The best instant camera can offer immediate gratification. You get a hard copy physical image at the touch of the button, which can be hugely useful if you're working on a project and need to line up images on a board for comparison. While instant cameras have been around for a long, long time, the best instant cameras today, including the best Polaroid camera, offer increasingly improved capabilities and modern features such as bluetooth connectivity, glass lenses and dual-lens autofocus.
Many people may have consigned instant cameras to the past considering the quality of cameras now available on phones (see our guide to the best camera phones), but smartphone snaps tend to get forgotten about in the cloud, and if you want to print them, ink costs a fortune. As a result, owning one of the best instant cameras is still a good idea. In the guide below, we outline our top choices for a variety of print sizes, aspect ratios, prices and brands, including the best Polaroid camera. You'll find something for everyone, including models for children, and direct links to the best current prices.
For more camera choices, also see our guides to the best cameras overall, the best Sony cameras, the best low-light cameras, and the best cameras for kids.
The best instant cameras available now
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At the top of our list, thee Originals OneStep+ is a sleek, modern instant camera dressed in a stylish retro jacket for a vintage 1970s feel, and we think it's the best Polaroid camera available. It delivers quality prints in just moments with compatibility for both Polaroid i-Type and Polaroid 600 film, but it adds in contemporary conveniences such as Bluetooth connectivity for linking to the Polaroid Originals app via a smart device.
This allows users to explore interesting novel features like light painting and the use of manual mode for more creative control. It also provides the ability to shoot double exposures, to use a self-timer and even the noise trigger, which takes a photo when a loud sound reaches a certain level. It also allows you to keep shooting for longer because it has a rechargeable 1100mAh li-ion battery, avoiding the need to carry lots of batteries.
Instant cameras tend to be rather bulky because they have to both take and print photographs, so they contain a lot of moving parts inside the body. However, the Fujifilm instax mini 40 is a compact, ergonomic little instant camera, still sporting a charming classic design. It has a simple layout with little in the way of controls, making it ideal for those who simply want to be creative and take snaps without the fuss of turning dials to choose the right setting. Since this is the “mini” 40, the prints are a little smaller than what you get with the standard instant films used by other cameras on this list, but the quality is good and the cost of film per shot works out cheaper than that of standard size film.
The Kodak Smile is a unique hybrid camera that offers an interesting compromise between digital and analogue. Breaking the usual instant camera rules, it captures digital images while simultaneously producing a print. This means you get all the fun and instant gratification of the best instant cameras with an immediate print, but you also get the handy longevity of a digital file that you can then edit and publish later. This extra functionality together with an in-built LCD screen means the battery doesn’t last quite as long as that on other cameras on our list, and the ZINK prints, although they aren't bad, aren’t the best quality in this roundup. However, considering its uniqueness the Kodak Smile is an interesting proposition.
The Polaroid Now is perhaps the prettiest option on our list of the best instant cameras, coming in 10 colours. It's more simple than the Polaroid One Step+ at number one on our list, with no manual controls and no Bluetooth or remote trigger functionality However, it continues the line with an authentic retro Polaroid feel with its big, square frame that feels satisfying in the hand. It has a two-lens system which the camera automatically switches between depending on the scene for superior image quality, and still has a self-timer. The Now is ideal for those who want to stay in the moment and need a beautiful, simple instant point-and-shoot.
We highlighted the Fujifilm instax mini 40 as a classic-looking instant camera that breaks the tendency for bulk designs, but the Polaroid Go goes even further with
the world's smallest analogue instant camera, a device that can fit squarely in the palm of one hand. This is a shrunken-down version of the Polaroid Now above, and it has most of the same features, including self-timer and double-exposure mode. Autofocus has been dropped, so there is an increased risk of blurry results if you're not at a good distance from your subject, however.
The Fujifilm instax mini 9 positively bursts with colour, with the entire body coming in a variety of nine colour options, from bright flamingo pink to a range of pastel shades. It's an instant camera that anyone can use, but it will have particular appeal for children and teens thanks to the colours, the simple layout and additional attachments and features. It has a selfie mirror on the end of the lens barrel to make it easier to compose shots with friends, a close-up attachment filter to focus down to 35cm, ideal for snapping some beautiful latte art or the like, and there’s a little manual adjustment if you want that, with four different lighting modes to choose between. There's also a high key mode to overexpose scenes for a bright, zingy look.
A contemporary, stylish design with a textured body makes the SQUARE SQ6 really stand out for its looks. In fact, it's rather reminiscent of a certain social media logo we’ve all come to know in recent years. It even replicates the same aspect ratio using a 1:1 square frame film. There are nine shooting modes to choose between: selfie, automatic exposure, macro, landscape double exposure, lighten, darken, flash suppressing and self-timer modes which make it easier for photographers to get decent captures no matter the scene or situation. It also comes with a set of flash filters to add a splash of colour to your subjects.
It may seem odd that Lomography boasts about the fact that this camera has a glass lens (even make a point of naming it the Automat Glass) because we're familiar with glass lenses as standard in other camera formats, however, instant cameras usually have a plastic lens, so this is actually quite a breakaway. It means that this camera offers great contrast and sharpness due to the superior resolving quality of glass.
Another benefit is that the lens is wide-angle, allowing photographers to fit more of the scene into their instant photos, be that portraits, landscape, or architecture. The Magellan edition is particularly sleek in terms of design, with deep blacks and flashes of red and a cyberpunk-like font style. You're only problem might be getting hold of one as availability is very limited in the UK.
By wide, Lomography really means wide. This instant camera takes Fujifilm instax WIDE film to produce prints up to 99 x 62mm. As such the camera itself is fairly large, and it takes 4x AA batteries. Photographers who want something they can just slip into a coat pocket might need to look at some of the more compact options on our list above, but if you want a sharp retro-looking camera for uniquely wide images, this is a great bet. The lens cap also doubles up as a remote trigger, which makes taking party and group shots a great deal easier. Again, you might find it hard to get hold of this in the UK.
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