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Looking to buy the best instant camera but don't know what to pick? Check out the full list with pros and cons!
An instant camera employs self-developing film to print your pictures right away. Arguably one of the most popular items on the list of best gifts for photographers, the instant film camera has its benefits and downsides. While delivering not so satisfying image quality and being expensive to use, instant cameras give us a unique chance to cherish the moment. Plus, they’re stylish, fun to use, friendly for kids, and comfortable for travel.
To start taking instant snaps, you need to have your camera loaded with instant film. When you shoot an image, a chemical reaction takes place in a little darkroom inside the camera. The emulsion of Instax film is more stable and accurate than the emulsion of Impossible film. Pictures taken on Impossible film need to be protected from light to ensure the best processing. Instant film also requires a warm environment to work: above 55 degrees Fahrenheit (about 13 degrees Celsius).
Using an instant camera isn’t always fun. In these days of overwhelming social media popularity, people like taking photos and sharing them online right away. Even the best instant cameras don’t allow you to do that. For Fujifilm as well as Polaroid cameras, the whole idea is to share photos with friends physically rather than through a screen.
The more critical limitation of an instant film camera is that it generally doesn't give you full control over exposure and focus. While a few expensive Polaroid cameras offer enough control, not everyone will be ready to purchase those models. To make the most out of your right-away snaps, check out some tutorials on topics like low-key lighting.
Let’s take a peek at the best instant cameras. This list is designed to guide you through the heaps of camera specifications and help you choose the most suitable gear.
The Instax Mini 9 is Fuji’s entry-level instant film camera and one of the most affordable Fujifilm models. The hugely popular Instax Mini film cartridges produce small business-card-size prints before your eyes in seconds. This Fuji camera looks like a refreshed retro camera. We highly recommend it for fun and for creating spontaneous happy memories.
Best for: kids, selfies, and taking funny shots at parties, weddings, and other events
The Mini 90 is a more solid Fujifilm camera than the Instax Mini 9. It offers a rechargeable battery, an integrated LCD display, and manual exposure control for more accurate shots. This premium camera comes with plenty of shooting modes: kids mode for capturing fast-moving subjects, landscape mode for shooting subjects more than nine feet away, macro mode for focusing as close as 11.8 inches, and bulb exposure mode for low-light, nighttime, and light painting photos.
Plus, there’s double exposure mode that lets you shoot twice on the same frame, producing a layered photo. There are also four brightness modes (normal, bright, brighter, and dark), enabling you to manually adjust the brightness.
Best for: family photos, travel and holiday snaps, artistic shots, photojournalism
The SQ10 makes a big leap in the Fuji camera story. It delivers new square format prints, and they look great. Being a hybrid, it’s also the first Fuji camera with digital capture, allowing you to crop and review images on a screen and print any images whenever you want. With the SQ10, you can not only crop pictures but apply effects, store snaps, and use them again. While the SQ10 and its cartridges are pricey, you can save significantly by only printing what you need.
As a traditional digital camera though, the SQ10 can be frustrating: the images are low-quality and there’s no optical zoom, no exposure control, no video mode, and limited connectivity. Your smartphone invariably delivers better images.
Best for: those who can’t stop creating artistic images; the SQ10 gives you more control over editing and printing shots
This Fujifilm camera is a joy to use! The Instax SQ6 is an analog instant film camera stylized like the classic Instagram logo. It’s Fujifilm’s second instant film camera that offers Instax Square prints. But unlike the preceding digital SQ10, the SQ6 uses the simpler analog process of the popular Instax Mini series. This makes it affordable, and while the absence of a sensor and internal storage means there’s no way to print images twice or preview them, many photographers prefer its ephemeral nature as each print is unique.
The Instax SQ6 offers the choice of three focus modes and therefore delivers sharper images. And while the exposure remains automatic, the camera now has a variety of shutter speeds allowing it to better handle bright scenes. Plus, the SQ6 has three colored filters for the flash to produce special effects.
Best for: beginners, as the SQ6 is a good starting point at its price
This model is easily among the best instant cameras. The Fujifilm Instax SQ20 is the third camera with Instax Square cartridges for producing instant square prints. This is a digital model that uses a low-resolution sensor to capture images before letting you view, edit, and save them on-screen and decide whether you want to make a print. The SQ20 receives the filter effects from its predecessor, the SQ10, but adds the ability to capture 15-second videos from which you can take shots. There’s also a 4x digital zoom with no loss of quality for small prints, plus new collage modes.
