Instant film cameras may be the most perfect example of how yesterday’s analog technology gets a digital-age update for our nostalgia-obsessed world. Sure, we have high-performing DSLRs, mirrorless cameras and readily accessible pocket cameras via our smartphones, but we still love the immediacy and physical souvenirs we get with the best instant cameras.
There really is nothing that mixes convenience with retro charm quite like a good instant camera, and thanks to their recent revival, instant camera film is now readily available and affordable again. Polaroid is back, baby, along with neo-classics from Fujifilm, Kodak and others. You can even photograph using instant cameras with a wild assortment of different instant camera films, too.
Whether you’ve been inspired by found family portraits from back in the day or you’re simply looking for a brand new way to snap memories in the new year, here are the best of the best instant cameras to help capture your life in 2021.
1. Fujifilm Instax Mini 11
This cutely colored Instax Mini 11 will have you looking like the life of the party. The Mini 11 is the newest version of the Fujifilm Instax and will transform the way you photograph. Though this one is rather bulky, the eye-catching, sky blue hue makes up for it, so none of your subjects will ever want to look away from the lens. You can also get this in a couple of new updated colors like purple and black. Naturally, it even has a selfie mode, because why else would you get a camera in 2021? It’s been one of the most popular instant film cameras in existence for the past couple of years, so it’s best to get your hands on it ASAP.
2. Polaroid Now I-Type Instant Film Camera
Polaroid is the OG of the instant film game. So, if you’re shopping for the best instant cameras, it’s no surprise that you’ll find Polaroid products everywhere you look. The original Polaroid camera you remember from the golden days has been revamped into the Polaroid Now I-Type instant camera, and it’s absolutely a change for the better. The simple one-button design and retro exterior comes with autofocus, which is a serious improvement from the original. This will have you wanting to scream OutKast lyrics as you’re shooting, which is exactly what you know you want. Shake it like a Polaroid picture baby!
3. KODAK Smile Instant Print Digital Camera
When reviewing the best instant cameras, size was one of our top considerations. After all, for on-the-go fun, you want something that can easily fit into your pocket or bag, but most instant cameras are way too bulky for keeping in your back pocket. That’s where the KODAK Smile comes in. This one-pounder uses a slide-open design and an integrated inkless printer to transform a tiny digital camera into a cool, party-friendly mix of digital and instant analog. Like our favorite portable photo printers, it makes 2 x 3-inch prints using the ZINK process with a sticky back to easily put your finished products wherever. For weekend adventures and spontaneous outings, this travel-friendly gadget is the best instant camera for capturing memories.
4. Polaroid Go
BEST BRAND NEW
Polaroid is constantly changing the instant camera game for the better — and as they should. The Polaroid Go is the company’s brand new baby and just launched on April 27 of this year. Like the KODAK Smile, this camera is all about having a small size to take with you whenever, wherever. It’s not only portable but also wearable for easy snapping. There are self-timer and selfie options as well, so grab a group or take pics solo.
5. Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 Instant Camera
BEST VINTAGE LOOKING
Like the Polaroid Go and KODAK Smile, the brand-new Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 is all about size, size, size — proving that bigger isn’t always better. Super easy to use and featuring a vintage Fujifilm design, this baby is a new classic we simply can’t pass up. Unlike most other instant film cameras, the Mini 40 automatically detects brightness which controls the amount of flash given to the subject, which normally promises a non-washed exposure when the film is fully developed. No lens? No problem. Pull out the lens to take as many selfies as you want whenever you want. Each camera weighs 1-lb in total and makes 2 x 3-inch prints. Sadly, like the Polaroid Go, you can’t buy this one just yet — but you will be able to very soon.
6. Polaroid Instant Digital
This larger-than-life, Tamogachi-esque digital camera and instant printer from Polaroid combines the physicality of an instant camera with some advanced digital features. It lets you record GIFS, 1080p video clips and even lets you edit the photos. While this is all really cool for an instant camera, it definitely does not have that old-school feel that most people are seeking when they’re trying to fill that nostalgic void. But, if you’re one who loves combining the old with the new, the Polaroid Instant Digital is a hundred percent for you.
7. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6
BEST SQUARE FORMAT
After we say it, you won’t be able to unsee it: This camera looks identical to Instagram’s original app icon from back in the day. Sorry, it needed to be said. This Instax Square SQ6 uses square-style film and auto-calculates surrounding light in order to perfect the shot’s exposure. Coming with orange, green and purple color filters, feel free to snap some funky shots with this one. Oh, and did we mention that the camera has a range-switching focusing meter for landscapes, portraits and macros? We were shocked, too.
8. Kodak Mini Shot 2 Retro Portable Wireless Instant Camera
The Kodak Mini Shot 2 is a point, shoot and print on the spot that skips the development-to-scan process. We know, we know, that just makes it a more compact instant film camera. But get this: you can shoot while your photo is still printing, so there’s no wasted time in between. All prints come with an adhesive backside, perfect for sticking on your notebook or bedroom walls. All images save to an SD card too, so you don’t even need paper inside to get snapping. Best of all? You can even connect this baby via Bluetooth to see your images on your iOS or Android devices. For all these reasons, it’s one of the best instant cameras of 2021, especially if you’re heading out of town on a long-delayed vacation.
9. Fujifilm Instax Wide 300
The Instax Wide uses the famous wide format instant film, known as the preferred instant choice for discerning snapshot aficionados. This Instax camera also distinguishes itself from other models with some nice photographer-friendly elements like an f1.4 lens, a flash and a somewhat manual focus. While this is definitely one of our bulkier picks, the unique, unusual print orientation will make up for it.
10. XUDHAH Instant Print Camera for Kids
BEST FOR KIDS
Do we have a tiny photographer on our hands? If so, snag your favorite kiddo the best instant camera for kids. This kid-friendly camera uses inkless photo film for safety and has a screen to help them create digitally-driven, instant memories. Each photo comes out black and white to stick with a vintage approach, but the camera itself is so bright pink that it’s sure to catch their eye. The best part of all? It can even record videos!