The 8 Best Instant Cameras of 2021

Strike a pose, snap the button and print your picture within seconds

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The Rundown
"Just press the button to turn on the lens, adjust the dial, shoot and print."
Runner-up, Best Overall:
Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 at Amazon
"Using Instax Wide film, this top-notch instant camera produces stunning images nearly twice as wide as other cameras."
"Compact and portable, the latest Instax fuses camera and printer, printing up to 100 photos on a single charge."
"The camera’s energy-saving auto-off function helps conserve battery life."
Best Splurge:
Leica Sofort at Amazon
"The Sofort is very comfortable to hold even with its boxy design and it looks as premium as it costs."
"Those who want to take more control into their own hands can utilize the full manual mode."
"The minimalist design belies gorgeous results with a flash-on auto mode."
"The cost of film for this camera can be pretty steep, so go easy on your shots if you’re on a budget."

Best Overall: Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

Fujifilm Instax
What We Like
  • Fun and affordable Instax camera, with auto exposure built-in

  • Available in a range of vivid colors

  • A selfie mirror on the camera’s front helps you make sure you’re looking your best

What We Don't Like
  • Film is expensive

  • Design of camera makes it awkward to shoot in landscape mode

With a bevy of fun colors available, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is the standout choice for instant cameras in today’s market. Powered by two AA batteries, camera operation is a snap (no pun intended). Just press the button to turn on the lens, adjust the dial, shoot and print. For the selfie lover in all of us, there’s a mirror on the front of the camera to let you check your hair, makeup or expression to ensure this is a memory you want to last forever. The included macro lens adapter lets you take close-up shots anywhere between 35 to 50cm distance from the subject. To help ensure the right aperture, the Mini 9 adds both an automatic exposure measurement to set the recommended aperture, as well as a high-key setting for pictures that have a softer look.

Runner-up, Best Overall: Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 Instant Film Camera

Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 Instant Film Camera
What We Like
  • Uses large Instax Wide film, meaning your photos are about twice as wide as some other instants

  • Printed images are of high quality

  • Brightness can be adjusted

What We Don't Like
  • Limited creative controls

  • Large, bulky frame

The Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 impresses, thanks to its ultra-wide printed photos. Using Instax Wide film, this top-notch instant camera produces stunning images nearly twice as wide as other cameras, great for popping on the fridge or wall. Settings and controls are easy to use, and exposure compensation means you can shoot equally well in bright or low-light settings. A tripod socket is also a great addition, and the expandable lens means you can shoot from a range of distances and still have a clear and crisp image. It performs well on a macro level too.

It conveniently runs on AA batteries, and the built-in flash and LCD screen make it easy to compose and print only the best photos. Although the larger paper size does mean the camera is larger and bulkier than some other instants, it’s still a top choice, thanks to its impressive prints and easy to use design.

Best Compact: Fujifilm Instax mini LiPlay

What We Like
  • LCD screen lets you review photo before printing, ensuring your film isn’t wasted

  • With a printer built-in, this camera is fun to use and affordable

What We Don't Like
  • Doesn’t work as well in low-light

  • Low battery life

Capture the moment and print the memory, immediately, with the Fujifilm Instax mini LiPlay. Compact and portable, the latest Instax fuses camera and printer, printing up to 100 photos on a single charge. The device can either take photos itself — focusing as close as 10cm — or receive photos images from smartphones or tablets over Bluetooth. The “Remote Shooting” function lets you use your smartphone as a shutter button to take group photos. Scroll through the display screen to choose and print your favorite shots, which are ready in about 12 seconds on credit card-sized paper. 

With over 30 frames and six filters available to choose from, you can express your creativity and liven up every photo — including by adding audio. You can record and attach up to 10 seconds of sound or voice messages that can be replayed through a QR code. Easy to use, the camera is available in three colors.

Best Budget: Polaroid Pic-300

What We Like
  • Great value camera that’s easy on the wallet and takes quality photos

  • Straightforward to use, this cute comes in a range of colors and will be popular with both kids and adults

What We Don't Like
  • No LCD screen means you can’t preview before printing

  • Budget price means no bells and whistles that you’d find on other instant cameras

There’s something just adorably cute about the Polaroid Pic-300 instant camera, and it’s not just the four different colors available. Powered by four AA batteries, the Pic-300 offers four different scene settings (indoor/dark, fine, cloudy, clear) that can be selected via the top dial, which you can adjust based on lighting. The printed image is around 1.8 x 2.4 inches or roughly the size of a business card (but since there isn't an LCD display, you can't preview before printing). The camera’s energy-saving auto-off function helps conserve battery life. There's also a countdown pane that tells you how many images are available to print. The good news is that even without previewing, the Pic-300 is an instant hit at family gatherings, birthday parties and weddings where you can immediately show off your photographic prowess.