Best for: those who like adding creative effects and using the SQ20 filters, vloggers, as it has the ability to capture 15-second video clips from which you can grab snaps
Compared to other counterparts in this list of best instant cameras, the Instax WIDE 300 is a big daddy. It’s powered by four AA batteries and delivers larger prints using Instax WIDE films packs that more closely resemble standard print dimensions.
The WIDE 300 has a slightly chunky body, but it’s lighter than you think. A lever enclosing the shutter release button on its bridge-camera-style handgrip powers this one up and extends its 95mm lens. The built-in flash is likewise huge and automatic.
The only thing that seems to be odd and unpractical is the left-of-center viewfinder. Though control is limited to modifying brightness and flash, if you need instant prints to be close to the dimensions of regular photos, this is the best option.
Best for: capturing memories at parties and other fun events, taking selfies with the close-up lens, low-light shooting
Adopting the retro design of the original OneStep from 1977, the new Polaroid OneStep 2 camera embraces innovation with USB charging. The camera delivers large, square-format instant prints using Polaroid i-Type and 600 category film, meaning you have to pay a bit more per print compared to its Instax counterparts. You get lighten/darken modes and a self-timer button. The OneStep 2 is hardly the best instant camera, but it has its peculiar benefits over the rivals.
Best for: those who are totally in love with black-and-white instant photography, as the Polaroid Originals monochrome film is pretty good despite its high price
Another Polaroid camera, the SnapTouch is a high-end model among classic instant cameras. Unlike most other instant rivals, the SnapTouch is digital and has an LCD for previewing photos. There’s no film; a premium and cut-to-size photo paper is used instead (Polaroid Premium Zink Paper). Thanks to connectivity to the SnapTouch web app, you can edit your photos, add creative effects, and print pictures using compatible printers. Plus, the variety of camera colors gives you the freedom to decide which one suits you best.
Best for: beginners, as it’s an affordable, compact point-and-shoot that can print small photos
Thanks to Impossible, a beloved Polaroid instant camera is back right from the 1980s. Though it isn’t the most lightweight and travel-friendly instant camera, if you love the legendary design, this camera is for you. It also has a new feature that past cameras didn’t have – a Frog Tongue from Impossible, which protects your film from light once it’s been printed, ensuring that it develops appropriately and consistently.
Best for: true lovers of the classic Polaroid 600
The Impossible Project I-1 camera features lights around the lens to create a soft light for shooting portraits. The Impossible I-1 comes with a free web app for your smartphone that you can use as a remote trigger, noise trigger, or self-timer. The app also enables double exposures, light painting, and aperture and shutter speed adjustment. It works as a photo scanner too, which makes the I-1 an excellent option for experimenting with instant photography. Due to the camera’s chunkiness, it’s hardly suited for casual shots: it's too bulky to carry around. The battery life of this Polaroid instant camera also leaves much to be desired.
Best for: fun, experimenting with instant photography, shooting instant portraits
Probably one of the most attractive options on our list, the Lomo'Instant Automat comes in a wide range of designs and conveniently uses Instax Mini film for producing images. But the thing that makes it stand out from its counterparts is its ability to be used with close-up, wide, and fisheye lenses (which can be purchased in addition to the default lens). Plus, it includes unlimited exposures and a bulb option. Despite lacking a self-timer, this camera can hardly fall out of the top list.
Best for: creative shooters, fans of the Instax Mini format, and those who want a camera that delivers crisp images, sets exposure automatically, and is easy to use
The Mint InstantFlex TL70 2.0 takes the best instant cameras to the next level. It boasts a new viewfinder that’s a joy to use. The angle of view isn’t wide enough, but it allows you to capture scenes in low-light conditions. In brighter environments, you’ll get detailed images.
Full focus and aperture control gives you more creative power, especially when it comes to shallow depth of field, which is difficult to achieve with most instant cameras. An integrated flash for capturing late-night selfies is also hidden beneath the InstantFlex nameplate.
Best for: those who don’t mind shelling out the dough for a unique experience and aesthetics. If you need a solid option that will help you stand out, go with the Mint InstantFlex TL70 2.0.
The Leica Sofort uses Instax Mini film and, in truth, significantly resembles the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90. But it’s stylish and doesn’t look like a kid’s toy. With its 60mm f/12.7 lens, the Sofort captures much better images than the Instax. While it’s expensive for an instant camera, it’s still by far the most reasonable Leica you can get your hands on.
Best for: travel adventures, parties, other entertainment events
We’ve given you a bunch of dedicated instant film cameras to choose from, but there are definitely some winners in our best instant cameras list in our humble opinion:
Whatever you pick, remember that an instant camera is a way to cherish memories and keep them alive forever.
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