The best Instax cameras: mini, SQUARE and WIDE

The best Instax cameras for instant print, retro-style photographs

The best Instax cameras: Instax SQUARE SQ1, mini ii and mini film

by William Austin-Lobley |
Updated on

Affordable instant cameras have been readily available in one way or another since the 1940s, with a peak in popularity in the eighties and early nineties. Thoug, thanks the modern developments found in the best cameras available today, the instant camera technology slowly dwindled. However, the ability to capture an image and immediately see and hold the result in a physical form has always felt close to magic.

As it turns out, lots of people feel the same way, and in recent years we’ve seen a return of instant cameras from some of the best names in the business; Kodak, Polaroid, Lomography and, of course, Fujifilm and its Instax range.

The Fujifilm Instax range is one of our favourite ranges of instant-printing cameras. There are several different camera models available, and the quality of the prints is high. Fujifilm has also spent a lot of time getting the look of the cameras right too, so those of us hunting for the ultimate retro vibes won’t be disappointed.

The fact that there are a few different models available does mean that you have a choice to make when purchasing an Instax camera. You’ll need to consider price, performance, style, size and features. Below, we’ve taken a look at each camera to see what they can do.

Related: The best point-and-shoot cameras | The best Fujifilm camera lenses

What’s so good about Instax and instant cameras?

Fujifilm has been in the photography game since the 1930s and has been producing instant cameras since the eighties. In 1998, it launched the Instax range of affordable instant cameras, and the range has been in production ever since. As a result, the Instax cameras you can buy today have decades of heritage behind them, are hugely reliable and readily available (that goes for the film refills, too).

More widely, the popularity of instant cameras speaks to how special holding a physical memento of a moment is a truly special thing. This is especially true in the digital age. Just like music fans have returned to vinyl and cassettes, anyone who appreciates having photographs (i.e. just about everyone) is rediscovering the joy of physical media.

Aside from the sentimental, instant photos have an undeniably cool retro aesthetic. Because the technology involved in an instant camera is quite basic, the resulting image carries a slightly washed-out, less-than-perfect and highly desirable look of old school photos.

Do Instax printers need ink?

Nope! An Instax camera does not require ink. The special film used in Instax cameras carries all the chemicals needed to develop a photograph. That’s part of the reason that instant camera film is so thick and has a large border - it’s all chemicals inside.

Should I “shake it like a Polaroid picture”?

Sorry to spoil your fun, but please do not shake your pictures.

The process used in Instax film doesn’t require any assistance from shaking, nor does it need to dry. The only thing that shaking could do is ruin the developing process. All you need to do is leave the image alone once it’s printed - the developing process takes a few minutes. After a short duration, the photograph will be fully developed and you’re good to hang it up, put it in your wallet or give it away to a friend.

Instax Mini 11 Instant Camera

Instax Mini 11 Instant Camera
Price: $87.16

The Instax Mini 11 is the cheapest camera in Fujifilm’s range and is best suited to capturing fun snaps and selfies at parties and get-togethers. Its main features are an automatic flash, which adjusts itself to your surroundings to ensure a bright, visible image, and an extendible lens for improved selfies and close-ups.

The shutter button is on the front of the camera, which is more comfortable for taking selfies, and the film loads into the rear. The small size of the camera means it can be carried around in a jacket pocket or bag.

The Mini 11 is available in a cheerful range of colours which is a nice touch, but the body build has a notably plastic feel when compared with other cameras in the range. However, if you’re looking for an instant camera to use occasionally, this is a good and affordable choice.

Available in: Blush Pink, Charcoal Grey, Ice White, Lilac Purple, Sky Blue

Pros Cons
• Easy to use • Basic style
• Affordable • Basic features

Instax Mini 40 Instant Camera

Instax Mini 40 Instant Camera
Price: $99.95

The Instax mini 40 was revealed in April 2020, nearly a year after the release of the very-successful mini 11 listed above. On the outside, each camera has taken a different approach to looks. While the mini 11 is cute in a bubblegum-pop sort of way, the Mini 40 has angled itself more towards a classic, vintage style. And therein lies the only real difference - its operation and internals are all the same.

So, if you like the mini 11 but fancy a different style, pick up the Mini 40.

Pros Cons
• Easy to use • Basic features
• Affordable • More expensive than the mini 11

Instax WIDE 300

Instax WIDE 300
Price: $195.00

The WIDE 300 has all the functions known and loved on Instax cameras but with double the width of the standard mini film. So, the mini 11 and mini 40 will use 86mm x 54mm film, while the Instax WIDE uses 86mm x 108mm film. Ideal for group shots, landscape and capturing more of your environment.

