While it’s true that all of our phones now offer high-quality cameras that go well beyond what we could expect from the cheap instant cameras of yesteryear, it can sometimes feel like something was lost with the ability to share all of our memories immediately on the internet. An instant camera gives you a tangible talisman of your shared experiences and is a great way to bond with friends and family.
But these cameras have come a long way in the past few years, and if you’re a younger reader, you may have not experienced one before. For that reason, we’ve not just provided reviews for the best instant camera models of 2020. We’ve also put together a list helping you understand what you should be looking for while shopping.
- 10 Best Instant Cameras
- 1. Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Instant Film Camera
- 2. Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic Instant Film Camera
- 3. Leica Sofort Instant Camera – Mint
- 4. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera
- 5. Kodak PRINTOMATIC Digital Instant Print Camera
- 6. Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 Instant Film Camera
- 7. Lomography Lomo’Instant Automat South Beach Instant Film Camera
- 8. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 – Instant Film Camera
- 9. Impossible Project I-1 Analog Instant Camera
- 10. KODAK Smile Instant Print Digital Camera
- Instant Camera Buyer’s Guide
10 Best Instant Cameras
1. Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Instant Film Camera
The Polaroid Originals may look like a flashback to the 1970s, but it's actually outfitted with a decent range of creative and innovative modern features. A compatible app syncs up to your camera through the use of a standard Bluetooth connection, so you can tether your phone at a distance of up to 33 feet, and it gives you access to a rich range of features that include double exposure, manual operation, a noise trigger, and more.
And this Polaroids camera even includes interchangeable lenses. One is perfect for capturing selfies at a range of between one and three feet, while the other is your best option if you're looking to experiment with some portrait or landscape photography. The OneStep+ is compatible with both i-Type and 600 film stock for your convenience.
2. Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic Instant Film Camera
As other manufacturers have moved their operations to more heavy duty mirrorless, DSLR, and bridge cameras, Fujfilm has carved a nice niche out for themselves as one of the best producers of instant camera models. This affordably priced camera is perfect to the family thanks to its simple operation.
It will automatically adjust the lighting to the situation to provide you with great images regardless of whether or not you know a single thing about the exposure triangle, and it's appropriate for use by both kids and adults. Families in particular will love the Kid mode, which is designed to capture fast moving objects without excessive blur, and it also supports a macro mode for getting up close and personal with a small and delicate subject without disturbing them.
3. Leica Sofort Instant Camera – Mint
Leica is one of the best names around for premium (and expensive) camera lenses, so it's interesting to see them move into the instant camera market which tends to be more dominated by budget priced options. The Leica Sofort isn't cheap, but it's easily one of the most stylish instant camera models we've found, and the image quality goes well beyond what you might expect for an instant model.
Unlike with many instant models, you have full manual controls built right into the frame, but it also comes with a pretty impressive amount of software that allows you to take advantage of a variety of different automatic modes. That makes it one of your best choices if you're just starting off in photography but looking to ease yourself into the more complex image settings.
4. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera
The Instax 90 offers an impressive amount of functionality that blurs the line between instant and professional cameras, but sometimes you want something a little more simple. Roughly half the price of the Instax 90 gets you the Instax Mini 9 camera. Both Instax cameras make use of a 60 mm focal length, but the 9 comes with a slightly more flexible aperture range. That said, it adds that while taking out the screen and complex manual controls that make the Instax Film 90 so versatile.
Instead, this camera opts for more modest and beginner friendly controls. Figuring the lighting is as simple as choosing an exposure setting suited to the weather around you, but there's also an exposure compensation mode you can use to gain more control over your exposure control.It also includes a macro adapter for up close image capture of smaller subjects.
5. Kodak PRINTOMATIC Digital Instant Print Camera
While instant cameras provide a great way to share physical snapshots with your friends, they still don't offer the convenience of digitally connected cameras. That's where hybrid models like the Kodak Printomatic can be useful. Whenever you take a picture with this camera, it saves a digital copy of your image for sharing online so that you have a backup for your physical image. And if you decide you want to print out a copy of pictures you've already taken, it's easy to accomplish that with Kodak's smart app.
But you don't ever need to make use of the app. This will work just fine on its own as an instant camera, and it's the most affordable, quality camera we've found in the hybrid category. The fact that it uses Zink film means that you can count on your image to be resistant to both water and smudges.
6. Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 Instant Film Camera
If you really want to capture the look and fill of a classic instant film image, you'll love the Instax Wide 300 from Fujifilm. It does a great job reflecting the classic Polaroids that older fans will appreciate with nostalgia, and even though it's targeted towards that nostalgia audience, this camera offers some of the best image quality that we've found in an instant camera. It's not exactly overloaded with modern functions, but it provides exceptional performance for a basic point and click model.
The chunkier design of this camera may take a little getting used to, but the light and dark controls give you some decent control over your lighting, and there's even a manual flash for adjusting the look of your image quality. Just keep in mind that the wide film stock this camera uses is a little more expensive than average.
7. Lomography Lomo’Instant Automat South Beach Instant Film Camera
Most casual readers probably won't recognize the name Lomography, but their camera puts them in good company, producing results that can compete pretty comfortably with the big names like Fujifilm and Kodak. In fact, it makes use of Fujifilm's Instax film format, so you don't have to go hunting around for rare film to load in.
In terms of features, this is a fully loaded camera. The inclusion of three attachable lenses allow you to simulate the effect of fish-eye, closeup, or wide angle shots, turning this into one of the most versatile cameras in the instant film category. It also comes with a surprisingly rich amount of shooting modes. Whether you're looking to capture long or multiple exposures, you have the option here, and it even offers multiple color gels for adding more extravagant effects to your pictures.
8. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 – Instant Film Camera
Fujifilm's Instax Square SQ6 is a refreshingly analog instant photography camera. Where many other models try to implement a range of connectivity options, this camera is instead focused on being as organic and natural to use as possible. The controls are simple and easy to understand with just a glance, while the square format film is a fun alternative to the more traditional photos that may of its contemporaries produce.
Keep in mind, the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 isn't a more professional square film camera like the Lomo Instant Square. Instead, it's focused on easy operation and the ability for its users to capture great wide screen footage in practically any environment. And since it makes use of an automated exposure control, you don't have to worry about poor lighting or a lack of technical knowledge hurting the quality of your photos.
9. Impossible Project I-1 Analog Instant Camera
The Impossible I-1 is appealing to a very specific market, and that won't make it the best choice for everyone who reads this list. This camera doesn't look like any other model available, but it works with a compact and very pretty design, and it's designed to keep the kind of instant film that used to dominate the market alive.
And while this can work as a basic point and shoot camera, it comes with some more in depth bells and whistles that are rarely seen in this class. A full range of manual controls give you the means for shooting photos like a pro. And just because the I-1 rocks a vintage design doesn't mean it's outdated. It offers a decent range of modern wireless functionality without them getting in the way of the fundamentally retro appeal of this camera.
10. KODAK Smile Instant Print Digital Camera
There's clearly a lot of love for retro design sensibilities in the Kodak Smile. Its bold two tone designs (available in five color combinations) evoke the golden age of 1970s Kodak, but it otherwise stands apart from the factg that it comes with a built-in printer. That means you can use the Smile to print photos directly from your phone, but it also allows you to store digital copies of the photos you shoot from the camera.
But don't come expecting a particularly complicated camera. Kodak has intentionally tried to make things friendly and pleasant for both adults and kids. While it sports one of Kodak's quality viewfinders, qualities like shutter speed are automated. It's the pure definition of point and click, but it works charmingly, sports a quality sensor, and comes in at a very affordable price point.
Instant Camera Buyer’s Guide
With the rise of the smartphone, instant cameras aren’t as popular as they once were, but if you want an alternative to purely digital photography without spending money on an expensive professional camera, instant photo models are one of your best choices for shooting pictures. We’ll get into the specifics so you can better understand the specs we outline above and figure out what qualities and shooting modes you should be looking for when shopping for this type of camera.
One of the biggest advantages of an instant camera is that you can just point, click, and get an image in just a few minutes or less. But if you’re looking for more advanced functions, the options are out there. Look for cameras that offer a manual mode and options like double exposure if you really want to get creative with your point and click model.
Advanced models will typically facilitate normal shooting and only require you to make use of manual functions if you really want to, but you need to consider whether those additional functions are worth the increase in price. If all you want is the ability to capture quick image shots of a party and maybe make use of a selfie mirror, you can usually opt for a cheaper model and be just fine.
Most cameras you’ll find will only support one or two types of film, so it’s important to pick one that you’ll end up liking. The main difference between different film formats is the size. The film itself and the focal length of the camera will determine the proportions of the image, with the traditional Instax mini`format producing a typically normal image and other options like square or wide formats offering more esoteric results. We advise you to check out what the different formats are like before pulling the trigger on a device.
One exception to more traditional film is ZINK inkless film. Instead of using traditional ink, ZINK uses heat and powder to replicate the image that you see through the lens. That can reduce the risk of smudging or damage and create an image that you’ll love but that’s also designed to last throughout the years. ZINK paper is typically used in Polaroid cameras.
More often than not, the types of cameras you’ll find on this list are going to require rechargeable batteries. These usually make use of AA batteries, and you can get anywhere from between 100 and 300 shots on a single battery charge. While that’s respectable, if you really intend to use your camera regularly, you may want to look for a model with CR2 batteries. Investing in a model that uses rechargeable batteries could save you some money in the long run, but that really depends on the frequency with which you use your camera.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which is the Best Instant Camera to Buy?
If you’re looking for the camera that finds the right balance between value and performance, we’d recommend to you the Instax Mini 90. The roughly $100 price tag isn’t the cheapest around, but it’s allowed Fujifilm to pack in a variety of manual focusing functions and other cool options like double exposure without being too complicated for amateur photographers.
What is the Best Instant Camera in 2020?
If you want the best of the best, turn your attention to the Leica Sofort on Amazon. It certainly isn’t cheap (at least not by the standards of these point and shoot models), but it does a great job of bridging the gap between instant cameras and their more sophisticated siblings.
What is the Best Quality Polaroid Camera?
If you’re specifically looking for a Polaroid camera, we think you’ll really enjoy the Originals OneStep+. It rocks a very cool vintage design, a long battery life, good image quality, and a very strong compatible app. It’s a welcoming first camera for amateurs but contains enough quirks to interest potential hobbyists with more serious aspirations.
There’s nothing quite like the sensation of snapping a photo, watching it develop in front of your eyes, and sharing it with a close friend or beloved family member. And while these types of cameras may often be seen as relics of nearly half a century ago, the newest generation offers some really clever features and some surprisingly sharp picture quality. If you want to really experience that, we think you’ll find yourself happy with any of the models on our review list.
And if your new point and shoot camera gets you thinking about photography seriously, we invite you to read our ultimate guide to mirrorless cameras or our review guide to the best bridge cameras of 2020.If you liked our article on instant cameras, please share and comment below what your favorite product is.