Instant Camera Roundup

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Like vinyl records and your father’s wardrobe, instant cameras are back and as popular as ever. Alongside refurbished and reimagined analog cameras, many new hybrid models combine the benefits of digital capture with the immediacy of instant film. Polaroid and FUJIFILM continue to produce “true” instant film stock—the kind you expose and then wait to see develop. They share the market with a new thermal printing technology, ZINK, short for “Zero Ink,” a borderless printing process that has risen in popularity, particularly with hybrid cameras and mobile printers. Today, the instant photography world offers something for nearly everyone: fully automatic or fully manual, one-of-a-kind prints or onboard image editing, pocketable or collectible. Follow this guide to find which instant camera is best for you.

FUJIFILM

It is hard to imagine what instant photography would look like today without FUJIFILM’s INSTAX line of film and cameras. When reliable film stock was scarce leading into the 2000s, FUJIFILM stepped up to the plate, introducing a new generation of photographers to the joys of instant photography. The simplest way to break down FUJIFILM’s INSTAX cameras is by the film that they use: Mini (1.8 x 2.4"), SQUARE (2.4 x 2.4"), and Wide (2.4 x 3.9").

INSTAX Mini film is a portrait-oriented stock with borders ranging from simple white or black to pastel stripes and “confetti” to holiday themes and collaborations with movie studios. As with all INSTAX film, you can write on the borders of your prints, and many also have adhesive backs so you can stick your photos virtually anywhere.

The INSTAX Mini 11 Instant Film Camera is perfect if you are looking for a straightforward point-and-shoot you can pass around without fear at a party or toss in your bag when hitting the beach. Automatic exposure takes the guesswork out of shooting, and a built-in flash comes in handy when lighting conditions are poor. It has a fixed-focus 60mm f/12.7 lens, making it well equipped for group portraits. A built-in mirror on the front of the camera helps when posing for selfies, as does its ability to focus as close as 11.8" when using “Selfie Mode.” It runs on two AA batteries and is available in blush pink, charcoal gray, ice white, lilac purple, and sky blue colors.

The INSTAX Mini 11 is a simply designed, reliable instant camera.

The Mini LiPlay Hybrid Instant Camera combines digital and analog into a super portable form factor. Easily pocketable, this camera allows you to take a photograph, review the image on its 2.7" LCD rear screen, save it either internally or on a microSD/SDHC memory card, and print out as many copies as you would like. Its 28mm-equivalent lens has a minimum focusing distance of 3.9" for close-ups, and it also has a built-in mirror to help with selfies. It has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that takes about 2-3 hours to charge and lasts about 100 printed images. Finally, it has Bluetooth connectivity, which allows you to pair your camera with your smart device and unlock additional features using a dedicated app.

The INSTAX Mini LiPlay Hybrid Instant Camera is packed with digital and analog features.

INSTAX’s SQUARE film recalls the square ratio of Polaroid’s iconic 600 format film. As with the Mini film, FUJIFILM makes analog and hybrid cameras compatible with SQUARE film.

The INSTAX SQUARE SQ1 is a simple, stylish camera featuring a Fujinon 65.75mm f/12.6 lens, zone focus control, and a built-in flash. The SQ1 has a minimum focusing distance of 11.8" for selfies and close-ups, as well as a built-in mirror for help with composition. It is powered by two CR2 batteries and comes in Chalk White, Glacier Blue, and Terracotta Orange. The INSTAX SQUARE SQ6 shares many design features with the SQ1 while also incorporating a number of creative features. In addition to having a built-in flash, three gels (orange, purple, and green) are included for creative lighting. You can also make double exposures with the SQ6. A Light/Dark mode allows you to add or subtract ⅔ stop of exposure compensation. It is powered by two CR2 batteries and incorporates a tripod mounting thread into its build.

The INSTAX SQUARE SQ1 adds creative lighting options and exposure control.

For those looking for a hybrid option in the SQUARE format, the INSTAX SQUARE SQ20 Hybrid Instant Camera is jam-packed with custom features. Similar to the LiPlay Hybrid, you can review images on a 2.7" rear LCD and save images internally or to a microSD/SDHC memory card before creating prints. You are also able to record 800 x 800 format video at 15 fps, from which you can choose stills to create prints. The SQ20 has a fixed 33.4mm-equivalent f/2.4 lens with a minimum focusing distance of 3.1" and a 4x digital zoom. Its built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery lasts about 100 prints and takes about 3-4 hours to completely charge. A handful of editing features are also available, including: Frame Grab, Time Shift Collage, Double Exposure/Bulb, Split Mode, Collage Mode, Sequence filter, and a variety of exposure-adjusting filters and features.

FUJIFILM’s INSTAX SQUARE SQ20 Hybrid Instant Camera has a number of editing features built in for making creative prints.

