divert Instagramers from their smartphone, this device takes the style of the “gram” logo and offers a 1:1 square format image, while retaining its analog operation. Again, we have a selection of body colors and a “selfie” mode, plus three color filters that attach to the flash, as well as dual exposure, macro, and landscape modes.
Not surprisingly, the camera uses a special Fujifilm SQUARE film, which provides a 6.2×6.2 cm center image. As with most film-based instant cameras, the results look a little paler than with a digital camera, but if you’re trying to rip your teenager away from his or her phone and put them in touch with the real world, you could do worse than offering the SQ6. Overall, this is one of the best instant cameras.
11. Canon Ivy Cliq+
The Canon Ivy Cliq+ not only takes photos and prints them on Zink paper, but it can also connect to your smartphone and print photos from your mobile device. We liked the Cliq+’s sleek and simple design, as well as its slim size, which makes it easy enough to slip into a pocket. The lens is surrounded by a circular mirror for all the photos you plan to take. We liked the quality of the images printed from the Cliq+, but we didn’t like the fact that we couldn’t review the photos we took with the camera, nor select the ones we wanted to print. At $159, this is one of the best instant cameras.
12. Polaroid Now
The Polaroid Now is a welcome addition to the Polaroid product line and a worthy addition to the increasingly crowded world of instant cameras. It offers better image quality than OneStep2, thanks to its dual-lens autofocus system and improved flash, although it lacks the additional features (such as Bluetooth connectivity and remote shutter release) found in the slightly more expensive OneStep+. For simplicity of shooting, however, the Polaroid Now is hard to beat.
Although the price of the new Instax Mini 11 is higher than the Polaroid, we definitely prefer the full-size square prints that the Polaroid offers. And while we love the Instax lineup, when you’re shooting an old-school instant film, nothing beats the tactility of a large, square Polaroid. If you don’t need the extra bells and whistles of the OneStep+, the Polaroid Now is one of the best instant cameras.