The 10 Best Instant Cameras

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This wiki has been updated 37 times since it was first published in May of 2015. You might've thought they were as dead as the dodo, but instant cameras are back with high-tech features to meet today's demands. With all the style and pizzazz of Polaroids from back in the day, these models will help you capture everything from portraits to candid party shots. The retro feel is baked right in to many and, because prints are rare these days, each picture seems special. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Black

2. Zink Polaroid Pop 2.0

3. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ20

Editor's Notes

September 02, 2020:

When shopping for an instant camera, it's important to know that there are two basic types: one that relies on a traditional chemical reaction like the Polaroids of old, and a new method that prints with the help of zinc. If you're reaching for a nostalgic experience, zinc, or Zink by its brand name, may not cut it, as its photos come out completely printed rather than requiring development time in the hands. Zink is both faster and often clearer in its results than other cheical processes, so that's where you want to go is image quality is paramount

For an extra bit of nostalgia, you can actually reach for models like the Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Black or the Polaroid Originals OneStep 2 VF, which are both designed to look and function much like the company's cameras from the 1980s, but that have a few modern conveniences, such as Bluetooth connectivity and features like double exposure.

Another potentially important feature is the ability to review and save images, or to shoot video in addition to stills. Models like the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ20 can do it all. That model in particular features a 1:1 aspect ratio and videos that are 15 seconds or less, making it ideal for quick social media posts. And if you want to use a screen to edit or augment your photos before you print them, the Zink Polaroid Pop 2.0 is the way to go, as its screen is touch sensitive. That model also doubles as a mobile printer that can print out images you take with your smartphone.


April 30, 2019:

Whether you remember the days of Polaroids with a sense of nostalgia or are new to instant cameras, there is no arguing they are fun. Unlike with digital cameras, you can't just take an unlimited number of shots and delete any that you don't like. This makes each picture feel a little more special. If you want all the fun of an instant camera, but don't want to completely let go of the benefits of digital, you should definitely check out the Polaroid Pop 2.0. Unlike most other models, which immediately print the picture after you take it, this model allows you the leeway to print them whenever you choose. It also features a 4-inch touchscreen, so you can check out each pic before printing to make sure you approve of it. The Leica Sofort and Lomography Lomo'Instant Wide are great for people who want a little more manual control over their photos, though they do still have automatic settings for those times you just want to snap an easy shot. These two cameras are rather expensive, though. Fujifilm is almost solely responsible for reviving the instant photo trend and they have brought a large variety of options to the market for you to choose from. The small size and wallet-friendly price makes the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 a great gift for kids, or anybody else who appreciates not having to carry around anything bulky in their pocket. As if it wasn't obvious enough from the name and shape, the Fujifilm Hello Kitty is also a smart choice for children and young teens. Unlike the majority of the other models on our list, which produce rectangular prints, the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 prints square images, making them most like the Polaroids of old.

Special Honors

Mint InstantKon RF70 Designed to look and function like old-school wide-format cameras, this model delivers a serious throwback while keeping an eye on the future. That's thanks to the company's incorporation of modern controls and electronics that allow shooters to set their shutter speed and aperture, as well as focus manually. It accepts Fuji's Instax Wide film.

4. Fujifilm Instax Mini 11

5. Polaroid Originals OneStep 2 VF

6. Leica Sofort

This item has been flagged for editorial review and is not available.

7. Lomography Lomo'Instant Automat

8. Fujifilm Mini 90 Neo

9. Kodak Printomatic

10. Instax Wide 300

People Still Use Instant Cameras?

The size of the instant photos you get depends on the type of camera you purchase.

Instant cameras have come a long way since the days of the original Polaroid. Since the good old days, many companies have capitalized on Polaroid's original idea and developed instant cameras applicable to modern day use.

Today's instant cameras are digital cameras with built-in printers. Unlike the original instant cameras, they have features of a regular digital camera with the added option to print your favorite photos on the spot.

Most of today's instant cameras are small and can fit in your pocket or the palm of your hand. They don't always have as much memory as the average, more expensive, digital camera, but they are perfect for use at parties or on day trips where you might want to instantly compile some cute photos for your scrapbook.

