Best instant cameras in 2024

A blue Polaroid Go Gen 2 instant camera
(Image credit: Future)

The best instant cameras obviously aren’t going to be used by professionals shooting at sports games or up the side of mountains. However, they still offer a satisfaction and feeling that other cameras, from smartphones to the best cameras money can buy, just can’t truly replicate.

There’s a simplicity to instant camera photography that many people enjoy. It’s often nicer to shoot, print and make a memory instantly than it is to sweat over photographic perfection and spend hours in the editing suite. There’s also obviously the instant gratification and pleasing retro feeling of holding a printed photo in the hand — something that by default we aren’t used to in today’s smartphone age.

Thanks to these reasons, and their cheapness and simplicit, instant cameras are often the go-to choice for parties and weddings, and also for giving images as heartfelt gifts.

Unlike the analogue instant cameras of old, today’s instants have a range of features to help them blend seamlessly into digital society. These range from the ability to add filters, through to smartphone connectivity, allowing users to print pictures from their phone’s camera roll. 

Many of the best instant cameras cost under $150, while some cost less than $100, making them great guilt-free purchases for special occasions. We’ve rounded up our favorites that you can buy right now, to help you make the right choice. Read on for our pick of the best instant cameras.

The best instant cameras you can buy today

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A blue Polaroid Go Gen 2 instant camera

(Image credit: Future)
The best instant camera for most people

Specifications

Photo type/size: Polaroid Go Colored Film
Camera Size: 4.13 x 3.3 x 2.44 inches
microSD slot: No
Smartphone app: Yes (scanning only)
Camera Weight: 8.4 ounces
Battery: Rechargeable lithium ion

Reasons to buy

+
Compact
+
Easy to use
+
Good value for money
+
Double exposure mode
+
Bright images
+
Good battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey film
-
Low light performance isn't great
-
No macro mode
-
Smartphone app only for scanning

The Polaroid Go Gen 2 is, as Polaroid claims, the world’s smallest instant camera. Compact and premium-looking, it really is “take anywhere-able” as you can slip it into your pocket and go about your day. With a maximum aperture of f/9, a top shutter speed of 1/300 second and a built-in flash, it delivers superb and detailed retro prints, especially in bright conditions. With the addition of a double exposure mode which was missing from the original Go, you can get really creative with your shots. There’s also a selfie mirror and self-timer, and both are fun to use. User-friendly with only 3 buttons, this little beauty can be used by anyone, even someone who isn’t well-versed with the semantics of photography. The Go Gen 2 also boasts great battery life as a single charge will last you between 15 and 18 shots.

The camera, however, doesn’t perform as well in low-light conditions and might have you considering other options if that’s a dealbreaker. Similarly, there is no dedicated macro mode so shooting a flower, for example, up close takes a bit of trial and error. Film is also relatively expensive — a single print will cost you approximately $1.12.

That being said, the Go Gen 2 is the cutest and most user-friendly camera I’ve shot with. It looks and feels premium, and it’s easy to carry, making it the ideal travel companion.

Read our full Polaroid Go Gen 2 review.

A photograph of the Fujifilm Instax mini 99 in black, set against a pink background.

(Image credit: Jeanette D. Moses / Future)
The best instant camera for creativity

Specifications

Photo type/size: Fujifilm Instax mini film
Camera Size: 4.4 x 4.0 x 2.1 inches
microSD slot: No
Smartphone app: Yes
Camera Weight: 14 ounces
Battery: Rechargeable lithium-ion

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
Gorgeous design
+
Lots of creative filters and controls
+
Exposure comp controls
+
Strong battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive film
-
Lacks a selfie mirror
-
No in-camera charging

The Fujifilm Instax mini 99 is the best instant camera for anyone wanting high levels of creativity — that's really what the mini 99 is all about. There are loads of creative filters and modes to help you get unique shots, including: creative color profiles, a double exposure mode and a vignette mode. The camera also features exposure compensation dials allowing you to fine tune the brightness of your shots.

There's not getting around how beautiful the Instax mini 99 looks, either. This camera features Fujifilm's trademark retro aesthetic, employed to perfection. It's also extremely well built, but remains easy to carry.

