Best Instant Cameras and Films 2018

In the last few years, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of instant photography (Polaroid, Instax or other devices that allow instant printing of photos). This type of camera has been around since the end of the 1940s, but the market is currently undergoing expansion and attracting a growing number of consumers – both professionals and people who have never owned a camera before. Young people are also interested in this return to film photography in its most basic expression.

We were able to test quite a few of the available options – both different types of cameras and films. Here is our instant photography buyer’s guide which we hope will help you make the best choice with respect to your needs and budget.

Why buy an instant camera?

instant camera

Having an instant camera allows you to quickly share your photos with someone as well as to keep a "tangible" memento of an experience. With instant photos, you could easily illustrate a personal travel log or quickly give someone a photograph you have taken of them, etc.

At parties or at a wedding, instant photos can also be a fun way to capture memories of the events and to get everyone to participate in them.

If you already own an old Polaroid camera, Impossible Project will allow you to make use of it again thanks to its wide range of adaptable films. Other manufacturers, such as Fujifilm and Lomography have also made a name for themselves in the instant photography market by offering a whole range of cameras and films.

Different types of instant film

In the world of instant photography, there are many different types of camera available, but only a few different sorts of films.

Fujifilm Instax films

Nowadays, the most common type of film is the Fujifilm Instax Mini. The size of a credit or business cards, this format has replaced the traditional Polaroid film format and is used by all of Fujifilm’s instant cameras as well as by cameras from other manufacturers such as Lomography or Leica Sofort. A wider version, Fujifilm Instax Wide, is also available and can be used with certain cameras; this format more closely resembles the original Polaroid film format.

People who own Polaroid cameras can use them once more thanks to Impossible Project’s films which are of the same format as the film used by original Polaroid devices. This film is not inexpensive, but the manufacturer is constantly improving its chemical composition.

Fujifilm Instax films

Fujifilm Instax films

Now available in 3 different sizes, Fuji Instax films can be used with a wide range of compatible cameras.

The Mini format (54 x 86 mm), about the size of a credit card, is available in both Black & White and color. Several different border finishes are also available for the color film: black border, fantasy, etc.

Fujifilm Instax films

Several different border finishes are available for the mini format.

  • Instax Mini Standard: $13.44 per 20
  • Instax Mini Monochrome (black and white): from 10$ for 10 Exposures
  • Instax Mini fantasy: from 9,90$

The Wide format (108 x 86 mm) is twice as wide as the Instax Mini format.

Price: Fujifilm instax Wide Instant Film, 20 Exposures $18.95

Fujifilm Instax films

The Square format (62 x 62 mm) can only be used with the Instax Square SQ10 camera.

Fujifilm Instax films

Price:  Fujifilm Instax Square Instant Film – 10 Exposures (13.85$)

Impossible Project films

Fujifilm Instax films

In 2008, Impossible Project began producing traditional Polaroid film again; they decided to adhere to the product specifications of Polaroid devices while improving the chemical composition of the film.

These films make it possible to give new life to old Polaroid devices such as the SX-70 or 600. This manufacturer offers a wide range of quality films, but they are not inexpensive.

Also offering film for 8×10 format instant cameras, Impossible Project has recreated and improved upon traditional film formats which have been a part of photography history.

Starting at 15$ for a box of 8 films, many different types of film are available depending on the model of your Polaroid camera:

  • Impossible 600 Films,
  • Impossible SX–70 Films,
  • Impossible I–1 Films

The best instant camera for starting out

Fujifilm Instax Mini 8

Fujifilm Instax Mini 8

Easy to use, Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 8 is the simplest camera for people just starting out in the world of instant photography. 4 setting modes will allow you to adjust the power of the flash (which engages automatically) during focusing according to the camera’s recommendations. Powered by 2 CR2 batteries, the Mini 8 will be able to process 100 shots before running out of power. It weighs 307 grams (not including film, batteries or carrying strap).

Selling for under 67,62$, this is the perfect camera from becoming acquainted with instant photography, which requires some practice in order to master all of its subtleties.

This camera is compatible with the following films:

  • Fujifilm Instax Mini Color
  • Fujifilm Instax Mini Fantasy
  • Fujifilm Instax Mini Black & White.

The most versatile instant camera

Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic

Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic

The Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic has a very nice retro design. It is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery – a sizable advantage which allows it to have very good battery autonomy (according to the manufacturer it is able to process more than one pack of 10 films on a single battery charge).

This camera also has creative functions such the following modes: bulb, double exposure, party, kids, landscape, portrait, macro – which can be activated at the rear of the device or by means of the mode selector ring surrounding the retractable lens.

The quality of the images that it captures is very good; the photos it takes have good contrast and are very detailed provided that you use the right settings – you may need to take a few test shots in order to get the hang of the settings. After going through a pack of 10 films, you should already have a good idea of how to use the camera.

The flash can be deactivated and the camera’s exposure correction even allows Low-key and High-key effects. It weighs 296 grams (not including film, batteries, carrying strap).

Selling for around 112$, the Mini 90 Neo Classic will serve you well for a long time thanks to its extended functionality.

This camera is compatible with the following films:

  • Fujifilm Instax Mini Color
  • Fujifilm Instax Mini Fantasy
  • Fujifilm Instax Mini Black & White

Instax Square SQ10 the hybrid instant camera

Instax Square SQ10 the hybrid instant camera

Released in 2017, the Instax Square SQ10 is a hybrid model within the category of instant cameras. Equipped with a CMOS 1/4 inch sensor, internal memory (which can be extended by means of an SD card) as well as an LCD display, the SQ10 allows you to quickly touch up your photos before decided (or not) to print them on the new format of Instax Square film.

