Thinking about picking up an instant camera for the holidays as a fun and cheap Christmas gift idea? Wise move, because they're great. But did you know that there's also a wide selection of instant film for them, plus accessories such as filters that'll give you a variety of looks? No? Well, allow us to explain.
The best instant cameras make excellent gifts, and you're spoilt for choice when it comes to bodies from the main players Polaroid and Fujifilm Instax (check out our Polaroid vs Instax article if you need help choosing). Or perhaps you already bought an instant camera like the Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 or Polaroid Now+ in the Black Friday sales just gone and now want to get more from it.
Most people that get an instant camera stick with the standard color film with white border, but one way to get more creative when shooting these precious keepsakes is to try some of the different instant films and accessories. But with so many options ranging from Polaroid's 'Reclaimed Blue' to Instax Mini film types with multi-color borders, where do you begin?
We've reviewed all of the best instant cameras from Polaroid, Fujifilm Instax and Canon, and almost always try out the various film types available, plus accessories like lens filters. And we've used that experience and expertise to put together our favorite film types for Polaroid and Instax. Enjoy breaking out from the norm!
Fujifilm Instax Film
Perhaps the most widely used instant camera film is Instax Mini – adopted by a number of Instax and Leica instant cameras, such as the Leica Sofort 2 and Instax Mini Evo, plus the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link printer.
The standard color film with white border currently costs $13.98 for 20 sheets at Amazon in the US, £14.99 for 20 sheets at Amazon in the UK or AU$29 for 20 sheets at Amazon in Australia, and it can actually be cheaper to buy in those single packs rather than in bulk. However, there are also two widely available alternatives; Monochrome or custom border styles (different to plain white).
Instax Mini has the widest selection of border styles, but there's quite a few of these options available for Instax Square film and Instax Wide film formats too, and the same buying advice below applies. Remember, make sure that you are buying the correct format of paper for your instant camera or Link printer.
Instax Mini Film monochrome
Monochrome film is currently the only available picture style outside of color for Instax Mini (plus Square and Wide). It is the choice for black and white lovers, and can look fantastic in your instant prints. Cost to sheet ratio, this is the most expensive type of Instax Mini Film, but it's still much cheaper than some of Polaroid's offerings.
Instax Mini Film rainbow
Of any instant film type, Instax Mini has the most generous selection of border styles for its color film, beyond plain white. I'm not going to tell you which one to buy; there's a style and look for almost any taste including Pink Lemonade, Candy Pop and Black, although some versions are more readily available, like 'Rainbow'. This particular edition contains different colored borders, enabling further creative ways to display your prints together. I suggest going to the Instax website to browse the styles, and then find your favorite option at a leading retailer like Amazon that generally has decent stock levels. At the time of writing the Instax website itself has limited stock.
Polaroid i-Type, Go and 600
Polaroid has a wide variety of instant cameras and film types, so be sure to get the right one for your camera – the information is clearly marked out on the Polaroid website. i-Type covers the Now series of cameras including the Now+ and the new and advanced Polaroid I-2. The Go series is a shrunk-down version with its own smaller film size, while the 600 and SX-70 film is for the vintage models. We're concentrating here on the new i-Type and Go series of instant cameras.
Polaroid i-Type and 600 film is the same film, but the key difference is the cameras they are compatible with. i-Type film packs do not have a battery built-in and only work with Polaroid's new cameras like the I-2 and Now+, while 600 film packs have the battery built-in and work with battery-less vintage Polaroid cameras as well as i-Type cameras.
It's the festive season and what better an instant film to hang on the Christmas tree than Polaroid's Golden Moments edition? In this beautiful version, the standard color film is wrapped in a shimmering metallic gold border. The price per sheet remains the same no matter how many double packs you buy.
Polaroid Go Filter Set
$19.99 now $13.99 for the filter set only at Amazon
UK: £17.99 for the filter set only at Amazon
AU: AU$39.40 for the filter set only at Amazon
The Polaroid Go is the smallest Polaroid instant camera of its kind, and you can spice up your prints by way of this filter set. There's red, blue and yellow filters that can be slotted over the lens of a Polaroid Go instant camera for a monochromatic effect at the point of capture, for your color film. The beauty with filters is that you can experiment with the look, bathing your photo in any of those three colors, but if the look isn't for you, simply remove the filters and use the color paper as normal. You can also pick up a mega bundle that includes the filters plus 32 sheets of color film; that's two packs of white border film and two packs of black border film, with 8 sheets in each pack, for $49.99 at Polaroid (US) or £44.99 at Polaroid (UK).
Working out at roughly $2 / £2 per sheet, Polaroid film isn't cheap but it is also a one-of-a-kind experience, especially with the Reclaimed Blue edition. Polaroid bills it an 'experimental fluke', a film that incorporates reclaimed waste material from the Polaroid factory. It's 600 film, which means it's compatible with vintage Polaroid 600 cameras, but also today's i-Type like the I-2 and Now. You'll have to act fast if you want to give this blue tone film a spin, as stock is low; you'll probably have to sign up to get notified when it's back in stock. Another honorable mention is the yellow and black Duotone edition of 600 film, especially if you like things a little warmer! This film is pricier still, at £20.99 for 8 sheets at Polaroid UK or $21.99 at Polaroid US.
Not in the US, UK or Australia? Find the best Instax and Polaroid film deals in your region, below.
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Tim is the Cameras editor at TechRadar. He has enjoyed more than 15 years in the photo video industry with most of those in the world of tech journalism. During his time as Deputy Technical Editor with Amateur Photographer, as a freelancer and consequently editor at Tech Radar, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with cameras, educating others through news, reviews and features. He’s also worked in video production for Studio 44 with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi. Tim is curious, a keen creative, avid footballer and runner, and moderate flat white drinker who has lived in Kenya and believes we have much to enjoy and learn from each other.