Best Instant Camera 2019: the 7 best analogue party snappers

Best Instant Camera: we test and compare the latest instant cameras from Fujifilm, Lomo, Polaroid and more.

Point, shoot, print. Instant cameras are a great way to capture and share moments the old fashioned way, whether you’re at a party or just looking to give your mantelpiece some decorative charm.

The good news is that there’s never been more choice when it comes to models, types of film and extra features. This guide will help you decide which kind of instant camera is right for you.

Right now, the best all-round instant camera you can buy is the Fujifilm Instax SQ6. If you’re new to instant photography and are looking for a bargain to start you off, then the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is the best-value option right now.

For some top pointers on how to navigate the initially confusing world of film types and flash filters, scroll to the bottom of this page for our guide on how to choose the right instant camera.

Looking for some quick, solid buying advice on the best current models? Here are our favourite instant cameras right now.

Fujifilm Instax SQ6

1. Fujifilm Instax SQ6

The best all-round instant camera for most people

Pros:

  • Functional yet stylish retro-themed design
  • Automates much of what makes instant shooting tricky
  • Doesn’t overwhelm with advanced features

Cons:

  • Takes some of the fun away from shooting on instant
  • Not as flexible as rivals, with fewer optional accessories
  • Non-rechargeable batteries

Probably the most well-rounded instant camera you can buy right now, the Fujifilm Instax SQ6 combines a classic yet refined design with a user-friendly feature set that eases in newcomers to the format. Build quality is also a step above the less expensive Instax Mini 9.

Almost every function is automatic, leaving you to choose a shooting mode and press the shutter button. It delivers clear, colourful photos with little sign of vignetting or colour leak, meaning more professional results than Lomography’s more laid-back, lo-fi style. The Instax Square format isn’t as large as Polaroid’s I-Type, but is a welcome step up from the Instax Mini format for those after photos with a bit more presence.

For sheer ease of use and an affordable price of entry, the Instax Square SQ6 should be top of your list if you’re looking to get into instant photography. Even better, it’s also available as a Taylor Swift edition, complete with signed film tray and front fascia adorned with the singer’s lyrics.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

2. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

This affordable instant camera is the best one for beginners

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Pros:

  • Comfortably the cheapest Instax camera, takes the least expensive instant film
  • Automatic metering helps you judge exposure for better photos
  • No complex bundles of accessories you probably won’t use

Cons:

  • Still tends to overexpose in bright conditions
  • Have to account for lens parallax effect when framing shots
  • Fewer creative modes than rival cameras

The most affordable Fujifilm Instax camera is also one of the best. The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 brings a very reasonable price tag, simple operation that holds the hand of anyone not yet experienced with shooting on instant film, and a straightforward design that lets you concentrate on getting the best photo instead of fumbling with controls and dials.

Instax Mini prints might only be credit card sized, and among the smallest instant film around, but the Mini 9 takes clear, colourful shots that makes each tiny photo pop. Automatic metering and a light indicator that suggests exposure settings takes a lot of the hassle out of framing your shots, and there are no tricky-to-use modes like multiple exposure to worry about. A close-up lens attachment is as complicated as it gets, and even then you only need it for macro work.

The compact size and sturdy construction make it feel more premium than the price would suggest, and the camera colour choices mean you can almost certainly find one to match your tastes. Given the price, it’s the ideal starting point for anyone yet to try instant photography, and who wants to learn without burning through multiple expensive packs of film before they’ve learned the basics.

Lomo Instant Automat

3. Lomo’Instant Automat

A compact instant camera that’s ideal for travelling

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Pros:

  • Classy retro design
  • Optional accessories and lenses for greater creativity
  • Multiple shooting modes

Cons:

  • No real manual controls
  • Parallax effect can make lining up shots a challenge
  • Distinct style of instant photo not to all tastes

On its own, the Lomo’Instant Automat is a convincing instant camera. It shoots on affordable Instax Mini film, has relatively few controls to complicate matters and is one of the smallest cameras of its kind, making it better suited to throwing in a bag than bulkier rivals.

Lomography’s cameras all deliver an iconic look, and the Automat is no different. Prints show a mixture of colours and exposures, are often out of focus, and are quirky to say the least. If you want your pictures to make a statement, this will absolutely do it.

The Automat really comes into its own if you buy it as a bundle, which adds a selection of add-on lenses and accessories to really fuel your creative side. The distinctive Lomo style of image works brilliantly when combined with outlandish fisheye effects and colourful flash gels. It might overwhelm a beginner, but there’s plenty here to like for more advanced instant photographers.

4. Polaroid Originals OneStep+

A smarter kind of instant camera with a handy companion app

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Pros:

  • Gorgeous retro design and stellar build quality
  • Bluetooth adds plenty of smartphone-assisted extras

Cons:

  • Uses some of the most expensive instant film
  • Struggles with exposure in dark environments, even with flash

The Polaroid Originals OneStep+ is much more advanced than lesser, more affordable rivals, thanks to the addition of Bluetooth and a clever companion app that adds features like remote shutter, multiple exposure and even digital photo scanning using your smartphone. If you leave your phone in your pocket, it’s still a perfectly accomplished instant camera.

Image quality treads a line between the clear, composed shots you’d get from a Fuji Instax and the lo-fi, dreamy look found on Lomography cameras, and the timeless design inspired by the Polaroid cameras of the 1970s and 80s only adds to its charm.

Because it uses bespoke I-Type film, you’ll end up spending more per pack than you would with a Fuji Instax camera, although Polaroid Originals does offer monochrome film – something Fuji has yet to add to its Instax Square range.

If you want something a little more advanced, with real retro appeal, the OneStep+ has plenty of appeal.

Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay

5. Fujifilm Instax Mini Liplay

Pros:

  • Shoots vibrant Instax photos, either from the camera or from your phone
  • Small form factor ideal for spur of the moment use
  • Smartphone app more flexible than previous Instax hybrids

Cons:

  • Digital image quality only on par with a cheap smartphone
  • Limited battery life makes all-day use a challenge
  • Difficult to compose photos in bright light using LCD screen

The latest iteration of Fuji’s hybrid instant camera, the Mini LiPlay takes what made the Instax SQ20 so approachable – being able to shoot digital photos and only turning your favourites into actual prints – and shrinks everything down to finally fit in your pocket.

It might use a digital sensor, but the Instax format film still exposes like it would in a true instant camera, meaning you get the same punchy, contrast-heavy images that develop in front of your eyes – only you aren’t wasting paper when you don’t get the shot exactly right.

The digital photos it takes really aren’t much to write home about, but extra features like filters, sticker overlays and adding sound recordings to your prints with QR codes are a reminder this is a camera that puts fun first. An excellent smartphone companion app also adds the option to print phone pictures wirelessly, making it the most flexible hybrid around.

Lomography Lomo'Instant Wide

6. Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide

A chunky instant camera that sees the bigger picture

Pros:

  • Wide format instant photos are charmingly different
  • Simple operation and useful optional accessories
  • Colourful and detailed prints that are usually well exposed

Cons:

  • Camera is overly large and bulky
  • Aspect ratio requires thought before pressing the shutter
  • Expensive versus rivals

Lomo’s second instant camera is one of only a few to shoot on Fuji’s Instax Wide format film. Photos are twice as wide as a standard Instax Mini, and much closer to a standard Polaroid – only with a wide aspect ratio instead of a square one.

Almost all of the Instant Wide’s features make their way across from the Instant’Automat, meaning multiple exposures, a built-in flash, exposure compensation and a bulb mode for long exposures. Optional lens attachments add versatility, and the manual focus usually results in clear photos – when you remember to adjust it correctly.

On the downside, this is a seriously beefy camera, and the lo-fi, often blurry photos it takes aren’t dramatically better than any other instamatic. You also have to think a little more about composing each shot, to make the most of the photo format.

For those reasons it’s not the ideal first instant camera, but if you’re already converted to the format and want to add some variety to your photography, this is a good second camera.

Canon Zoemini S

7. Canon Zoemini S

Pros:

  • Genuinely compact size
  • Handy companion app brings wireless printing and hands-free shooting
  • Image quality is better than other Zink-format instants

Cons:

  • Zink paper isn’t as instant as Instax
  • Not the fastest to start up, which means you could miss moments
  • Viewfinder and photos don’t always match

If you find most instant cameras to be too big and bulky, and want something that’s genuinely pocketable, then the Canon Zoemini S is a solid new option.

Of course, its Zink photos don’t quite have the charm of true instant cameras – that is, those that expose photos over time rather than printing them – but the quality is a step above other zero-ink instants. The details are clearer, and the photos look sharper overall. You can also peel the back from each photo and use it as a sticker.

Another casualty of its compact size is its features list, which doesn’t include things like manual controls you can find on other hybrids like the Fujifilm Instax SQ20. Still, the Zoemini S does the basics well and enough juice to get you through two packs of film – this is also cheaper than Instax, at around 50p per print instead of 80p.

How to choose an instant camera

1. Find your film

The most important thing to consider when choosing an instant camera is what kind of film you want to shoot on. It will dictate the size and shape of your photos, as well as how much you’ll have to spend on each new pack, and your camera will only be compatible with one type.

There are two main brands: Fuji’s Instax, and Polaroid Originals’ I-Type. Instax is supported by a wider range of cameras, including Lomography and Leica, while I-Type is only compatible with Polaroid Originals cameras.

I-Type also costs more than Instax per pack, and is only available in classic, Polaroid-inspired square format. Both colour and black-and-white prints are available.

Instax film comes in a variety of shapes and prices, from the credit-card sized, inexpensive Instax Mini, through the larger Instax Square, and the largest, most expensive Instax Wide. Currently only the Mini and Wide formats have black-and-white packs; Instax Square film is limited to colour, but can be bought with a range of different borders to add some flair to your photos.

2. Simple shooter or complex and creative?

You should also ask yourself what kind of photography you want to do. Unlike digital cameras, which largely take care of everything for you, not all instant cameras are so simple, and require some knowledge of exposure and focus distance.

If you’re more interested in a point-and-shoot camera that can take care of these things for you, keep a look out for models with fully automatic operation. These tend to cost more than the more basic models, which will task you with tweaking shooting modes and settings by hand.

Many instant cameras can be bought as bundle packs, complete with accessories, flash filters and even additional lenses to let you explore your creative side. These are almost always more expensive than the basic models, so if you don’t plan to use them (or don’t have a camera bag to carry all the extras around with you) going for the cheaper version can make for a significant saving.

3. Are you ready to dump digital?

The beauty of instant photography is getting a physical picture in your hands mere seconds after pressing the shutter, but many of us still want to share those moments online. If this includes you, a hybrid instant camera may be a good compromise.

Hybrid cameras save a digital version of every photo, which saves having to scan in your prints before sharing them to social media. They often include photo filters, and let you adjust things like exposure, contrast and colour before printing so you don’t waste precious photos on poorly-shot scenes. These are the most expensive instant cameras around, however, and the digital image quality is usually behind that of even a mid-range smartphone.

There are also app-compatible cameras, which act like a traditional instant camera (in that they print your photos as soon as you press the shutter button) but can pair via Bluetooth and use your smartphone as a kind of photo scanner to digitise your prints. These are cheaper than hybrid cameras, but still more expensive than a basic model.

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