Best Splurge: Leica Sofort

What We Like
  • Gorgeous design, Leica doesn’t disappoint in the style department

  • Controls are easy to use and resulting images are of high quality

What We Don't Like
  • More expensive than its competitors

  • No manual controls

Leica’s Sofort instant film camera is a premium-priced camera that's a worthy addition to any photographer’s arsenal. Built within its compact size is a multitude of shooting modes, including automatic, macro, sport and action and selfie (with timer). Fortunately, for the price, the Sofort is very comfortable to hold even with its boxy design and it looks as premium as it costs. With most of the controls on the rear, usability is fairly straightforward, although professional photographers might miss the DSLR dial. Image quality is sharp despite only having a plastic lens even for 1.8 x 2.4-inch images and the results can make a great collage of photos on a wall. At .72 pounds, the Sofort is a great camera to carry around on a night out for memories that go far beyond Instagram.

What to Look for in an Instant Camera

Batteries - Some instant cameras use rechargeable batteries, while others use disposables. Each has its advantages. AAA and AA batteries can be swapped out on the go, which is very convenient but can get expensive. Rechargeable batteries are more economical, but if they run out in the middle of a shooting session, you’ll need to take time to recharge them.

Portability - If you’ll be traveling a lot with your instant camera or will be walking around with it at parties or events, take its portability into consideration. If a camera is too bulky to fit into your bag, it might not work well for you.

Selfie mode - Because instant cameras don’t have front-facing cameras and screens, it can be difficult to take a selfie. Some instant cameras have mirrors attached to help you out, a sort of manual “selfie mode.” If you think you (or whoever will be using the camera) might enjoy taking selfies, think about choosing a model with a mirror attached.

Best Features: Polaroid Originals OneStep+

What We Like
  • This neat camera goes above and beyond, thanks to its USB charging, Bluetooth connectivity, tripod mount, and a built-in flash

  • Printed images are of a high standard, and camera works with both color and black & white film

What We Don't Like
  • Film is costly

  • Plastic frame feels a bit cheap

The Polaroid OneStep+ fuses the classic Polaroid square film format with a new level of creative control. An upgrade from last year’s OneStep 2, it may look like a cross between a toy and a retro camera, but its new features welcome in a variety of improvements that let you take your photography game to the next level. The OneStep+ allows you to pair with the Polaroid Originals app to take advantage of six different creative tools including a portrait lens for stunning close-up photos, a double exposure option for capturing two scenes in one frame, and light painting. Those who want to take more control into their own hands can utilize the full manual mode, which lets the user customize the aperture and shutter speed.

While the price of the camera is relatively inexpensive, the film can be a significant expense over time. That makes this model worthwhile for a more serious shutterbug, but not necessarily the best entry-level camera for hobbyists and casual selfie-takers.

It can be tempting to select an instant camera based on price, thinking you’ve snagged a great bargain. However, before purchasing, always check what type of film the camera uses, and the cost of film, as the cost of film can quickly add up fast. Each printed photo will require a sheet of film, not counting the ‘mess-ups’ that don’t make the cut. To ensure your camera doesn’t end up on the back shelf covered in dust, be aware upfront of all the operational costs of the product. Or, just go easy on the printing!

Best Aperture: Lomography Lomo Instant Camera

What We Like
  • Avid photographers will appreciate this camera’s offerings, such as its wide-angle prime lens, long-exposure, and large aperture range

  • Stylish, simple design

What We Don't Like
  • Runs on CR2 batteries (not included), which can be harder find in stores

  • Settings and interface can take some trial and error to master

With three types of shooting modes available, the Lomography Lomo Instant camera’s biggest selling point is its long-exposure photography (it's capable of shooting unlimited multiple exposures). The minimalist design belies gorgeous results with a flash-on auto mode that automatically determines the appropriate amount of flash. A flash-on manual mode lets you choose between normal for daytime shooting and B shutter for longer exposures. Additionally, the Lomo offers a flash-off manual mode best utilized for long exposures in the evening. The wide-angle lens supports multiple lens attachments; the included 27mm lens captures landscape photography and can get as close as 0.4 meters to subject in macro mode. The maximum aperture of f/8 makes the Lomo the largest aperture instant camera in the world, but yo can also switch to f/22 for vivid detail in every 1.8 x 2.4-inch image.

Best for teens: Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

What We Like
  • This analog camera takes retro, square photos- a nostalgic bit of fun

  • Customize your shots with colored flash filters, landscape and macro modes

  • Cute design packaged into a high-quality, easy to use camera

What We Don't Like
  • Uses rechargeable battery only as a means of power

  • Film is expensive

The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 is a cute, square camera that produces high-quality square photos. There are loads of features to customize your shots, including automatic exposure control, macro and landscape mode, and double exposure mode, allowing you to get creative and superimpose two photos into one print. You can also play around with different colored flashes, which give your snap a unique look. There’s a selfie mode (and selfie mirror!) included too.

This camera is completely analog, rather than digital. This, along with the square photos, give it a fun retro feel and it’s likely to be a hit at parties. However, the cost of film for this camera can be pretty steep, so go easy on your shots if you’re on a budget. Exposure can also be a bit unpredictable with the Square SQ6, but overall, it’s a nostalgic and easy to use camera and the square images are impossible not to like.

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