As our list below shows, there are some great instant cameras out there – particularly if you're looking to buy someone a creative gift. But a good alternative, and one we've seen some big new launches in during 2022, are compact instant printers. Models like the Fujifilm Instax Link Wide or new Instax Mini Link are effectively instant cameras that instead work with your phone camera.
While they lack the charm of an all-in-one instant camera, these printers are also a lot smaller and let you print photos that you or your friends have on your phones. Because smartphones are now so advanced, the photo quality also tends to be superior to standalone instant cameras. We remain fans of Instax prints over the Zink ones favored by manufacturers like Canon, but make sure you're judicious with your printing – as the film costs can quickly add up.
Looking for the best instant camera you can buy, but not sure where to start? Our guide is here to help. We've spent countless hours testing and living with the finest instant cameras around, from toy models to smarter connected options, to create this ranked guide to our top picks right now.
So, what is the best instant camera you can buy in 2022? It depends a little on your tastes and experience, but our top pick for most people is the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11. It isn't the most advanced model in this list, but its simple interface makes it an ideal choice for beginners and young families. Because it includes both autofocus and autoexposure skills, it's a good point-and-shoot option, while a pop-out lens barrel lets you shoot close-ups and selfies.
Then again, some instant camera models are a little more advanced these days, offering features like smartphone connectivity and light painting. If that sounds up your street, then we also highly recommend the Polaroid Now+. Its Bluetooth connectivity unlocks a range of creative shooting options via its smartphone app, including double exposures, while its prints are large, vibrant and detailed.
Still not quite sure which kind of instant camera is for you? Our Polaroid vs Instax explainer breaks down the main differences between those two giants of the field. Whatever kind of instant camera you’re looking for, you’ll find an option fit for your needs and budget in the list below. We’ve thoroughly tested every entry to see how it stacks up against the analogue competition. Further down this page, you'll also find a few useful buying tips to help you make the right choice, while our comparison tool will help you snap one up for the cheapest available price.
Best instant cameras in 2022:
If you're looking for an affordable, easy-to-use camera that won't overwhelm anyone that's new to instant photography, Fujifilm's Instax Mini 11 is our current favorite.
It may lack the more advanced modes and controls that you'll find on more expensive models, but that's a big part of its charm. An auto exposure system takes out a lot of the guesswork, meaning you just have to point and shoot to get decent credit card-sized instant prints.
A tiny mirror built into the front of the camera and a pop-out lens barrel for close-ups means it's easy to get an instant selfie, while the affordable packs of Instax Mini film make it a great addition to any party. It's available in a range of fun colors, so you should be able to find one that suits your style.
Another great thing about the Instax Mini 11 is how great it is as a present. Available at a reasonable price, it'd make a lovely gift for a photography fan – especially young ones – who are keen to experiment with the medium. Remember to factor in some extra cash for film, though.
- Read our in-depth Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 review
Combining the boxy form factor, dual-lens autofocus and detailed image quality of the Polaroid Now with the Bluetooth connectivity of the OneStep+, the revamped Now+ is Polaroid’s most complete instant camera yet. Connecting to the updated smartphone app opens up a realm of creative shooting modes: in addition to self-timer, double exposure, light painting and manual exposure options, there’s now an aperture propriety mode for experimenting with depth of field, as well as a tripod mode for use with the new screw mount beneath.
So while the Now+ remains as straightforward to use as any point-and-shoot, it’s also a great option for getting creative. What limits creativity a little is the cost of Polaroid I-Type film, which makes you think twice about wasting shots. But when you get it right, prints are just as instant photos should be: large, delicious, vintage-style squares which come to full color in 10-15 minutes.
- Read our in-depth Polaroid Now+ review
If you're looking for a camera that mixes the charms of instant photos with the convenience of digital shooting, the Instax Mini Evo is a fine choice. Its digital photo quality won't beat your smartphone, but that isn't the point – the main benefit is being able to decide which shots you print out, to avoid wasting precious film. The Mini Evo itself is also one of the best-looking instant cameras around and more compact than Fuji's other models.