Finally, INSTAX Wide film offers the largest image area from FUJIFILM and adopts a landscape orientation. The INSTAX Wide 300 Instant Film Camera has a retractable 95mm f/14 lens and a lens ring dial for adjusting focus range (3 to 9.8' or 9.8' to infinity). A close-up lens adapter is included for subjects as near as 15.5" from the camera and a Light/Dark mode allows you to make ⅔ stop of exposure adjustments up or down. It is built like a tank and powered by four AA batteries.

FUJIFILM’s INSTAX WIDE 300 produces landscape-oriented prints.

Polaroid

In 1948, Polaroid announced the first commercially available instant camera, the Model 95, paving the way for all of the cameras in this guide. Sadly, the original Polaroid Corporation was among the casualties of the digital photography revolution and filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Fortunately, the brand lived on, first as The Impossible Project, later as Polaroid Originals, and today, again, as Polaroid. Current cameras offered by Polaroid fall into one of three categories: refurbished vintage cameras, new analog models, and hybrids.

For those who lament that “they don’t make them like they used to,” Polaroid offers a colorful variety of refurbished vintage cameras, including the Sun 600, Sun 640, Sun 660, 600 Express, 600 Impulse, 600 Red Stripe, and 600 Job Pro. Each features a foldable design; a plastic, single-element lens; a built-in flash; and compatibility with Polaroid’s classic 600 film. Minimum focusing distance varies by model from 2 to 4', as does the 106-113mm focal length for the lens and f/11-f/14 maximum aperture. While vintage Polaroid cameras are not rare sights at yard sales or thrift stores, finding a camera in working order can be a challenge. Since these are refurbished, you can own a slice of photo history without having to worry about whether or not your camera will work.

Polaroid’s colorful 600 Job Pro was originally designed for use on construction sites.

Discerning photographers looking for more control and higher quality optics out of their vintage camera should check out the SX-70 Land Camera. Its iconic SLR design incorporates a 116mm f/8 lens that combines a lens with four glass elements, adjustable shutter speed and aperture, and manual focusing via a geared wheel. Be aware that it uses SX-70 film and does not have a flash.

Polaroid’s SX-70 Land Camera is an icon in the instant photography world.

Stepping into the present, the Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Instant Film Camera is a modern take on the Polaroid OneStep from 1977. Bluetooth compatibility opens up the possibility of pairing with the Polaroid Originals app to use your mobile device as a remote shutter, to access manual settings, and to make double exposures. It has a fixed 106mm f/14 lens made of optical grade, coated acrylic and can focus as close as 12" when the camera is set to portrait mode. A self-timer, built-in flash, tripod mount, and rechargeable battery round out the features of this Polaroid 600 film-compatible camera. It comes in white or black.

The OneStep+ is a modern take on Polaroid’s OneStep from the 1970s.

Kodak

Snapshot pioneer Kodak offers a trio of hybrid cameras capable of printing at multiple sizes.

Kodak’s Smile Classic Instant Print Digital Camera produces the largest photographs of all the cameras on this list, outputting 3.25 x 4.5" borderless ZINK prints. It features a 27mm f/2.2 lens, pop-up optical viewfinder, built-in flash, and 10-second timer. You can save your images to a microSD card as well as use its Bluetooth connectivity to pair with Kodak’s Smile Classic 2-in-1 Camera App. The app allows you to edit images and add a variety of creative effects before printing. A built-in lithium-ion battery lasts about 35 prints between charges. It is available in black, blue, green, and red.

The Smile Classic produces the largest prints of the cameras in this article.

Kodak’s PRINTOMATIC Instant Digital Camera creates images that are saved to a microSD card and printed onto borderless 2 x 3" ZINK paper. It has an 8mm f/2 wide-angle lens and 10MP sensor for image capture. A true point-and-shoot design, the PRINTOMATIC has a built-in flash and autofocus capabilities, so all you have to do is frame your subject and press the shutter. A lithium-ion battery can be recharged via USB connection, and the camera is available in yellow or gray.

The PRINTOMATIC is a convenient point-and-shoot that creates 2 x 3" ZINK prints.

Canon

Canon’s IVY CLIQ2 Instant Camera is a point-and-shoot ZINK hybrid camera with a 5MP image sensor and is capable of producing 2 x 3" prints. Its build incorporates a large, 2" mirror around the lens that incorporates frame lines to help guide compositions when facing the camera. It also features autofocus, auto exposure, and white balance, making it easy to pick up and shoot. A built-in flash benefits low-light shooting, and several filters and a built-in frame option encourage creativity. Additionally, images can be saved to or printed from a microSD card. A built-in lithium-polymer battery lasts for about 25 prints per charge. The CLIQ2 is available in charcoal, petal pink, or turquoise.

Selfie fanatics will want to consider the IVY CLIQ+2, which adds an 8-LED ring light to the front of the CLIQ2 for flattering close-up lighting.

