The Best Instant Cameras Under $100 of 2023

The Fuji Instax Mini 11 performed the best in hands-on tests

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Instant film cameras are pure fun. Their nostalgic prints make them a go-to for capturing memories and creative projects that need a vintage vibe. All these models have a fun aesthetic, are easy to use, and produce photos with a retro look at a reasonable price.

We recommend buying the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 since it's a great deal and easy to use. We also like the Polaroid Now I-Type Instant Camera because it offers full-size prints and that classic Polaroid look.

Why Trust Us

I've been a freelance writer and photographer since 2017 and have shot everything from street scenes to sports. I've used brands from Nikon to Canon and beyond, mirrorless and DSLR systems, and shot analog film. My professional photo clients include universities, local businesses, and people who need a good headshot. As a writer, I've also researched various tech products to compile best-of lists, from DSLRs to photo printers to camera straps—John Bogna.

Just Buy This

Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 Instant Camera

Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 Instant Camera


TL;DR: This easy-to-use instant camera is simple to operate and a great deal if you don't mind smaller prints.

  • Sturdy design

  • Simple controls

  • Fast print time

  • Prints don't bend

  • Very small viewfinder

  • Selfie mirror could be bigger

The Instax Mini 11 doesn't have the sleekest design, but it's easy to grip and fun to use. It even includes an automatic light meter that determines when to use flash so the shot doesn't get blown out, though highlights can still be somewhat bright.

It has a dedicated selfie mode that can also be used for macro (closeup) shots, as it slightly zooms the lens. The included wrist strap was easy to attach, and small accessories like a stick-on shutter button cap made the camera feel customizable. A film counter window on the back of the camera tracks how many shots you've got left with a large, easy-to-read number.

Fuji Instax camera.

Lifewire/John Bogna

The camera prints quickly, and the photos develop in 5-8 minutes. Its prints are on the small side (2.5 inches by 1.8 inches), but the colors and contrast are rich. Since Fuji uses instant film and not Zink paper, no in-camera customization is available, though you can choose from color or black-and-white film stocks. Color prints with a black border are also available, and photos look like card-sized Polaroids with space to write something underneath. 

The only problem with this camera was the viewfinder—it's tiny and hard to see through. The front selfie mirror is also small but gets the job done. This is also the only camera I tested that uses replaceable batteries instead of a Li-ion battery, which could be a hassle if you don't want to keep buying AAs. 

  • Who else recommends it? The Verge and TechRadar both recommend the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11.
  • What do buyers say? 84% of Amazon reviewers rate this camera five stars from an average of over 23,000 reviews.

Bigger Prints

Polaroid Now I-Type Instant Camera

Polaroid Now I-Type Instant Camera


TL;DR: This instant camera offers full-size prints with a vintage look while maintaining everything cool about the classic Polaroid.

  • Prints have a signature vintage look

  • Lightweight

  • Rechargeable battery

  • Full-size prints

  • Bulky design

  • Only eight shots per pack of film

The Now I-Type instant camera is an updated version of a classic Polaroid for around $100. It uses the company's i-type film and sports modern design tweaks like a rechargeable Li-ion battery.

This camera looks nice, even if it feels a little clunky in hand, with a vintage factor that makes it exciting to use. It comes with a full neck strap instead of a wrist loop, which I prefer. It's light but bulky enough that it'd be a pain to try and carry around on your wrist.

Polaroid Now camera.

Lifewire/John Bogna

The shutter button is on the front, making it easier to press when holding the Polaroid Now. The self-timer/double exposure button is also on the front of the camera. The power button, flash control, and shot counter are all on the back and easy to get to with your thumb. Overall, the ergonomics of this camera are good.

Images take 10-15 minutes to develop fully, typical of instant film. As all the other cameras I tested had smaller prints, it was satisfying to have full-size square film, which comes in color and monochrome, for this one.

Photos develop with a warmer tone, decent contrast, and detail. ISO is fixed at about 640, so only a little extra flash is required to get decent photos indoors. You can't switch between color and monochrome in-camera. Still, you can choose between multiple film stocks, including monochrome film, black-bordered color film, and color film with multicolored borders and frames.

Polaroid Now camera.

Lifewire/John Bogna

Or Maybe These?

