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Best instant camera 2024: The top Polaroid and Instax cameras for retro snaps

Embrace the cool retro charm of instant photography with our roundup of the best instant cameras from Polaroid and Instax

Looking for the best instant camera? You may be surprised to learn that you’ve never had more choice.

Instant cameras making a comeback might sound like a strange idea, but few analogue technologies have been mourned more than photographic film. Forget the ease and convenience of digital; analogue junkies love the tones, the look and the exciting air of unpredictability of instant camera prints. And let’s be honest, an Instagram-filtered smartphone snapshot can’t match the cool retro charm of a genuine Polaroid.

So strong is this desire to snap old-school shots that analogue has made a significant comeback over recent years. The shelves aren’t groaning with 35mm film stock just yet, but fans of instant photography – popularised by Polaroid in the 1970s – now have an embarrassment of riches.

Instant cameras, which produce chemical prints directly, with no processing, uploading or development, are huge fun, a little unpredictable and, for photographers of the digital age, a great experience. Although, with the cost of a single print ranging from around 70p to nearly £2, images will need to be thought about quite carefully.

There are some really good, really novel instant cameras out there, but to take out any guesswork we’ve compiled a rundown of the best instant cameras around.

Best instant camera: At a glance

How to choose the best instant camera for you

How do instant cameras work?

Great question. When you press the shutter on an instant camera, a single frame of film is exposed. The difference between this frame of film and a frame of 35mm film is that the film in an instant camera has all the chemicals needed to develop the image built into the film itself. Some cameras produce a finished image straight from the rollers; others, such as the Polaroid models, produce a print that’s initially black but that develops over 15 minutes. To answer the inevitable question, you do not need to shake a Polaroid picture to help it develop. In fact, shaking a Polaroid picture can damage the image, as the shaking causes the film to separate – sorry, OutKast fans.

What kind of film do I need?

There are two main players in the instant camera market: Polaroid and Fujifilm. Both produce a range of cameras along with a range of corresponding, compatible instant film – you can’t mix and match. Fujifilm’s Instax film comes in three formats: Instax Mini, Instax Square and (the less common) Instax Wide. Polaroid, meanwhile, currently produces i-Type film and the smaller Go format film for its modern crop of instant cameras, along with film compatible with select vintage Polaroid cameras.Instant camera film size comparison: Fuji Instax Mini vs Fuji Instax Square vs Polaroid i-Type
Fuji’s Instax Mini is the cheapest and most common instant film format. This film has total dimensions of 86 x 54mm, similar to a credit card, and an actual image size of 62 x 46mm. At the time of writing, the 50-pack represents the best value at £35, or about 70p per frame. Instax Mini film also has the advantage of being available in different styles: arty types can opt for black-bordered film, while the kid-friendly Candy Pop borders add a bit of pizazz. Instax Mini is also available in black and white. Expect to pay around £8.99 for a pack with one of Instax’s novelty finishes, which works out to about 90p per shot.

Fujifilm also produces Instax Square film for its Instax Square format cameras. Here, the total dimensions are 86 x 72mm, with an actual image size of 62 x 62mm. This format has proven to be hugely popular and gives that classic instant photography look thanks to its square shape. Here the best value is at £40 for a 50-pack – that’s about 80p per print. You can also find Instax Square film with a variety of different border options, as well as in black and white.

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Instant photography icon Polaroid currently produces a number of film stocks for both modern and vintage cameras. Polaroid’s i-Type film is designed for its current camera lineup and comes in both colour and black and white. Compared to Instax Mini these prints are huge, with more than twice the total area and an image size of 79 x 77mm. This makes an i-Type picture a far more substantial product than an Instax shot. That’s reflected in the price, though, with Polaroid i-Type film coming in packs of eight shots for around £15, or a substantial £1.87 per print.

Polaroid’s Go film sits at the other end of the scale, with an image size of 47 x 46mm. Chemically, Go film is the same as the larger i-Type film and so produces similar results but in a smaller format. While it still carries a premium over Instax, Polaroid Go film is currently the most affordable Polaroid-branded film on the market, with a Polaroid Go double pack containing 16 shots retailing for £19, or around £1.19 per print.

What other features should I look for?

Today’s instant cameras range from cheap-and-cheerful chemical-only models to digital hybrid models that allow you to reprint images on demand from their built-in memory.

The key things to look for are the lens and the range of shutter speeds supported. Not all instant cameras have variable shutter speeds, which means that when the light drops you’ll need the flash to fire to get a decent image. If you’re feeling creative and want to do things such as light-painting you’ll want a camera that has a wide range of shutter speeds or, better yet, a bulb mode, where the frame of film is exposed for a chosen period.

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Some cameras have other creative options, such as a double-exposure mode. This analogue throwback means exposing a frame of film, but then exposing it again before printing it, allowing you to create bizarre, abstract compositions.

