We live in an age of instant gratification. The internet – and especially the recent rise of cloud computing – has allowed us to communicate with colleagues and friend in a fraction of the time previously required. But while the rise of cell phone cameras is largely seen as endemic of these trends, the notion of instant film is decades old. Polaroid film offers you a number of advantage that mobile cameras don’t.
A polaroid camera ( aka an instant camera ) provides a physical, totemic object you won’t find in digital photos, but newer models bring a truncated version of the high-end features you’d find in a proper digital option. The technology behind Polaroids is rapidly advancing, and it can be hard to know what features to look for. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the best instant cameras to help you find the right option for you.
Quick Look: 10 Best Instant Cameras
- Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo
- Leica Sofort Instant Camera
- Fujifilm Instax Mini 9
- Polaroid Originals OneStep 2
- Fujifilm Instax Wide 300
- Kodak PRINTOMATIC Digital IPrint
- Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6
- Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10
- Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide
- LomoInstant Automat South Beach
1. Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo
Fujifilm's Instax cameras are one of the best brands of automatic cameras around, and the Mini 90 Neo Classic is the nicest looking model in the series. The vintage design evokes the look of the early Polaroid cameras from decades ago, but this mini Polaroid camera is undoubtedly modern to the core. It's compatible with both color and black and white film, and its rechargeable battery is hard to find in other cheap, entry level Polaroid cameras.
Considering its price tag clocking in at under a hundred dollars, the number of features available are impressive. The fully automatic exposure means that you don't need to agonize over the exposure level for any given level of lighting, and dual shutter releases are another impressive feature that can improve the versatility of this cheap Polaroid camera. It also offers support for use with tripods.
2. Leica Sofort Instant Camera
The Leica Sofort is a significant step up in pricing from the Instax Mini 90, but it's the cheapest product offered by Leica. The company known for creating high-end professional cameras has put out a classic plastic instant camera, and it's proof that Leica can slim down their production costs while still keeping their quality approach to craftsmanship. This camera is actually based off of the Mini 90 in design, so you can expect all the fundamental features you'd find in that model.
But they've made some smart choices that make it more intuitive to use. The focus distance options are located around the core lens ring, but the biggest improvement is the red dot that provides more accurate sighting when you're out in the wild. You can expect to pay a little more for the privilege of the Leica name with this model, but it's still a great choice.
3. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9
If you want a cheap Fuji Polaroid camera that you know you can still rely on, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is a home run. It comes in a range of bright and perky colors, and it's small enough to fit comfortably in a purse. While the biggest selling point here is the low price, it comes with more features than you might expect from a camera in this price range.
A selfie mirror provides you with a low cost method for shooting intimate pictures of you and your friends without having to chase someone down to take your picture, and it's compatible with both color and black and white film. It also comes with automated aperture management. That means no matter what situation you're in you'll get a helpful flashing light to help you pick the right aperture setting for the lighting.
4. Polaroid Originals OneStep 2
Ironically, only one proper Polaroid brand camera is on our list of the best Polaroid cameras. Fujifilm has been the king of making some of the best instant cameras for decades now, but investing in a Polaroid still comes with some distinct advantages. The One Step is the only camera on our list that accepts the larger Polaroid stock film, a big selling point if you want larger photos to share with your friends. But despite its retro design, it's a take on classic Polaroid style that's updated for the modern age.
The One Step supports both multiple film formats and multiple exposures, so you have more flexibility in the type of photos you produce. It also makes use of a traditional USB charger rather than AA or AAA batteries. The one button operation makes this a pick up and play camera that you can depend on to work as expected without any fuss.
5. Fujifilm Instax Wide 300
There's a reason why Fujifilm has such a dominate presence on this list. They offer consistent value across their expansive line, and that means you can pick the Fuji camera that's right for you without having to worry about whether it can get the job done. The most important characteristic of the Fujifilm Wide 300 is rather obviously the fact that it's compatible with wide film stock, letting you take larger prints and really get creative with your compositions.
The build quality is about what you could expect from an Instax in the sub $100 price range: sturdy but a bit plasticky in design. Forced and automatic flash options are available, and the lens creates pictures with a reliably LoFi resolution for a more vintage feel. The two focus settings can be adjusted easily with just a twist of the plastic lens ring.
