The best instant film camera
Although film cameras have faded away in favor of digital cameras, there's one segment of film cameras that still has a strong following. Instant film cameras use special packs of film, creating a print within a couple of minutes of taking the shot, which is great to use for fun selfies or while on a vacation.
Instant film cameras don't have the greatest image quality, especially compared to prints you can make from a digital camera or a smartphone camera, but they are popular because they're fun to use. Our favorite instant film camera is the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 because it has a cool retro style with reasonable image quality.
Considerations when choosing instant film cameras
All instant film cameras use a similar chemical process to create the instant prints. It's best to pay attention to some of the following factors to find the best model for your needs:
Automatic features: If you use an advanced digital camera regularly, you may be disappointed to find instant cameras work primarily as automatic cameras. You won't have a lot of manual control over the print quality or the light the camera measures.
Instant print size: Instant film cameras will create prints that have varying sizes. A print that's about 2.5 inches square is a common size. However, some prints are quite a bit smaller or larger. Some prints are so small that they're not useful, so look at a camera's print size before making a purchase.
Camera size: Some instant film cameras have a boxy shape, meaning they require a lot of storage space. Others are small or can fold down to a small size, making them easier to store or carry.
Although instant print cameras don't have a lot of advanced features, there are a few options you may want in your instant camera:
Digital copies: Some instant film cameras will save a digital copy of the photo at the same time they make a print. You then can upload those digital photos to your computer or to social media.
Double exposure: This feature allows you to shoot two photos back to back, merging the images into one print. This is an interesting way to create an artistic photo.
Macro: If you'd like to shoot close-up photos that sharply showcase details of an object, look for an instant print camera that has a macro mode.
Selfie mirror: Some cameras have a mirror on the front that allows you to properly aim the instant film camera for a selfie. However, this feature's accuracy varies from one camera design to another.
Tripod: Some instant print cameras will have a tripod port on the bottom. This gives you an option to shoot photos without worrying about camera shake.
Viewfinder: Instant film cameras rarely have LCD screens, so you'll frame the scene with the viewfinder window. This is not like a viewfinder that you'd see on a DSLR camera, which shows the scene through the lens. Instead, this is a simple window designed to help you aim the camera, but it may not work perfectly every time.
Simple instant film cameras cost $25 to $50. More advanced models can cost $50 to $200. You'll also have ongoing costs for film packs, about $10 to $30 for 20 shots.
Q. Is there any way to speed up the development of the instant print?
A. No. Some people try to shake the print to speed up the process, but this could shift the chemicals and actually damage the print. Waiting for the print to develop requires patience and is part of the fun.
Q. Can I use any instant film with my instant camera?
A. No. Film packs are specifically made for particular brands and models of instant cameras. Only use film that's compatible with your camera, or you could cause a jam that ruins the film pack.
Instant film cameras we recommend
Best of the best: Fujifilm's Instax Mini 90
Our take: This instant film camera is fun to use, and it has a great-looking retro design that adds to its appeal.
What we like: Has some special-effect shooting options, such as a self-timer. Uses a rechargeable battery.
What we dislike: Replacement film is costly. The viewfinder doesn't perfectly frame the scene versus what's seen on the film.
Best bang for your buck: Fujifilm's Instax Mini 9
Our take: With a low price and limited control features, this easy-to-use instant camera is perfect for kids or beginners.
What we like: Image quality is better than you'd expect. Camera has a small size, so it's great for carrying on trips or excursions.
What we dislike: Limited list of features. No self-timer to help with selfies.
Choice 3: Polaroid's One Step Close-Up 600
Our take: Has a design that may remind you of the original Polaroid instant cameras.
What we like: Photo prints are of a better-than-average size, delivering a reasonable level of quality.
What we dislike: Film packs are expensive. Camera is a larger size than others.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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