Reviews You Can Rely On

The 5 Best Instant Cameras of 2023

We assessed hundreds of snapshots from instant cameras by Fujifilm, Polaroid, Canon, Kodak, and Lomography to find the best
Best Instant Camera of 2023
The newest models from the biggest brands that we tested this year
Credit: Abriah Wofford
By Genaveve Bradshaw, Laura Casner, and Adam Yee  ⋅  Dec 14, 2022

We took hundreds of photos with the 14 most promising instant cameras on the market in a quest to find the best methods for documenting your next adventure. We brought our cameras to dimly lit parties, bright and sunny beach days, and everything in between, all to assess how each performs in a wide range of conditions. We also dove into every advanced setting and creative mode each model offers. Our results cover everyone, from bargain hunters to those seeking the best picture quality to creatives who want as many artistic options as possible.

Photography is among the most important aspects of our lives, whether we realize it or not. From snapping fun selfies for our social media to monitoring nature for educational or safety purposes, capturing images in our daily lives is a way to connect, learn, and savor the best parts of life. All kinds of gadgets, from a good ring light to the best photo printers can help you enhance and save every moment. Whether you're a budding photographer or a seasoned veteran, there's always more to explore.

Editor's Note: This review was updated on December 14, 2022, to add in 5 new cameras from Fujifilm, Kodak, Lomography, and Polaroid.

Top 14 Product Ratings

Displaying 1 - 5 of 14
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Awards Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $160 List
$149.94 at Amazon
$199 List$140 List
$118.86 at Amazon
$170 List$130 List
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Lots of creative options, convenient size, great image quality, can save photos and view before printingGorgeous prints, lots of creative features, simple user interfaceEasy to use, stylish aesthetic, selfie modeDurable, comfortable to use, creative optionsDurable, user friendly, adjusts well to different lighting
Cons Mild learning curve to ensure prints come out well in different lighting situationsProne to jamming, expensive, on the heavy sideNo timer button, inaccurate film counterLearning curve, heavy for its size, super contrasty prints with dark lightingA slight learning curve, tends to shoot dark, on the heavy side
Bottom Line A hybrid that utilizes the best parts of digital and film, all in one convenient little packageA beautiful machine that produces stunning wide-format images with a vintage appealEasy to use and easy on the eyes, this point-and-shoot camera is the best choice for those looking for a simple and fun film experienceA nice mid-sized option with lots of features that adapts well to different lighting conditionsA visually pleasing blend of modern instant camera tech with old-fashioned film appeal
Rating Categories Fujifilm Instax Min... Lomography Lomo'Ins... Fujifilm Instax Squ... Fujifilm Instax Squ... Fujifilm Instax Wid...
Image Quality (40%)
7.5
9.5
7.5
6.5
6.5
User Friendliness (30%)
8.1
6.1
8.2
7.5
7.4
Features (15%)
9.0
7.0
6.6
7.6
7.4
Battery (15%)
9.0
9.0
9.0
9.5
9.0
Specs Fujifilm Instax Min... Lomography Lomo'Ins... Fujifilm Instax Squ... Fujifilm Instax Squ... Fujifilm Instax Wid...
Film Cost Per Photo (approx) $0.50 $0.85 $0.90 $0.85 $0.95
Film Capacity 10 shots 10 shots 10 shots 10 shots 10 shots
Battery Capacity Claimed: 40 prints per charge
Tested: About 5 packs or 50 prints; camera lasted a surpisingly long time when it read as "out of battery"
Claimed: 30 Instax Square 10-pack
Tested: Accurate; the same batteries it came with were used throughout all of testing
Claimed: 30 film packs
Tested: never had to change batteries
Claimed: None
Tested: The same batteries it came with were used throughout all of testing
Claimed: 30 Instax Square 10-pack
Tested: Accurate; the same batteries it came with were used throughout all of testing
Power Supply Built-in rechargeable battery (Micro USB) Four size AA 1.5 V alkaline batteries 2 CR2 batteries 4 x AA batteries Two CR2/DL CR2 lithium batteries
Dimensions (as per manufacturer) 122 mm x 79 mm x 23 mm 167.8 mm x 94.7 mm x 120.9 mm (excluding protrusions) 130.7 mm × 118.6 mm × 57.5 mm 190.5 mm x 95.25 mm x 120.65 mm 118.7 mm x 128.1 mm x 58.1 mm (excluding protrusions)
Weight (as per manufacturer) 16 oz 21.6 oz (without battery, strap, film pack, and close up lens) 13.8 oz 27.7 oz (without strap) 10.4 oz (without battery, strap, and film pack)
Picture Size (as per manufacturer) 54mm x 86mm 99 mm x 62 mm 64mm x 64mm 64mm x 64mm 99 mm x 62 mm
Image Settings In-camera filters (monochrome, vintage, aqua), an option for prints to be framed, photobooth option which prints 2 photos on the same sheet Light or dark mode, adjustable focal zoom dial Autofocus Multiple exposures Double exposure, light or dark mode, macro, landscape, portrait
Focus Distances Fixed focus Motor-driven 2-range switching (0.9 m - 3 m / 3m - infinity) Normal Mode (0.9 m - 3 m) Landscape Mode (3m - infinity) Zone focus 0.6 m / 1-2 m / infinity Macro Mode (0.3m - 0.5m/1 ft - 1.6 ft)
Normal Mode (0.5 m - 2 m/1.6 ft - 6.6 ft)
Landscape Mode (2 m/6.6 ft and beyond)
Focal Length 27 mm 95 mm 65.75 mm 90 mm (35mm equivalent) 0.3m and beyond (use selfie mode for 0.3m to 0.5m)
Aperture Max f/2.2 f/14 f/12.6 f/8, f/22 f/12.7
Film or Digital Digital Film Film Film Film
Film Development Time Automatic digital print 90 seconds (dependent on ambient temperature) 90 seconds (dependent on ambient temperature) 90 seconds (dependent on ambient temperature) 90 seconds (dependent on ambient temperature)


