The best instant cameras 2023on January 4, 2023 at 10:03 Tech Advisor

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Instant cameras aren’t just a blast from the past – they’re great gifts for people of all ages, and a unique way to capture memories on the go.

Not only can you once again buy a new Polaroid camera, but Fujifilm’s Instax has become a global phenomenon, and other companies like Kodak have gotten in on the action too.

Some instant cameras even now pack digital tech too, allowing you to do things like take multiple shots before picking which to print, save digital copies of photos for your Instagram, or even print shots straight from your phone. Thanks to connected apps, others even offer interactive games and the chance to tweak your prints with stickers, filters, or QR codes to access videos and the like.

The downside is that there are now multiple competing film formats, sizes, and brands, and it’s hard to know which instant camera is right for you. Luckily for you we’ve tested the leading cameras that are on the market, and here’s what we think.

Best instant camera reviews

1. Instax Mini 11 – Best Overall

Pros

Affordable

Easy to use

Range of colours

Cons

Toy-like design

Too simple for some

The Instax Mini 11 offers good low-light exposure, a sleek design and easy-to-use controls – all for a reasonable price.

The auto-exposure dial makes low light photography reasonably visible, and the design is slimmer and more refined than its predecessor overall. There aren’t any manual adjustments that users can make to the camera, but at this price point that’s to be expected. 

The Mini 11 prints on Instax’s Mini film – which produces pocket-sized polaroid-style photos. This instant camera is a compelling option for younger audiences with not much photography experience. 

Read our full
Review Instax Mini 11

2. Instax Mini Evo – Best Digital Hybrid

Pros

Compact retro design

Long battery life

Great physical controls

Cons

Expensive

Limited storage

RRP:



£174.99

The Instax Mini Evo from Fujifilm combines all the bells and whistles of a classic digital camera with the novelty of an instant camera.

But you don’t just have to print snaps taken on the Evo – it can also connect to your phone and print photos, just like a standard portable printer.

Combining the digital camera features with analogue buttons results in a fun shooting experience, and the fact that it doubles as an instant printer is the icing on the cake.

It looks more professional than cheaper Instax models, with a retro-inspired design. That said, be prepared to spend a pretty penny to get your hands on one.

Read our full
Review Instax Mini Evo

3. Instax Square SQ1 – Best for Simple Square Prints

Pros

Classic square format

Simple to use

Great design

Cons

Chunky

More expensive film

RRP:



£119.99

The Instax SQ1 is Fujifilm’s second fully analogue square format camera, and it’s a simplified version of the old SQ6, which is now hard to find in stock.

The SQ1 takes Instax Square film, which in turn means this is a bigger, chunkier camera than the Instax Minis. It comes in a similar range of attractive pastel colours though, and there’s a definite charm to the camera’s look.

This is another Instax that’s designed to be as simple to use as possible. There are only two shooting modes – regular, and a selfie/macro mode you access by twisting the lens round. You can’t even turn the flash off. 

We wish it had a few more options to be honest, especially given its price, but if you want an easy-to-use Instax that shoots on square film, this is your best bet.

Read our full
Review Instax Square SQ1

4. Instax Mini LiPlay – Affordable Digital Instax

Pros

Prints digital photos

Easy to use

Cons

Divisive design

Still Expensive

The Instax Mini LiPlay is a slightly cheaper precursor to the Mini Evo, above. We prefer the newer Evo, but the LiPlay is a great option if you can find it for less.

The camera is also an instant printer, which allows you to print photos directly from your smartphone via the companion app very easily on to the Instax Mini film.

It’s also generally an easy camera to navigate. The design is user-friendly, and you can choose from a number of different shooting options to enhance your experience. The camera itself is enough to give you a decent-quality image, with a little flair if you wish. However, the design may not be to everyone’s tastes.

The Mini LiPlay lets you record audio and play it back via QR codes, though this feature may only be useful to a small portion of users. It sits just slightly higher than average on our price range, but the flexibility that this camera offers seems worth the extra bump in cost.

Read our full
Review Instax Mini LiPlay

5. Instax Mini 40 – Best for Nostalgia

Pros

Retro aesthetic

Easy to use

Cons

Pricier than Mini 11

No advanced options

RRP:



£89.99

Even by the standards of instant cameras, this is driven by nostalgia. The blocky plastic design screams ‘retro’, accentuated by the textured faux-leather finish and silver accents.

As the name suggests, the Mini 40 takes Instax Mini format prints, and in fact this is essentially the same camera as the Mini 11 above – the functionality is almost identical, with the higher price driven by the premium, retro design.

That means simple features: a flash, a selfie mirror, and two focal length settings. You don’t get a lot of flexibility, but the simplicity is welcome when you just want to point and shoot.

If you’re not fussed on the design then save money and grab the Mini 11, but if you want an Instax Mini camera that feels like a camera, not a toy, then this is the one.

Read our full
Review Instax Mini 40

6. Polaroid Now+ – Best Polaroid

Pros

Retro design

Tripod mountable

Included accessories

Cons

Big and bulky

Expensive

RRP:



£139.99

The Polaroid Now+ is our favourite of the company’s range of modern instant film cameras – especially if you know how to use it.