The IVY CLIQ+ has a built-in LED ring light for flattering selfies.

Lomography

As those familiar with Lomography might expect, its take on the instant camera is more experimental than most of the other manufacturers on this list. Compatible with INSTAX film, they offer a number of controls and accessories perfect for photographers looking to tweak their images manually.

The Lomo’Instant uses INSTAX Mini film and comes with a trio of accessory lenses. A 27mm f/8 lens is standard on the camera, to which can be added an additional lens depending upon your chosen subject: portrait, close-up, and fisheye. Similarly, three shooting modes cover a range of lighting conditions. Flash-On Auto mode sets the aperture to f/16 and allows you to adjust the exposure compensation dial. Flash-On Manual mode lets you choose between N for daytime and B for long, flash exposures. Flash-Off Manual mode allows you to choose between N for daytime and B for long exposures with the flash off. Four colored gels (blue, red, purple, and yellow) are included to use with the flash for creative lighting. The Lomo’Instant also has the ability to shoot unlimited multiple exposures, includes a selfie mirror on the front of the camera and a removable optical viewfinder, and has both tripod and cable release mounts. It runs on four AAA batteries.

The Lomo’Instant has three accessory lenses that can be used, depending on your subject.

The Diana Instant Square Camera merges the popular Diana toy camera with INSTAX SQUARE film. The Diana comes with a 38mm-equivalent lens that can also accept fisheye, super wide-angle, wide-angle/close-up, and telephoto attachments available as a kit. You can choose between f/11, f/19, and f/32 apertures or remove the lens entirely for an f/150 pinhole effect. Zone focusing is available at three different distance ranges. There is a hot shoe for flashes as well as a plug for a Diana flash, which can be purchased as a kit. Like the Lomo’Instant, the Diana runs on four AAA batteries and has a tripod mount, selfie mirror, and removable optical viewfinder.

The Diana serves as an instant film version of the beloved Diana toy camera.

The uniquely designed collapsible bellows of the Lomo’Instant Square Glass makes it one of the more intriguing cameras on this list. Designed for INSTAX SQUARE film, its 45mm-equivalent f/10 glass lens focuses as close as 2.6' via three zone focusing ranges. Exposure can be set to Auto or Bulb (manual), which permits up to 30-second exposures. Additional features include multiple exposure mode, a 10-second self-timer, a built-in flash with four color gels, a remote shutter release, and a tripod mount. It is also available as a kit with a back, for use with INSTAX Mini film.

The Lomo’Instant Square Glass is among the more unique designs in the instant camera world.

MiNT

If you’ve made it this far, you are probably looking for a “professional” instant camera that can produce easily repeatable results. Lucky for you, MiNT Camera is dedicated to revamping classic camera models, adding manual exposure controls, multi-element lenses, and true manual focusing.

The most popular model from MiNT is the SLR670-S Classic Instant Film Camera. Compatible with SX-70 and 600 film, it incorporates a “Time Machine” into the design of Polaroid’s beloved SX-70 camera that allows you to manually control exposure settings. Shutter speeds up to 1/2000s makes this one of the best instant cameras for capturing action. On the other hand, B mode allows long exposures and T mode permits infinite exposure times. Manual focusing is possible using an SLR viewfinder with a split image circle. It is powered by a single-use battery built into film packets.

The SLR670-S is a modern take on Polaroid’s SX-70 land camera.

MiNT’s InstantKon RF70 brings INSTAX Wide film to a foldable, rangefinder design. A multi-coated, three-element 93mm f/5.6 glass lens benefits image quality while six aperture selections and 14 shutter speeds allow you to control exposure. Manual focusing is possible as close as 2.5'. The RF70 can also create multiple and long exposure images. For lighting, a pop-up flash is built in and a 2.5mm port can connect to additional light sources. The RF70 is also compatible with standard cable releases and has a tripod mount. It is powered by two AA batteries.

The InstantKon RF70 has a multi-coated, multi-element glass lens for capturing sharp images.

Finally, MiNT Camera’s InstantFlex TL70 2.0 Instant Film Camera is a twin lens reflex camera designed for INSTAX MINI film. For image quality, the TL70 2.0 has a three-element 61mm f/5.6 lens incorporating aspherical elements for sharpness and a magnesium fluoride coating to cut back on distortion. Manual focusing and exposure controls are available, and a built-in ambient light meter helps achieve correct exposures. A bright Fresnel Super Viewfinder helps with focusing up to 1.6' from subjects. For creative applications, there is a noncircular f/bokeh setting to manage out-of-focus areas. The TL70 2.0 also features a built-in flash and runs on 3 AA batteries.

If you have ever wanted to create instant photographs with a TLR camera, the InstantFlex TL70 is the way to go.

Have you tried any of the cameras on this list? Which is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the Comments section, below!

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