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The best instant cameras in 2021

Best instant cameras
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It can be tricky to determine which are the best instant cameras, but it's safe to say there are some out there with increasingly good capability. Instant cameras offer instant gratification by spitting out a print immediately after taking the shot and modern models, such as the best Polaroid camera money can buy, have a whole host of contemporary features like bluetooth connectivity, glass lenses and dual-lens autofocus (to name but three). 

In an age where smartphone snaps get buried in the cloud and printer ink costs a fortune, getting yourself one of the best instant cameras is an attractive idea. That's why we've chosen a range of top options currently available. We've covered a variety of print sizes, aspect ratios, prices and brands so there's something for everyone here – including ideal models for children.

For more camera inspiration, also see our guides to the best cameras overall, the best Sony cameras, the best low-light cameras, and the best cameras for kids.

Best instant cameras: Polaroid One Step -

(Image credit: Polaroid )

01. Polaroid Originals OneStep+

Relive the glory days of Polaroid with the new kid on the block

Film type: Polaroid i-Type and Polaroid 600 | Image size: 108x88mm | Lens: | Flash:

Shoot from your smartphone
Large, accurate prints
In-built battery limiting
Film is expensive

The Originals OneStep+ is a modern, sleek instant camera in a 1970s stylish jacket – and we think it's the best Polaroid camera available. It delivers quality prints in a matter of moments with compatibility for both Polaroid i-Type and Polaroid 600 film, but also has modern conveniences such as Bluetooth connectivity for linking to the Polaroid Originals app via a smart device. This allows users to explore new and exciting features such as light painting and using manual mode for ultimate creative control. It also gives the ability to shoot double exposures, use a self-timer and even utilise the noise trigger, which takes a photo when a loud noise reaches a certain threshold. You can also shoot for longer because it has a rechargeable 1100mAh li-ion battery, removing the need for a big sack of batteries. 

Best instant cameras: Fujifilm

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

02. Fujifilm instax mini 40

Compact, ergonomic and fun, the instax mini 40 is a solid buy

Film type: Fujifilm instax mini | Image Size: 62x46mm | Lens: 60mm f/12.7 | Flash: Built-in (always on)

Simpler interface
Stylish design
Flash is always on
Selfie mode is awkward

Instant cameras are by their very nature, bulky. That’s because they have to both take and print the photos, so there are lots of moving parts that require space inside the body. However, the Fujifilm instax mini 40 is a happy, compact little instant that features a classic design. The simple layout and lack of camera controls means that it’s ideal for users who just want to get creative and take photos without the fuss of spinning dials. Being the “mini” 40, the prints are obviously a bit smaller than the standard instant films other cameras on this list produce, but the quality is still good and the cost of film per shot works out cheaper compared to standard size film.

Best instant cameras: Kodak

(Image credit: Kodak)

03. Kodak Smile Instant Print Camera

Print photos and save them digitally with the Kodak Smile

Film type: Zero Ink (ZINK) | Image Size: 2x3-in | Lens: 32mm f/2.8 | Flash: Built-in

Has built-in LCD screen
Digital and analogue images
Battery life short
ZINK prints aren’t the best

A uniquely hybridised camera, the Kodak Smile breaks the instant camera rules slightly in that it captures digital images whilst simultaneously producing a print. All the fun and instant gratification of the typical print-producing camera with the posterity and longevity of a digital file to edit and publish later on. With this extra functionality and an in-built LCD screen the battery doesn’t last quite as long as its competitors and the ZINK prints, while not bad, aren’t the best quality in this roundup. But with a unique feature such as this the Kodak Smile stands on its own.

Best instant cameras: Lomography

(Image credit: Lomography)

04. Lomo'instant Automat Glass (Magellan Edition)

A glass lens and modern stylings make this a top-rated instant camera

Film type: Fujifilm instax mini | Image Size: 6.2x4.6cm | Lens: 38mm f/4.5 | Flash: Built-in

Grippy rubber coating
Sharp, wide glass lens
Awkward battery size
Small viewfinder
Not widely available in the UK

While it might seem odd that Lomography boasts about the fact that this camera has a glass lens (and make a point of naming it as such) because we’ve come to know and love glass lenses as standard in other camera formats, it’s a bit of a breakaway from the standard plastic lenses that usually come with instant cameras. Because of this, the Automat Glass performs well for contrast and sharpness in images due to the superior resolving quality of glass over plastic. 

