The best disposable cameras have lost none of their charm since their heyday. These single-use shooters, pre-loaded with a roll of 27 shots, are an ideal way to make holiday photos with a difference, or just have some fun around the house.
Unlike the ease of digital, having a limited number of shots forces you to stop and consider what you’re shooting – and then there’s that distinctive analogue look that simply cannot be replicated. They’re especially good fun for Christmas and New Year, providing a more exciting way to capture the moment than just relying on phone snaps. The best instant cameras are also great for this time of year.
Disposable cameras, also known as single-use cameras, tend to follow a pretty rigid formula. They offer almost no manual control on shooting settings, and so are good for those who have absolutely no photographic experience. Generally, there are only three controls – the shutter button, the flash, and the wheel that winds the film. Exposure times tend to be locked at 1/100sec, and the lens will be a fixed focus unit designed to render as much of a scene sharp as possible. When the shots are all taken, you send off the camera, and subsequently receive prints or scans of your images.
While sometimes thought of as wasteful, disposable cameras are actually very recyclable. Send yours off to the manufacturers and they will generally re-fill the camera to be sold on to another user. Responsible processing labs will recycle any leftover parts (like paper sleeves), meaning there’s very little waste product from your 27 shots. It is important to make sure you are giving your camera to a lab that will deal with the camera responsibly and not just throwing it in the trash once the film is out – if you’re not sure, definitely ask the retailer.
We’ve picked out what we reckon are the best disposable cameras right now. While the cameras themselves tend to be much the same, the film stocks inside are hugely different, and images shot on different disposable cameras will look radically different (not least because some of them are black and white). So let's get started!
The best disposable cameras you can buy right now
Ilford is known for its black and white film, so this colour-camera release in 2021 was a surprise – but a welcome one. Loaded with 1960s-style Ilfocolor film, it’s the perfect camera for producing images with a gorgeous retro feel. It’s especially good on bright sunny days, imbuing your images with a colour pop that captures the spirit of the 1960s.
As with most of the best disposable cameras, the lens is fixed-focus and the shutter speed is set in place, so all you have to do is point and shoot. Though you can activate and deactivate the flash with one touch, which is handy if you need a burst of illumination in a dark situation.
All right – it’s not technically a disposable camera. But Lomography’s clever “Simple Use” cameras are a variation on the formula, hence the name being a play on “single-use”. They’re designed to be as simple to operate as disposable cameras, with just a shutter button and a flash, but have the added advantage of being reloadable with different films.
We’ve gone with the Lomochrome Metropolis version as our recommendation – a cool, tonally muted colour film that’s especially well-suited to urban landscapes and the grit of the street. But once you’re done with those 27 shots, you can reload and try with another film stock! It also comes with colour gels that can be placed over the flash to give your shot a stylish tint.
When you think back to the look and feel of disposable cameras from back in the day, you’re basically thinking of the Fujifilm QuickSnap Flash 400. With its fixed-focus lens, its single-button operation and its powerful built-in flash, this is an archetypal disposable film camera. Loaded with ISO 400 Fuji Superia colour film, it’ll do well in the majority of lighting conditions, probably only struggling in the black of night. You get 27 exposures, and it’s so simple anyone can use it. There are some cameras on this list with more exciting features or special uses, but if you’re just looking for a straightforward, good-quality disposable camera, this is it.
Disposable cameras are great for holidays, as they’re fun for anyone to use and make it easy to create physical images of your adventures. The AgfaPhoto LeBox Ocean 400 has one advantage over other disposable cameras when it comes to holiday use – it’s waterproof and sandproof, making it a great choice for beach getaways.
It can be submerged down to depths of 3m, meaning it’s ideal for leisurely dips in the sea, and its included yellow wrist strap means you can easily keep it secure and not worry about dropping it. The controls are also big and visible, meaning they’re kid-friendly if you’ve got little ones on your holiday. But really this is one of the best disposable cameras for all ages.
In 2021, Kodak unveiled its Tri-X 400 Single Use Camera, a disposable camera loaded with B&W film dating all the way back to 1954. Long beloved by professional photographers of the era for its dramatic, high-contrast look and its forgiving exposure latitude, Tri-X built up a reputation as a film for all situations. Its striking look may not be what you want for, say, a family barbecue, but for exciting photography with fantastic tonality, it’s a great choice. This flexible format works in lots of lighting conditions – if you’ve fired off a lot of shots in dark conditions, you may be able to ask your developer to “push” the film by one or two stops to retain detail.
Normally, black and white film has to be developed using a different process to colour film, and many photo labs will often charge more for it (and you can expect it to take longer). Ilford’s XP2 super film is a different breed though; it can be developed using the C41 process normally reserved for colour film. This can really save you a headache once you’re done shooting and just want to find a high street lab that can handle your film with a fast turnaround time. Also, XP2 looks great – it’s a high-contrast B&W film with a stylish grain that’s ideal for getting shots with a little drama and flair.
Ilford HP5 Plus 400, to give it the full title, is perhaps the standard B&W film stock. It’s the one that photographers reach for time and again when they want an all-purpose film that’ll handle most situations; it’s arguably not as exciting as XP2 or Tri-X, but it’s great for getting clear and sharp images that are full of detail. You do have to get it processed with proper B&W processing, which can be more time-consuming and expensive, but the images that come back are all but guaranteed to look a cut above what you might expect from a disposable camera.
The Kodak Funsaver 35mm Single Use Camera uses Kodak’s ISO 800 film, as opposed to the ISO 400 in most other disposable cameras. This means that it’s more sensitive to light, and thus more usable in low-light conditions, the trade-off being that higher sensitivity film has more grain. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as these days, with pristine digital sensors available all over, film grain has become something of a sought-after look – but it’s something to be aware of. Also, be aware that this is a pretty cheap disposable camera and it feels it, with a flimsy plastic construction sleeved in paper. Still, were you buying a disposable camera for its build quality? Of course not!
If you don’t need the waterproofing of the AgfaPhoto LeBox Ocean, then this is essentially the vanilla version, which can be picked up for a cheaper price. It shoots colour film (which may surprise some analogue aficionados, as AgfaPhoto only really sells black and white films these days) and can produce 27 exposures that'll look solid in all sorts of conditions. The built-in flash is handy, with a 4m effective range – and as with many disposables, you’d likely be best off leaving it on pretty much all the time. It’s not as exciting a film stock as Kodak Tri-X, Lomochrome Metropolis or Ilford’s Retrocolor, but it gets the job done.