6. Kodak PRINTOMATIC Digital IPrint
A digital Polaroid camera will usually cost you hundreds of dollars, but the Kodak Printomatic manages to offer the modern functionality of a digital camera with printer into a frame at a price comparable with almost any other camera on this list. They manage this in part by excising an LCD display in lieu of a more conventional optical viewfinder. This is an instant camera for the modern age - with an SD card that stores digital versions of all of your photos for later editing and a rechargeable battery that makes use of a ubiquitous microSD port.
This isn't the fastest instant camera on the market (it takes about 40 seconds for your film to print), but the fixed focus systems keep most subjects in focus without having to know anything about advanced camera functionality. The color quality is reliably vibrant and close to life regardless of your shooting circumstances.
7. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6
In terms of features, the Square SQ6 is about what you can expect from the Fujifilm Instax line in terms of pricing, quality, and features. The biggest distinguishing feature of this Polaroid camera is that it takes square film stock. That's not to say that it doesn't have a few tricks up its sleeve. The inclusion of three colored flash filters allows you to customize your photos a little more than you would with most of the available instant cameras.
There are selfie, double exposure, and macro modes as well as a solid optical viewfinder. As befitting of a Polaroid camera, there's a practically negligible learning curve. The buttons are placed with a smart sense of intuitive thinking in mind, and even a kid can pick it up and use it without much difficulty.
8. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ10
The name SQ10 might make you think that it's essentially the SQ6 with a few new features and minor design changes, and that's largely true, but there are a few neat additions that move it to the territory of crossover camera. Most notable is the addition of memory storage. Up to 50 photos can be stored directly on the camera, and that can be expanded even more by inserting an SD memory card. The addition of a rechargeable battery and a digital zoom of 2.4 makes this new model fall somewhere between a traditional instant camera and a digital camera.
Fujifilm also took the time to redesign the look, emphasizing a smooth and symmetrical shape that fits comfortably in the hand and employs a design scheme that feels natural from the start. Personalization is available through the inclusion of ten separate filters and a vignette control filter.
9. Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide
Customers looking for a little more variety in what their instant cameras can accomplish without having to pay professional camera prices (or fumble with complex components and lenses) will want to check out the Lomography Lomo'Instant. The Lomo'Instant is a possible contender for the best Polaroid camera on the market, and it even makes use of the ubiquitous Instax Wide film, so you won't have any trouble keeping it loaded. Lomography is one of the hottest names in film cameras today, and they've taken their same methodical approach to design and applied it to an instant camera.
For those who like more options in how they shoot, the Lomo'Instant blows the competition out of the water. Whilst many of the best instant cameras make use of automatic exposure, the Lomo'Instant offers switches for multiple exposure and bulb mode, and it even includes a lever for adjusting the lens.
10. LomoInstant Automat South Beach
The Instant Automat has aspirations to bridge the gap between serious cameras and instant cameras, and while it doesn't succeed entirely in that regard, it's hard to begrudge it what it manages to accomplish for its price. Like the other Lomography camera on our list, the focusing modes (three for this model) can be adjusted via the ring around the lens, and this camera comes with three different attachable lenses you can use to get more depth with your photography.
Multiple exposures, flash, and exposure compensation can be controlled directly through the control interface, but many of the more complex functions are automated for ease of use. The South Beach model sports an attractive cream and burgundy color scheme, but it comes in a number of different designs (with the same features and form) if you're looking for something that's more your taste.