The Instax mini 99 is easy to use and has really strong battery life, although we wish it could be charged in camera. Instax film packs are also quite pricey, even though we love the look of them,  and we missed the camera having a selfie mirror which plenty of rivals have.

Read our full Fujifilm Instax mini 99 review.

best instant cameras — Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 review

(Image credit: Jeanette D. Moses/Tom's Guide)

3. Fujifilm Instax Mini 40

A stylishly retro instant camera

Specifications

Photo type/size: Fujifilm Instax Mini (1.8 x 2.4 inches)
Camera size: 4.1 x 4.7 x 2.5 inches
microSD slot: No
Smartphone app: No
Weight: 11.6 ounces
Battery: 2 AA batteries, included

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent image quality
+
Easy to use
+
Cool retro looks

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey Instax film
-
No creative modes

One of several Fujifilm Instax Mini models in this list of the best instant cameras, the Mini 40 shares many of its specs with the Instax Mini 9 at number 8 (and the newer Instax 11), but wraps them in a cool retro body. 

It lacks the bells and whistles of some of the other entries here — particularly the two sitting above it — but what it loses in features it makes up for in ease of shooting; this is a really simple instant camera to get the best from.

Not that it's without any features at all: a selfie mode is a nice extra and there's a constantly firing flash that gives it better skills in low-light conditions than you might expect. 

Most importantly, it takes lovely photos, with vibrant color and generally good exposures. Other instant cameras may do more, but the Instax Mini 40 does its thing with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of style — and all for a great price of less than $100. 

Read our full Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 review

best instant cameras: Lomo'Instant Square

(Image credit: Lomography)

4. Lomo'Instant Square Glass

This camera takes great, large, square photos

Specifications

Photo type/size: Fujifilm Instax Square (2.4 x 2.4 inches)
Camera Size: 6 x 4.8 x 1.7 inches
microSD slot: No
Smartphone app: No
Weight: 1.1 pounds
Battery: 2 CR2 batteries (3V); 1 CR 1632 (3V) for remote, sold separately

Reasons to buy

+
Glass lens
+
Manual controls
+
Takes large square photos

Reasons to avoid

-
Sensitive shutter
-
No digital storage
-
No smartphone app

The Lomo'Instant Square Glass features a 95-mm (45-mm equivalent) glass lens that encourages creativity. Its old-school bellows design will be unfamiliar to most, but it folds flat to about one-third of its operational size, making it more convenient to tote.

A variety of manual controls include the ability to take multiple exposures and a long exposure mode that keeps the shutter open for up to 30 seconds. The camera has a self-timer, as well as a remote control that detaches from the camera (and requires its own battery). 

Also included are four gel filters to give different color casts to your images, cards that show what images will look like at various settings, and clips, stands, glue dots and magnet stickers to display your photos.

Portraits have an evocative quality — clear, with soft flesh tones — while landscapes provided pinpoint detail and pleasing colors, similar those from the Lomo'Instant Automat. Night shots, with and without flash, and augmented with available streetlights, can make a storyteller out of any casual shooter.

The shutter — a square tab on the front — is extremely sensitive, so you have to watch how you hold the camera so as not to fire a shot accidentally. The shots from the glass lens are refreshingly sharp and clear, though focusing through the lens takes some getting used to. The camera has a bit of a parallax effect, so that what you see through the lens is an approximation of what you will actually capture. 

best instant cameras – Kodak Smile

(Image credit: Kodak)

5. Kodak Smile

Smart design and digital storage

Specifications

Photo type/size: Zink (2 x 3 inches)
Camera Size: 4.8 x 3.1 x 0.9 inches
microSD slot: Yes
Smartphone app: No
Weight: 16 ounces ounces
Battery: Approx. 40 shots (built in)

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to use
+
Clever design
+
Good price
+
Stores digital copies of photos

Reasons to avoid

-
Slow startup
-
So-so print quality
-
No smartphone app

This simple and inexpensive digital camera has a number of features we really like: A slide-open mechanism protects the lens and keeps the camera from turning on accidentally; buttons on the back make it easy to navigate menus; and you can review photos on the Smile's small LCD display before opting to print them out.

However, the quality of the prints from the Kodak Smile were a step below other Zink cameras, such as the Canon Ivy Cliq+. Whites turned a bit pinkish, and other colors were muted. Also, the digital images stored by the Smile are on the small side. But for $99, the Smile is a good instant camera.

