(Pocket-lint) - We love all the latest cameras we test here at Pocket-lint - the more features, tech and smarts that can be squeezed into a unit, the better. That said, we also have a lot of time for the occasional dose of simplicity.
Instant cameras have been around for almost a century, and have enjoyed a massive revival over the last decade or so, as people start to value the immediate physical artefacts they spit out, compared to the near-countless photos you can take on a phone or camera in the course of a couple of minutes.
There's now an absolute plethora to pick from, so we've gathered some of the very best available on the market to help you narrow down your choices.
Our Top Pick: Best Instant Camera
Fujifilm Instax Mini 40
- Awesome retro styling
- Auto exposure
- Selfie/close up mode
- No smart features
Fujifilm has a huge range of instant cameras, having seen the revival coming a bit earlier than some of its rivals, and it's not an easy task to pick the best of them. We've gone for the Instax Mini 40 because we think it threads the needle in terms of pricing and design. It uses Instax Mini film to print bite-sized photos and has a really sleek and small build.
Unlike some of Fujifilm's other instant cameras, it's got a mature and classic design that's a pleasure to use, and the results are just what you'd hope for. It's a true point-and-shoot, so there's almost no fiddling to be done, and you'll be able to pick up new film readily since it's so popular.
Instant cameras we also recommend
The retro looks of the Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 definitely charmed us, but it won't be the perfect camera for everyone. So, with that in mind, here are four other impressive options that you could consider.
- Manual controls via the companion app
- Included lens filters for creative shots
- Rechargeable battery
- No onboard manual controls
Polaroid is the biggest name in instant cameras for a variety of reasons, not limited to its long history and popular culture relevance. It's got a great set of cameras to pick from, including the Now+, which is bigger than the Go.
This is an old-school camera with some nice modern touches, and its retro design is really pleasing to the eye. The biggest feature is its ability to connect to your smartphone for added control, which is a really cool touch.
It's got autofocus and a really solid flash on board for easy shooting, and Polaroid's range of film stocks gives you a bunch of different looks to pick from.
- Tiny portable form factor
- That classic polaroid look
- Allows for double exposures
- Prints might be too small for some
Polaroid's outdone itself with this microscopic camera - it's genuinely tiny, easy to take out in a pocket and equally simple to use. That's a big part of its charm, but the new shrunken-down film that it uses is also fun.
It's still square, in the classic Polaroid style, but looks great. Sadly it's a little pricier than Instax and less widely available, though. The camera is also as expensive as some other bigger options, but, for sheer convenience, this is a real winner.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 11
- Five colour options
- Automatic exposure and flash
- Customisable shutter buttons
- Has a tendency to over-expose
The Instax Mini 11 takes a lot of the things we love about our top pick, the Mini 40, and puts them in a cute bubbly chassis. The Mini 11 is available in five colourways and each has its own customisation options including a blingy jewel you can add to the camera if that floats your boat.
It's not just about the looks, either, with the Mini 11 features auto-exposure metering, automatic flash and a selfie mode with a framing mirror. It does it all and comes at a great price, too.
- Can save to a micro SD card
- Very affordable
- Retro minimalist design
- Images are low resolution
This one is a bit different to the others on our list. Rather than relying on old-school instant film, it takes digital photos and prints them out instantly. The big benefit here is that it can also save the snaps to a micro SD card, giving you both a physical and digital copy.
The Printomatic uses Kodak's ink-free Zink photo paper, which tends to come a bit cheaper than the instant film alternatives. The paper offers adhesive backing and is smudge-proof, tear-resistant and water-resistant. Those looking for high-quality photos will want to stick with analogue cameras, as this one is pretty low resolution.
Other products we considered
The Pocket-lint editorial team spends hours testing and researching hundreds of products before recommending our best picks for you. We consider a range of factors when it comes to putting together our best guides including physically testing the products ourselves, consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. Many of the devices we consider don’t make our final best guides.
These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top five selections:
- Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1
- Fujifilm Instax Mini 70
- Lomography Lomo'Instant
- Impossible I-1
- Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay
How to choose an instant camera
With so many sizes, shapes and even colours available it can be hard to decide on which instant camera to buy. To help you narrow the field a bit, here are a few things worth thinking about before making your final decision.
Form-factor and portability
In these modern times, we have been a bit spoiled by the convenience of smartphones that allow for seriously high-quality photography in a slim pocketable device. Instant cameras are always going to be a bit bulkier, but it's important to find the right balance for your lifestyle.
Some people won't mind carrying around a larger device if it provides better picture quality, larger prints or more features. Go too big, though, and you'll never want to take it anywhere as it becomes so inconvenient. Little cameras like the Polaroid Go offer more portability, but then you'll have to be ok with tiny prints too. Have a think about what's most important to you and it shouldn't be too tricky to find a happy medium.
Different cameras are compatible with different film stocks, before making your purchase, it's important to check out what's available for your chosen camera. After all, it's no good getting a cool new camera if the film isn't readily available or unaffordably expensive.
There are loads of different films available, some offering a unique colour cast for creative snaps and some that give you a cool patterned border for your prints. A big factor for a lot of people will be pricing, it could be something you'll be buying a lot of, so check what's out there before you commit to a camera.
While instant cameras are traditionally pretty simple devices, modern releases have been adding more and more features to make life easier. On the simpler end of the spectrum, autofocus and an automatic flash can make point-and-shoot snapping a breeze, ensuring you always get sharp and well-exposed prints.
On the flashier side of things, companion apps that allow you to control settings can be very handy and some models even allow you to preview a photo before you commit it to print, although the film purists might not be too keen on that.
More about this story
Every product in this list has been tested in real-life situations, just as you would use it in your day-to-day life.
A good instant camera can last for a lifetime, so we've tested all the options on this list extensively to see how they hold up to daily usage.
We've checked everything from image fidelity to build quality to make sure they're up to the task.
As with any roundup, though, it's not possible to deliver a list that works for everybody, which is why we lean on the experiences and opinions of the wider Pocket-lint team - as well as thoroughly assessing the areas above - in order to do our best in this regard.
What we always tend to avoid when compiling these picks are needless spec comparisons and marketing lines; we just want to provide an easy to understand summary that gives you an idea of what each product is like to use. Our verdicts are concise, but this is purely in the interest of brevity.