Compare the Best Instant Cameras
|Picture||Model||Picture Prints Size||Shutter Speed||Type of Film|
|+ Fujifilm Instax Mini||46 mm × 62 mm||1.8 - 1/400 sec||Instax Mini|
|+ Leica Sofort Instant||46 mm × 62 mm||1.8 - 1/400 sec||Mini (Instax and Leica)|
|+ Fujifilm Instax Mini||2.44 x 3.9 in||1/60 sec||Instax Mini|
|+ Originals OneStep||3.108 × 3.024 in||n/a||Polaroid i-Type and 600|
|+ Fujifilm Instax Wide||46 mm × 62 mm||1/64 sec – 1/200 sec (adjustable)||Instax Wide|
|+ Kodak PRINTOMATIC Digital||2 x 3 in||1/500 sec – 1/100 sec||Zink zero-ink paper|
|+ Fujifilm Instax Square||62 x 62 mm||1/100 sec – 1.6 sec||Instax Square|
|+ Fujifilm Instax Square||62 x 62 mm||1/29500 to 1/2 sec||Instax Square|
|+ Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide||2.4 by 3.9 in||1/30 sec||Instax Wide|
|+ LomoInstant Automat South||46 mm × 62 mm||Adjustable||Instax Mini|
Best Polaroid Camera Buyer’s Guide
The Difference Between Polaroid Brand Cameras and Polaroid Cameras
Polaroid was once such a dominant force for creating the best instant cameras that its name became synonymous with the sub-genre of cameras. But when digital cameras rose in popular, Polaroid floundered, and it has long since been outpaced by Fujifilm and other manufacturers in the market. When you see the phrase “Polaroid cameras”, you can generally take it as a general term for instant cameras rather than as an indicator of the manufacturer.
Instant Camera Film Types
As one might expect given the prevalence of Fujifilm in the instant camera market, their Instax film types are the standard for the industry. The very best instant cameras that appear on our list are compatible with Instax film stock, and that makes it easy to shop for film for your instant camera. But limitations of instant cameras mean that only one type of film will work with each camera.
The camera you pick will determine the film stock you’re stuck with, and while the “right” type of film is a matter of aesthetic preference (film quality itself is predicated on the camera in question), it’s still an important choice when choosing a camera. There are three types of Instax film currently in production:
Instax Minis are significantly smaller than the traditional Instax Square dimensions, but the fact that they’re longer means that their dimensions pretty accurately reflect the look and feel of traditional cameras. Just keep in mind that they’ll come out as roughly the size of a business card. Instax Wide stock is ideal for photographers looking for impressive panoramas.
Weighing in at roughly double the wide of the Instax Mini, an Instax Wide photo provides a unique perspective for your photography. Just keep in mind that the film is more expensive, and the cameras compatible with them are generally larger and heavier. Instax Square photos naturally print out on a perfect square.
Those nostalgic for the early days of Polaroid film will love the retro quality of these photos, but properly framing a composition can be a little more difficult. The one Polaroid brand camera on our list is compatible with Polaroid Originals 600 and i-Type film. This Polaroid camera film offers the same square format as the Instax Square, but they’re significantly larger.
Some Polaroid cameras make use of Polaroid Originals Spectra Film. This equivalent to Instax Wide is also larger in terms of dimensions, but you can expect to pay significantly more for Polaroid brand film than you would for its comparable Instax substitutes.
Traditional v. Digital Instant Cameras
Instant cameras have been a popular way to take and share photos for decades, and while the chemicals used to develop these photos have changed significantly over the years to become safer and more effective, the fundamentals have stayed the same. By making use of dyes of three colors (cyan, magenta, and yellows), the cameras translate the image you see through your viewfinder. By contrast, digital camera photo printers recreate an entire digital image.
These printers don’t have to develop film, and they don’t even use ink. Instead, they use heat to colorize the cyan, magenta, and yellow crystals embedded in otherwise ordinary looking adhesive paper. In practical terms, there are a few distinct differences. Digital printers tend to not work as quickly as more traditional instant cameras, but they also store the digital images directly onto your camera. That means that you can import them to a photo imaging platform to alter them before printing or print out multiple copies of the same photo.
But the more complex technology means that you can generally expect to pay more for a digital camera with a printer built in. As of now, traditional instant cameras tend to be more prevalent than their digital counterparts, but that’s likely to change as digital alternatives become cheaper to produce.
Instant cameras are experiencing something of a renaissance. While most modern phones come equipped with pretty respectable cameras in their own right, there’s something appealing about the tangible artifacts that instant cameras (and digital cameras with printers) can produce. The immediacy and nostalgia are both big selling points for cameras. Given the wide range of different formats available, we’ve cast our net wide with our Polaroid camera reviews.
That means you have a lot of variety to choose from on our list, but it also means that you’ll want to carefully evaluate the options to find the one that’s right for you. This isn’t a case where any of these cameras is definitively better than another. The style of camera and format of film that’s appealing to you will likely be the biggest selling point during your camera hunt.