Selling for 240$, it did not convince us that combining digital and instant photography is such a good idea. You may want to wait for another manufacturer to offer a traditional camera that is able to use this new film format.

This camera is compatible with the following films:

  • Fujifilm Instax Square

Large formats

Fujifilm Instax Wide 300

Fujifilm Instax Wide 300

Having a design similar to that of the Mini 90, the Instax Wide 300 uses film which is twice as large as that used by the Mini 90 – Instax Wide film. Much more imposing/bulky this camera does not have all of the same shooting modes as the Mini 90. Exposure correction and flash adjustment are this camera’s only settings since this device is geared towards outdoor and landscape photography. This camera requires 4 AA batteries and weighs 612 grams.

Selling for under 86$, this Fujifilm camera offers a good solution for using larger format film – which is sold for the same price as the standard format film.

This camera is compatible with the following films:

  • Fujifilm Instax Wide Color

Lomo’Instant Wide

Lomo’Instant Wide

The Lomo’instant Wide uses the same large format film as the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 and has the added advantage of bulb and multiple exposure shooting modes as well as detachable lenses (as an option depending on the version) for taking even more creative shots. A wide angle lens (equivalent to 21 mm) as well as a viewfinder, a macro lens and a Splitzer lens are sold together in an accessories pack (retailing for 59.90€). Just like the Instax Wide, this camera requires 4 AA batteries. It weighs 639 grams.

Sold for 200€ (without the accessories pack), the Lomo’Instant Wide is geared towards users looking for an unconventional camera which is able to accommodate many creative accessories. It can also be purchased with the accessories pack for 239.90$.

This camera is compatible with the following films:

  • Fujifilm Instax Wide Color

High-end instant cameras

Impossible Project I–1
Impossible Project I–1

Tested by us at the moment of its release, the Impossible I–1 is the first device released by the Impossible Project brand to integrate digital technology into a film camera. The concept is promising. It uses an internal battery instead of batteries contained within the film refills; it has Bluetooth connectivity, a ring flash as well as numerous setting modes via its smartphone application.

Despite all this, the image quality of this device is not any better than what can be expected from a Polaroid camera and you will need to take a few test shots before getting the hang of manipulating this camera as well as its capricious focusing.

The Impossible Project is looking to make a name for itself in the high-end segment of the market, but for the moment we would recommend against buying this camera with the hope that the V2 will be more convincing.

The Impossible I–1 is available starting at 200$, to which 18$ need to be added for a box of 8 films – color or black and white.

This camera is compatible with the following films:

  • The Impossible Project I-type Color、
  • The Impossible Project I-type Black & White
  • The Impossible Project P600 Color
  • The Impossible Project P600 Black & White

Note: We have chosen not to include the Leica Sofort in our guide due to the fact that it did not sufficiently distinguish itself from the Instax Neo Classic 90, except in terms of its higher price.

Instant printers

Instant photography can also be done via portable instant printers which are able to print the photos taken with a smartphone by means of a WiFi connection.

To date, only Fujifilm offers a simple solution which is compatible with its Instax Mini film. The Impossible Project also offers Instant Lab, a solution for printing photos via a smartphone. The Instant Lab device will transfer the image being displayed onto an Impossible film – which must be properly installed in the device, and the final results are quite approximate.Instant printers

There are also printers which operate on the principle of thermal dye sublimation such as the Kodak models which we tested, but these printers are not really as “instant” as Fujifilm’s printer for example and are not as portable either.

The best instant printer: Instax Share SP–2

Instax Share SP–2

Newer than its sibling, the SP–1, the Instax Share SP–2 has a print resolution in excess of 800 x 600 points at 320 dpi as well as a battery pack which can be recharged via USB – whereas the SP–1 required CR2 batteries which are hard to come by.

The Instax Share SP-2 has good battery autonomy (around 50 photos worth) and uses Instax Mini films, which are readily available. This printer is capable of printing via the Instax Share mobile application, but is also able to print photos transferred from compatible Fujifilm cameras (X100T, X-T2, X-Pro2, as well as all Fuji cameras equipped with WiFi connectivity).

Sold for under 150$, Fujifilm’s Instax Share SP-2 printer is a good alternative to instant cameras and offers better image quality than Instax cameras.

This camera is compatible with the following films:

  • Fujifilm Instax Mini Color
  • Fujifilm Instax Mini Fantasy
  • Fujifilm Instax Mini Black & White

Instant photography, how much does it cost?

Instant photography

Sold in packages of 8 or 10 photos, film for instant photography has a rather high price per image cost, much in excess of the cost of traditional film photography.

The Impossible Project sells its film at a cost of around 18$ for 8 depending on the type of film and camera – translating into a cost of 2.25€ per photo. Fujifilm sells its box of 20 films – depending on the retailer – for around 12,50$ (at the time of publishing this article) – amounting to a cost of 0.625$ per photo.

This is a point in Fuji’s favor; in addition to offering a very decent price per photo, it charges the same price for all of its film sizes.

Instax Mini or Wide are therefore the least expensive alternatives for practicing instant photography. Depending on your needs and the Polaroid devices you may already own, you may want to turn towards Impossible’s line of films in order to give new life to your vintage cameras.

Fujifilm currently plays an important part in the instant photography market. This brand offers good-quality as well as reasonably priced cameras and films and is constantly releasing new fantasy film packs; it has even launched a new square film format, Instax Square.

No Comments - Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*