Considering “cameras” have been around for quite some time now (as far back as in camera history if you were wondering), today we delve into a little bit of a different feel of photography as opposed to the now widespread dominance of digital cameras. We’ve all seen and felt the vibes those old-school Polaroid pictures give us (as seen in the photo to the right) — we have a pretty solidified association when it comes to them. Are instant cameras still relevant today? Of course! Even more now that technology continues to grow. Some of us want a breath of fresh air as opposed to the digitally enhanced, filtered and Photoshopped photography we see every day. Cue instant cameras and our search for the top 10 best today.
Picking the best instant camera
- Price-tag – Here’s our factor typically listed first for shopping guides, and in our case today, really depends on what you’re looking for. We’ve seen some great instant cameras under $100, while some may climb above this or even higher if you want something higher-end (our last pick gets way up there if you want an old-school, used and vintage Polaroid for example). Either way, most aren’t nearly expensive as a lot of those point-and-shoot, DSLR and mirrorless cameras.
- Prints and storage – Do you want a new-school instant camera that gives us both instant-printing capabilities as well as a memory card to transfer it to a PC or phone later on? Perhaps less technologically savvy (could save you some money) and an instant camera that only prints a few per roll (may have to buy some more film each time)?
- Photo size – You’ll see quite a few different sized photos available from a lot of these cameras. Some come at normal Polaroid-esque film size and quality, while others a bit smaller or larger with higher-quality film lenses. Take your pick.
- Extra features – Some popular “side features” of these include different modes (for self-timers, landscape, auto, etc.), an attached-flash mechanism (as well as different flash settings), compact-size for traveling, HD video recording, internal memory, and more. What are you interested in?
The top 10 best instant cameras
To start off our list, Polaroid has been a name associated with cameras since the 1950s, and continues to be a brand that is both dependable and great for the price. With that being said, the Polaroid Snap follows in the line of its successors by offering that classic Polaroid look with features that match today’s digital world (they have a few more appearances down the list as well). This 10 megapixel camera comes in four different colors and features three different modes to shoot your pictures in (normal, black and white, and sepia). Your pictures will print automatically, but you also have the option of using a MicroSD card to digitally save them as well. The photo booth mode allows you to take up to six pictures in under ten seconds, but if you’re looking for that classic full-group shot the self-timer is a necessary feature. The Polaroid Snap is one of the best instant cameras today and is high quality for the price. It offers that old-school Polaroid feel for a high-tech digital world and we’d recommend it if you wanted an immediate answer. We like Photography Blog’s snap review for some more in-depth info.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 50S
To continue the list, we wanted to provide a solution that gave us some all-around quality, small in size for your on-the-go traveling but still had all the features that make it a high quality instant camera. First, the automatic flash on this instant camera adjusts to the brightness or low light of your background, and can modify the shutter speed for the optimal picture (the shutter release can range between 1/3 to 1/400 per second). For the selfie lovers out there, it also comes with a self-timer that captures two photos with only one click of a button. The close-up lens also enhances the use of this camera, with the capability to up to 30cm away. With a 60mm lens and three different modes for pictures (auto, fill-in, and landscape), the Fujifilm Instax Mini 50s comes in early on our list for its high quality features and its small, accessible size.
As we see a camera category that truly is dominated by Polaroid and Fujifilm, here’s a breath of fresh air if you wanted a solid solution from somebody else. The Sofort was recently announced and is an instant camera that is super fresh on the market. It is on the higher end of the budget, however its sleek design, different color options, and multiple picture modes make it worth the price if you can afford it. The 60mm lens operates with a shutter speed ranging between 1/8 to 1/400 of a second, with a built-in flash that even has the option of reducing red-eye in the picture. The different modes provided comes with automatic flash, exposure, and focus from a distance, however you also have the ability to be in control and manually adjust these functions yourself. It comes equipped with your basic modes such as automatic, macro, and bulb, and then adds with unique functions like party and people, sport and action, and the ever popular selfie, made even more possible with the self-timer function. The Leica Sofort is considered to be another one of the best instant cameras for people who want the camera to do the work and some amazing quality photos.
Fujifilm Instax Wide 300
The Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 is one of the best budget-friendly instant cameras with all features you need to snap the perfect picture. This instant camera is larger and a little heavier in weight than the other instant cameras we’ve looked at so far, which is due to the retractable 95mm lens that gives you a sharper visual if you’re looking for that high quality image. The shutter speed contributes to this quality as well, moving at 1/64 to 1/200 per second. In addition, the flash and exposure on this camera are both automatic, so the camera does the work for you to make sure you get the perfect light in your backdrop. For close-up shots you will need to use a lens adapter (which is included), and there are two modes for shooting normal and landscape. The Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 is just another option to take into consideration if you were in need of an affordable instant camera with some Wide Format film (3.4″ X 4.2″).
