Facebook Pixel Code
 

Best Instant Film Cameras

Updated December 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 16 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 142 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best instant film cameras

    Last Updated December 2018

    Nostalgia is most impactful when it's anchored to something tangible – something you can hold in your hands and physically connect with. You might have 10,000 photos on your Instagram, but the ones you cherish the most are those you have framed and sitting on the bookcase or the ones that are hanging on your bedroom wall. Those are the images that mean the most to you.

    That's why instant film cameras have made such an incredible resurgence over the past few years. The older generation looks upon them with fond remembrance, while the younger generation is fascinated that you can actually hold a picture in your hand.

    But these cameras are not the classic Polaroid cameras from days gone by. Modern models are infused with tech that makes them a hybrid of old and new. Keep reading to learn what you should be looking for in an instant film camera, and check out our top picks.

    Edwin Land dropped out of Harvard, not once but twice, so he could focus all his efforts on perfecting his invention: polarized film.

    How instant cameras work

    The process that allows you to press a button and make a two-dimensional copy of reality involves a rather complex chemical reaction. When you open the shutter, a light-sensitive silver compound on the film records the light (takes a picture). As the film comes out of the camera, it is compressed in a way that starts a multilayered chemical reaction. The chemicals do their thing and the image gradually begins to reveal itself. About a minute or so later, you have a photograph.

    The science behind how film works is fairly consistent. What makes a difference in the quality of your pictures is how good your camera is at letting in the perfect amount of focused light.

    Retro design, high-tech features

    Fujifilm's classically styled Instax Mini 90 camera offers instant photo gratification with a wide array of impressive features. The camera detects brightness and automatically adjusts shutter speed and flash to the optimum settings for the best shot. It can capture fast action (Kids mode) as well as extreme close-ups (Macro mode) and is capable of taking double exposures. The adjustable brightness allows you to create more dramatic photos.

    Key considerations

    An instant film camera is designed to be fast and fun. It does all of the heavy lifting for you. All you have to do is hold the camera steady and press a button to start the process. So, first and foremost, a good instant film camera is user-friendly. Beyond that, here are the most important things to consider when shopping for the best one. Not all of these options will be available on every camera.

    Exposure suggestion

    With most instant film cameras, the camera determines the optimal settings and takes a picture accordingly. However, some models offer a suggested setting but allow the user to override that suggestion. Different cameras accomplish this in different ways. Many have a brightness dial that allows you to adjust the camera with settings such as normal, bright, and dark.

    Shutter speed

    Setting the shutter speed on an instant film camera isn't as involved as it is on a DSLR or SLR camera. Often, you don't even have the ability to change it. If you do have that option, usually it’s called a “mode.” For action pictures, for instance, you would select a mode that features a faster shutter speed.

    Macro mode

    This is another type of mode that instant film cameras might have. This allows you to take extreme close-ups. It’s useful for taking pictures of flowers or other smaller objects.

    Double exposure mode

    The double exposure mode allows the user to take two pictures and combine them into one composite. You can create interesting artwork by imaginatively choosing the two different shots.

    Selfie mirror

    Many instant film cameras include a built-in selfie mirror so you can aim the camera at yourself and still be able to frame a perfect shot.

    Picture size

    There are two film formats available for instant film. The wide film offers an image size of 2.4 x 3.9 inches, while all others are 2.4 x 1.8 inches.

    Auto-off

    Like all the best battery-powered devices, most instant film cameras power down if left idle for a designated amount of time. This keeps you from accidentally draining the battery when you forget to shut off the camera between pictures.

    Digital backup

    A few of the pricier models not only instantly print a photo but also save the picture data so you can upload it to your social media accounts or use it to print multiple copies of the same photo.

    Additional lenses

    Some instant film cameras offer additional lenses for specific types of shots. You might have to do a bit of searching, but if you’re diligent, you can find cameras that have this option.

