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The Best Instant Cameras 2019 : Which Instant Camera Is The Best?

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In a world where we consume everything at speed with the patience of a 5-year-old who needs a nap, instant cameras don’t seem like such a crazy idea. The likes of Polaroid cameras were hugely popular in the 1970s and 1980s. But after the dawn of the 21st century with the explosion of digital and of course smartphones, grainy blurred prints from retro cameras were out and shiny new tech took over. Owning a retro camera with physical film that god forbid you had to install yourself was seen as a niche, hipster hobby for ‘those creative folk’ with an ironic dress sense who live in a house share of twelve people in Brighton! Probably. Yet today, instant cameras are becoming more popular as an alternative to unimaginative smartphones, so finding which one would best suit your budget, capabilities and personality is important.

Why buy an instant camera?

So you can “shake it like a Polaroid picture” of course!

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BUT alas no! Because if you do this you will actually mess up the print. I have a Polaroid Sun 600 and upon discovering the art of instant cameras I shook my expensive developed film with much enthusiasm… and realised I absolutely fecked it! There are however other fine reasons why buying an instant camera is actually worth it.

One of those is the theatrical display of seeing an image you have taken materialise in real time. No matter how old you are, watching a blank piece of photographic paper being spat out of camera and then slowly explode with colour, is a magic trick that never gets old. An instant camera takes out the OCD habits of expecting a picture to be 110% of pixelated perfection. There is no quick delete button as you retake your girlfriend’s pain in the arse photo shoot, she has forced you into! You hit the shutter-release button and whatever is produced is minus the safety blanket of “hold on… wait… I wasn’t ready… delete that… do it again!”

Owning an instant camera is all about keeping things simple. Another pull for these types of cameras is being able to hold a photograph in your hand and display it somewhere that isn’t online. So many of us now have albums of thousands of photographs on our phones that simply never go anywhere except for social media. Sometimes it’s just nice to be able to adopt the ‘old skool’ methods of developing a photo and putting it on your fridge door! For me, life exists past the filters of an Instagram photo. So, having images of my loved ones scattered around me is crucial.

Which is the best instant camera to buy?

You’re in luck! Here are my top 5 best instant cameras for beginners!

If you’re looking for a fun entry level instant camera, then you need to check out the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9. This camera is powered by two AA batteries and it’s a cheap option for those looking for a simple intro to instant print cameras. It’s super easy to use and comes in a range of attention seeking colours! It produces credit card sized prints (6.2x4.6cm) and you can get 20 prints in a pack that will set you back around £15.

Film type: Fujifilm instax mini

Image size: 6.2x4.6cm

Lens: 60mm f/12.7

Min shooting distance: 35cm

Flash: Built in

Exposures: Sunny, Cloudy, Indoor and Hi-Key

Pros: Fun colour range, Easy to use, Selfie mode.

Cons: Bulky and plastic looking, Flash can’t be deactivated, Easy to obstruct the viewfinder

If it’s larger prints you want, then the Fujifilm instax WIDE 300 is the chunky monkey that you need! This camera requires four AA batteries which is necessary to power the older larger sibling in the instax range from Fujifilm. Looks can be deceiving as it is fairly light despite the bulk, but I wouldn’t suggest taking a selfie with it! The photo dimensions are similar to that of standard prints at 99x62mm so you are able to produce photographs that look like the generic size we are used to. A set of 20 films will cost around £17.

Film type: Fujifilm instax WIDE

Image size: 99x62mm

Lens: 95mm f/14

Min shooting distance: 40cm

Flash: Built in

Exposures: Dark, Normal, Light

Pros: Simple to use, Large prints

Cons: Chunky plastic design, Small viewfinder

If you want to marry the old with the new when it comes to instant print technology, then a Kodak Printomatic might be your pick. The iconic yellow-white design of Kodak looks very cool and feels a lot more solid and put together than other pocket or mini instant cameras on the market. This camera uses ZINK technology (zero ink) and essentially acts as a mini printer producing prints slightly smaller than the size of a credit card. (2x3 inches) It also houses a microSD slot and a USB connection so you can charge your Kodak. The prints are water-resistant and will cost around £25 for 50. The only thing with this instant camera, is that the photographs do not emerge as if by magic like the other cameras, they are churned out more like a photocopy which for me somewhat loses the fun.

Film type: ZINK

Image size: 2x3 inches

Lens: 8mm f/2

Min shooting distance: Unknown

Flash: Built in

Shooting modes: Colour and Black & White

Pros: Portable, MicroSD card slot

Cons: Prints resemble photocopies rather than actual photographs

If you’re a hopeless romantic when it comes to owning retro-styled items, then Lomography has always been a winner when it comes to their vintage inspired cameras. The Lomo’Instant Automat is slightly more advanced than the other contenders, but it’s still an entry level point and shoot instant camera. This instant print camera is run on CR2 batteries instead of the easier accessible AAs and it is started by turning the lens barrel. There are various editions to this Lomography model, all of which sets the bar high for looking like a more expensive instant camera. The Lomo’Instant Automat takes the same film as the Fujifilm instanx mini (6.2x4.6cm). Whether you are wanting to take a selfie or snap your cousin’s Bar Mitzvah, this camera isn’t worlds away from its Fujifilm instax mates mentioned above. It’s all about the look! I think the Lomo’Instant Automatic would be chosen purely on style.

Film type: Fujifilm instax mini

Image size: 6.2x4.6cm

Lens: 60mm f/8

Min shooting distance: 35cm

Exposures: Auto, Bulb

Flash: Built in

Pros: Uses the same film as the Fujifilm instax mini, Looks retro AF!

Cons: Small viewfinder, Uses CR2 batteries.

Last but not least we have the instant camera that comes from a long line of innovators in the family of instant print. Polaroid is like Sellotape. It may just be the name of the brand, but when people talk about instant cameras, they will reference it as a Polaroid camera even if you’re holding a Kodak or Lomo. If you’re wanting a piece of the Polaroid pie, then look no further than the attractively retro Polaroid Originals One Step 2. The original Polaroid brand may have folded with no longer producing the films, but this instant camera should satisfy the nostalgic nerds amongst you! This design is inspired from the 1977 OneStep but boasts a couple of modern upgrades like a USB port for charging. This renewed Polaroid OneStep produces square format prints measuring 108x88mm and uses Polaroid I-Type and 600 film. This unfortunately means that you will be paying a lot more for film than you would with the other instant cameras out there at around £15 for just 8 films. But if you are wanting to dip into the charm of a retro inspired instant camera from a household brand, then this Polaroid is a no brainer!

Film type: I-Type or 600

Image size: 108x88mm

Lens: 106mm

Min shooting distance: 60cm

Flash: Built in

Focus modes: Macro, Normal, Landscape.

Pros: Simple buttons, Ace retro design, Self-Timer.

Cons: Film is expensive.