- Our choice for the #1 Best Overall Instant Camera is the Fujifilm Instax Mini 12
- Modern instant cameras have advanced features such as LED displays, micro-SD slots, and mobile app control.
- Camera size, size of the film, type of film, and price are some factors to consider when choosing an instant camera.
Undoubtedly, smartphones have changed the way we take and share photos. However, they do not trigger as powerful nostalgia as printed pictures. A physical print makes intangible tangible, providing perfect memories we can cherish forever. Unlike smartphones, instant cameras can create surreal, imaginative photos and print them out in a flash, bringing back the excitement of sharing physical photographs with family and friends.
These cameras allow users to create tangible memories that digital photography cannot replicate. They are fun to use, easy to carry around, and perfect for any photography enthusiast longing for a physical print just moments after snapping a shot. Some of the options on the market today pack digital tech, allowing you to print photos directly from your smartphone.
Not only do these cameras provide immediate gratification, but they also produce better-quality photos than many cameras out there. Unfortunately, the wide range of competing brands makes finding the best model quite challenging for most camera buyers.
Lucky for you, we have evaluated some of the most creative and user-friendly instant cameras. Let’s explore the top picks!
- #1 Best Overall: Fujifilm Instax Mini 12
- Best for Non-Film Prints: Kodak Step Touch
- Best for Flexibility: Nons SL660
- Best for Lens Filters: Polaroid Now+
- Best for Landscape Photos: Fujifilm Instax Wide 300
#1 Best Overall: Fujifilm Instax Mini 12
- 40 photo sheets
- Cleaning cloth
- INSTAX app
- Easy to use
- Automatic settings
- Front mirror for selfies
- 2 AA batteries
- Blossom Pink
If you are a fan of nostalgic film photography, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 is for you. It offers a good balance between performance, speed, price, and style.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 will capture unique moments in a way that your phone camera cannot, plus it’s downright fun to use. The self-mode lets you capture excellent self-portraits, while the close-up mode takes stunning close-range photos. This camera comes with an optical viewfinder that helps frame distant shots while on the standard mode setting.
It also features an auto-flash control that will detect the levels of surrounding light and only flash when necessary. The marketed time for film development for this camera is 90 seconds. Its wallet-sized pictures measure about 1.8 by 2.4 inches and have accurate color rendition, though the contrast drops slightly for black-and-white shots.
The Mini 12 is ideal for budding photographers who, for budgetary reasons, cannot afford or have more expensive models. It is also a good choice for those new to instant photography but still want quality prints while learning the ropes.
The camera is all plastic, from the body to the lens, and is available in 5 different colors. It takes detailed travel snapshots, portraits, and selfies. However, it is not a good fit for those looking to capture more creative photos. It lacks artsy features like a double exposure. Also, it does not have a tripod socket.
|It is affordable.||Does not support double-exposure photography|
|It works with both colored and black and white Instax Mini Film.||Lacks tripod socket|
|Has an impressive close-range focus|
|Captures bright photos regardless of where you are|
Check out the Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 on Amazon.
Best for Non-Film Prints: Kodak Step Touch
The Kodak Step Touch is the best instant camera for non-film photo prints, using zero ink (Zink) technology to develop more cost-effective, high-quality photos.
It can print credit card-sized prints that are fully developed and adhesive-backed. These prints can be used as stickers.
The camera comes with a fixed-focus lens, 2×3 inch sticky-backed, waterproof, and smudge-proof photo paper. It also has a recessed paper tray at the back, which can hold up to 10 Kodak Zink photo papers. It offers Bluetooth connectivity and extensive editing options, allowing users to perfect their pics.
Not only does the Kodak Step Touch camera take pictures, but it also captures Full HD videos (1920 x 1080 resolution). It supports memory cards with up to 256GB capacity and lets you print from the camera roll or social media networks. The 3.5-inch LCD touchscreen allows you to edit your shot before printing or sharing it with your friends.
It is equipped with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. When fully charged, the battery can print up to 40 photos.
|Prints dry-to-touch photos||Prints look like colored photocopies|
|Has LCD screen for reviewing images before printing||The battery can only print 40 photos per charge.|
|Photos prints are adhesive-backed and can be used as stickers|
|It is compact and lightweight.|
|Supports microSD cards|
Check out the Kodak Step Touch on Amazon.