  • I want Bluetooth. The Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo Instant Film Camera has all the cool stuff you get with the Mini 11, plus Bluetooth and a preview screen.
  • What about color filters? The Polaroid Now+ has all the features of the Polaroid Now and adds a Bluetooth-connected app and a pack of color filters.
  • Is there an instant camera that offers different size prints? The Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 is an excellent instant camera that outputs small prints and photos two times as wide.

How We Test and Rate Instant Cameras

Each camera was evaluated in the following categories: 

  • Design and ergonomics
  • Ease of use
  • Image quality
  • Print and development time
  • Battery life

Considering these factors, I tested each camera in multiple situations, from indoor portrait shoots to bright daylight to dusk.

Instant Cameras We Tested
  • Canon IVY CLIQ 2
  • Fujifilm Instax Mini 11
  • Polaroid Go Instant Mini Camera
  • Polaroid Now I-Type Instant Camera

To see how ergonomically each was designed, I noticed whether anything got in the way of using the camera easily, such as poorly placed buttons or an insecure grip. The more well-designed models had a much better shooting and handling experience.

I also looked at extra features and how long each shot took to print and develop. The Canon, for example, allows for color or monochrome prints with or without borders, and the Polaroids have a double exposure feature. Most extras were easy to use. My favorite cameras had little to no bells and whistles but offered a fun shooting experience you could pick up and run with.

Prints from instant cameras.

Lifewire/John Bogna

As for film quality, I judged each one on the color quality, dynamic range (shadows and highlights), and level of detail each print had once the shots developed. Did the photos have that vintage film look? What was the contrast like? Most of these cameras produced wonderfully nostalgic images. The Canon prints were highly detailed and had superior dynamic range, but they lacked the vintage quality of true instant film.

All of these models performed well on battery life during testing. The ones with Li-ion batteries charged quickly and remained strong after over a week.

For all reviews, we request review units of the products we test and return them to the company or purchase them.

How We Rate Instant Cameras

4.8 to 5 stars: These are the best instant cameras we tested. We recommend them without reservation.

4.5 to 4.7 stars: These instant cameras are excellent—they might have minor flaws, but we still recommend them.

4.0 to 4.4 stars: We think these are great instant cameras, but others are better.

3.5 to 3.9 stars: These instant cameras are just average.

3.4 and below: We don't recommend instant cameras with these ratings because they didn’t meet basic expectations; you won't find any on our list.

What to Look For

When shopping for an affordable instant film camera, there are a few things you'll want: 

  • Good battery life
  • A classic film look
  • Intuitive controls

Battery Life

Few things are more painful than your camera dying in the middle of a shoot. Since these cameras don't have many high-tech features, the battery lasts quite a while after each charge. The Fuji Instax uses AA batteries, which also last long but must be removed to avoid corrosion if you store the camera away. Get a model with a rechargeable battery to avoid the hassle of dealing with AAs. 

Film Quality

You don't buy an instant film camera for tack-sharp detail and perfect color — you buy it for the old-school look. Instant film prints have a dreamy quality, high-contrast and low-detail look that feels more like 35mm film than a digital snap.

You'll want to consider the price of each type of film, as some will be more expensive than others and add to the overall price of whatever camera you select. If you're working on a budget, find a film that delivers the look you want without costing too much per shot.

Controls and Ergonomics

Look for a lightweight camera with controls that are easy to access when taking a photo and a design that won't get in the way. The shutter button should be unobtrusive and easy to reach, as should any other relevant controls like the flash switch or self-timer. 

  • Why choose an instant camera over a smartphone or point-and-shoot camera?

    An instant camera isn't likely to replace your smartphone camera, which takes higher-resolution shots. Instant cameras are all about fun, the novelty of printing out a photo as you take it, and capturing memories with friends. They're more like a fun and creative toy you can use to print pictures than a camera you'd use daily.

  • What happens if you run out of film?

    Some instant cameras can hold only a small amount of film. If you run out, you won't be able to use the camera until you add more. Consider purchasing extra film to keep on hand, keeping in mind that for some cameras, you can save money by purchasing generic film rather than brand-name as long as it's compatible with your camera type.

  • Can you make digital versions of your printed photos?

    Most instant cameras let you print only actual photos, so they aren't the best choice if you prefer digital copies. However, you can always use your smartphone to take a picture of your instant photo.

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