You should also pay attention to battery life. Cameras with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries have the advantage of being rechargeable from the mains – often without the need to remove the battery – but might take a long time to recharge. Cameras that allow you to use AA batteries are a little more expensive to use (unless you bring rechargeables and a charger with you), but you can nearly always get hold of more AA batteries, which is a real advantage if you suddenly run dry.

How we test instant cameras

Every instant camera in our roundup has been thoroughly reviewed by one of our in-house experts. During our testing, we assess the camera’s build quality, functionality, user-friendliness and, importantly, the quality of the camera’s instant photo prints.

Testing a Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo instant camera

We test each camera in a range of environments and under a variety of different lighting conditions. We also take the time to compare each model against its closest market rivals and predecessors.

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The best instant cameras you can buy in 2024

1. Fujifilm Instax Mini 12: Best instant camera for beginners

Price: £80 | Check price at AmazonFun, easy to use and affordable, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 makes for the ideal first instant camera. Operationally it couldn’t be simpler: just load up a pack of Instax Mini film, turn the camera on, then point and shoot. Exposures are all calculated automatically, meaning there are no controls to fiddle with, and just about anyone can start snapping right away.

For selfies you can engage an optical close-up mode by extending the lens barrel; this reduces the minimum focal distance down to just 0.3m, and there’s even a handy mirror next to the lens for framing. An always-on flash ensures your subject is always brightly lit in all lighting conditions, though it can be a touch overpowering in certain situations.

If you’re photographically ambitious, the Mini 12 doesn’t offer a whole lot of room for creativity, but for those just setting out or those looking for a camera free of complications, it’s a great option and very tough to top for the money.

If you’re looking for something with a little more style, Fujifilm has recently released the Instax Mini 40. This is essentially the same camera as the Mini 12 but with a vintage-inspired retro redesign.

Read our full Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 review

Key specs – Film: Fujifilm Instax Mini; Power source: 2x AA batteries providing up to 100 shots; Lens: 60mm, f/12.7; Shutter modes: 1/2 – 1/250 automatic; Flash: Always on; Print development time: 2 minutes; Dimensions: 104 x 122 x 66.6mm; Weight: 306g

2. Polaroid Now+: Best modern Polaroid

Price: £140 | Check price at Amazon The Polaroid Now+ pairs old school aesthetic with modern functionality, resulting in the most advanced Polaroid yet. On the surface, the Now+ wouldn’t look out of place alongside its vintage counterparts, blending the iconic OneStep silhouette with softer, refined lines. Under the hood, however, things are decidedly more 21st century.

Used on its own, the Now+ operates like any classic Polaroid: load the film, point and shoot. There’s a simple two-zone autofocus system, exposure compensation to brighten and darken your images and you can toggle the flash on and off. It also ships with a set of coloured lens filters for adding some creative flair.

Where the Now+ really sets itself apart is its inclusion of Bluetooth, allowing you to control the camera using Polaroid’s companion smartphone app. The app is intuitively designed and allows you to trigger the camera remotely, set the self-timer and create double exposures. For experienced photographers, there’s even a full manual mode that gives you complete control over the camera’s aperture, shutter speed and focus.

As with all Polaroid cameras, you’ll need to bear in mind that i-Type film can run upwards of £1.80 per shot, but if you’re craving those classic white-bordered prints, there really is no substitute.

Read our full Polaroid Now+ review

Key specs – Film: Polaroid i-Type or Polaroid 600; Power source: Rechargeable battery providing up to 120 prints; Lens: 40mm equivalent; Shutter modes: Auto, self-timer, with app: aperture priority, manual, bulb; Print development time: 15m; Dimensions: 150 x 112 x 95mm; Weight: 457g

3. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1: Best instant camera for square prints on a budget

Price: £120 | Check price at Amazon  The Fujifilm Instax SQ1 is ideal for anyone looking to create hassle-free square prints. The SQ1 is Fuji’s entry-level Instax Square camera and is essentially a square version of its popular Instax Mini 11. All exposure settings are calculated automatically, so there are no buttons or dials to mess with, and the flash fires on every shot. All you need to do is point and shoot.

The camera is controlled via a collar around the lens: twist it once to extend the lens barrel and turn the camera on, twist it again to engage the camera’s close-focus. The close focus mode is ideal for arm’s length selfies and there’s even a handy mirror beside the lens to help you with framing.

The SQ1 is available in three colourways: chalk white, glacier blue and terracotta orange.

Key specs – Film: Fujifilm Instax Square; Power source: 2 x CR2; Lens: 65mm, f/12.7; Shutter modes: 1/2 – 1/400 automatic; Flash: Always on; Print development time: 2 minutes; Dimensions: 130 x 118 x 57mm; Weight: 390g

4. Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo: Best hybrid instant camera

Price: £175 | Check price at Amazon

The only hybrid instant camera in our roundup, the Instax Mini Evo blends old-school design with modern tech. Combining a digital sensor with an Instax Mini printer, allows you to experience all the fun of instant prints without any of the unpredictability.