Fujifilm Instax Mini 8
Yet another model from the dominating Fujifilm Instax series, this is an instant camera that lets you customize your pictures, shuts off on its own to conserve your battery, and comes in a variety of bright colors? Yes, please. While not as high-tech as some of the other cameras on our list, this instant camera definitely has a “fun” factor to it that ups the ante. Features that are typical of most instant cameras include a 60mm lens, a shutter speed of 1/60 per second, and automatic flash. However, other features increase the ease of user friendliness, like the automatic shut down to save your battery that happens after five minutes of no use. There’s also the brightness adjustment dial, which gives you a variety of apertures to match the lighting you want for your picture. As for you Instagram users, you can soften the look of your pictures with the high key mode to make your moments stand out. Compared to others, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 is at a price point suitable for any budget is our pick for the best instant camera on the lower-end of the price range of these. It was also in BI’s instant camera picks.
Going back to the classic instant cameras that come from Polaroid, the next model we will look at is the Z2300. Another portable device that comes in a variety of colors, this 10 megapixel camera comes with an LED screen that allows you to edit all of your photos directly on the camera before printing them out. Polaroid gives you the ability to upload different borders so that you can customize your photo before sending it to print, even giving you the option to date your photos as you go. You also have the option of saving your photos to a 32GB memory card so you have digital copies as well. However, the best feature of this instant camera is that it also has HD video recording capabilities, making it an all-in-one device for users who want every option in capturing life moments. A little on the higher end of the budget, the Polaroid Z2300 is one of the best instant cameras for the money if the cash you have at hand is a bit higher than most.
Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide
The Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide is one of the best instant cameras for amateur photographers. Of the instant cameras reviewed thus far, it is substantially larger and bulkier in size, however with its larger frame comes features that are not always available to instant cameras. It comes with a 90mm camera lens, but has optional lens attachments (wide-angle, close up, and splitzer) that allow for more versatility and options in your photos. It includes three different modes for shooting, and uses a full programmatic shutter to automatically determine the exposure needed to balance the light in each shot. You still get to choose the overall lighting tone of your photo with an exposure compensation control, and by being able to turn the flash on and off (it is not automatic on this camera), The most creative feature on the Lomo’Instant Wide is the capability to have multiple exposures in your photos, and use the Bulb format to create long exposures in a larger format.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic
An old-school camera feel mixed with new age digital features, the 90 Neo Classic offers a hybrid to both amateur and professional photographers. Using functions like a bulb and double exposure mode allows the user to capture different lighting angles, as well as mix two images to be superimposed together on one shot. These modes are in addition to features such as macro, landscape, kids, and party mode, that each contain a unique look through brightness, distance, and the movement of the subject. For the ease of the user, modes are easily adjusted with the use of a rotating dial to allow a customized feel for every shot taken. A high performance flash helps to adjust for the optimal exposure of the subject based on the distance within the photo, and a brightness control allows you to adjust the low or high-key effect of the pictures. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic is one of the best vintage-style instant cameras for the money we’ve been able to find in the market today.
Cheap, easy to use and simple in design and features, the Polaroid PIC-300 is one of the best instant cameras for everyday use. With a portable design that makes it easy to carry, this instant camera comes with a 60mm lens that gives you bright and clear pictures. It includes an automatic flash, uses a fixed focus, and has a shutter release of 1/60 per second. There are also four modes for shooting that give you options to customize the photos for personal use. One feature that needs to be noted on this instant camera is the print sizes vary in comparison to other instant cameras previously discussed. The Polaroid PIC-300 prints 2.1 x 3.4” shots, equivalent to a little larger than the size of a business card — some may immediately be turned off by this while others love it. The Polaroid PIC-300 will also turn itself off after five minutes with no use to save energy, making it a great solution for on-the-go moments. It’s pretty easy on the wallet as well.
Is this an instant camera equipped with all of the high-tech features as many of the other cameras listed have been? No. But is this an instant camera that has stood the test of time and remains an example by which most instant cameras today are modeled after? Most definitely, considering it has an entire SX-70 Wikipedia page dedicated to it. A classic, vintage instant camera that can only be found through current owners willing to sell, the Polaroid SX-70 is the old-school camera led the wave of instant camera popularity today. Fully collapsible with a single lens reflex, this instant camera has a 116 mm lens with a focus as close as 10 inches from the subject. The shutter speed on these cameras can extend between 1/175 seconds to 10 seconds, and contained an automatic exposure system to maximize light use for the optimal shot. These instant cameras are on the higher end of the budget, but the price reflects the fact that the Polaroid SX-70 has stood the test of time and proven to be one of the best instant cameras in the world if you can find it available for a good price (probably used) and wanted that vintage feel in your hands (as well as the pictures you take, nothing beats it).