Instant film photography has had a rough decade or two with the advent of smartphones and more affordable point-and-shoot cameras. Still, though, it persists in various formats from two notable companies, Fujifilm and Polaroid Originals (previously known as the Impossible Project, the company that singlehandedly kept the Polaroid brand from fading into oblivion). To help you better pick out what camera is best for your needs, we’ve rounded up the best instant cameras in categories ranging from simple point-and-shoots to fully manual machines.
Polaroid OneStep 2 i-Type ($100)
Polaroid’s original OneStep camera is as iconic as it gets in the world of instant — and photography in general. Although the original, first made in 1977, has long stopped being produced, Polaroid Originals has revived the OneStep with the OneStep 2 i-Type Camera.
Inspired by the original, the OneStep 2 i-Type Camera blends classic design with contemporary style and adds a few new technological improvements to bring the design into the 21st century. The camera now uses a rechargeable USB battery with a 60-day battery life and can shoot both Polaroid 600 film, as well as Polaroid’s i-Type film.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 ($60+)
The adorable Instax Mini 9 is Fujifilm’s latest entry-level camera. Released in April, the Instax Mini 9 shoots the smaller Instax Mini format. It features an integrated selfie mirror, a close-up lens attachment, and a five-setting ring that allows you to dial in the proper exposure.
A single button is used to push out the 60-millimeter lens from the body of the camera. Extending the lens also turns the camera on and powers up the built-in flash, making it easy to get the camera up and running in a second or two. The shutter button is on the grip of the camera, located directly below the viewfinder. Focus is fixed with a claimed range of 0.6 meters to infinity, which should be good enough for most arm-length selfies. It comes in five colors, too, including cobalt blue, ice blue, flamingo pink, lime green, and smoky white, and can be had for $70.
Instax Mini 90 NEO Classic ($120+)
The Mini 90 is a more robust device than the aforementioned Instax Mini 9, one that dons a retro aesthetic to boot. Inspired by the leather-adorned cameras of yesteryear, the Instax Mini 90 wouldn’t look too out of place next to a Leica M-series camera if you didn’t know it was made of plastic.
The Instax Mini 90 offers a rechargeable battery, an integrated LCD display, and manual exposure control for more precise snapshots. On the rear of the camera, you’ll find five buttons, located directly below the two LCD displays. These are used to control exposure and shooting modes, as well as the timer. The most welcome button of all, however, is the dedicated flash button, which lets you turn off the flash.
On the front of the camera is the power switch, which turns the camera on and extends the same 60-millimeter lens used in Fujifilm’s other Instax cameras. Unlike the Instax Mini 9, the Mini 90 offers a closer focusing distance of just 0.3 meters to infinity, meaning your selfies will be sharp even if your reach is limited.
The analog-inspired aesthetic of the Instax Mini 90 sets it apart from Fujifilm’s other offerings, and when you throw in the additional exposure controls and rechargeable battery, you have yourself a rather capable Instax camera that retails for $140.
This product differs from the rest in that it’s not actually a standalone camera, but a dedicated back designed to turn Lomography’s Lomo LC-A+ camera into an instant camera that is capable of shooting Instax Mini film.
The solution is far from intuitive, however, as the Instant back blocks the viewfinder and more than doubles the size of the camera. But considering the restrictions at hand, it’s still an impressive feat. The resulting images are very saturated in color and tend to have high contrast, though, thanks to the Minitar-1 lens attached to front of the Lomo LC-A+ camera.
Literally piggybacking off the LC-A+ camera body, the Instax back captures images shot on the camera’s 32-millimeter, f/2.8 lens. Exposure is adjusted using a small lever near the lens of the camera, which is actually designated to change the ISO settings used when shooting on transparency film.
Mint InstantFlex TL70 2.0 ($389)
Inspired by twin lens reflex cameras, the Mint InstantFlex TL70 2.0 takes a whole new approach to Instax photography. Like an old Rolleiflex, the Mint InstantFlex TL70 2.0 offers a top-down view using its 1:1 preview waist-level viewfinder.
Unlike most other Instax cameras, the Mint InstantFlex TL70 2.0 offers full focus and aperture control. This gives you more creative control when capturing an Instax photo, most notably when it comes to shallow depth of field, which is difficult to come by in most instant cameras. An integrated flash for capturing late-night selfies is also hidden beneath the InstantFlex nameplate.
At $389, it’s one of the more expensive options available, one that rivals the cost of the original cameras it draws inspiration from. However, if you don’t mind shelling out the dough for a unique experience and aesthetic, it’s a solid option that will help you stand out from the crowd.