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The Best Instant Cameras For Fast Retro Snaps

Remember instant cameras and film? Owning a Polaroid camera was the coolest thing possible back in the day before camera phones. Instant film is back in a big way, and we’ve rounded up the best cameras around.

You might wonder why you need an instant camera when you already have a smartphone, but there are some neat situations where an instant camera is perfect. The ability to hand over a photo to someone immediately is great when you’re at a wedding or party (and it spares you from trying to coordinate photo storage and sharing).

Similarly, it’s a bunch of fun to just pass photos over in a disposable way that’s reminiscent of the old days. A few instant cameras also offer some cool features that mean you can get a little more artistic than simply using predictable app filters. Instant cameras typically offer a very different result to digital cameras, and the grainy effect really works with some situations.

More than the instant nature and special effects though, one thing instant cameras really have going for them in the return to physical printing. Almost all of us are guilty of taking tons of photos on our phones but never printing them out. With an instant camera the distance from snapshot to sticking the photo on the fridge is greatly reduced. Here’s our pick of the bunch for the best instant cameras out now.

Best All-Rounder: Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic ($120)

The FujiFilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic sports retro styling that matches up with the retro instant-film experience you get with the camera. It looks like something you’d find in the attic which adds to the old school feeling that you should get while using a film based camera.

Underneath that traditional exterior is a slew of neat modern features. The camera automatically detects the brightness of your surroundings, with flash and shutter speed adjustments to provide optimal photo quality. There’s a double exposure mode that produces 2 images on 1 film sheet. You can even create a light trail style effect with a bulb mode opening the shutter for up to 10 seconds to form the unique effect. Elsewhere is a macro mode for short distances, along with a kids mode that’s targeted at snapping fast moving subjects, such as your children or pets.

The camera uses Fujifilm Instax Mini Instant Film which costs about $37 for 60 photos. That’s pretty reasonable for this type of photography.

Best Budget Camera: Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 ($56)

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 looks a little like a child’s first camera and we guess it probably could be, but it’s also good for anyone that wants a budget instant camera. The chunky camera operates on 2 AA batteries, but offers some useful modern day features. There’s a macro lens adapter for close-up images, automatic exposure measurements so you get the perfect photo every time. A high-key mode gives you the opportunity to take brighter images with a soft look, which lends itself perfectly to portrait snaps.

Retro as it may be, there’s also some modern features like a selfie mirror on the front so you can easily check that your hair, face, and smile all look selfie perfect before taking a snap. The camera is available in many different colors which only further adds to the retro vibe.

Like the Instax Mini 90, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 uses Fujifilm Instax Mini Instant Film which costs about $37 for 60 photos.

Best For Quirky Results: Lomo Instant Wide ($239)

If you crave more tools in your instant photography arsenal,  the Lomo Instant Wide is a great choice for extra creative shots. It’s expensive but offers plenty of different features that will help your photos stand out from other instant film snapshots. It features extensive shooting modes that can be both automatic or as fine tuned as you’d like them to be. Alongside that is a fully programmable shutter so you have maximum control over the results. Long exposures are one of the camera’s fortes, so the results look quite distinctive.

It’s possible to use the camera’s Splitzer mode which helps you turn regular images into surreal works of art. Alternatively, you can combine numerous shots into one frame for some cool effects. If you’re a big fan of smartphone photo filters, you’ll have a blast playing with actual physical filters. This package comes with 3 additional lens too, so there’s lots to play around with.

The camera uses Fujifilm Instax Wide Instant Film which costs about $17 for 20 exposures.

Best Old-Fashioned Camera: Polaroid Originals Onestep 2 ($120)

This whole time you’re thinking about how basically you own a modern day Polaroid camera, right? So, you might as well buy the Polaroid Originals Onestep 2 for the true old fashioned instant-film experience. It has the most eye catching retro look of them all—the kind of look that people are going to notice and ask questions about. It’s also a nice instant camera.

Easy to use, you simply point and shoot, and the camera does the rest. There’s a self timer function and a built-in flash but, admittedly, the Polaroid Originals Onestep 2 doesn’t quite have the features of other cameras featured here. Instead, it focuses on doing one thing very well—it’s a perfect fit for retro enthusiasts and amateurs alike.

Where the camera offers some more useful variety is through the film choices. You can purchase various different films to garner different results. There’s Color Film for i-Type which offers a crisp and clear result, and B&W Film for i-Type which provides similar sharpness but in monochrome. More interestingly is Color Film for 600 Color Frames Edition. This offers rich, textured images, but with a different color border, so it’s good for parties and other events. Numerous different varieties of colors are available through this range. The downside is that film costs between $16 and $20 for only 8 photos, which makes this one of the most expensive instant cameras out there.

Best For Flexibility: Leica Sofort ($270)

Another camera with a neat retro exterior, the Leica Sofort is also a very competent instant camera. It has a 3 zone manual focus system with a 0.37x optical viewfinder. The Sofort’s menu system includes modes for practically every scenario imaginable including: macro images, a bulb mode, automatic setting, self timer, or simply taking in fast moving images such as at parties or when snapping a sports event. There’s room for a double exposure mode as well as selfie snapping too.

The flexibility doesn’t just end here either. Unlike all the other cameras here, the Leica Sofort isn’t restricted to just one type of film. It uses its own Leica Sofort Instant Color Film which costs about $13 for 20 exposures, but it also uses (you guessed it) Fujifilm Instax Mini Instant Film which costs about $37 for 60 photos.

Image Credit: Fujifilm

Jennifer Allen Jennifer Allen
Jennifer is a freelance writer for ReviewGeek. In the past decade, she's also written for Wareable, TechRadar, Mashable, Eurogamer, Gamasutra, Playboy, and PCWorld. Read Full Bio »