Best Digital Instant Camera


Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay


81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Image Quality 7.5
  • User Friendliness 8.1
  • Features 9.0
  • Battery 9.0
Battery Life: 100 prints | Flash Adjustment?: Yes
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent photo quality and quick print time
Numerous controls to adjust for lighting conditions
Lots of creative features
Compact body is durable and scratch-resistant
Long battery life
REASONS TO AVOID
Expensive
Slight learning curve
Autofocus is not the ideal setting
No multiple exposures

With its compact size, excellent image quality, and a myriad of additional features, the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay came out on top as the best instant camera that we tested. Its sleek and thin design makes it incredibly easy to carry around, as it will fit in any bag and most pockets. Many of the smaller cameras sacrifice image quality for portability, but not this one. The LiPlay is a hybrid that utilizes the best parts of digital and film, all in one convenient and compact package. The review screen, in-camera filters, and frames offer quick and easy creative control over the image, and the digital storage option allows for more than one copy of a photo to be printed. A world of possibilities opens up with the use of a compatible app. By connecting your phone to the Mini LiPlay, features like remote capture, time stamping, and adding recorded sounds via a scannable QR code are easily accessible. Although some of the prints came out a bit dark, this camera's numerous settings give the user more creative control, enabling them to get a great shot in any situation.

While it's helpful to be able to make adjustments in the camera's settings, the additional control features, especially those offered by the app, also require a little more time to get familiar with, giving the Mini LiPlay a bit of a learning curve. When using the autofocus, the printed photos often come out dark, so it's important to get the settings just right for different types of light. Being less point-and-shoot-ready means it's harder for anyone to just pick this camera up and start snapping pics, so if you're looking for a camera that you can easily pass around a party, others require less time to understand. But overall, the Instax Mini LiPlay has supreme portability while also taking high-quality photos, and offering numerous creative options, making it the best of the bunch.

