The 7 Best Instant Cameras of 2021

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

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The Rundown
From the stylish design to high-quality images, the Mini 9 is our top overall choice in the instant camera market.
Best for Bigger Photos:
Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 at Amazon
Photos will come out about twice as wide as other cameras and are easy to shoot.
With a small and compact size, the Instax Mini LiPlay is great for parties or traveling.
The PIC-300 sticks to what Polaroid does best—taking clear, vibrant instant shots.
It may look like a retro toy, but its new features welcome a variety of improvements, including Bluetooth connectivity.
With a maximum aperture of f/8, the Lomo'Instant is the largest aperture instant camera in the world.
With its retro design, unique square photos, and a durable build quality, the SQ6 is an ideal gift for the kids.

The best instant cameras make it easy to have fun with friends, print out memories, and create a feeling of nostalgia for an era before digital cameras and smartphones. They can be lots of fun at parties too, letting your guests print out their own images, but they’re also a unique tool for photographers who want to get creative and try shooting with a new medium.

These cameras are also always going to be popular with kids and teens who love shooting with friends, taking selfies, and making prints that they can use to decorate their room or school notebooks. 

If you’re shopping for a new instant camera, or are thinking of trying one out for the first time, we've reviewed some of the best instant cameras from top brands including Polaroid, Leica, and Fujifilm. We’ve assessed these cameras based on factors such as ease of use, print quality, price, size, and additional features and controls. 

Here’s our guide to the best instant cameras, whether you’re brand-new to the world of instant film or you’re an avid photographer looking for a new way to shoot.

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

  • Chunky design is easy to hold and eye-catching

What We Don't Like
  • Film can be expensive

  • Shutter placement makes it hard to shoot in landscape mode

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is a standout choice for an instant camera, offering just about all the features you could ask for. The fun, bright camera is easy to hold and use, available in a choice of vibrant colors such as lime green and flamingo pink. It runs on two AA batteries, so it’s always easy to find replacements when needed.

Shooting couldn’t be easier–simply press a button to turn on the lens, adjust your dial, and you’re ready to take a photo and print. Oh, and if you can’t resist a selfie, there’s a mirror on the camera’s front so you can check that you’re looking your best. 

The included macro lens adapter lets you take close-up shots from 35 to 50 centimeters' distance from the subject. To help ensure the right aperture, the Mini 9 adds both an automatic exposure measurement and a high-key setting for pictures that have a softer look. The resulting prints are accurate, clear, and just how you want them to look. Note that the shutter's design means this camera works best for portrait shots, rather than landscape. 

From the stylish design to high-quality images, the Mini 9 is our top overall choice in the instant camera market.

Flash: Automatic | Picture Size: 2.4 x 1.8 inches | Shutter Speed: 1/60 seconds | Weight: 1.15 pounds | Connectivity: None

Best for Bigger Photos: Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 Instant Film Camera

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

  • Printed images are of high quality

  • Exposure compensation means your photos will look their best, even in low light

What We Don't Like
  • Limited creative controls

  • Exterior design isn't the most appealing

For an alternative to small prints, check out the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300. Using Instax Wide film, your printing paper measures a generous 3.38 x 4.25 inches, giving you more space to showcase your favorite memories. Photos will come out about twice as wide as other cameras and are easy to shoot.

The settings and controls are easy to use, with the useful inclusion of exposure compensation—this means you can shoot equally well in bright or low-light settings. An automatic flash helps with this too. The limited controls make it easy to take a great shot, but it does mean that users are limited in their creative controls. 

A tripod socket is also included, along with an expandable lens so you can shoot from a range of distances and still have a clear, crisp shot. It performs well on a macro level, too, for those close-up shots. The Instax Wide 300 runs on AA batteries, with an LCD screen to make it easy to compose and print only the best photos. If you’re looking for a simple but effective instant camera, the Instax Wide 300 is a perfect choice. 