Read our full review of the Kodak Smile camera

best instant cameras – Kodak Smile Classic

(Image credit: Future)

6. Kodak Smile Classic

Big photos in a retro design

Specifications

Photo type/size: Zink (4.25 x 3.5 inches)
Camera Size: 7.5 x 6.5 x 3 inches
microSD slot: Yes
Smartphone app: Yes
Weight: 16 ounces
Battery: Approx. 35 shots (built in)

Reasons to buy

+
Makes large prints
+
Lets you print photos from smartphone
+
App lets you edit photos and add annotations

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive paper
-
Camera prints photo every time you press shutter
-
Bulky

The Kodak Smile Classic's design riffs on the iconic Polaroid instant camera, but in a slightly more compact design. The thing we liked the most about the Smile Classic is its massive prints, which measure 4.25 x 3.5 inches—very satisfying. While the camera prints out every photo you take with it, you can also use it to print photos from your smartphone, and add filters and stickers in the process. Of course, with larger prints comes more expensive paper, but it's a good tradeoff.

The Kodak Smile Classic had gone up in price recently, but a Black Friday camera deal brings it close to its lowest ever price.

Read our full Kodak Smile Classic camera review

best instant cameras – Fujifilm Instax Mini 90

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

7. Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic

A fun retro-looking instant camera

Specifications

Photo type/size: Fujifilm Instax Mini (1.8 x 2.4 inches)
Camera Size: 4.4 x 3.6 x 2.2 inches
microSD slot: No
Smartphone app: No
Weight: 10.4 ounces
Battery: 1 lithium metal battery (included)

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to hold/use
+
Retro style
+
Good photo quality

Reasons to avoid

-
No digital storage
-
No smartphone app

With its classic retro style and 60-mm, f/12.7 lens, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic is an appealing choice for hobbyists seeking a change of pace. An easy-to-read monochrome LCD readout keeps track of your settings and film counter, while the Mode button lets you cycle through different scenarios (such as sports or landscape).

The Mini 90 has an electronic macro setting for more creative shots, as well as two shutter buttons to make it easier to snap portraits or landscape photos. Unlike with some other instant cams, you can turn the Mini 90's flash on or off.

In Macro mode, the viewfinder automatically adjusts to show a better preview of your shot. The lighten/darken button, which operates like exposure compensation, made it easy to expose two shots on the same sheet of film.

My favorite daytime and macro shots — which were sharp and had deep, vivid colors — were taken in late-afternoon sunlight under bright conditions. Night shots came out well, both indoors and out. The Party mode worked well without the flash, especially when augmented by a fairly strong outside light source; with the flash, subjects were well lit.

An image of a pink Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 on a blue and white background

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

8. Fujifilm Instax Mini 12

Quick snaps for (nearly) instant satisfaction

Specifications

Photo type/size: Fujifilm instax mini (1.8 x 2.4 inches)
Camera Size: 4.1 x 4.8 x 2.6 inches
microSD slot: No
Smartphone app: No
Camera Weight: 10.8 ounces
Battery: 2 AA batteries, included (approx. 100 shots)

Reasons to buy

+
Dead simple: just point and shoot
+
Powerful flash provides good fill
+
Convenient close-up mode
+
Five fun color options

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't turn flash off
-
Tiny viewfinder
-
No digital storage
-
No smartphone app

The Instax Mini 12 is the perfect camera when you want to capture a moment without having to think about how to do it. And coming in five pastel color options, the camera itself adds to the festive mood.

The Instax Mini 12 is an entirely analog experience, with no accompanying smartphone app to make adjustments or send images to another device. The camera furnishes just a single adjustment: turning the lens barrel one click sets it to shoot at a normal distance of 11.8 inches to infinity; turning another click sets it for close-ups in the 11.8- to 19.7-inch range. The latter is handy for sharp, well-proportioned selfies (which you can frame in a tiny mirror next to the lens). Despite the camera's simplicity, Fujifilm provides above-average print documentation with shooting tips and detailed specs.