Read more: Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay review

best digital instant camera
The Instax Mini LiPlay is easy to travel with and takes great photos.
Credit: Laura Casner

Best Instant Camera for Film


Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1


78
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Image Quality 7.5
  • User Friendliness 8.2
  • Features 6.6
  • Battery 9.0
Battery Life: 300 prints | Flash Adjustment?: No
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent photo quality
Most consistent in different lighting conditions
Easy to operate
Mirror for selfies
Long battery life
REASONS TO AVOID
Lack of adjustable settings
Inaccurate shot counter
Film packs occasionally get jammed

If you're looking for an instant camera that takes great photos without needing to mess with settings beforehand, the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1 is a nice, easy-to-use option. Along with being straightforward to operate, this camera produces square mid-sized photos, which were among the most accurate with their range of colors in various lighting conditions. The stunning images displayed vivid blues, rich reds, vibrant yellows, and lush greens, with realistic highlights and contrast. The design of the SQ1 is modern and stylish, and its performance was consistent and reliable throughout our testing. We happily kept reaching for this camera, as it excels at capturing fun and cherished moments by simply pointing and shooting.

Even though the SQ1 is user-friendly and consistently takes great pics, it doesn't allow for much creativity. While it does have a selfie mode and a little mirror to help with framing, that's as far as the additional settings go. There is no adjustable flash, timer, filters, or multiple exposures, so the controls are as minimal as it gets. The biggest annoyance with this model is that the film packs are susceptible to jamming. This only happened to us with two packs, but it's worth noting because, along with wasting film, it caused the shot counter to malfunction and display an inaccurate reading. Fortunately, this hiccup wasn't a constant occurrence, and we found this camera to be otherwise reliable in its functionality and ability to produce amazing images.

Read more: Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1 review

best instant camera for film
The square images produced by this camera display rich vibrant colors and crisp clarity.
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Best Bang for the Buck


Fujifilm Instax Mini 11


70
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Image Quality 7.0
  • User Friendliness 7.3
  • Features 6.8
  • Battery 6.5
Battery Life: 50-60 prints | Flash Adjustment?: No
REASONS TO BUY
Good photos in indoor and low-light situations
Both camera and film are relatively inexpensive
Multiple exposure settings
Durable
REASONS TO AVOID
Tends to overexpose when used in bright sun
Smaller photo size
Limited image settings

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 is one of the best options for instant photos at a lower price. It excels at taking pictures in low light, making it ideal for sharing at parties and other social gatherings, and it's also small and rugged enough that we had no qualms with just throwing it in our bags just in case the right moment presented itself. This camera is also very simple to operate, as the focus, flash, and exposure are all triggered automatically, allowing friends or kids to easily pass it around to get some fun and quirky shots. It comes in a variety of colors to match any personality, making it a great and fun option for everyone, from children to grandparents.

Our main gripe with this camera is its performance in bright light. The majority of the outdoor photos we took ended up overexposed, with the background being washed out. There's no way to turn the flash off, which further increases the chances of the images looking overexposed. The images are small (about the size of a credit card), which can be disappointing, as smaller details tend to get lost due to the size of the prints. This camera also lacks the creative controls present in some of its more expensive competitors, so it's difficult to know if/how the photo will turn out until you see it. Another slightly annoying thing was that the shot count indicator was often inaccurate; at times, it would show that there were prints left when it was actually empty, which may not seem like a big deal, but it's enough to ruin the moment of more candid shots. However, if you can live with these drawbacks, the Instax Mini 11 is a fun camera for all ages that can produce nice keepsakes.

