If you want the instant gratification of snapping a photo and sharing it on social media, use the cameras built into your smartphone. But if the idea of immediately sharing a physical print with other people intrigues you, one of the best Polaroid cameras or instant cameras is the way to go. Such cameras—including our pick for the best Polaroid camera overall, the Polaroid Now+—combine a film cartridge with paper to capture and develop an image in front of your eyes, just like the iconic Polaroid cameras of yesteryear.
Today’s best instant cameras, which still include Polaroid cameras, have a more diverse set of features than the vintage models from the 1970s. Some even have memory card slots, so you can capture a digital version of the image as well as print it instantly. Whether you’re with a group of friends and want to share candid photos, or you’re attending a special event and want to capture spontaneous memories, taking photos with an instant camera is both fun and rewarding. People of all ages still love the instant gratification of watching a color print come to life in their hands, which is why these cameras make great gifts for teens and adults alike.
After testing and research, we’ve rounded up the best Polaroid and instant cameras available right now, so keep reading to learn about all of your instant camera options. If you’re looking for something less retro and more digital, we’ve got you covered. Check out our coverage of the best action cameras, best point-and-shoot digital cameras, and best mirrorless cameras.
What Is An Instant Camera?
These days, most modern instant cameras—including Polaroid’s instant cameras and Fujifilm’s Instax cameras—take a similar approach. These cameras develop their own prints, ranging from nearly instant output to up to 15 minutes to fully develop after a sheet of film leaves the camera.
While Polaroid and Instax cameras expose traditional, chemically treated film with light, a very different—and less costly option—is a Zink camera. Short for “Zero Ink,” these instant cameras are digital cameras with a built-in Zink printer. Instead of using ink cartridges, like normal inkjet computer printers, Zink embeds all the ink into the paper itself, similar to how Polaroid prints carry their own chemicals for printing. The benefit, of course, is the nostalgic thrill of snapping a photo and then having a full-color or black and white print in your hands in a matter of minutes.
What Should You Consider In An Instant Camera?
Ease-of-use, focus, features and film/paper price and size are all aspects of instant cameras worth looking it before you buy. Options vary by model and manufacturer. Instant cameras are all about fun, so they mostly offer the most basic point-and-shoot functionality, and they have similar features and performance. A few, however, add a few modern twists as compared with the original instant cameras from decades ago.
Are Instant Cameras Easy To Use?
Yes. Most instant cameras are simple point-and-shoot cameras. You look through a viewfinder, frame your shot, press the shutter button and an “instant” print pops out of the camera. Some models, however, offer additional functions that require a bit more tinkering with the camera when snapping photos.
Is Instant Camera Film Expensive?
The price of instant film is often the biggest deterrent to purchasing and using one of these cameras. Each instant camera model requires a very specific type of instant film. In some cases, you could pay between $1 and $2 per image, so as you’re choosing an instant camera, pay attention to the cost of the film and how many shots (image sheets) are included with each film package.
Do Instant Cameras Have A Lot Of Controls And Features?
Additional features built into some instant cameras give you more creative control over your photography. These features may include a selfie mode, a remote shutter, advanced exposure controls (like flashbulb photography), a landscape shooting mode, a macro shooting mode or the ability to transfer images directly to a smartphone via Bluetooth. Some of the latest instant cameras even allow you to remotely control the camera from a smartphone while you’re taking pictures.
The design of each instant camera is slightly different, although most offer the same core set of features and functions. Choose a camera that will fit well in your hands and has intuitive controls.
Another consideration is the size of the camera itself. If you plan on carrying the camera around while on vacation or taking pictures at a special event (such as a wedding), a smaller size camera may be more convenient. The smaller instant cameras, however, generate smaller size prints. Figure out what size prints you want to generate and then choose an appropriate camera.
Do Instant Cameras Have Removable Batteries?
Most of today’s instant cameras rely on a built-in rechargeable battery. Pay attention to the average number of shots you can expect to take per battery charge and make sure this matches your needs. Once the camera’s battery goes dead, you need to plug it in and wait for it to fully recharge, which could take up to several hours.
Which Is The Best Instant Camera To Buy?
This decision comes down to answering three main questions. First, how large of a camera do you want to carry around in order to take instant pictures? Second, how much are you willing to spend on film? Third, beyond simply point-and-shoot functionality, what additional features are you looking for? Once you answer these three questions, which instant camera is the best camera to buy for your needs becomes much more obvious.
Should I Get A Polaroid Or A Different Instant Camera Brand?
Again, this decision comes down to what you’re looking for out of your instant camera experience. Polaroid offers a selection of updated instant cameras that look very much like the instant cameras from yesteryear, but they include some modern features. If you’re looking to recreate the picture taking experience you had back in the 1970s, the Polaroid Now+ is a great option.
However, some of the instant cameras offered by Fujifilm or Kodak, for example, offer a different camera style altogether, support different film types, and create different size instant prints.