The best instant cameras are an easy recommendation as a Christmas gift idea. They are fun, tactile, and suitable for (almost) all ages. You can also capture moments with those around you – grandma taking a brandy-fuelled afternoon nap, decked in a Christmas cracker tissue paper hat – and then share those as precious keepsakes with an instant print.
You're spoilt for choice too, thanks especially to Polaroid and Fujifilm Instax. However, I'm here to propose an alternative that will get you those gorgeous keepsakes, plus with more control: a portable Instax Link printer.
These easy-to-carry printers are so tiny that you can throw one into a bag for that holiday weekend away with your family. They come in three versions, too: Mini, Square, and Wide. You use the same film as Fujifilm Instax cameras – just buy the right size for the printer, and you get the same lovely vintage-style prints to cherish, only you get to choose which photos to print.
For shoppers in the US, the Instax Link Wide version of the Link printer is only $97.99 at Amazon, while in the UK there's a great deal on the Square Link printer, which costs just £94 at Amazon. Bear in mind, however, these are printer-only deals – there are also bundles available with the film included, but it can pay off to buy the film packs separately.
Today's best Instax Wide Link deal in the US: more that $50 off
Instax Wide Link: was
$149.95 now $97.99 at Amazon
Dropping below $100, the Instax Wide Link portable printer is entirely controlled by a smartphone companion app, letting you edit, crop, and customize your pictures before printing. It has a built-in battery that's good enough for up to 100 prints between charges, but you'll need to buy paper (and camera) separately. It's a great companion to the Instax Pal, but technically you can print from any digital camera, including your smartphone. The Wide version of the printer produces the largest possible Instax instant prints, sized 99x62mm – while there are Square Link and Mini Link versions, too. There's also a choice of colors – this deal is for the Ash White version, but it's also available in Mocha Gray and Midnight Green.
Today's best Instax Square Link deal in the UK: now only £95
Instax Square Link: was
£129.99 now £94 at Amazon
Dropping below £100, the Instax Square Link Wide portable printer is entirely controlled by a smartphone companion app, letting you edit, crop, and customize your pictures before printing. It also has a built-in battery that's good enough for up to 100 prints between charges, but you'll need to buy paper (and camera) separately. It's a great companion to the Instax Pal, but technically you can print from any digital camera, including your smartphone. The Square version of the printer produces my favorite size of instant prints – that's 62x62mm – but there are Wide Link and Mini Link versions, too. There's also a choice of colors – this deal is for the Ash White version, but it's also available in Mocha Gray and Midnight Green.
Most instant cameras shoot straight to print only through the built-in printer and film cartridge. You take the photo, out pops the print and, 90-seconds later, you see what's been captured. It's a final, one-of-a-kind print, and the screen-less experience is all part of the analog charm. However, paper is expensive and it stings when you get throwaway prints.
An Instax Link printer presents another option, working through the companion Instax app to print any imported photos – from your phone, professional camera, and even some hybrid instant cameras. For example, the digital Fujifilm Instax Pal makes the process as easy as can be. Sure, there's an app involved and you might not want as much screen time over Christmas, but if it's the end result you're most interested in, an Instax Link is a smart choice.
Heck, you might want to pick one of these printers up now ahead of Christmas. I've found that Instax Link prints, such as your family portrait, make a lovely little gift to slot inside Christmas cards to your loved ones.
There are pros and cons when choosing between an instant camera and a portable printer, but for me the convenient printer is the smart choice, just add the cost of film packs into your budget.
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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.