The size of the instant photos you get depends on the type of camera you purchase. Many instant photos are printed the size of your average business card. Others print at half of that size. You can choose from cameras with basic features that focus, snap, and print; or you can invest in an instant camera with a few more bells and whistles that auto focus and make minor edits to your photos, such as removing red eye, before printing.

Two of the top companies that make excellent instant cameras with digital capabilities are Polaroid and Fujifilm. As you can see, Polaroid is still a popular name in the camera game.

You Need An Instant Camera

You might be wondering why you would even want to use an instant camera with all of today's technology at your disposal. After all, even if you don't shell out for a fancy digital camera, you can still take high quality photos on your cell phone, right?

It's true, but ask yourself this: How often do you actually take the time to print and enjoy the hundreds, possibly thousands of photos on your cell phone or digital camera? How often do you take the time to transfer all of your photos to your computer, pick out your favorites, upload them to your favorite photo site, and print them?

Snap the picture, and you're holding a print in your hand seconds later.

We think there's nothing quite like the convenience of instant film and holding that special photo in your hand, carrying it in your wallet, or pasting into your favorite scrapbook.

There are several instances in which an instant camera comes in handy.

The most obvious advantage to an instant camera is the "instant" part. There's no need to head to the nearest photo kiosk, upload your photos, and print. You don't have to take the time to upload to your laptop and print on your home printer. Snap the picture, and you're holding a print in your hand seconds later.

Instant photos also make great party favors. Kids love instant cameras, and if you are hosting a birthday party, you can snap photos and hand them out to your guests before they leave said party. Everyone has a great time, and your guests have a unique way to remember the day.

We've already mentioned this one, but the third reason to use an instant camera is scrapbooking. It saves time and effort and gives you fun, retro-looking images that you can paste into your favorite event or vacation scrapbook.

Finally, if you are a teacher or work with children, instant cameras can provide opportunities for unique craft projects. You can snap a picture of each child in your class so they can make a personalized card for Mother's Day or let them create a class scrapbook of their most recent field trip.

Use your imagination, and you can find even more ways that an instant camera can be used. If you're old enough to remember the original Polaroid cameras, you will love the added element of nostalgia.

A Brief History Of The Instant Camera

The first instant camera was invented in 1923 by Samuel Shlafrock. However, it is Edwin H. Land who is credited with the development and marketing of the first commercially used instant camera.

Kodak was forced to stop production and reimburse many of their customers because they could no longer purchase the film needed to operate their cameras.

Land is best known as one of the co-founders of Polaroid, possibly the most recognized name in the field of instant film and cameras. These cameras worked by loading film into its chamber and snapping a photograph that would then be printed.

While Polaroid remained highly popular, it wasn't long before other camera companies began producing their own versions of the instant camera. You might recognize some of these names: Kodak, Fujifilm, Konica, Keystone, and Minolta.

Polaroid thought that Kodak's version of the instant camera constituted patent infringement and slapped them with a lawsuit. Kodak was forced to stop production and reimburse many of their customers because they could no longer purchase the film needed to operate their cameras.

The digital age put a strain on the instant camera business, and Polaroid was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in 2008. In 2009, they were purchased by PLR IP Holdings, LLC and continued to manufacture instant camera-related products. There is a current market for film for the vintage Polaroid instant cameras found among serious photographers who appreciate the classic look of old Polaroid images, so this film is still in production.

Daniel Imperiale
Last updated by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel Imperiale holds a bachelor’s degree in writing, and proudly fled his graduate program in poetry to pursue a quiet life at a remote Alaskan fishery. After returning to the contiguous states, he took up a position as an editor and photographer of the prestigious geek culture magazine “Unwinnable” before turning his attention to the field of health and wellness. In recent years, he has worked extensively in film and music production, making him something of a know-it-all when it comes to camera equipment, musical instruments, recording devices, and other audio-visual hardware. Daniel’s recent obsessions include horology (making him a pro when it comes to all things timekeeping) and Uranium mining and enrichment (which hasn’t proven useful just yet).

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