9 best instant cameras
Rediscover the joy of photography with these nostalgic instant cameras
Instant cameras are making a comeback, and it’s easy to see why: it’s gratifying to hold a printed image and be able to pin it to the fridge door.
It’s a great way to remember the fun you had – whether that’s the next morning, or when you stumble upon it 15 years later, marvelling at your younger self.
They’re particularly popular with kids and teenagers, but increasingly adults are rediscovering the joy of instant photography.
The new generation of instant cameras range from analogue machines, which function pretty much how they did in the 1970s, to digital cameras that shoot like a smartphone.
With analogue instant photography, every image is a one-off, a physical memory of light hitting the film.
Images may not always be perfectly framed or exposed, but that’s part of their charm, which bestows an authenticity that digital images often lack.
The pixel-free images have a depth and smoothness esteemed by photography connoisseurs.
On the other hand, digital and hybrid cameras allow you to choose which images to print, which means that you won’t waste paper on blurred, underexposed or blown-out images.
This is worth keeping in mind when choosing a camera, as instant film and paper is expensive, costing between about 50p and £2 a sheet.
To help you decide which camera is right for you, we have thoroughly tested each model in real-life situations – indoors and outdoors, and in daylight as well as in the evening under artificial light, which is a much greater challenge for any camera.
Here are the ones that made the cut.
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Fujifilm instax Square SQ20: £179.99, Fujifilm
This camera is the perfect all-rounder, offering the best of both worlds – you can just point and shoot like an instant camera, or use it like a smartphone camera and edit images on the touchscreen.
You can even shoot 15-second videos, pick the best frame, and apply a filter and zoom in, before printing it.
Its menu is intuitive an easy to use and has time shift, sequence and collage functions.
Your shots are saved on a mini SD card, so that you can use them digitally as well.
The camera also has a selfie mirror, is charged via USB and takes instax Square film, producing 2.5inx2.5in images (costing £8.99 for a cassette of 10 shots) with the classic white border.
The decent-quality prints are well exposed and look more like analogue shots than digital prints.
Fujifilm instax Mini 9: £74.99, Fujifilm
Kids will love this analogue camera, which comes in great colours, has a selfie mirror and feels robust.
Exposures are a bit hit and miss, but that’s part of the fun. So, if you want to teach your kids about analogue photography or want a good-value camera to play around with images that feel more real than the super-slick and optimised digital images we are used to, then this is the camera for you.
It takes two AA batteries and instax Mini film (£14.99 for 20 shots), producing credit-card sized images. It comes with a close-up lens, which allows you to get as close as 30cm.
Fujifilm instax mini 90 Neo Classic: £134.99, Fujifilm
This reasonably priced instant camera has a classic look and produces reliable, sharp images with good contrast.
You can take double exposures and choose different modes, but the real joy lies in its simplicity, which allows you to get creative with what’s in front of the camera rather than getting tangled in image crops, filters and functions.
It takes instax Mini film (£14.99 for 20 shots), has a selfie mirror and comes with a rechargeable battery.
Lomo Diana Instant Square Camera: from £89, Lomography
This camera takes you straight back to the Sixties and is perfect for anybody who wants to experiment and is ready to embrace imperfection.
The images have a heavy vignette (a bright centre that darkens towards the edges) and are fun, quirky and refreshing in our digital age. It has a selfie mirror, but no inbuilt flash, so for photographing people indoors, you would need to find a way of lighting the scene or buy a compatible flash.
The Diana Instant Square takes the instax Square film (£8.95 for 10 shots) and four AAA batteries.
Lomo’Instant Wide Central Park kit: £219, Lomo Shop
If you want to make an entrance, then this large, retro-style camera is for you.
Like all Lomo cameras, it’s perfect for following the Lomography motto of “don’t think, just shootin.
It takes four AA batteries and comes with a selfie mirror, coloured gel filters, an ultra wide-angle and a close-up attachment, and a splitzer (for creating combinations of images on one print).
It lets you take unlimited, multiple exposures and the lens cap doubles as a remote.
Once you get the exposure right, it produces high-quality images.
Using the Fujifilm instax Wide film, which is 3.9in × 2.4in (£17 for 20 shots), means you can fit more in one image.
Polaroid OneStep+ i-Type Camera: £149.99, Polaroid Originals
This is not only an excellent quality instant camera, but you can use the OneStep+ app on your smartphone as a remote trigger, to create double exposures and to fine-tune exposures – it’s great if you want complete control over image settings.
It takes i-type film cassettes (£14.99 for eight sheets), which come in colour and monochrome.
The 3.1in×3.1in images take about 15 minutes to develop and are stunningly beautiful.
Leica Sofort: £224, Jessops
This is Leica’s first instant camera and produces reliably sharp and well exposed, high-quality images, as one would expect of this revered camera manufacturer.
It handles well, has well chosen modes and is perfect for people who appreciate the finer things in life, such as an original Leica.
It also features a selfie mirror, comes with a rechargeable battery and takes instax Mini film (£14.99 for 20 shots).
Polaroid Snap Touch: from £129.99, Amazon
This small digital camera is very easy to use and produces well-exposed 10MP images.
It has a touch screen and selfie mirror, and kids will love its smartphone-like features, including filters, frames, video and collages. And, what’s more, with an app you can also use it as a mobile printer.
The credit-card sized prints look cute and are of reasonable image quality, given the camera’s small size.
It’s charged via a USB lead and takes 2inx3in Zink (zero ink) paper, which costs £14.99 for 30 sheets and is the cheapest paper we tested.
So, if you want predictability rather than image quality than this may be the camera for you.
Polaroid POP: £199.99, Amazon
This is not just a 20MP digital instant camera, but also a portable image printer.
The camera is relatively heavy but looks slick. It takes a little while to familiarise yourself with the menu and its smartphone-like camera features, but it’s easy to pair it with your phone to use the app.
It uses the larger 3.5inx4.5in Polaroid Zink paper, which costs about £30 for 40 sheets and is charged via USB.
The digital prints are of a similar quality to what you’d expect from a budget high-street photo kiosk. They don’t have the depth and character of analogue instant prints, but are of consistent quality.
The Verdict: Best instant cameras
The Fujifilm instax Square SQ20 is a brilliant camera that offers the spontaneity of an instant camera as well as cool editing options and high-quality prints.
It brings instant photography into the digital age at a reasonable price.
If you want to go an analogue adventure, the Lomo’Instant Wide is a lot of fun to experiment with – expect some trial and error before you get it right, though.
The Polaroid POP is not only a high-quality digital instant camera but also doubles as a portable image printer, which is excellent for not only making the most of the special moments you have captured on this camera but also on your phone.
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