    Tripod ready

    Some instant film cameras can be used with a tripod. If this is important to you, make sure you get a model that can attach to a tripod.

    Bundle options

    If you want it all, look for an instant film camera that includes an accessories bundle. This is where you get all the fun stuff that lets you play around and experiment. A bundle can include extra film, picture frames, a photo album, additional lenses, colored filters, stickers, case, and more.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some instant film cameras offer a double exposure option. Use this feature to create a wide variety of impressive texture and ghosting effects.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Although the prints that come out of an instant film camera won’t last forever, they can provide a lifetime of joy if properly cared for and kept safe in a photo album.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    If you have film that you won’t be using for a long time, store it in a sealed container in the refrigerator to slow down the chemical aging process. Allow the film to return to room temperature before using it.

    Instant film camera prices

    Inexpensive

    At the lower end of the price scale, between $25 and $50, you can find basic point-shoot-print instant film cameras along with more advanced refurbished models.

    Mid-range

    For around $60 to $100, you can find cameras with handy features like a selfie mirror and the ability to save your photo as a digital file.

    Expensive

    Once you cross the $100 mark, you’re getting into the highest quality instant film cameras as well as some pretty impressive bundles that might include a carrying case, additional lenses, filters, frames, and specialized film.

    Point, click, and print perfection

    The Instax Mini 9 is a fun and easy-to-use camera that offers satisfying results. It’s brightly colored, affordably priced, and fits comfortably in your hand. Features such as the built-in selfie mirror and the Macro mode (for extreme close-ups) make this camera a standout in its price range. The automatic settings are designed for the absolute beginner, but having the ability to fine-tune the brightness could interest a more experienced user as well.

    Tips

    • Don't underestimate the value of a tripod. It can come in handy.

    • Never aim your camera at the sun.

    • Keep the background simple for portraits.

    • Keep your lens clean to avoid unexpected spoiled shots.

    • Use an unconventional perspective to create an intriguing photo.

    • Check the edges to be sure there are no awkward cut-offs when framing a shot.

    • Fill the frame with your subject when taking a close-up.

    • Experiment. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

    • Avoid taking pictures when the light source is coming from behind your subject.

    Other products we considered

    Since instant film cameras are currently proliferating on the market, there are a couple other options you might want to consider, depending on your preferences. Polaroid's PIC-300 produces pictures in about a minute. It also shuts the camera off after five minutes of inactivity to increase the life of the batteries. If you're looking for a bundle, Fujifilm's Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera Bundle is a remarkable value. Besides the camera, you get two twin packs of film, travel case with adjustable strap, photo album, ten hanging frames, ten colorful clips, hanging string, 60 colorful stickers, five plastic frames, selfie lens, four colored lens filters, and microfiber cleaning cloth.

    Take an instant film camera to your next party so guests can take pictures during the event and stick them on poster board to create an instant memories collage.

    FAQ

    Q. Does shaking a photo actually help it develop faster?

    A. The film is covered by a thin, clear plastic window so it isn’t exposed to the air. Therefore, shaking the picture won’t help it dry any faster. It can, however, cause your photo to develop improperly and ultimately ruin the picture.

    Q. What is the best way to develop a photo from an instant film camera?

    A. After you snap the shot and the film comes out, simply place it on a flat, level surface and wait.

    Q. How do I get my pictures on my social media accounts?

    A. Although some instant film cameras do save a digital version of the photo that you can upload to your social media accounts, most do not. If you want those images on your Instagram or Snapchat account, simply scan them or, better yet, take a picture of them with your smartphone to turn them into digital files that can be uploaded and shared wherever you like.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Allen
      Allen
      Writer
    • Alvina
      Alvina
      Photographer
    • Amos
      Amos
      Director of Photography
    • Branson
      Branson
      Videographer
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Ciera
      Ciera
      Production Assistant
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Katie
      Katie
      Editorial Director
    • Steph
      Steph
      Writer

    BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
    and give us feedback about your visit today.

    Take Survey