Another benefit is that the lens is wide-angle, allowing photographers to fit more of the scene into their instant photos, whether it’s portraiture, landscape, or architectural subjects. The Magellan edition of this camera is particularly swish too, with deep blacks and flashes of red throughout it’s emblazoned with a cyberpunk-like font style it aims to look good as well as shoot sharp.

Lomography - best instant cameras

(Image credit: Lomography)

05. Lomo’Instant Wide

Extra wide instant prints from a retro-looking beefcake

Film type: Fujifilm instax WIDE film | Image Size: 99x62 mm | Lens: 35mm f/8 | Flash: Built-in (can be deactivated)

Big, wide prints
No frills controls
Sizeable body
Small viewfinder
Not widely available in the US

Take it from the camera’s name tag, which features the word “wide” in extremely wide tracking font, the instant photos the Lomo'Instant Wide Camera captures are indeed girthy. It takes Fujifilm instax WIDE film to produce prints up to 99 x 62mm. As such the camera itself is quite large, and takes 4x AA batteries so photographers who want something to just slip into their coat pocket may need to take a further look around this list. There’s an added unique function in that the lens cap doubles up as a remote trigger, which makes taking party and group shots so much easier.

Best instant cameras: Polaroid Now

(Image credit: Polaroid )

06. Polaroid Now

Dual-lens autofocusing and enhanced flash make this a winner

Film type: Polaroid 600 & Polaroid i-Type | Image Size: 108x88mm | Lens: Lens 1: 94.96mm, Lens 2: 102.35mm | Flash: Built-in

Superb print quality
Dual-lens autofocus
Film is expensive
Lacks Bluetooth

The Polaroid Now is devilishly handsome with up to 10 colours to choose from. Its design is simple with no manual controls and it continues in this ilk with no bluetooth or remote trigger like that of its bigger brother the OneStep+. It continues the Polaroid line by feeling authentically genuine with big, square shape that feels legitimate in the hand. It features a two-lens system which the camera automatically switches between depending on the scene, and this means a superior image quality to some of its competitors. The Now is ideal for those who want to stay in the moment and need a beautiful point-and-shoot with simplistic sensibilities.

Best instant cameras: Fujifilm

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

07. Fujifilm instax mini 9

Ideal for kids, the instax mini 9 is simple to use and rugged

Film type: Fujifilm instax mini | Image Size: 62x46mm | Lens: 60mm f/12.7 | Flash: Built-in (always on)

Four shooting modes
Range of colours available
Occasionally overexposes outdoors
Small prints

The instax mini 9 bursts with colour, with the entire body vibrantly painted, and there are nine colours to choose from. As well as being an instant camera for everyone to use, it has mass appeal for children and teenagers as well due to the fashionable colour ways, simple layout and additional attachments and features. It features a selfie mirror on the end of the lens barrel for easy composition when hanging with friends, a close-up attachment filter to focus down to 35cm, ideal for a snap of that gorgeous latte art. There’s a little manual adjustment if you want it too, with four different lighting modes to choose between and a high key mode to overexpose scenes for that bright, zingy look.

Best instant cameras: Fujifilm

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

08. Fujifilm Instax SQUARE SQ6

Square prints and a stack of features for social media fans

Film type: Fujifilm instax square film | Image Size: 62x62mm | Lens: 65.75 f/12.6 | Flash: Built-in

Stylish in multiple colours
Flash gels included
No handgrip
Square prints only

A contemporary, stylish design with textured body makes the SQUARE SQ6 reminiscent of a certain social media logo we’ve all come to know over the past several years. It even mimics the same aspect ratio as the aforementioned media by utilising 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.

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Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer, educator and writer. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and the former technique editor for N-Photo magazine.