Read more: Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 review

instant camera - best bang for the buck
The Instax Mini 11 is user friendly and fun for the whole family.
Credit: Laura Casner

Best Image Quality


Lomography Lomo'Instant Wide


80
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Image Quality 9.5
  • User Friendliness 6.1
  • Features 7.0
  • Battery 9.0
Battery Life: 40 prints | Flash Adjustment?: Yes
REASONS TO BUY
Great photo quality
Multiple lenses
Numerous creative modes/settings
Large photo size
Long battery life
REASONS TO AVOID
Big and bulky
Expensive
Overexposes in bright sun
Printer jams

Many people are drawn to instant cameras because the format and flexibility are fun and offer creative opportunities. The Lomography Lomo'Instant Wide is a great option for more experienced photographers or those who don't mind taking some time to get familiar with their camera settings before use. This camera provides far more adjustability than most of the others, as it comes equipped with interchangeable wide and macro lenses, color flash filters, a lens splitter, and the ability to take multiple and long exposures. These extra features are backed up with beautiful photo quality and an extra-wide format that clearly shows a wide range of colors and smaller details. In fact, the Lomo'Instant Wide had the best color accuracy and consistency of saturation of all the cameras we tested and did the best at adapting to the different lighting conditions, proving its high-level capability in any situation.

Like most of the cameras we tested, the Lomo'Instant Wide has a tendency to overexpose photos that are taken in bright sunlight, though not to the extent of most of the others. It is also one of the bulkier models on the market and costs a bit more due to its premium creative features. The most frustrating thing about this camera is that the printer is susceptible to jamming, which often results in wasted film — we even had some entire packs of film that were unusable after removing a jam. The film is also quite temperature-sensitive, so shooting in colder conditions can lead to prints showing signs of damage with weird lines and/or vignetting. However, when the camera functions properly, the images that it produces are beautiful. So, for those who are willing to spend a little more to get extra creative control and larger, high-quality prints, the Lomo'Instant Wide is definitely worth checking out.

Read more: Lomography Lomo Instant Wide review

instant camera - best image quality
The Lomo'Instant Wide may be bulkier than most, but its beautiful image quality makes up for it.
Credit: Laura Casner

Best Classic Film Experience


Polaroid Now+ i-Type


72
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Image Quality 6.5
  • User Friendliness 6.8
  • Features 8.2
  • Battery 9.0
Battery Life: 100-120 prints | Flash Adjustment?: Yes
REASONS TO BUY
Classic vintage style
User-friendly app with many controls
Double exposure
Self-timer
Adjustable flash
REASONS TO AVOID
Color depiction is inconsistent
Bulky and awkward shape
Film is expensive
Film is temperature sensitive

If you're a fan of the classic Polaroids from back in the day, the Polaroid Now+ i-Type is a fun and updated version from the brand that started it all. While keeping with the same vintage styling as the originals, this model is compatible with a mobile app that gives it a modern upgrade. By connecting to the app, creative features like double exposure, remote shutter, light painting, and more are easily accessible, giving the user many options for self-expression. This camera also comes with a set of five color lens filters, along with a carrying case, so getting creative is easy even without the app. Most of the competitors that have app connectivity are digital cameras that print digital photos, but the Now+ i-Type is an analog machine that prints on film while also offering many of the benefits of digital.

Even though the Now+ i-Type has some updated features, the quality and consistency of the images could have been better. Its limited color range and tendency to overexpose resulted in prints being blown out most of the time and small details often got lost due to the lack of clarity. This camera is also a bit bulky, which makes it harder to transport, and its shape and design make it somewhat awkward to shoot with. On top of that, the film for Polaroids is more expensive and takes longer to develop than most of the others, which would be more understandable/acceptable if the image quality was better. Still, we found this camera to be easy to operate, and the app gives it a fun and contemporary update. If you find the retro look and feel appealing but would also like the option of making adjustments to your film prints, this camera is worth checking out.