With a range of shooting options, supported by an app that enables remote controls and other modes, this is more complicated than some of the simple point-and-shoot cameras from Instax. That will appeal to capable photographers, but might put you off if you want something more straightforward.

Like other Polaroid cameras it is big and bulky, and the film runs fairly expensive – but that’s the price you pay (literally) for getting the classic Polaroid camera design and iconic large format square prints, which obviously up the appeal.

Read our full
Review Polaroid Now+

7. Kodak Step Instant Camera – Best Zink Camera

Pros

Multiple shooting modes

microSD support

Compact design

Cons

Disappointing photo quality

RRP:



£69.99

Best Prices Today:



£69.99 at Amazon

The Kodak Step captures the happy middle ground between quality and budget. For a reasonable price, you get a compact and lightweight camera which supports microSD saving, and prints colour photos within a minute – though it’s worth noting that this is a digital camera that prints onto Zink paper, rather than an analogue camera that exposes real film.

Unlike the film used in an Instax Mini 11 camera, Zink paper uses heat to form images. Each sheet contains micro-crystals that produce either cyan, magenta or yellow hues depending on the intensity and duration of heat applied. When combined, you are left with the final image. This makes printing on the Step more affordable too.

Colours are the most impressive when you have good lighting – but the prints can struggle with exposure. That said, there is an automatic flash available if you’re in darker conditions. The Kodak Step is a budget-friendly tech toy best suited for casual point and shoot use, making it ideal for students and scrapbook keepers.

Read our full
Review Kodak Step Instant Camera

8. Instax Wide 300 – Best for Wide Format

Pros

Large prints

Great for landscapes

Easy to use

Cons

Big & heavy

Ugly design

RRP:



£109.99

As the name might give away, the Instax Wide 300 takes photos that are wider than other instant cameras – double the size of Instax Mini photos. The camera itself has to be large enough to accommodate the bigger prints, and Fujifilm has committed to a chunky aesthetic all round, with a large grip and an enormous lens – the Instax Wide isn’t the most attractive instant camera around.

Controls are simple: two levels of autofocus for the 95mm lens, basic flash settings, and the option to reduce or increase exposure. It’s no surprise the Wide 300 excels at longer range, picking up more detail in landscape and building photos than its rivals, but struggling on close-ups or selfies – though the included close-up lens does help.

Portraits can turn out great once you get used to framing for landscape though, with warm skin tones. The new orientation is also great for parties – it takes a lot less work to cram multiple people into the same shot now.

Read our full
Review Instax Wide 300

Buying advice for an instant camera

1.

What features do instant cameras have?

There are a few factors to consider when you’re trying to buy an instant camera. First up you need to think about how complex you want the camera to be. Some are simple point-and-shoot devices that don’t give you much control beyond turning the flash off or setting a timer.

Others get more intricate though, adding in functionality like long exposures, multiple exposures, different focus levels, customisable brightness, and more.

All of these advanced features are nice to have, but you have to think about whether you’re the sort of photographer who’s really likely to use them. If you want to play around with multiple exposures or shoot photos in varied conditions then they might be worth it, but if you just want to take photos of your mates at parties, a simpler point-and-shoot will probably be plenty.

Remember that if you don’t want to get your head round a whole new camera, you don’t have to – you might be better off buying an instant printer, which lets you print photos directly from your smartphone instead.

2.

What is a digital hybrid instant camera?

The next consideration is whether you want a full film camera or a digital hybrid like the Mini Evo.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both. Digital hybrids let you export photos to other devices, and mean you can get the perfect photo before you hit print – saving you from wasting expensive film.

The downside to that flexibility is that you lose some of the immediacy of a pure film camera. Part of the charm of using film is that you only get one chance – it saves you from fussy posing for the perfect shot. If you’re not going to commit to the old-fashioned appeal, why are you looking at instant cameras at all?

Plus, the quality you can expect from the digital photos you export is pretty low – nothing compared to what you could expect from the camera on a budget smartphone, let alone any of the best phone cameras around.

3.

What are the different film formats for instant cameras?

The final major concern is film formats. The market is dominated by Fujifilm’s Instax brand, which currently produces three sizes of film: Mini (small and portrait), Wide (large and landscape), and Square (mid-sized and, well, square).

Most cameras can only take one type of film, so make sure you know which size you prefer before you pick your camera. You should consider price too – the larger prints tend to cost more, so your choice will affect the long-term running cost of your camera too.

Some cameras from other manufacturers – such as Lomography – use Instax film too, so you don’t have to commit to a Fujifilm camera to take advantage of the film prints.

Polaroid uses its own i-Type film, which sticks close to the classic Polaroid prints – about the same size as Instax Wide, but square rather than rectangular. You can use it in the Polaroid Now+ in our ranking, or the older Polaroid Now, OneStep+, and OneStep 2.

4.

What is the difference between real film and Zink paper?

There are also some instant cameras that don’t technically use film at all. The Kodak Step is technically a digital camera that print photos onto Zink – zero ink paper.

Zink cameras tend to be cheaper – and so are the prints – but since the photos are digital they tend to have a bit less warmth to them, and the physical prints don’t have quite the same nostalgia value to them.

We prefer the proper film by miles, but Zink will do the job if you’re on a budget.

Instant Cameras

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