The flash is always on, which is generally a good thing. It provided well-balanced fill light for outdoor daytime portraits and indoor shots by low light. But the option to turn it off would be nice to soften the look of close-ups like selfies. Framing shots in the tiny optical viewfinder is a tad tricky. You'll see nothing if your eye is placed even a few millimeters off center.

Images show deeply saturated colors and strong contrast. Both provide pleasing definition in some shots but can obscure details, such as print patterns, in others. The 60mm-equivalent focal length is in a good range for solo portraits or tight shots of a few friends — perfect for a quick-sharing social camera. The results are nearly immediate, with photos developing in 90 seconds. At 1.8 x 2.4 inches, the Fujifilm Instax Mini's photos are among the smallest from today's instant cameras: fine for passing around or slipping into a pocket or wallet, but maybe not long-term keepers. At about 75 cents apiece, the photos are affordable, but not the cheapest: Kodak's similarly sized Zink film, for instance, costs about 50 cents per shot.

best instant cameras – Fujifilm Instax Wide 300

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

9. Fujifilm Instax Wide 300

Great for landscape and group shots

Specifications

Photo type/size: Fujifilm Instax Wide (3.8 x 2.4 inches)
Camera Size: 6.6 x 3.7 x 4.7 inches
microSD card slot: No
Smartphone app: No
Weight: 1.4 pounds
Battery: 4 AA batteries, included

Reasons to buy

+
Prints wide-aspect photos
+
Large but comfortable to hold
+
Powerful flash

Reasons to avoid

-
No digital storage
-
No smartphone app

The Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 is a bulky beast. It has a 114-mm, f/14 lens and uses only Instax Wide film for a picture that's ideal for capturing landscapes or groups of people. While the camera has a digital readout, it has fewer controls than the Mini 90.

It includes a snap-on close-up lens which is easy to lose. The camera's auto flash optimizes the lighting according to distance, and you can choose the fill-in flash with a flash-on LCD button. 

The best thing about the Instax Wide 300 is the size of its pictures: They are big. And despite the camera's weight, its handgrip makes it comfortable to hold. Daylight images were bright with accurate color, though the focus was a bit soft. The default focus distance is almost 9 feet. Unlike some Instax cameras, the Wide 300 lets you twist the lens one way to focus from 3 to 9 feet and the other way to capture images from 9 feet and up.

The Wide 300's powerful flash is a real help when shooting photos at night, especially when the subject is close, and a handy tripod socket lets you anchor the camera for a steadier shot. A combination of the infinity setting, the auto flash and a light source produced bright images at night within the shooting range. However, the Wide 300's flash fires automatically in some situations, which can overexpose some photos.

best instant cameras: Canon Ivy Cliq+2

(Image credit: Canon)

10. Canon Ivy Cliq+2

A large selfie mirror and a slim design

Specifications

Photo type/size: Zink (2 x 3 inches)
Camera Size: 4.8 x 3.2 x 0.8 inches
microSD card slot: Yes
Smartphone app: Yes
Weight: 9 ounces
Battery: Approx. 40 shots; built in/rechargeable

Reasons to buy

+
Slim design
+
Makes good prints
+
Lets you print photos from smartphone
+
Lots of fun filters

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't selectively print photos from camera
-
No way to review photos on camera

The Canon Ivy Cliq+2 not only takes photos and prints them on Zink paper, but it can also connect to your smartphone and print photos from your mobile device, too. We liked the Cliq+2's clean, simple design and thin size, which made it pretty easy to fit in a pocket. Surrounding the lens is a circular mirror, for all those selfies you plan to take. 

We liked the quality of the images printed from the Cliq+2's 8MP camera, but didn't like the fact that we couldn't review the photos we took with the camera, nor select those we wanted to print. But, at $129-$149, it's not too pricey, and if you're looking for something less expensive, check out the Canon Ivy Cliq2 ($79), which has a 5MP sensor.

best instant cameras – Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

11. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6

This camera shoots large square prints

Specifications

Photo type/size: Fujifilm Instax Square (2.4 x 2.4 inches)
Camera Size: 5 x 4.7 x 2.3 inches
microSD card slot: No
Smartphone app: No
Weight: 13.9 ounces
Battery: 2 CR 2 batteries, included

Reasons to buy

+
Takes large, square prints
+
Self-timer
+
Accurate colors and skin tones

Reasons to avoid

-
Disappointing low-light performance
-
No digital storage
-
No smartphone app

Fujifilm's Instax Square SQ6 is the company's first fully analog square cam with a 65.75-mm lens. The camera features three focusing ranges: macro (1 to 1.6 feet), auto (1.6 to 6.6 feet) and landscape (6 feet and up).