Read more: Polaroid Now+ i-Type review

instant camera - this polaroid has some fun creative features like these color...
This Polaroid has some fun creative features like these color filters and a compatible mobile app
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Compare Products

select up to 5 products to compare
Score Product Price
81
Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay
fujifilm instax mini liplay instant camera review
$160
Editors' Choice Award
80
Lomography Lomo'Instant Wide
lomography lomo'instant wide instant camera review
$199
Top Pick Award
78
Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1
fujifilm instax square sq1 instant camera review
$140
Editors' Choice Award
74
Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6
fujifilm instax square sq6 instant camera review
$170
73
Fujifilm Instax Wide 300
fujifilm instax wide 300 instant camera
$130
72
Polaroid Now+ i-Type
polaroid now+ i-type instant camera review
$150
Top Pick Award
71
Polaroid Now i-Type
polaroid now i-type instant camera review
$120
70
Fujifilm Instax Mini 11
fujifilm instax mini 11 instant camera review
$79
Best Buy Award
70
Lomo'Instant Automat Glass Magellan
lomo'instant automat glass magellan instant camera
$199
68
Polaroid Go Instant Mini
polaroid go instant mini instant camera
$100
63
Kodak Smile Instant Print
kodak smile instant print instant camera
$100
62
Canon Ivy CLIQ Plus 2
canon ivy cliq plus 2 instant camera
$130
45
Kodak Smile Classic
kodak smile classic instant camera
$150
40
Kodak Printomatic Digital
kodak printomatic digital instant camera
$50

instant camera - the instax square sq6 is reliable and consistent with its image...
The Instax Square SQ6 is reliable and consistent with its image quality and printer.
Credit: Laura Casner

Why You Should Trust Us


For this review, we dedicated weeks to using each camera in numerous places and under all kinds of lighting conditions to determine how each performed. Our test results represent more than 100 hours spent taking over 1000 photos in lighting conditions ranging from dimly lit bars to sun-soaked beaches. We also let our creativity run wild and took hundreds of images using long exposures, flash filters, multiple exposures, and every other creative option these cameras offer. We then compared the different results to determine the best contenders.

Before we snapped a single photo, we laid out a comprehensive plan for analyzing each product. From there, we launched into market research to solidify our top contenders and purchased each one at full price to ensure total objectivity. We put each aspect of our test plan into real-world scenarios spanning all manner of lighting and temperature ranges.

Our testing for instant cameras is comprised of four rating metrics:
  • Image Quality (40% of overall score weighting)
  • User Friendliness (35% weighting)
  • Features (15% weighting)
  • Battery (10% weighting)


Our testing experts for this review were professional photographer Laura Casner and product tester Genaveve Bradshaw. Together they put each camera through dozens of tests, comparing all the prints side-by-side. They were joined by Adam Yee, who has been around all types of cameras for his whole life, as his grandfather was a professional photographer for more than 50 years. Adam first developed an interest in photography as a teen when he started shooting skateboarders, documenting the antics of his young friends. These days, Adam works in the production field producing everything from studio shoots to photojournalism projects worldwide. Together, this trio brings a wealth of knowledge to these fun little devices.

instant camera - from wallet sized mini prints to wide format keepsakes, we took tons...
From wallet sized mini prints to wide format keepsakes, we took tons of shots to help you find the perfect camera.
Credit: Laura Casner

Analysis and Test Results


In a world where we increasingly rely on digital platforms to preserve cherished experiences, instant cameras offer refreshingly real, physical keepsakes of time spent with friends and family. To find the best analog or hybrid machine for capturing memories, we focused most of our testing on overall image quality. We also carefully considered how easy each camera is to use, the different image settings and creative options offered, and how long the batteries last. Ultimately, our goal is to help you find the best fit for your lifestyle and photography desires.


