The best instant cameras of 2024

Quirky nostalgia meets modern technology. Instant cameras are still fun, and they're here to stay.

several of the best instant cameras

by Chris Duffill |
Updated on

Children of the 60s and 70s will feel a surge of rose-tinted nostalgia when they think of the best instant cameras available back then. It was an age without digital cameras, and personal photo printers were still decades away. The ability to take colour snaps and have them develop before your eyes made its way into homes across the world. And we were hooked.

The Polaroid brand became synonymous with 'instant camera' - and it probably still is. They developed the first colour self-developing photo technology in the 60s, ushering in an age of affordable entry-level cameras for beginners. But why, in this Instagram age, are instant cameras making a comeback? They have a novelty value, sure, but most fads are short-lived. Instant cameras, however, have been back for several years now and show no sign of going extinct for a second time.

Best instant cameras of 2024 at a glance:

• Best overall instant camera: Polaroid Now+ Instant Camera - View on Amazon
• Best budget instant camera: Kodak Printomatic Digital Instant Print Camera - View on Amazon
• Best instant camera for kids: Hangrui Kids Instant Print Camera - View on Amazon
• Best instant camera for small prints: FujiFilm instax Mini 11 - View on Amazon

Compact, instant printing technology has moved on though. And there are quite a few to choose from, with different features and sizes. The traditional self-developing paper is still there, of course, now joined by tiny built-in photo printer technology. Either way, you'll still get the satisfaction of the click and whirr that results in holding a physical photo in your hands. And that's just as well - it's the only reason for their comeback, with influencers, partygoers and fans of retro-tech taking these miniature marvels with them everywhere.

But which one is the best instant camera for you? We've looked at some of the most well-designed, user-friendly and creative camera models out there, put them into useful categories, and added some buyer's guide information to help you. So, stay tuned as the best instant cameras available this year develop right before your eyes.

Best instant cameras of 2024

Best overall instant camera

Polaroid Now+ Instant Camera

Rrp: $149.99

Price: $99.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$94.99View offer
B&H Photo Video$139.99View offer

Choosing our pick of the best overall instant camera was not all about image quality. Indeed, there are cameras here that offer larger prints and different features, but this one takes first prize because it combines the major features of an instant camera with an absolutely iconic design. Think 'instant camera' and you'll probably think 'Polaroid' - and then something that looks a lot like this Now+ will pop into your mind's eye.

Apart from being an excellent tactile shape to hold, this instant camera will also mount onto a standard tripod. It uses Polaroid i-Type and 600 film which come in various pack sizes. A unique feature here is the ability to attach five included effect filters to the lens. That means you'll be getting seriously creative, and then instantly printing your masterpiece out for all to see as handy 7.9cm square prints. Polaroid has definitely catered for nostalgia fans with this modern update to retro photography.

Pros

  • Iconic vintage design
  • Aperture priority with Autofocus
  • Five physical lens filters for creative effects
  • Can be tripod mounted
  • Image stabilisation
  • Mobile app

Cons

  • There are instant cameras that make larger prints

Best budget instant camera

Kodak Printomatic Digital Instant Print Camera
Price: $59.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$59.99View offer
Lowe's$59.99View offer
Best Buy$59.99View offer
Overstock$107.99View offer

No list of snappy little cameras would be complete without Kodac. Equally famed for its 35mm film stock and associated cameras, the company are back with their modern spin on its cameras of old. Loosely resembling the palm-sized Kodac your parents probably clicked away with on holiday back in the day, the Printomatic has been beautifully designed with simplicity in mind. The name itself is delightfully retro too.

So, what you'll find here is a no-frills point-and-click budget camera with some surprising extras. Firstly, it prints in colour onto water and tear-resistant sticker paper. Secondly, it's a nice wide-angle lens so you'll have plenty of flexibility with framing. Last but not least, the photos are also saved onto a MicroSD card - so this camera it ideal for both saving and sharing. Plus, for an instant camera by Kodak, it's an absolute steal.

Pros

  • Awesome retro design
  • Saves photos to MicroSD card
  • Flash with light sensor
  • Wide angle f/2 lens

Cons

  • Digital file resolution is okay but middling

Best instant camera for wide prints

At first glance, the instax WIDE 300 from FujiFilm could be mistaken for an ageing SLR camera. But it's larger than usual for good reason - it will churn out shots that measure over 4 inches across from the slot on the top. There's a retractable 95mm lens with two focus zones. A quick turn of the lens dial and you'll be able to switch between focusing on a close group of people for instance, to everything behind them all the way to the horizon.