Available in: Toffee, Black

Pros Cons
• Images double the size of the mini • WIDE film is more expensive
• Size = more interesting compositions • Cumbersome shape

Instax SQUARE SQ1 Instant Camera

Instax SQUARE SQ1 Instant Camera
Price: $99.99

The Instax SQ1 will scratch that 1:1 itch usually associated with classic Polaroid film. Using squared film instead of the rectangular film found in mini cameras, the SQ1 lets users get a different perspective on things from the rest of the Instax range.

Internally and operationally, things are nice and simple here. It’s very much like the mini 11, with automatic exposure and flash working to bring you a nice bright image and a zoomed selfie mode for the perfect group shot. There’s even a little mirror near the lens, so you can see that you’re in the frame.

Available in: Chalk White, Glacier Blue, Terracotta Orange

Pros Cons
• Classic 1:1 ratio • Basic features
• Easy to use

Instax SQUARE SQ20 Hybrid Instant Camera

Though it might look like an artefact from the early-2000s, the Instax SQ20 is a tech-packed little wonder that gives instant snappers more control over their shots.

The basic functionality of the SQ20 is that of a typical Instax - it’ll automatically exposure your snaps and works well for selfies. But, layered onto this are several creative features. Frame Grab records a short video, allowing you to choose the best frame for printing as a still. Time Shift Collage captures multiple images with slight time delays between them, which are compiled into a collage for printing. Sequence mode layers several shots, similar to double exposure, to create a sense of action and movement.

All shots can be composed via the screen, with snaps being deleted a reshot, allowing you to save on film until you get the capture just right. There are several filter effects to choose from too if you want to add a new vibe to an image before printing.

It also has a four-times digital zoom, getting you closer to the action with ease. There’s a slot for microSD storage, and the SQ20 features a rechargeable battery.

Available in: Black, Beige

Pros Cons
• Classic 1:1 ratio • Not the slickest looking gadget
• Perfect for action • Diminished “instant” feel
• Lots of user choice

Instax Mini Evo Instant Camera

Note: The Instax mini Evo is so new that you can’t even buy it yet. It’ll be heading to UK shores in February 2022.

The Instax mini Evo is the latest model added to the range. The Evo is a surprisingly powerful little camera that combines the best of instant photo tech with digital. It’s a powerful little gadget that’s a tonne of fun for those who like tinkering with cameras.

Though small, the mini Evo has analogue-like dials to switch between 10 film simulations (e.g. Vivid, Retro, Monochrome) and 10 lens effects (e.g. Soft Focus, Light Leak, Half-Frame) to give 100 ways to take a shot. When you’ve taken the shot, and you’re ready to print, simply pull the little "print" lever.

But wait, there’s more. The mini Evo uses an LCD to help you line up shots, and you have some control over exposure compensation. There’s internal memory to store roughly 45 pics, with a microSD memory card slot providing 850 pics per GB. Accessories like flashes, viewfinders and tripods can be attached.

You can use a companion app to send Instax pics to your smartphone via Bluetooth for editing, which transfer back to the camera for printing. This app can also send non-Instax photographs to the mini Evo for instant printing, and the app can also act as a remote shooter for hands-free snapping.

The focal length is equivalent to 35mm with an aperture of F2.0, and the ISO automatically adjusts between 100 and 1,600. The shooting distance is 10cm to infinity.

Pros Cons
• Tonnes of features • Expensive
• Great tribute to analogue cameras • Fiddly for camera newcomers
• Doubles as an Instax printer • … it’s not out yet
• Useful app features

The best Instax film refills

There are many Instax film refills available. There are white-bordered refills that fit the mini, WIDE and SQUARE film cameras, plus a few special ones that can add nice effects to the printed photo. Here’s what’s on offer:

Instax mini film

Rrp: $18.13

Price: $14.89

Compatible with mini 11, mini 40 and mini Evo. The classic Instax film, measuring 86mm tall and 54mm wide. There are options for different border colours, including traditional white, black and marble effect.

Instax WIDE film
Price: $22.43

Compatible with the WIDE 300 camera listed above. It's twice the width of a mini film, measuring 86mm tall and 108mm wide. Also available in monochrome.

Instax SQUARE film

Rrp: $16.99

Price: $15.68
Alternative retailers
B&H Photo Video$13.46View offer
Adorama$15.75View offer
Walmart$15.75View offer
Macy's$69.99View offer

Compatible with the SQUARE range of Instax cameras. Film size measures 86mm by 72mm. Also available with a black border.

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William Lobley is a Senior Content Writer and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology, gaming, and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

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