I used this instant camera to document my 900-mile road trip — and you can get it on sale right now

Instax Mini 12
(Image credit: Future)

As much as I love the camera quality of my iPhone 15 Pro Max, I rarely find time to organize and print out the images stored on my smartphone for a photo book. Call me old-school, but I like collecting physical photos to commemorate special life experiences. That’s precisely why I adore instant cameras, and why I brought one with me to document my recent multi-day road trip.

The best instant cameras let you capture and print pictures using film that dispenses and develops within a few minutes. There are several solid options on the market, but my current instant camera of choice is the Fujifilm Instax Mini 12. One loaded cartridge of compatible film prints 10, 2 x 3-frames that fit perfectly in a wallet.

As I kicked off a 900-mile drive from Jacksonville, FL to New York, NY, I added a fresh set of batteries to my mint-green Fujifilm Instax Mini 12. It comes in five colors, four of which are currently on sale for $69 at Amazon. The camera alone normally costs $79, though there are accessory bundles that include cases, extra film and colorful photo frames.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 12: was $79 now $69 @ Amazon

Fujifilm Instax Mini 12: was $79 now $69 @ Amazon
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 is the ideal camera for documenting life and printing memories. Anyone can pick up this camera, shoot and print their photos with no fuss. It's endless fun in a compact package.

I made stops at top-rated restaurants, famous sightseeing spots and homes of friends I don’t get to see often. In Charleston, I took a photo of possibly the best barbecue plate I’ve ever eaten in my life at Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ. The Instax Mini 12’s automatic flash control made sure I could see all the food in the photo, even though the lighting in the restaurant was kind of dark.

Next, in Charlotte, I snapped a selfie of me and my pal from high school enjoying pilsners at one of the city’s 40+ breweries. The Instax Mini 12 has a cleverly placed mirror on the front that made sure I got both of us — and our beers — in frame. 

Finally, outside of Washington D.C., I captured a picture of The Awakening sculpture, which depicts a giant aluminum man rising from the sands of National Harbor. I used the Instax Mini 12’s close-up mode with parallax correction to help with framing the sculpture’s face in front of the Potomac River. 

As a result, I completed my drive with more than a dozen pictures from my trip to add to my photo book. Back home, I keep this $12 album from Amazon that fits 256 of the 2 x 3-inch frames taken with an Instax Mini camera. Now, the snapshots from my most recent adventure can sit alongside ones from birthday celebrations, holiday gatherings and more.

Album for Fujifilm Instax Mini Camera: $12 @ Amazon

Album for Fujifilm Instax Mini Camera: $12 @ Amazon
This photo album holds 256, 2 x 3-inch frames taken with an Instax Mini 12 (or earlier Instax Mini camera.) It comes a few color options and is perfect for keeping your memories organized in one place.

While I’m committed to the Instax Mini and its specific film size, Fujifilm makes a few different styles of instant cameras that are compatible with different film types. That’s to say, there’s some alternatives if you’re considering an instant camera for your next trip. But if you’re looking for the most compact and beginner-friendly, I find the Instax Mini 12 is a practically-foolproof choice for the price.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.