Best for Flexibility: Nons SL660
The Nons SL660 offers great flexibility with its interchangeable lenses, adaptable EF mount, and compatibility with a wide range of pre-mirrorless lens mounts.
It can also use vintage lenses of Nikon F, Micro Four Thirds, CY, Pentax K, and Olympus lenses, among other medium format mounts. However, its flexibility is limited as the enlarging optics only work best for lenses between 28-58mm focal length.
The SL660 is the only Nons camera that uses Fujifilm’s Instax square film. It features an optical viewfinder, a built-in light meter, and an OLED display. It uses aperture and shutter control techniques to control the amount of light passing through the lens.
The multiple exposure feature allows for creativity and experimentation. The wooden handgrip provided with the camera is comfortable. The film won’t eject until you hold down the eject button.
Nons’s SL660 is bulky, heavy, and a little more complicated to use than most instant cameras. Thus, it is suitable for seasoned photographers.
|Has a durable metal built||It is pricey.|
|Compatible with different mounts and lenses||It requires an ND filter for daylight photography.|
|It is possible to change lenses without ruining the film.||Viewfinder does not capture the whole frame|
|Uses the readily available Instax Square film|
Check out the Nons SL660 on Amazon.
Best for Lens Filters: Polaroid Now+
The Polaroid Now+ brings a Polaroid camera’s classic look and magical photo quality with five custom lens filters: Yellow, Red Vignette, Orange, Blue, and Starburst.
These filters come in handy when you want to add a vintage look to the shots or increase contrast in black-and-white images.
Once set, this camera can connect to your smartphone using the Polaroid mobile app, giving the user access to a range of creative options like a set of aperture priority and double exposure mode. The manual mode lets you adjust the shutter speed, aperture, focus, and flash.
The sleek and compact Polaroid Now+ comes with Polaroid’s I-Type film, both colored and black and white. It also features a 40mm lens, a viewfinder, an easy-to-use Bluetooth connection app, a micro-USB charging port, and a tripod socket at the base.
|Enjoys excellent app integration||It’s expensive.|
|Easy to use||Most features are app-dependent.|
|Excellent for vintage photos|
|Allows for multiple exposures|
Check out the Polaroid Now+ on Amazon.
Best for Landscape Photos: Fujifilm Instax Wide 300
- Not water resistant
- Automatic shooting and exposure control
- Tripod socket
- Real image finder
- Lens ring dial with focus zone setting
- Automatic flash for low-light shooting
- Electronic shutter release with speeds from 1/64 to 1/200 seconds
The Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 is the best for landscape orientation photography.
It is the big brother to the Instax Mini series cameras and produces images twice as wide as those of its smaller siblings, like the Instax Mini Film.
Designed to work with Fujifilm Instax wide film only, the Wide 300 is what you need for those color-rich wide-print photos. It has an optical viewfinder, a built-in mirror for taking selfies, and an LCD screen for previewing the photo before printing. The camera runs on AA batteries.
|Prints quality large photos||It is bulky.|
|Easy to use||The design is not the most modern-looking.|
|Provides exposure compensation|
|Very cost-effective to run|
Check out the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 on Amazon.
How to Pick the Best Instant Camera: Step-by-Step
Instant cameras can be tricky to buy. With brands like Fujifilm, Polaroids, Kodak, Lomography, and others fighting for this niche market, there are hundreds of models to choose from.
As with most products, the more options you have, the more difficult it is to figure out the camera that suits your photography style and needs.
Below are the 7 factors that will point you in the right direction when selecting your instant camera.
- Size of film
- Film type
- Film style
- Desired photo quality
- Digital storage
- Battery life
- Your budget
- Additional features
Let’s break down each one in detail.
Size of Film
Instant cameras differ primarily on the size of the film. The most common sizes are the 3.4″ x 2.1″ (mini) and the 3.4″ x 4.2″ (wide) films. Mini-sized films are designed for Instax Mini cameras, while the latter are used in Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 and other large print Fujifilm cameras.
The square (3.4″ x 2.8″) films are found mostly in Instax Square SQ1 and Lomography’s Instant Square Glass cameras. The Polaroid (4.2″ x 3.5″) is a unique film size for portraits and landscape prints. The Polaroid OneStep Plus is one of the cameras that shoots this film. It’s worth noting that the film size you need for your photography will determine your choice of camera brand and vice versa. That’s because there is no one-size-fits-all film for all cameras out there.
