In a world of smartphones and digital photos, instant cameras create physical prints, which you can hold in your hand just seconds after clicking the shutter. They offer an exciting and unique way to capture a moment in time - without reaching for your mobile.
Display the snapshots around your home, keep them in a photo album or hand them out to friends and family as mementos of special occasions.
Are instant cameras worth it?
There’s no getting around it: instant photography is fairly expensive. While the cameras themselves are much cheaper than digital alternatives, the film comes at a cost.
Depending on the camera and film you use, you could be paying up to £3 per shot. Over time, this will add up - particularly if you’re an enthusiastic snapper. However, lots of the most popular types of instant film are more affordable, at around 75p per shot.
Many people choose instant cameras over regular film cameras to avoid the physical trip and lengthy wait for a photo shop to develop the prints. Plus, instant photography is a fun and exciting way to record your memories.
Is an instant camera the same as a Polaroid?
Polaroid is arguably the most famous instant camera brand, but there are a few other manufacturers in the market too. Fujifilm’s Instax range is also popular among photographers, and you can find options from brands like Kodak and Lomography too.
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The best instant cameras to add to your shopping basket
Instax Mini 11 Camera
You’ve probably seen this trendy instant camera in the arms of people out and about - or proudly on display in Instagram ‘shelfies’. The satisfying curved shape, the range of eye-catching colour options and sub-£80 price tag make this little gadget a popular accessory.
So, what’s included? Well, the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed according to the brightness of your environment, so your image should never be too light or dark.
There’s also a selfie lens and mirror, and a built-in flash for indoor and night-time shooting.
Polaroid Go Instant Camera
Measuring just 11.3 x 6.6 x 6.1cm, this little instant camera couldn’t get much cuter. It’s designed to fit in your coat pocket, and comes with a handy rechargeable battery.
Unlike some instant cameras, this one can take double exposures - ideal for creating arty shots. It also has a self-timer and a mirror to capture perfect selfies.
In darker environments, you’ll have the option to use the in-built flash.
Instax Square SQ1 Instant Camera
As you might guess from the name, this neat instant camera creates square photos, a function reflected in its square shape.
There are three colours available: ‘glacier blue’, ‘chalk white’ and ‘terracotta orange’. Whichever you choose, you’ll get useful features like automatic exposure for light, bright photos, a built-in flash and a selfie mode with a mirror to check your framing.
Ergonomic, textured hand grips make this one of the best instant cameras for day trips, as the camera is easy to hold when you’re on the move.
Kodak Smile Classic Digital Instant Camera
With Bluetooth connectivity and a companion app, this instant camera combines the excitement of immediate prints with the practicality of being able to edit and store your photos.
Once you’ve taken your snapshots, you’ll be able to add borders, filters and stickers in Kodak’s app. You can even use AR effects.
Either sync the photos to your phone, save them onto a micro SD card using the handy slot, or share them to social media. You can tell your Kodak Smile to print out the images you love the most.
As for the design, you get a quirky pop-up viewfinder, rechargeable battery and an automatic flash. For group shots, you can trigger the shutter remotely using the app.
An extra benefit of the Kodak Smile photo paper is the peel-off backing, which transforms them into stickers - perfect for adding into scrapbooks or notepads.
Polaroid Now Instant Camera
With their vibrant housing, it’s hard to ignore these sweet instant cameras from the Polaroid Now range. They’re modelled on the original Polaroid OneStep from the 1970s and available in seven different colours, plus black and white.
Autofocus and built-in double exposure make this camera a great choice, and it comes with a flash and a nine-second timer for group shots. The rechargeable battery makes it easy to top up the power.
Each camera measures 15 x 11.2 x 9.4cm, so you can slip it into your bag or coat pocket as you head out for the day.
Instax Mini 40 Camera
A smart black exterior with silver detailing makes this instant camera a winner for any instant photography nuts who are after a slightly more mature design. Thanks to its classic look and understated colouring, it’s ideal for formal occasions like weddings and graduations.
Like all the best instant cameras, it comes with a selfie lens and mirror, and automatically measures the brightness to find the perfect shutter speed.
Lomography Lomo'Instant Automat Suntur Instant Camera
An instant camera for proper photography fanatics, this fun accessory goes one step further than most designs available on the market.
Rather than offering double exposures, it can create unlimited multiple exposures. And as well as automatic aperture and shutter speed adjustment, it has exposure compensation control to manually create lighter or darker images.
Select f/8 or f/16 aperture, and switch between the three zone focusing options: 0.6 m, 1-2m or infinity. You can also swap between auto shooting mode for immediate snaps, and bulb, for a 30-second exposure. Plus, there’s remote shutter release when you want to take selfies or group photos.
This instant camera also comes with coloured gel filters and three lens attachments for achieving different effects: fisheye, wide-angle and close-up. And if you’re wondering about the unusual design on the housing, it’s created by the famous Thai artist, Suntur.
Fujifilm Instax Instax Mini LiPlay Hybrid Instant Camera
This rechargeable device from Fujifilm offers a modern take on quick photography. It’s an instant camera, digital camera and printer all rolled into one - and it comes with a companion app for managing your snaps.
Perhaps the most unusual and exciting feature is its audio recording function. The camera captures a short sound clip for each shot and stores it in a QR code printed onto the physical photo. Just scan the code to hear the moment play out again.
There’s also an LCD screen on the back of the camera, which sets it apart from others on the market.
Of course, you’ll also get lots of the more familiar features of the best instant cameras, like a selfie mirror and a slot for a Micro SD card. Before printing, you can edit your snaps with a selection of 30 frames and filters.
Love displaying your photos? Take a look at these digital photo frames for instant image sharing.
Alice is a digital writer with a knack for tracking down the most innovative and exciting products to hit the market. Working across several of Our Media's special interest brands, she's written for publications including Countryfile, Gardens Illustrated and Science Focus. Outside of work - and lusting over homeware and gardening products - you’ll find her rambling in the great outdoors or watching an old film.