Value


While instant camera prices occupy a relatively narrow range, there are certainly opportunities to maximize your dollar. If you're seeking the best price-to-performance ratio, we suggest the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11. This relatively inexpensive camera offers the classic instant camera experience at a fraction of the price. For some fun features, great portability, and fun tiny prints, the Polaroid Go Instant Mini comes at a great price. If you have a background in photography and want to try a bit more experimentation, spending more on something like the Lomography Lomo'Instant Wide may serve you well. It is the most reasonably priced model we've found for what you get, and it offers creative extras like flash filters, multiple exposures, and interchangeable lenses. For those seeking a compromise between all of these attributes, the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 presents a middle point, both in functionality and price.

instant camera - a collage of photos from some of test cameras - past and present -...
A collage of photos from some of test cameras - past and present - showing the variances in size and clarity.
Credit: Jenna Ammerman

Image Quality


We spent the majority of our testing time meticulously comparing photo quality from camera to camera. In doing so, we made sure to take photos that spanned the entire gamut of lighting conditions, from bright sunny days to dimly lit parties and pubs. We then compared all of the resulting photos side-by-side, focusing on clarity, color saturation, and exposure. We also paid attention to how consistently each camera produced usable photos versus a costly dud destined for the trash. The reality is that no camera was perfect, but some had more of a propensity to churn out top-tier keepsakes.


Earning the top score in this metric, the Lomography Lomo'Intant Wide provided the most consistent, high-quality photos in the broadest range of conditions. Its images generally came out with vivid colors, good clarity, and proper exposure, all with that vintage analog patina that is a hallmark trait of film. It is also one of the few instant cameras we've found that can handle outdoor shooting on sunny days without washing out large areas of the image. Lovers of old Polaroid cameras will undoubtedly appreciate the wide film format, which more closely approximates those older models' size than many of its modern siblings.

instant camera - with its ability to get a great shot in any lighting situation, the...
With its ability to get a great shot in any lighting situation, the Lomography consistently produces beautiful images.
Credit: Laura Casner

Not too far behind, the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay provides similarly high-quality images. Compared to the Lomo'Instant Wide, its only shortcoming is that the prints are much smaller and tend to shoot dark, especially when using the autofocus. However, it does offer numerous creative modes that allow the user to make the necessary adjustments and get a great shot in any situation.

instant camera - the various settings on the instax mini liplay can get a great shot...
The various settings on the Instax Mini LiPlay can get a great shot at any time of day.
Credit: Laura Casner

Rounding out the top three in this metric, the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1 provides excellent clarity and color composition no matter the environment. However, it doesn't offer the creative controls of the others, having only two modes: standard and selfie, the latter of which also works well for any shots that are taken up close. Despite lacking any additional features, the SQ1 produces remarkably rich hues and sharp contrast, resulting in beautifully crisp images.

instant camera - even without the same additional controls as the others, the sq1...
Even without the same additional controls as the others, the SQ1 consistently takes beautiful pictures
Credit: Abriah Wofford

Only slightly below the podium in this metric, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 provides excellent clarity and color composition for indoor use. However, if you take the camera outside, the photos look noticeably washed out compared to the other top models. It can still produce good outdoor images, but the results will be much better without shooting towards the open sky or when shooting in the shade. Like the Mini LiPlay, it also downgrades the image size to about the size of a credit card. This allows the film to be cheaper, but it may not be what some people want in an instant photo keepsake.

instant camera - the instax mini 11 is ideal for shooting indoors with friends.
The Instax Mini 11 is ideal for shooting indoors with friends.
Credit: Laura Casner

Dropping just out of the high-quality tier and into the upper end of average, the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 creates larger wide-format photos, which often come out dark but display rich colors. The available settings allow the user to make the necessary adjustments for differing conditions. This camera captures textures well, shoots best in ambient indoor lighting with dispersed natural light, and produced the most lovely black and white images of any camera we tested.

instant camera - the fujifilm instax wide 300 is good for capturing textures and rich...
The Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 is good for capturing textures and rich colors, as well as stunning black and whites.
Credit: Laura Casner

The Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 consistently captured a wide range of colors, with blues and cooler tones showing up especially vibrant. The images that were shot outdoors with indirect light were gorgeous and did the best job of displaying accurate skin tones. This camera took some great shots indoors, but required a little more messing with the settings to accomplish this.