There's also an attachment for close-ups - that means you'll be able to capture things as close as 40cm away. Considering this camera is a truly manual instant (without digital saving, a screen, or any digital adjustments) is the handy ability to select automatic brightness and exposure control based on your subject. There are three settings, so you'll be capturing just what you intended to in no time.

Pros

  • DSLR-style design
  • Brilliant wide-format pictures
  • Auto-exposure
  • Flash with fill-in mode
  • Built-in selfie lens

Cons

  • Bulky (necessarily)
  • No built-in rechargeable batteries
  • No companion app or digital saving / adjustments

Best instant camera for square photos

Fujifilm Instax SQUARE SQ1
Price: $136.10
Alternative retailers
Walmart$119.95View offer
Macy's$119.95View offer
Adorama$119.95View offer

A step up from the humble Mini 9, this FujiFilm instax SQUARE SQ1 uses print paper cartridges (again, oddly, with the company calling these instax refills 'Film' cartridges) that measure 72x86mm. There are other instant cameras that produce square prints, but these are satisfyingly large. The retractable lens makes this sizable camera a lot easier to handle and store. It features a selfie mirror for easy framing and a built-in flash.

Thankfully this is powered by a rechargeable battery, as with such a large mechanism and motorised lens you'll need it. The automatic exposure promises to nail bright and clear shots, while the self-timer is also here to ensure you can get those fun group shots. All in all, this is a camera that delivers everything you need in a modern yet recognisable design.

Pros

  • Large square pictures for maximum space and nostalgia
  • Built-in selfie lens and mirror
  • Auto exposure
  • Self-timer
  • Retractable lens

Cons

  • No companion app or digital saving / adjustments

Best instant camera for kids

Think children and cameras and you'll probably have visions of your expensive DSLR being dropped on holiday. But this Kids Instant Print Camera from Hangrui has been designed from the ground up to stand up to some punishment, while still looking exciting and fun. And that's just the beginning. Of course, this is an instant camera, but before you imagine your little ones spooling off a whole cartridge of expensive photo paper on shots of their sandals, think again. The printer paper comes on a roll, so this is easy to load and there's plenty of capacity. It's thermal paper too, so it prints in black and white - all a child needs to have fun with photography.

Adding to the package is an array of extras, from stickers and pens to colour-in their photographic creations, to extra rolls of photo paper and more. To top it off, this will save their shots and also take 1080p video. They can even add effects and frames, and play some basic games on it. Unless want a more traditional camera for your child, If you're looking for something to keep your kids occupied and creative on holiday, you've found it.

Pros

  • Prints in three seconds
  • Thermal print paper rolls are cheap
  • Built-in movie recording at 1080p
  • Lots of fun features for kids
  • 2.4-inch colour screen
  • Includes 32GB SD card

Cons

  • Black and white
  • Resolution is not the best, but fine for a fun kids' camera

Best instant camera for small prints

This neat little gem produces instant credit card-sized photos and as a result, it's nice and compact too. Again, there's no colour screen or in-camera saving to be found here, as the emphasis is on simplicity and reliability. This is the sort of camera you grab just as you leave for the beach. Point, click and enjoy instant results.

It's not all down to you, though. When we wrote our article on the best instax cameras this took the ' Good for Selfies' crown - and you'll see why. There's a selfie lens and mirror to help you get things framed up, and built-in auto exposure. Best of all, these prints are perfect for sharing as they're the right size for sliding into a purse or wallet for safekeeping while you're out and about. The instax Mini 11 is probably the perfect stress-free instant camera for your next holiday.

Pros

  • Brilliant compact photo format
  • The retractable lens with a good practical focal depth
  • Auto-exposure
  • Available in five colours
  • Simple operation

Cons

  • No in-built rechargeable battery
  • Optical viewfinder only
  • No digital saving

Best instant camera for parties

There is an upgraded version of this that includes a ring light, but we've gone with this version just because it's a little more affordable and better reviewed by buyers. So, why is this ideal for parties? Well, unlike many of the cameras here, this one is very clearly designed to slip into your pocket - much like any normal compact digital camera. And that's just what you need at a party, particularly if you['re going to pass this around - no one is going to be bamboozled by the controls.