Using an LCD rather than a physical viewfinder, the Evo lets you preview your exact shot, tweak your exposure compensation and even add lens and and film filters.

The images are saved to a microSD card and you can review them before printing – this avoids wasting pricey film on shots where people had their eyes closed. The same photo can be printed multiple times and you can even continue shooting if you run out of film.

Paired with the Mini Evo smartphone app, your prints can be shared to social media and you can even use the Evo to print pictures taken on your smartphone.

Its hybrid design might not win over analogue die-hards but its feature set makes it one of the most versatile instant cameras on the market today.

Read our full Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo review

Key specs – Film: Fujifilm Instax Mini; Power source: Rechargeable Li-ion battery, 100-print life; Lens: 28mm (equivalent), f/2.0; Shutter modes: Standard, double exposure, half frame; Print development time: 2 minutes; Dimensions: 119 x 50 x 127mm; Weight: 285g

5. Polaroid Go: Best budget Polaroid instant camera

Price: £89 | Check price at Amazon The Polaroid Go is a pocket-sized take on the iconic Polaroid silhouette. Measuring 105mm long, 84mm wide and 61mm tall, the Go is not only Polaroid’s smallest camera to date but the smallest analogue instant camera on the market. Despite its size, it still manages to pack in a well-rounded set of features, with a self-timer, toggleable flash and even a double exposure mode. The viewfinder also sports a nifty reflective coating, allowing it to act as a mirror while in front of the camera for framing selfies.

The Go shoots Polaroid Go film which, like the camera, is the smallest format Polaroid makes. Essentially a cutdown version of Polaroid’s i-Type film, the Go film produces the same white-bordered, retro-tinged results as its larger siblings but in a smaller format – and at a lower price.

While Fujifilm’s Instax cameras may still have the Go beat for price-per-shot value, if you’re in the market for a Polaroid-branded instant camera, the Go is the most attainable model yet.

Read our full Polaroid Go review

Key specs – Film: Polaroid Go; Power source: Rechargeable battery providing up to 120 prints; Lens: 34mm, f/12-57; Shutter modes: Auto, double exposure, self-timer, flash; Print development time: 15 minutes; Dimensions: 105 x 84 x 61mm; Weight: 242g

6. Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 NEO Classic: Best all-analogue Instax camera

Price: £130 | Check price at Amazon If you’re looking for an Instax but hunger for more manual control, the Neo Classic is the camera for you. With exposure compensation, a toggleable flash, shutter speeds ranging from 1/8sec to 1/400sec and a bulb mode, the Neo Classic offers the most control of any camera in the Instax range.

The user-selectable modes allow you to preset the focus for macro, standard or landscape shots, and the viewfinder automatically corrects for parallax while shooting macro photos. There’s also a “kid mode” that forces the camera to shoot at 1/400 for faster-moving action and “party mode” where flash is paired with longer shutter speeds for better-balanced low-light shots.

The Neo Classic has substantially more bells and whistles than more basic instant cameras, giving adventurous photographers far more creative freedom.

Key specs – Film: Fujifilm Instax Mini; Power source: Rechargeable battery providing up to 100 prints; Lens: 60mm, f/12.7; Shutter modes: Auto, 1/8sec – 1/400sec, bulb, self-timer, double-exposure mode; flash; Print development time: 2 minutes; Dimensions: 113 x 92 x 58mm; Weight: 298g

7. Polaroid Now: Best Polaroid point and shoot

Price: £89 | Check price at Amazon The Now is Polaroid’s modern take on the iconic OneStep design and it was the first camera to be released under the unified Polaroid name since the brand’s revival. While it clearly pays homage to cameras of yesteryear, the Polaroid now is true modern instant camera packed with Polaroid’s latest refinements.

In operation, it’s about as user-friendly as a Polaroid gets, ideally suited to point-and-shoot photography. You get dedicated controls for the flash and self-timer, the ability to dial in exposure compensation, and it will even capture creative double exposures.

A standout feature is the inclusion of autofocus. Onboard there are two lenses, one standard and one close-up, and the camera automatically switches depending on your distance from the subject. Calling it autofocus might be a stretch, but it’s certainly a useful feature and well-implemented, even if the lack of parallax correction can make close-up shots a little tricky to frame.

As with all Polaroid cameras, the only thing to watch out for is the cost of the film. The Now takes Polaroid’s i-Type film packs, which will set you back around £1.87 per print. This can somewhat dampen the otherwise casual nature of the camera. Still, if you can stomach the running costs, it’s a great camera that’s a lot of fun to use.

Key specs – Film: Polaroid i-Type or Polaroid 600; Power source: Rechargeable battery providing up to 150 prints; Lens: 95-102mm; Shutter modes: Auto, double exposure, self-timer, flash; Print development time: 15 minutes; Dimensions: 94 x 112 x 150mm; Weight: 434g