Auto exposure control calculates the brightness to adjust the shutter speed and flash, but the SQ6 gives you plenty of flexibility, including flash suppression and various shooting modes. Whichever one you pick, the camera will make its own internal adjustments. The package also includes three color filters — orange, purple and green — that can be fitted over the flash to add a color cast to your photo.

The camera also includes a self-timer and a tripod mount. You get some control over your images — including flash and double exposure — but this camera gives you much larger square prints.

With the Automatic setting, the SQ6 captured accurate color and skin tones, though the image was not super sharp. As I got closer to the subject, the skin tones were truer, even with the flash on.

I managed to blow a shot by accidentally hitting the shutter button and ruined another shot when changing double exposure settings. 

A Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo on a yellow background

(Image credit: Future)

12. Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo

A fully-fledged digital camera with instant-print appeal

Specifications

Photo type/size: Fujifilm instax mini (1.8 x 2.4 inches)
Camera Size: 3.4 x 4.8 x 1.4 inches
microSD slot: Yes
Smartphone app: Yes
Camera Weight: 10.1 ounces
Battery: Approx. 100 shots (built in)

Reasons to buy

+
Photos show attractive color and exposure
+
Advanced controls
+
Large LCD for previews before printing
+
Dual shutter buttons

Reasons to avoid

-
Restrictive smartphone app
-
Expensive

The Instax Mini Evo merges the experience of a dedicated digital camera of the 2000s, the fun of 70s and 80s instamatics, and the design aesthetics of 50s and 60s SLRs. With a fake silvery-metal and leatherette finish, plus chunky dials and buttons, it provides tactile satisfaction and quick access to some key settings. The camera has two shutter buttons: one on top for shooting in landscape orientation and one on the front for portrait alignment. You can make many adjustments on the device, including exposure compensation, white balance presets, print style, and toggling off flash and face detection. All those capabilities cost, though: the camera will set you back over $200.

The diminutive 1.8- x 2.4-inch Instax Mini prints (costing about 75 cents each) generally achieve a good balance in both color saturation and brightness, and the fill-flash lit faces in outdoor shots pretty well. Colors were just a tad muted compared to some Kodak camera images using its Zink printing tech. Unlike all-analog models (such as the instax mini), the Evo captures digital images that you can preview on the generous 3-inch and slightly tweak — orientation, brightness, and color vividness (with a dreamy "natural" option) — before committing to a print. Fujifilm's mobile app doesn't allow much control of settings, but can send smartphone images to the camera's printer. (Going the other way, you can transfer the Evo's digital images to a computer using the camera's microSD card slot.)

A wheel on the top cycles through 10 simulated film styles (a hallmark feature of all Fujifilm digital cameras). But the effects were slight: Canvas, for instance, produced a chalky appearance, Vivid made no discernible difference, and Monochrome looked faded. A ring around the lens cycles through 10 effects, such as fisheye, vignette, and soft focus, all of which work as advertised.

A photo of the Kodak Printomatic set against a green background

(Image credit: Future)

13. Kodak Printomatic

A small, simple camera with handsome, compact prints

Specifications

Photo type/size: Kodak Zink (2 x 3 inches)
Camera Size: 4.8 x 3.1 x 1 inches
microSD slot: Yes
Smartphone app: No
Camera Weight: 7 ounces
Battery: Approx. 25 prints per charge (built in)

Reasons to buy

+
Very compact
+
Spacious optical viewfinder
+
Borderless printing
+
Six punchy body color options
+
Affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Flash inconsistent outdoors
-
No smartphone app
-
Orange hue to indoor photos
-
Hard to see framing guidelines

Like Fujifilm's Instax Mini cameras, the Kodak Printomatic Digital is a super-simple model for no-fuss shooting, with a shutter button and nothing else. Also like the mini, the Printomatic comes in a fun array of color options — in this case: yellow, gray, blue, pink, black, and green. But it's far slimmer and compact enough for a back pocket or small purse. The price is also tiny, at about $50.