Flash: Automatic | Picture Size: 3.38 x 4.25 inches | Shutter Speed: 1/64 to 1/200 seconds | Weight: 2.10 pounds | Connectivity: None

Best Compact: Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay Hybrid Instant Camera

What We Like
  • Small size makes it easy to take with you anywhere

  • Affordable

  • Doubles as both a camera and printer

What We Don't Like
  • Works best in bright light

  • Lacking a viewfinder and manual exposure controls

We love the idea of a hybrid camera like the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay. It’s both an instant camera and a portable printer, letting you print directly from your camera or smartphone via Bluetooth. Plus, with a small and compact size, it’s great for parties or traveling.

Prints are impressive, with a long battery life that gives you about 100 prints on a single charge. An LCD screen lets you view and select your shots before printing, with prints taking about 12 seconds per photo. 

Users have plenty of fun creative controls, including over 30 frames and six filters available to personalize your design—just keep in mind that it works best in bright light. You can even add an audio message to your photo—record and attach up to 10 seconds of sound or voice messages that can be replayed through a QR code on the print.

For selfies or group shots, the “Remote Shooting” function lets you use your smartphone to control the camera. This compact and affordable camera is available in three colors and is sure to come in handy.

Flash: Automatic | Picture Size: 62 x 46 millimeters | Shutter Speed: 1/4 to 1/8000 seconds | Weight: 0.56 pounds | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best Budget: Polaroid PIC-300 Instant Film Camera

Polaroid PIC-300
What We Like
  • Great value camera available in a range of colors

  • Straightforward to use

  • Delivers the high-quality images that Polaroid is known for

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

  • No additional features like manual controls or creative filters

A great instant camera doesn’t need to cost a fortune. If you’re in the market for an affordable camera that takes impressive images, the Polaroid PIC-300 is one to try. While it doesn’t provide the bells and whistles you'll find on other instants, it sticks to what Polaroid does best—taking clear, vibrant instant shots.

Users can adjust their photos based on lighting, with four different scene settings (indoor/dark, fine, cloudy, clear) that can be selected via the top dial. While there’s no LCD screen, you do get a useful countdown pane that tells you how many sheets of printing paper are left in the camera and an energy-saving power function. Printed images are around 1.8 x 2.4 inches in size, roughly that of a business card.

The PIC-300 also wins major points from a design perspective. The thick, square design makes us nostalgic for the original Polaroid cameras, but with the modern addition of fun colors such as red and blue. Thanks to its affordability and ease of use, the PIC-300 is great to leave out on the table at parties and weddings.

Flash: Automatic | Picture Size: 1.8 x 2.4 inches | Shutter Speed: 1/60 seconds | Weight: 0.71 pounds | Connectivity: None

Best Features: Polaroid Originals OneStep+ Instant Film Camera

What We Like
  • Great inclusions like USB charging, Bluetooth connectivity, tripod mount, and a built-in flash

  • Companion app gives user manual controls

  • Clear focus makes it great for portraits

What We Don't Like
  • Film is costly

  • Photos are slow to print

We like that the Polaroid Originals OneStep+ fuses the classic Polaroid instant camera format with a new level of creative control. An upgrade from last year’s OneStep 2, it may look like a retro toy, but its new features welcome a variety of improvements, including Bluetooth connectivity, that let you take your photography game to the next level. 

With the OneStep+, you can use the Polaroid Originals app to shoot in full manual mode to control both aperture and shutter speed, which is pretty unique. Or, 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. There’s also a self-timer mode for the perfect selfie or group shot. 

While the camera is relatively inexpensive, keep in mind that the cost of film adds up over time. For Polaroid enthusiasts, this camera delivers the best of both worlds—the fun of instant Polaroid snaps, but with the added ability to manually set up your shot, just as you would with a DSLR or mirrorless.

Flash: Flash can be controlled by user | Picture Size: 3.1 x 3.1 inches | Shutter Speed: 1/125 seconds | Weight: 1.08 pounds | Connectivity: Bluetooth

Best Aperture: Lomography Lomo'Instant Camera

What We Like
  • Wide-angle prime lens, large aperture range, and adjustable exposure

  • Fast focusing

  • Stylish, simple design

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

  • Settings can take some time to fully understand

Most experienced photographers find that instant cameras lack true creative controls for things such as aperture and exposure, which is why we think avid photographers will be pleasantly surprised by the Lomography Lomo’Instant. It was designed to give you full creative control, just as you would have with your DSLR.

