If you have someone under 20 years old in your life, you probably know that photo prints are in fashion again. I’m not necessarily referring to darkroom prints on fiber paper, but prints made from disposable cameras that appear in an envelope after being sent “somewhere” and, more so, prints from instant cameras. FUJIFILM and the INSTAX series of cameras have been popular for years, but several other brands have entered the market and are making compact hybrid digital print cameras that create both digital files and physical prints. Let’s take a look at a few of the options available.
The pastel-colored, round-bodied INSTAX cameras have been a staple at preteen birthday parties for several years and remain popular thanks to their simple operation and affordability. The lineup has grown to include the Wide 300, Mini 90 Neo Classic, and SQUARE SQ20 Hybrid, each with their respective film sizes. But the camera of note for this article is their Mini LiPlay Hybrid Instant Camera, which is available in luxurious colors like Stone White, Blush Gold, and Elegant Black. The cameras really do look pretty and, true to name, are hybrid digital and film cameras. They feature a 1/5" CMOS sensor and accept INSTAX mini instant film to produce 2.4 x 1.8" images on a credit card-sized, 3.4 x 2.1" sheet.
A fixed 28mm equivalent lens with an f/2 aperture and a 3.9" minimum focusing distance works well in low light and at close distances. There is onboard flash, a selfie mirror built into the camera to help when composing self-portraits, and a rear 2.7" LCD monitor is used for composition, photo review, and menu navigation. Internal memory holds approximately 45 images, and the camera is compatible with microSD/microSDHC cards. Any image stored in memory or on the card can be printed. Bluetooth connectivity allows a smartphone to pair with the camera for remote shooting control as well as wireless printing of images from the smartphone.
The Canon IVY CLIQ Instant Camera Printer is a stylish hybrid that utilizes 2 x 3" ZINK paper to make prints. ZINK paper is smudge-proof, tear resistant, and waterproof, and has a peel-and-stick backing for sticking your photos anywhere. There is also a dedicated reprint button to make multiple prints of the same image. The IVY CLIQ features a 5MP image sensor, wide-angle lens, autofocus, auto-exposure, and ISO to 1600, and it incorporates a flash for low-light situations. There is no rear LCD, but the camera utilizes an optical viewfinder and is compatible with microSD/microSDHC/microSDXC cards, USB Micro-B (USB 2.0), and has a built-in lithium-polymer battery. A true compact and lightweight camera, the IVY CLIQ is available in six bold colors.
The venerable Kodak brand is back in play with three distinct models of hybrid digital/print cameras. The affordable and quite compact PRINTOMATIC Instant Digital Camera is available in yellow and gray and also utilizes the 2 x 3" borderless ZINK paper. Using an optical viewfinder, a 10MP image sensor, and wide-angle f/2 lens, the camera records digital images that are then automatically printed and saved to a microSD or microSDHC card. The camera's simple point-and-shoot design features both black-and-white and color shooting modes and has a built-in flash for working in low-light conditions.
Also from Kodak is the Smile Instant Print Digital Camera, which is recognizable by its unique design and comes in a selection of five colors. The camera's simple point-and-shoot design features a rear LCD monitor, an intuitive slide-open design, and a built-in automatic flash for working in low-light conditions. A 10MP CMOS sensor and 32mm equivalent lens with an f/2.8 aperture are the heart and soul of this little gem, and it also prints automatically on 2 x 3" ZINK paper.
Finally, the Kodak Smile Classic is a digital camera that produces instant 3.25 x 4.5" ZINK prints. The camera's simple point-and-shoot design features a pop-up optical viewfinder and a 27mm equivalent f/2.2 lens. MicroSD/microSDHC/microSDXC saves the images and Bluetooth connectivity works in conjunction with the dedicated Kodak Smile Classic 2-in-1 Camera and Printer app for iOS and Android mobile devices for remote control and personalizing prints by adding filters, borders, stickers, captions, and augmented reality effects.
The Polaroid Snap Instant Digital Camera is a link, if in name only, to the brand that is synonymous with instant print cameras, and the “Snap” uses ZINK Zero Ink Technology to create instant prints, but it also sports a 10MP CMOS sensor and saves images to microSD cards. Its f/2.8 lens is equivalent to 25.8mm in the 35mm format, and its pop-up optical viewfinder is also used to turn the camera on and off. Available in three colors with a nifty rainbow racing stripe across its body, it offers the ability to select between normal, black-and-white, and vintage/sepia color modes and a Photo Booth mode to capture six images in 10 seconds. It’s powered by a built-in rechargeable Li-ion battery.
The final camera on this list is not a hybrid but is worth mentioning as a unique compact instant camera. MiNT’s InstantKon RF70 Instant Film Camera uses INSTAX Wide-format instant film and features a “throwback” folding design along with both fully manual and automated exposure control and a mechanical rangefinder. It also enables precise manual focus operation with an integrated 93mm f/5.6 lens. Additionally, the camera has a built-in flash and a 2.5mm port for connecting an optional external strobe, is compatible with threaded cable releases, has a 1/4"-20 tripod mount, and has an LCD screen for reviewing exposure settings.
Whether you prefer vintage Polaroids, specialized MiNT cameras, or the affordable and fun hybrid digital/instant point and shoots, let us know how instant print photography has enabled your creativity in the Comments, below.