You don’t have to spend big when shopping instant film cameras.
That’s because instant photography — made famous by the likes of Andy Warhol — has been making something of a comeback in recent years. And it’s no wonder why. The appeal of reaching for a Polaroid camera over the ever-present smartphone lies in the artistic nature of the snaps. Handing off the photo for a keepsake or hanging it on a wall beats out Instagram any day.
If you’re in the market for an instant film camera, check out the tried and tested options below that our editors personally use to take photos of their loved ones or bring with them on trips to make memories last.
Instax Mini Liplay Hybrid Instant Camera
This Instax Mini was BestProducts.com’s photographer Kayla Ramsey’s first instant camera. She said she was uncertain if it was a good investment because she worried it wouldn’t get much use. After many months of constantly tossing it in her bag on her way to meet up with friends, she’s happy to report she hesitated for nothing! She loves it so much she’s since stockpiled film. “The digital screen is what made it for me, because not only can I preview shots before I print so I don’t waste precious film on duds,” she said, “but I can reprint multiples of group shots to give to my friends.” Our contributing editor Sanah Faroke also upgraded an old instant camera for the new hybrid Instax Mini. “With my old camera,” she said, “you couldn’t control the lighting or the angles. What you got was what you got, and since the film is kind of expensive, it hurts a little when the picture is overexposed or not centered. The Instax Mini LiPlay is a game-changer!”
Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Polaroid Camera
The Fujifilm instax mini 9 is one of the most popular instant film cameras around. It’s also the same one our art production manager, Bridget Clegg, has owned for the last 4 years. She said it’s always a hit in DIY photobooths at weddings and for documenting bachelorette parties, but she mainly uses hers to capture photos of friends who visit her apartment to hang on the fridge.”The camera is reliable and has worked every time I’ve needed it to over the past 4 years, even when it goes without use for months at a time,” she said. “I like that it’s simple and the image quality is quite good for the little images it produces.”This quirky-looking camera has an optical viewfinder, auto exposure mode, a built-in flash, and a dedicated selfie mirror. It’s everything you need to capture life’s events on the camera’s credit-card-sized prints. We think it’s the perfect option for kids and new photographers. The one downside is that the camera requires two AA batteries, which may require changing often. But that may be outweighed by the numerous color options: lime green, cobalt blue, flamingo pink, ice blue, and smokey white.
Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 Polaroid Camera
The Instax square SQ6 is compact, easy to hold, and has a nice little mirror at the front — ideal for snapping selfies.We love its vintage aesthetic, accented perfectly by the color options of blush gold, graphite gray, and pearl white. There’s also a Taylor Swift-designed limited-edition version, adorned with newsprint similar to Swift’s album art for her album Reputation.Besides looking cool and eclectic, the SQ6 shoots 1:1 square format shots and features built-in flash filters, including green, orange, and purple. There’s macro, selfie, automatic, landscape, and double exposure modes on board for personalizing your shots. It offers enough battery life to snap 300 shots before needing to be recharged.This option uses the same film as other Instax cameras we previously mentioned and is currently the Wirecutter’s best overall pick.
Kodak Smile Classic Digital Instant Camera
Kodak’s new Smile Classic camera improves upon other Zink cameras like the Polaroid Snap by producing larger prints that are more detailed and sharper than the rest. But Instax cameras — like our Best Overall pick — print faster, and in better quality.
The Kodak Smile is still worth considering for its larger, 3.2-by-4.5-inch, large white-bordered prints which will make you nostalgic of your Polaroid days. Like the Instax Mini Liplay Hybrid, this camera lets you print images stored on your smartphone, too!