Best instant film camera

Camera & Photo

An instant film camera provides photos within minutes.

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Which instant film camera is best?

Although digital cameras see the most widespread use among professionals these days, many still love the unique experience of using an instant film camera. These cameras produce a physical photograph in a couple of minutes, providing a fun way to capture memories.

While the images produced may not be as high quality as their digital counterparts, the prints have a retro look. If you’re looking for versatility and a classic design, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 is the recommended pick.

What to know before you buy an instant film camera

How do instant film cameras work?

Instant film camera photos are the results of a chemical process. Once you press the button to take a picture, the camera’s shutter opens and briefly exposes the film to light, which triggers a chemical reaction. Each layer of film then reacts to a different color of light and gradually transforms into the captured image.

Commonly used terms

Exposure: This term refers to the overall brightness or darkness in a photograph. More exposure means more light, while less exposure results in a darker image. Look for an instant film camera that has exposure control or suggestions so you can adjust the exposure depending on your environment.

Shutter speed: Shutter speed refers to the length of time the film is exposed to light. For most instant film cameras, shutter speed control is via different modes. For example, action mode uses a fast shutter speed to capture objects in motion.

Viewfinder: Instant film cameras typically don’t feature LCD viewing screens, so you have to position your shot in the camera’s viewfinder. Since it’s simply a window built into your camera, viewfinder accuracy may vary depending on the model and the user’s skill level.

What to look for in a quality instant film camera

Common modes

Many of the different features and capabilities of an instant film camera are via its modes. Here are a few you might see while shopping for an instant film camera:

Double-exposure mode: This mode lets you take two photos and combine them, giving the image a unique look.

Macro mode: This mode lets you capture extremely detailed close-up shots.

Bulb mode: With this mode, the shutter remains open while you depress the button, giving your image a light-trail effect.

Action mode: This mode uses a fast shutter speed to capture moving objects.

Digital backup

Certain high-end instant film cameras let you save your pictures in the form of digital image files. You can upload these to your computer for editing or to share with your social media accounts.

Accessories

Most instant film cameras are compatible with accessories such as tripods, selfie mirrors and additional lenses. If these extras are important to you, look for an instant film camera that includes an accessory bundle. Among the items already listed, you also can purchase accessories such as cases and colored filters.

How much you can expect to spend on an instant film camera

Expect to pay $20-$200 for a quality instant film camera. However, you’ll incur additional costs when purchasing film, about $10-$30 for a pack of 20.

Instant film camera FAQ

Will any instant film work with your instant film camera?

A. No. An instant film camera can only use film compatible with its brand. Using any other brand’s film could damage your camera or ruin the film.

How do you post your instant film pictures on social media?

A. Assuming your model is unable to save digital copies of your photographs, the only way to share your images is scan them with a scanner or use your smartphone or a digital camera to take pictures of them.

What’s the best instant film camera to buy?

Top instant film camera

Fujifilm Instax Mini 90

Fujifilm Instax Mini 90

What you need to know: This instant film camera is versatile and loaded with features.

What you’ll love: Backed by Fujifilm’s stellar reputation, this camera is packed with capabilities including double-exposure mode, macro mode and bulb mode. It also comes with an adjustable flash feature and a rechargeable battery.

What you should consider: The high price of film makes it difficult to freely experiment with different modes. Some users found the viewfinder to be inaccurate.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top instant film camera for the money

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

What you need to know: A simplified version of the top pick, this affordable camera is great for travelers.

What you’ll love: This instant film camera has more than a dozen color options. Lightweight and compact, it features auto flash and auto exposure settings in addition to a built-in selfie mirror.

What you should consider: You can’t mount this portable instant film camera on a tripod and it lacks a timer function. Like the top pick, the film for this camera isn’t cheap.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Polaroid One Step 600 Instant Camera

Polaroid One Step 600 Instant Camera

What you need to know: Boasting the iconic Polaroid appearance, this camera is great for producing vintage-looking photos.

What you’ll love: This instant film camera has an auto-flash feature and produces prints that are notably larger than other cameras’ prints. Photos are high quality and clear, featuring a distinctly retro appearance.

What you should consider: This instant film camera is bulkier than other models and Polaroid film is expensive. Some users report the hinged flash part is difficult to close.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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