instant camera - the range of colors displayed in the instax square sq6&#039;s photos is...
The range of colors displayed in the Instax Square SQ6's photos is noteworthy.
Credit: Laura Casner

User Friendliness


Instant cameras shine in social situations. Thus, you'll want their operation to be simple enough that you could pass it around at a party and end up with some nice photos. If you're looking to get more creative with your camera and try out some advanced features like double exposures, the controls for selecting those modes must be intuitive and straightforward. Every double exposure that goes awry because you didn't have the correct settings dialed in is wasted film and just a bit heartbreaking. To assess user-friendliness, we used every function on every camera, passed them all around to newbies to get their thoughts, and loaded dozens of film packs throughout the course of our testing.


Of all the cameras we laid our hands on, we would consider the Fuji models (the Instax Square SQ1, Instax Mini LiPlay, Instax Mini 11, Instax Wide 300, and Instax Square SQ6) foolproof enough for anyone to pick up and get a good photo with minimal instruction; all of these models offer basic point-and-shoot functionality. The SQ1 came out as the best in this category, which wasn't surprising because it is easy to get a great photo at a moment's notice with this camera. While most also have some additional settings that can be fiddled with, they are simple enough that even a newcomer should have success picking them up the first go around. Even if they don't, it's unlikely the photo will be totally ruined.

instant camera - with a straightforward interface, the fuji instax wide 300 is...
With a straightforward interface, the Fuji Instax Wide 300 is relatively easy to figure out and use.
Credit: Laura Casner

The Kodak Smile Instant Print also offers one of the more intuitive processes of the group. Its mostly digital design (essentially a digital camera with a small printer inside) allows for simple point-and-shoot functionality, so there is no need to fiddle around with settings beforehand. However, if you want to access some of its advanced features — like adding a border or filter — you'll want to read through the manual.

instant camera - the controls on the kodak smile instant print are simple and easy to...
The controls on the Kodak Smile Instant Print are simple and easy to understand.
Credit: Laura Casner

The Polaroid Now makes taking photos relatively easy, but you have to take extra care while developing. The Polaroid film must be completely covered during the developing process, either by putting the pictures face down on a flat surface or putting them in your pocket once they are taken. We often found ourselves out and about without any convenient flat surfaces to put developing photos, which is a bit of an annoyance. The film is also temperature sensitive, so it either needs to be kept close to the body in cold temps or cooled in hot temps while developing. We ended up with a few damaged prints while shooting in cold conditions.

instant camera - the polaroid now is easy to use but the film can be finicky during...
The Polaroid Now is easy to use but the film can be finicky during development.
Credit: Laura Casner

The Lomography Lomo'Instant Wide scored lower here for a couple of reasons. This camera has issues with the film jamming, something we've unfortunately now seen across three different purchases over the years. On a more positive note, the Lomo also offers additional accessories and more manual adjustments than the other models, giving it a greater learning curve. The controls are reasonably straightforward, and they open up many more creative opportunities, but the camera takes some time and experimentation to fully master. While this brought the score down in this metric, this could be seen as a bonus for the right user. We've kept this camera in our lineup over the years because it really does have potential for greatness, but the film-jamming issue is truly unfortunate. Be sure you can return the Instant Wide from whoever you purchase it from, just in case.

instant camera - the printer on the lomo&#039;instant wide had issues with jamming...
The printer on the Lomo'Instant Wide had issues with jamming, resulting in wasted film.
Credit: Laura Casner

Features


Many people choose to take photos with spartan instant cameras instead of intricate digital ones because, as the saying goes, "creativity is the mastery of simplicity." Despite this, having more options and control over your pared-down camera can allow you to flex that creative muscle even more. For this metric, we evaluate the level to which each camera allows you to fine-tune your images. We also consider additional creative features like multiple exposures, colored flash filters, or digital integration.


