In the age of digital snaps and social media, there’s something special about a tangible photograph.
Immediate and instant, our phone pics take much of the faff away from taking photos. With one quick swipe you can also edit lighting, make touch ups or delete to your heart’s content.
But with speed and efficiency, much of the magic in the process is lost. Because when armed with a finite roll of film, no shot is wasted. Not being able to see the result straight away (or perhaps check for unflattering angles) also adds a sense of anticipation that doesn’t exist when snapping selfies from your front camera.
Choosing to go analogue can also be a refreshing antidote to our screen-time addiction. But taking the slow route doesn’t usually mean convenience. With no opportunity to fix rookie errors and mistakes along the way, it’s a risky business. There’s the crushing disappointment that comes when your once-in-a-lifetime moments, captured months earlier, come back to you blurred beyond recognition or damaged. Cue the instant camera.
Bridging the gap between the immediacy of the quick selfie and the nostalgic charm of a physical photograph, an instant camera is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Unlike the fickle film camera, it won’t lead you on just to let you down months later. These retro devices are fun, unpredictable and keep you on your toes and yet you’re not left wondering what it was you did wrong, and whether things could have been different if you had the chance to take one more shot. With an instant camera - no time is wasted waiting for the answers.
From the classic Polaroid camera with it’s universally flattering lighting (the blueprint for many an Instagram filter), to pocket-sized cameras that will print digital-quality photographs on demand. Modern iterations now even boast digital functions such as editing tools and the option to delete before you choose to print. Readily available in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours and price points, there’s an instant camera out there to suit all tastes and preferences.
See below for our edit of the best instant cameras on the market right now.
Polaroid Now+ i‑Type Instant Camera
If you love your technology to have modern functionality but with the style and panache of a simpler time—the 1980s for example—then the Polaroid Now+ is your dream photographic companion.
Despite its analogue feel and aesthetic, this camera is truly forward and future-facing. Features include five new lens filters, light painting, and double exposure. With the Polaroid app, users can unlock tools including aperture priority and tripod mode, making serious photographers out of even the most amateur.
Buy now £139.00, Polaroid
Instax Mini 40
The retro-looking Fuji Instax Mini 40 camera is style and simplicity combined. For low-faff digital prints in seconds - just frame, point and shoot. With simplicity in mind, the functional aspects of these cameras are minimal: there is no exposure control so make sure to get your light right. There is also a handy selfie mode. Instax film is also reasonably priced, making this an affordable way of capturing those magic moments.
Buy now £79.00, Amazon
One of the most popular brands on the market, this model does not disappoint. Highly functional, durable, portable and sleek: the Polaroid Go will be your new creative best friend. The design includes double-exposure for the more experimental photographer, a self-timer for the all-important group shots and a selfie mirror also.
Buy now £108.94, Amazon
Kodak Step Instant Print Digital Camera
A pioneering brand in the photography world, the Kodak Step has a high-quality design paired with affordability. Its three photo modes mean that all you have to do is raise the viewfinder and shoot for a variety of optimally framed instant photos on the go. The design also includes a wrist lanyard and magnetic lens cap for those who might find small items easy to lose. Other features include an LED light indicator, photo booth mode and a ten-second self-timer.
Buy now £69.99, Amazon
Instax Mini LiPlay
This dinky Instax camera couldn’t be more new gen. Not only does it capture your most adventurous moments on film, but it also records sound. With its display screen, users can select the best shots from impromptu photoshoots before printing so as not to waste paper, and there are plenty of frames and filters on hand to jazz things up a bit.
Like many of the newest models, you can link the LiPlay up to your smartphone and with its Speedy Print feature, you can have a tangible photo in under 12 seconds. The camera can even be used to shoot remotely from any paired device.
Buy now £149.00, John Lewis
Canon Zoemini S2 Instant Camera Colour Photo Printer
This easy-to-use, lightweight and pocket-sized camera has been designed to solve problems for you. It has a battery life of up to 25 photos and a Micro SD card slot for the moments when you run out of paper. For the selfie-obsessed there’s a dedicated mirror and ring light for the perfect exposure. You can also add your own unique creative flair to photos and collages aided by the Effects and Frames buttons, and you can also print pictures directly from your phone via the Canon mini print app.
Buy now £139.00, Amazon
Kodak Printomatic Digital Camera
Coming in an array of bright and bold colours, this camera screams good vibes only. One of the cheapest products available, the Printomatic doesn’t need ink cartridges or toners so it is ecologically minded too. The full-colour photo prints have a sticky adhesive on the back so you can attach them to whatever you like from the moment you have them. They’re durable and water-resistant, making them ideal for a younger and perhaps messier demographic.
Buy now £49.99, Amazon
Fujifilm Instax Square SQ1
The Instax Square SQ1 arrives at the mid-range in terms of cost and premium in terms of quality. Small but mighty, this camera has automatic exposure to adapt to light conditions and an automatic shutter speed, producing vivid and textured photographs on the move. Its selfie mode can be activated at a twist of the lens to avoid fuss, and photos print on a square framed retro film, a classic and sophisticated picture ratio that gives even your most well-liked Instagram snaps a run for their money.
Buy now £99.00, Amazon
Instax Link Wide
A hybrid photo printer, the Instax link wide forgoes the usual methods and uses Bluetooth to connect your phone instead, printing any picture onto the largest Instax paper so all those snaps on your camera roll can be brought to life in cool, high-quality print.
Buy now £129.00, Amazon
The Polaroid Now+ wins this race. It lands at the pricier end of the spectrum but its attractive analogue look and variety of creative modes make it a no-brainer for the aesthetically minded photographer and the camera novice alike.