Kodak's Zinc prints are slightly larger than Fujifilm's instax mini film because they print without borders. And they have very similar image quality, with deep colors and strong contrast –(though they tended to be a tad too dark in our tests). At about 50 cents each, Zink prints are cheaper than instax mini prints, and they feed directly into the printer, without requiring a cartridge. This eliminates bulk if you pack extras and cuts waste considerably. Since there's no app, you can't send photos from a smartphone to the camera's printer, but you can transfer its digital images to a computer using the camera's microSD card slot.

The biggest downside to the Printomatic is the fully automatic flash. It seems to trigger only when the entire scene is dark and can't recognize the need for fill flash when you are shooting a portrait of someone against a bright background, as on a sunny day. This resulted in faces being sometimes obscured in shadow. Fujifilm's decision to have the flash always on for the instax mini, while also not ideal, is still a safer option. In dimmer, more-even daylight, the flash provided good illumination for a selfie, But images shot under incandescent light were rather orangeyand selfies were hard to frame as the Printomatic doesn't have a front mirror for framing shots. Lining up regular shots in the viewfinder is also tricky. It provides an extra-wide view, with faint lines indicating the portion that will actually appear in the photo. 

An image of the Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro on a red background

(Image credit: Future)

14. Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro

A straightforward camera producing large, pleasing prints

Specifications

Photo type/size: Kodak Instant Print (3 x 3 inches)
Camera Size: 5.1 x 4.1 x 1.1 inches
microSD slot: No
Smartphone app: Yes
Camera Weight: 14.1 ounces
Battery: Approx. 25 prints per charge (built in)

Reasons to buy

+
Large prints with small border
+
Chunky retro aesthetic
+
Bright, colorful images
+
Great color fidelity
+
Cheap, easy to use paper

Reasons to avoid

-
Small pixelated LCD
-
Images can be too bright
-
Fill flash weak
-
Can't print images from smartphone
-
No digital storage

The Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro has a big, toy-like appearance that riffs on the nostalgic appeal of instant cameras. However, it has the digital convenience of letting you preview a photo before deciding to print it. That preview is pretty crummy, though, on the grainy, 1.8-inch LCD. And you can't tweak the photo — just select whether or not to print it. The Kodak Photo Print app doesn't provide control of the camera, but it allows you to edit smartphone images and send them to the camera's rather-good printer.

The prints are big and bright, with good color fidelity. They default to 3 x 3 inches — about the size of Polaroid's prints, but with very little border to take up extra space –(just a roughly quarter-inch strip at the bottom where you can write). You can also opt for borderless printing, which extends the print area. And image quality is radically better than Polaroid's low-fi prints. The photos are also quite cheap, at about 30 cents a pop. And Kodak's 4Pass film isn't susceptible to damage from ambient light during the development phase. (But it's power hungry, allowing just 25 prints per charge.) Speaking of light, the camera's flash produces reasonably strong fill-light for outdoor portraits against bright backgrounds.

An image of the Polaroid Now+ on a green background

(Image credit: Future)

15. Polaroid Now+

Strong image effects and very retro-looking images

Specifications

Photo type/size: Polaroid i-Type (3.11 x 3.11 inch)
Camera Size: 5.9 x 4.4 x 3.8 inches
microSD slot: No
Smartphone app: Yes
Camera Weight: 15.9 ounces
Battery: Approx. 120 prints per charge (built in)

Reasons to buy

+
Faithfully recreates vintage low-fi look
+
Fun photo borders in multiple colors and patterns
+
Brimming with digital and analog image effects

Reasons to avoid

-
Film very expensive
-
Film only available in packs of 8
-
No digital storage
-
Often over- or under-exposed
-
Images often blurry
-
Tedious development process

"The good ole days weren't always good," sang Billy Joel in the 1980s, when people were using traditional Polaroid instant cameras. The Now+ is the latest digital-analog hybrid to bring back that look, for good and bad. Polaroid's new i-Type film replicates the low-fi pictures that were never that great looking. Our test images were sometimes rather faded, and other times quite dark. Poor dynamic range blacked out the background when we used fill-flash to lighten up faces in outdoor portraits. If you crave the retro look, even at the expense of image quality, you may enjoy this camera. 