Our hands-down recommendation for anyone looking to get creative with their photos is the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay. This camera offers the most variety in its settings and image adjustments of any of the options we tested. It includes a review screen, digital storage, multiple filters, ten in-camera frames, remote capture, a selfie mirror, the ability to print photos taken on your phone, and more via the compatible app.

instant camera - the fuji instax mini liplay has numerous features which give the...
The Fuji Instax Mini LiPlay has numerous features which give the user a great amount of control.
Credit: Laura Casner

The Lomo'Instant Automat Glass Magellan and Polaroid Now+ i-Type take the silver and bronze spots, respectively. Both offer a good variety of controls, like an adjustable flash, multiple exposures, and a remote shutter. Both also come with colored lens filters, but the Polaroid can only access its extra settings through its mobile app, while the Lomo's controls are mostly in-camera, with a handful of additional add-ons, like a close-up lens and a splitzer attachment.

instant camera - the lomo&#039; magellan comes with various attachments and a lens cap...
The Lomo' Magellan comes with various attachments and a lens cap that doubles as a remote control
Credit: Abriah Wofford

The Kodak Smile Instant Print and Canon Ivy CLIQ2+ both sit just below the middle of our features score sheet, offering control settings like flash adjustability, updated features like digital storage, and a few creative options like in-camera filters. However, they lack the ability to take multiple exposures and can't be attached to a tripod. Each of these two cameras has some small options that the other doesn't, so you may have to select an option based on your preferred features. For example, the Kodak Smile has a review screen and a timer with 3 or 10-second options, while the Canon has a mirror on the front for taking selfies and includes a wrist strap.

instant camera - the features offered by the canon ivy cliq2+ can be a bit hard to...
The features offered by the Canon Ivy CLIQ2+ can be a bit hard to figure out due to its limited controls.
Credit: Laura Casner

Battery


With all the technological advancements of the 21st century, it's not surprising that rechargeable batteries are commonly found in instant cameras. They are cheaper, more sustainable, and more convenient overall. However, only slightly more than half of the cameras we tested have made this switch, and the others still have single-use batteries. For this metric, we looked at the shots per charge as listed by the manufacturer and tested the accuracy. We also considered the time it took to recharge or the cost of replacing the batteries.


Quite surprisingly, four of the higher-scoring cameras here have single-use batteries. The one rechargeable high-scorer is the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay, adding to the reasons why it was an easy all-around favorite. Fujifilm dominated in this area with four models receiving high marks, with the Lomography Lomo'Instant Wide and Polaroid's Now+ i-Type and Go Instant Mini also coming out toward the top. All of these top-scoring models used the same batteries or a single charge throughout testing and were never completely drained, either meeting or exceeding the manufacturer's claims.

instant camera - the fujifilm instax mini liplay houses a micro usb port for...
The Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay houses a micro USB port for recharging its battery.
Credit: Laura Casner

Occupying the bronze medal spots of our scorecard are the Kodak Smile Instant Print, Polaroid Now i-Type, and Lomo' Instant Automat Glass Magellan, with only slightly lower scores than the top performers. The Lomo lasted all the way through our tests, but the fact that it doesn't come with the two CR2 batteries needed caused it to lose some points. The Kodak and Polaroid both required one partial recharge during testing. The Kodak lasted a surprisingly long time after it read as "out of battery." We never reached Polaroid's claim of 15 packs or up to 60 days, but we also never killed the battery completely. However, after about six packs of film, it seemed to lose some juice, and we couldn't use the self-timer until giving it a brief charge.

instant camera - happy shooting!
Happy shooting!
Credit: Laura Casner

Conclusion


An instant camera can add a whole new dimension to how you capture and commemorate your life, whether it be everyday happenings or special events. A great one will also allow you to have some fun along the way. We've certainly enjoyed all the goofy poses these cameras can elicit and the token nostalgia that comes with them. We hope that this review has led you to a camera that will help you make some memories.

Genaveve Bradshaw, Laura Casner, and Adam Yee


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