Instant cameras can be a lot of fun, but many produce photos that are wallet-size at best. The $149 Kodak Smile Classic turns out photos that are not only great to look at, but pretty friggin' huge, too. Plus, you can also use Kodak's device to print out photos from your smartphone, bringing this retro-styled camera into the digital age. Although you'll pay for the camera — and the paper — it's the best instant camera if you're looking to make nice large prints.
Digital instant camera design falls into two categories: The more popular is a rectangular shape that evokes budget point-and-shoots. Rarer are the ones that look like the Polaroid cameras of old. Polaroid (actually, companies that licensed the Polaroid brand name) leaned into this with the Polaroid OneStep ($99), and Kodak's license-holders have followed suit with the Kodak Smile Classic.
The Kodak Smile Classic is a bit more compact than the OneStep, but at 7.5 x 6.5 x 3 inches and weighing 1 pound, it still isn't something you're going to stuff into a pocket.
The front of the Smile Classic, where the lens and flash reside, is a bit taller than the rear. A slider switch along the left side both turns on the camera and causes the viewfinder to pop up, a fun little design feature. The top has a shutter button and one to set a 10-second delay, while the right side has a micro USB port to charge the camera, as well as a microSD card slot. Paper loads via a large door on the camera's bottom.
The Kodak Classic app (Android, iOS) lets you print photos from your smartphone using the camera. Here, you can apply filters, edit the photo (crop, adjust contrast, warmth and brightness, etc.) add text, stickers and borders. It doesn't break any ground, but it's fun and easy to use.
You can also add AR elements, such as face filters and videos, to an image. After you print a photo, if you or someone else scans it with a smartphone camera using the Kodak Smile app, the filter or video will appear on their smartphone. It's amusing, but I don't think many people will download an app just for this feature.
Pictures snapped with the Smile Classic have a faded look, as if you rediscovered a shoebox of photos taken in the late 1970s. If you like that aesthetic, then this is the camera for you. In general, though, I was pleased with the quality of the prints, which had plenty of detail and color.
The Kodak Smile Classic takes very large prints — 4.25 x 3.5 inches in size, which are a lot more rewarding than the smaller prints from other digital cameras. The Fujifilm Instax Wide is the next closest in size, with 3.8 x 2.4-inch prints. The only catch is that the Kodak's Zink paper is expensive, at about $1 per page. Considering the camera prints a photo every time you press the shutter, that can add up to an expensive proposition.
You can also use the Smile Classic as a Bluetooth printer when connected to your smartphone via the Kodak Classic app. These photo prints also came out really well — more akin to modern photos, with more saturated colors, and details were fairly sharp. It was also very easy to edit the photos within Kodak's app, adding effects and the like.
Old-school Polaroid photos were a pleasing 3.1 inches square, so there's something even more satisfying about the large prints that come out of the Kodak Smile Classic. I wish the camera gave you the option of choosing which photos you wanted to print. And even though you have to put up with its bulkiness, the Kodak Smile Classic is some good retro fun.