The Polaroid process is involved, too. Ejected photos hang out the front of the camera, covered in a black plastic sheet that has to remain in place for the 15-minute development process. This is not conducive to spontaneous shooting on the go. The bulky camera's one-pound heft is a further hindrance in that department.

The Now+ pictures are not only a far-cry from the digital quality we're used to on phones, but even from the better color, exposure, and dynamic range of rival instant cameras by Fujifilm and Kodak. We sent images of our test photos to Polaroid, which confirmed that the picture quality was as expected. 

Polaroids are more expensive, too. Its 3 x 3-inch (not counting the border) images run about $1.87 each. 

In contrast to its primitive image quality, the Now+ is brimming with advanced controls and effects, accessed through an attractive, intuitive smartphone app. You can take full manual control of the camera, setting shutter speed, aperture, and exposure compensation. (This didn't help image quality, though.) There's also a portrait mode for shallow depth of field, a tripod mode for long exposures, and a double exposure option. Light painting allows you to sketch out patterns that illuminate night shots. Polaroid also provides analog effects with five filters that fit over the lens, for instance, providing color casts. 

What to look for when buying an instant camera

Instant cameras are not exactly instant. You have to wait at least 90 seconds for the picture to "fill in" to view the finished result, but we often found it took several minutes for the completed image to fully bake, revealing richer color and sharper focus.

Zink vs. Fujifilm Instax

Some instant cameras use the Fujifilm Instax film cartridges, which come in several sizes and varieties. This is the photo paper that Polaroid cameras have traditionally used: the paper is exposed to light, and the chemicals react to produce an image. 

Other instant cameras use Zink paper, which uses heat to activate colors in the paper. The advantage to Zink is that you don’t have to worry about accidentally exposing the paper to light, as you do with Instax film. However, we’ve found that Zink prints tended to be less vibrant overall.

Does it print everything you shoot?

With traditional instant cameras, every photo you took was printed out. That's still the case for a good number of modern instant cameras, but given the cost of film, that approach can be very pricey — 50 cents and higher per shot, in some cases. However, some instant cameras now let you preview each shot so you can decide if you want to print it out or not. It could save you money in the long run.

Digital storage

While not universal, some of the new instant cameras have a microSD card slot, and save a digital copy of every photo you take. Not only does this make it easier to make a second print, but you can also share that photo on social media a lot more easily.

Smartphone app

Still other instant cameras can connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone app. This opens up a few more features, such as the ability to use the camera to print photos taken with your smartphone, add filters, stickers, and more.

Be sure to check out all of our camera picks:

Best cameras | Best DSLR cameras | Best action cameras | Best waterproof cameras | Best point-and-shoot cameras | Best mirrorless cameras | Best cheap cameras | Best GoPro camera | Best GoPro accessories | Best drones | Best 360 cameras | Best iPhone lenses | Best iPhone tripods |DSLR vs. mirrorless | Best Nikon accessories | Best Sony a6000 accessories


The best apps and software for editing, managing, and sharing your photos:
Best photo organizer apps | Best photo storage sites | Best photo editing software | Best photo editing apps | Best photo collage apps

Marc McLaren

Formerly Editor in Chief (U.K.) on Tom’s Guide, Marc oversaw all gaming, streaming, audio, TV, entertainment, how-to and cameras coverage, and was also responsible for the site’s U.K.-focused output. He is now U.K. Editor in Chief on TechRadar. Marc previously edited the tech website Stuff and has tested and written about phones, tablets, wearables, streaming boxes, smart home devices, Bluetooth speakers, headphones, games, TVs, cameras and much more. He also spent years on a music magazine, where his duties mainly involved spoiling other people’s fun, and on a car magazine. An avid photographer, he likes nothing better than taking pictures of very small things (bugs, his daughters) or very big things (distant galaxies). When he gets time, he also enjoys gaming (console and mobile), cycling and attempting to watch as much sport as any human can. He's also fallen in love with Wordle over the past six months and is the author of our today's Wordle answer column, in which he supplies hints and strategy tips for the mega-popular word game. Given he's completed every single Wordle so far and only lost once, and analyzed every Wordle answer in search of patterns, he's well qualified to help you safeguard your streak.

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