Polaroid and Fujifilm are the only companies that make instant films. Unfortunately, you can’t use the two brands’ films interchangeably. Polaroid films won’t work on Instax cameras and vice versa.
However, within the same brand, you can find film types that are compatible with each other, but not all. For instance, Polaroid 600 film works with Polaroid OneStep, Polaroid Now+, Polaroid Now, and Polaroid OneStep2, but it’s not compatible with Polaroid Go and Polaroid SX-70.
Many Fujifilm and Lomography cameras, such as the Instax Mini cameras and Lomo’Instant Automat cameras, accept the Instax Mini film. However, the film won’t work with Instax Wide and Square cameras or the Lomo’Instant Wide and Lomo’Instant Square Glass cameras.
Consider cameras that use different film styles. For Fujifilm cameras, you can find films with unique borders such as rainbow designs, photo shapes, and color gradients. Polaroid, on the other hand, has black and round frames and different designs.
Film styles and formats allow creativity. For instance, you can use black-and-white borders whenever you want the image to pop up. If you want to limit image visibility, you can opt for a color gradient film. However, you can use a rainbow film to add extra colors to your images.
Desired Photo Quality
Camera settings, shooting distance, and the film ISO will significantly determine the quality of your photos. Photography is about creativity, so you must hone your craft to achieve a crisp image.
The more versatile the camera, the better. However, ensure you understand how to shoot from different angles. Also, familiarize yourself with your camera’s focus capabilities and always aim at nailing the perfect focus of your subject for the best image quality.
To get the best image, you must first learn the basics of photography and understand what your camera is capable of. You can then tweak the settings to achieve the desired quality.
Physical pictures are great, but you cannot always carry them with you everywhere. In the digital world today, where we share our photos on social media, it is best to have a way of reliably storing them.
That said, consider a camera that allows for microSD storage. You can also opt for one that will enable you to access photos through mobile apps such as the Instax cameras.
Some instant cameras use replaceable lithium batteries, others AA batteries, but some new models have in-built batteries. If you’re looking for a cost-effective solution in the long run, an AA battery-powered camera may not be a good choice unless it’s a rechargeable option.
Lithium batteries have high energy density and thus are the most preferred by many photographers. A lithium battery option is your best bet if you plan to use the camera for extended periods.
It’s worth noting that the average instant camera’s battery can take and print up to 100 shots on full charge. Before you purchase your instant camera, check user reviews to know if the specific camera delivers on that promise. Be wary of cameras that drain batteries fast even when off or not in use.
Sticking to Your Budget
Irrespective of your tastes and preferences, your budget has the final say. In this respect, however, you should consider all the costs of owning the camera, not only the price. How much will you spend on the film? Remember, this cost will significantly impact your budget and how much you will fork out in the long run.
If you need a camera you can control using your phone, ensure the app is free and works well. Also, check the available integrations, such as editing capabilities and sharing photos on social media platforms. If you do not need these extra perks, avoid cameras with additional features, as the add-ons will reflect on the price tag.
What to Know Before Buying an Instant Camera
Before buying an instant camera, it is important to know that the cameras do not use the same film, especially if they are of different brands. Even so, not all films from the same brand are compatible. Therefore, before buying an instant camera, ensure you know the types of films that will work with your camera.
Using Instant Cameras: What It’s Like
Instant cameras provide immediate gratification as you watch what you have captured develop into a physical print in real-time. It is a great feeling and a fun experience for shutterbugs. It provides a solution to those who need to convert their intangible memories into tangible ones that they can hold onto for a lifetime.
Nonetheless, these cameras are not instant in the truest sense of the word. You need to wait at least two minutes for the photo to develop, and for some instant cameras, such as Polaroid Now+, it can take up to 15 minutes.
|#1||Fujifilm Instax Mini 12||Best Overall|
|#2||Kodak Step Touch||Best for Non-Film Prints|
|#3||Nons SL660||Best for Flexibility|
|#4||Polaroid Now+||Best for Lens Filters|
|#5||Fujifilm Instax Wide 300||Best for Landscape Photos|
The image featured at the top of this post is ©solominviktor/Shutterstock.com.