That said, they might be amazed to snap that embarrassing shot of someone a little worse for wear, only to see the photo itself eject from the camera for all to see. Even better, they're sticky-backed - so you can put them up anywhere for maximum fun.

Pros

  • Pocket-sized
  • Creates adhesive-backed photos
  • Contemporary look-and-feel of a compact camera

Cons

  • Low-ish resolution (but more than good enough for a fun camera)
  • No option to 'save but not print'

Best instant camera designed like a vintage SLR

FUJIFILM instax mini 90 NEO CLASSIC
Price: $199.95

For us, this dominates the vintage design category for obvious reasons. Without pretending to be a replica of a specific long-extinct model from yesteryear, the FujiFilm instax mini 90 Neo Classic makes its own mark. In many ways, it harks back to the Brownie Folding Film Camera by Kodak. But here the silver and black design accents the retractable 60mm lens and classy-looking controls.

Much like the Mini 11 above this will produce credit card-sized prints - but somehow seeing them pop out of a vintage-style instant camera is more satisfying. Staying true to the mid-20th-century aesthetic, there's no colour screen on the back but instead plenty of manual buttons. There's a self-timer, plus the largest collection of in-camera modes on our list. There's lots of creative potential here, particularly for fans of photography who want the instant gratification of printing on demand.

Pros

  • Lovely vintage design
  • Lots of extra controls and modes, especially for an instant camera
  • Macro mode
  • Good rechargeable battery
  • Available in three retro colour schemes

Cons

  • FujiFilm instax mini instant film isn't the most affordable

Best instant camera with a 1980s design

Alternative retailers
QVC$154.96View offer

This one will certainly tick the nostalgia box for anyone who remembers the classic Polaroid Spectra from the mid-eighties, as they both share the looks of the latter which had a classic pop-up mechanism. The lens and flash don't need to pop-up any more, but they'll still deliver the goods.

Of all the cameras on our list, this one is another contender for most retro. Holding this as you would a doorstep sandwich is both satisfying and unique. Again here we have sticky-backed prints, and a good size too. But where this camera really shines is in the app support. You can use it as a remote shutter control, and also use the photo studio app to add effects and more. before printing. It'll even save your shots to a MicroSD card. It's 1986 all over again - but better.

Pros

  • Comes with a starter pack of ZINK paper
  • Companion app for editing before you print and remote shutter control
  • Prints onto sticky-back paper
  • Add AR (augmented reality)effects using the app
  • 10-second timer
  • Larger photos than many

Cons

  • App can be a little tricky

Best instant camera for print quality

KODAK Mini Shot 2 Retro
Price: $119.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$119.99View offer

Kodak features again in our recommendations with another palm-sized slice of camera simplicity. The aptly-named Mini Shot 2 Retro again harks back to the small 35mm cameras of old, with this one sporting the classic Kodak brand colours. It'll churn out a very practically-sized 2.1 x 3.4 inch print too.

Extras include a rear colour screen to help you sort out any corrections and easily add effects easily before printing. A unique feature is borderless printing which really makes the most of your paper cartridges. But, the star here is the sheer quality. We all remember the slightly soft, if charming, 'Polaroid look' we grew up with - but here things have gone up a notch, Kodak uses its 4Pass technology to activate real ink contained in the layers of the paper. The result is superior image quality all around. They're even laminated and protected against fingerprints and water as they arrive. Stunning, especially for an instant camera.

Pros

  • Innovative 4Pass print technology
  • Can also print borderless pictures
  • Colour rear screen
  • Built-in effects
  • Good companion app
  • Includes two paper cartridges

Cons

  • No zoom mode

Best instant cameras of 2024: Buyer's guide

Before we go into the details - don't expect shots that look like they've come from one of the best 35mm film cameras. These cameras are fun, accessible and casual. That's not to say that a photographer couldn't squeeze some incredible shots out of them, but most of these have limited features; plus they're printing for you too - all without ink cartridges or toner. So, go into this for straightforward enjoyment, don't expect too much and you'll be more than satisfied with your new snap-happy printable pal.