The Lomo'Instant lets you take long exposure shots with multiple exposure choices, and also offers a flash-on auto mode that determines the appropriate amount of flash. You can also use the flash-off manual mode, which is great for evening shots.

With a maximum aperture of f/8, the Lomo'Instant is the largest aperture instant camera in the world. However, you can also switch to f/22 for vivid detail in every 1.8 x 2.4-inch image. It’s also compatible with different lenses, with options available for portraits, macro, and fisheye shots. 

The Lomo’Instant is a boxy, minimalist camera, with a gorgeous style to it. It’s rare to find an instant camera capable of taking long exposure photos. If you’re new to shooting in manual modes on cameras, it may take some time to master the controls, but it’s worth the learning curve for the creative and unique photos this camera can take.

Flash: Flash controlled by user | Picture Size: 1.8 x 2.4 inches | Shutter Speed: 1/125 seconds | Weight: 1.63 pounds | Connectivity: None

Best for Teens: Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

What We Like
  • Cool square design is available in a range of jewel-tone colors

  • Capture the perfect angles with landscape and macro modes

  • Flash color filters let you take artsy, moody shots

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

  • Instax film is expensive

At first glance, the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 is sure to attract attention from any teens in your life. The retro square design, available in fun metallics and jewel tones, is worthy of having its own photo taken. Once you dig deeper though, it’s not just a pretty face—this Instax camera takes fun, uniquely square photos that users can customize to their liking.

Get creative with automatic exposure control, macro and landscape mode, and double exposure mode, which lets you superimpose two photos onto one print. You can also play around with different colored flashes, which give your snap a unique look. A selfie mode (with a mirror) is also included. 

Because the SQ6 is analog rather than digital, it has a cool retro feel that would appeal to teens or college students and is sure to be popular at parties. It prints with Instax film, so the cost can add up quickly per shot and is probably best used sporadically.

While some users report the exposure can be a bit unpredictable, sometimes that’s part of the fun of instant cameras—waiting with anticipation to see how the print turns out. With its retro design, unique square photos, and a durable build quality, the SQ6 is an ideal gift for the kids (or yourself).

Flash: Automatic | Picture Size: 2.4 x 2.4 inches | Shutter Speed: 1.6 - 1/400 seconds | Weight: 0.5 pounds | Connectivity: None

Final Verdict

Our top choice for instant cameras is the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 (view at Amazon). This fun, compact camera comes in a range of bright colors, is easy to use, and can reliably take impressive photos.

Or, if you prefer to take larger-sized prints, the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 (view at Amazon) gives you images that are about twice as large as other cameras, with intuitive controls and exposure compensation, so you can shoot in low light.

About Our Trusted Experts

Katie Dundas is a freelance tech writer and journalist who often covers cameras, photography, and drones and she is an avid photographer.

FAQs

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 probably takes higher resolution shots anyway. 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 that you can use to print photos than a camera you’d use every day. 

What happens if you run out of film?

Some instant cameras can hold only a small amount of film. If you run out, unfortunately, your camera won’t be able to be used until you add more film. 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—just make sure 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!

What to Look For in an Instant Camera

Price

Price is an important factor to consider in instant cameras. For most users, an instant camera isn’t going to be your primary camera. They tend to be something fun you bring out at parties or when you’re feeling creative, so you might not want to spend too much on it. 

Check out not only the cost of the camera itself, but also the cost of the film and replacement batteries. Instant film can be pricey, so this cost can add up quickly if you’re going to be shooting often.

Size

Think about the size of your instant camera, especially if you want to take it with you places. Some cameras are rather bulky, so won’t fit easily into your backpack or purse.

Design

For some, one of the most fun aspects of using instant cameras is the camera itself. Design aesthetic is a big thing in instant cameras, with models available in all sorts of colors, retro styles, and eye-catching designs.

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