Consider cost per-photo

Whether developing at Boots, or using a home printer, printing is one of the main costs when it comes to instant cameras. Therefore, it's important to factor this into your buying decision. If, like us, you're hooked on snapping away and sharing your prints, it's not going to be cheap; but as it's the main reason for buying one of these cameras, it's par for the course. You can still make this an economical hobby though, simply by choosing an instant camera with the lowest cost per print. Sometimes you'll find that you can buy compatible photo cartridges that are made by other manufacturers at a lower cost.

Colour, speed and sharing

Some of the most fun instant cameras are built for quick printing and sharing of cheaper and lower-fidelity photos. They're the kind you take to a party to pass around, and they've been designed with low-cost photography in mind. If you're really looking to take lots of casual photos like this, consider a black-and-white instant camera. They're fast and cheap per print; plus the throwaway value of these makes them a great choice for rowdy partygoers or children. You can often create multiple copies, as some cameras store your shots digitally - so print and share away. If you have the cash to splash on colour photos of your party guests, the Canon Zoemini C above is a great choice.

If you want a colour instant camera and don't want it to cost you a small packet, you'll probably take more carefully considered photos. So, consider when and how you'll be using your new gadget before you buy.

Remember to protect your new portable pal

With great portability comes great risk of accidental damage. Although many of our recommendations look quite accessible and rugged, they're not an all-singing action camera. They're standard electronic devices with scratchable lenses and are unlikely to be anything more than water-resistant at best. So, buy a decent camera bag or case if your model doesn't come with one. Don't forget space for batteries, and spare paper cartridges too.

Don't forget the batteries

And yes, as for those batteries, you'll need plenty. Not all instant cameras come with rechargeable batteries, and if they do you may want to invest in a spare. Others may use standard battery types such as AA. Either way, the internal mechanisms of these cameras have quite a lot of work to do. So, always carry some spares or check the battery level before you venture out.

CHARM, NOSTALGIA, UNIQUE IMAGE QUALITY - INSTANT PHOTOS HAVE IT ALL © GETTY IMAGES

Best instant cameras of 2024: Frequently asked questions

How do instant cameras work?

This depends on the model you choose. As mentioned earlier, we now have more options than just the traditional Polaroid self-developing photo cartridge. Essentially, there are two concepts at work in terms of photography. Firstly, you have the traditional open-closed shutter behind the lens, with light hitting chemically-coated paper stored inside the camera. The light hits the emulsion on the paper, a developer agent is applied as the photograph is ejected. A layer is added that prevents exposure to any more light after it's removed. The photo develops after a few seconds.

With printer-based instant cameras, we're looking at a more conventional digital sensor behind the lens, meaning that the image is then fed digitally to the internal printer. Unlike home inkjet or laser printers that use ink or toner cartridges, the paper contains the ink. The good thing about this type of instant camera is you can print multiple copies; as well as utilise some in-camera enhancements before you print.

Is an instant camera worth it?

If you want to escape from screens and have a physical photo to hold, an instant camera is a worthwhile investment. In a world of fancy mirrorless DLSR cameras, they're an affordable and fun way of enjoying simple casual photography again. They're a worthy addition to your collection of cameras designed for specific uses, such as underwater cameras or action cameras. Really, with this in mind, we like to call instant cameras 'party cameras'.

Unlike a mobile phone camera, the value of having a device that creates instant prints is the enjoyment of actually using it. They're great to look at and hold, modern but with a huge slice of nostalgia thrown in.

What's the best instant camera for cheap prints?

Again, this really depends on your choice of camera. Costs vary because print technologies do too. But, as always, each instant camera brand has its own proprietary paper technology, and they'll vary in price accordingly. The cost per print is usually found or can be worked out, from the box.

Do Polaroids age well?

Anyone old enough will remember discovering that ancient Polaroid shoved down the back of the drawer - only to find it's faded and the colours have changed. These days self-developing photographic paper is more high-tech, with prints lasting as long as any other normal processed photographs. They'll fade in direct prolonged sunlight though, the same as any photograph. So, snap away, pin them on the wall and give them to your friends - they'll still be around to embarrass people for years to come.

Chris Duffill is a Tech Product Writer for What's The Best. He specialises in audiovisual, computing, and gadgets. He also writes for Yours.

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