Another great party trick is its ability to double as a printer for your smartphone snaps, while there's also the option to play around with numerous built-in effects and filters before you hit the print button. These digital elements mean the Instax Mini Evo doesn't offer a 'pure' instant photography experience, and is more complex than alternatives like the Instax Mini 11. But its versatility and charm more than compensate for those who want a bit more than point-and-shoot.
- Read our in-depth Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo review
If the Instax Mini 11 (see number one) looks just a little too toy-like for your tastes, the Mini 40 is a more design-centric alternative. It has the same retro styling as Fuji's more expensive instant cameras, only underneath the skin it's mechanically identical to the Mini 11.
With variable shutter speed, an automatic flash and auto exposure system that work together to ensure more of your photos produce usable results, and an adjustable lens barrel that's purpose-built for selfies, it's easy to recommend for both newcomers to instant film, and those that already appreciate the medium. It uses Instax Mini film packs, which is still among the most affordable kinds on the market.
There are no extra features, shooting modes or accessories to think about, which might put off anyone looking to get creative with their photography, and it also carries a price premium at launch. That makes it less easy to recommend than the Mini 11, but discounts could help bring that price tag down.
- Read our in-depth Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 review
Slightly more advanced than the Instax Mini 11, the Instax Mini 70 comes with five shooting modes (including that all-important selfie mode). Despite having a few more features, it doesn't cost too much - but again you need to factor in some budget to pay for some Instax Mini Film.
In terms of usability, one thing to be careful of with the Instax Mini 70 is obscuring the flash with your finger when you're taking shots vertically, but you get used to how it works with enough practice.
All of the modes are automatic, so everything is taken care of - focusing, exposure and flash are a doddle, but it would be nice if you could control the flash manually (see the more expensive Instax Mini 90 for full control).
With the Go, Polaroid has edged ahead of Fuji on instant innovation – something that hasn't really happened since the late 1980s. It's officially the world's smallest analogue instant camera, fitting squarely in the palm of your hand.
It's true that some hybrid instant cameras are even more pocketable, but they tend to 'cheat' by printing images on Zero Ink paper, rather than with a chemical development process. You get the real deal here, in square format just like the larger I-Type film, only significantly smaller.
It's a shrunken-down version of the Polaroid Now (see above), with most of the same features, including self-timer and double-exposure mode, which should please more advanced photographers as well as instant beginners. Autofocus sadly hasn't made the cut, however, so there's a higher chance of ending up with blurry results if you don't keep a good distance from your subject.
At launch, it costs roughly the same as the full-size Polaroid Now, making it a lot pricier than the entry-level Fuji Instax Mini 11, but that's a figure worth paying if you want an instant camera you can take just about anywhere.
- Read our in-depth Polaroid Go review
The Polaroid Now has now been succeeded by the more advanced Now+, but it remains a part of Polaroid's lineup – and it's a more affordable alternative, if you don't need Bluetooth or app-based features like light painting and double exposures.
Physically, the Now bears a strong resemblance to its OneStep 2 predecessor, retaining that iconic – if bulky – throwback form but removing a few buttons, refining the viewfinder and replacing the LED lights with a much clearer digital shot counter.
It's designed for quick and easy snaps, and the new autofocus makes that simpler than ever, proving largely consistent in spitting out sharp, distinctive shots. It also eliminates much of the guesswork associated with a fixed-focus system – a welcome development, given the high price of I-Type film.
It’s not totally reliable – exposure can be inconsistent, with the automatic flash sometimes firing unnecessarily outdoors, or doing the opposite indoors – but that’s a flaw common to many cameras of its ilk. Overall, the Polaroid Now delivers big instant prints with a unique lo-fi look – and a foolproof shooting experience.
- Read our in-depth Polaroid Now review
The value-minded SQ1 makes Fuji's Instax Square format film that much more approachable for anyone unfamiliar with instant photography. It has the same easy- to-understand features and useful auto exposure system of the Instax Mini 11, only the photos it spits out are almost twice as large.
An adjustable lens barrel and built-in mirror are useful for close-ups and selfie shots, and the automatic flash is usually smart enough to keep indoor and low-light snaps looking good once they develop. There aren't any other shooting modes to think about, or even luxuries like a tripod thread, and the plastic construction feels noticeably less premium than the more expensive Instax SQ6, so this is a camera better suited to instant newcomers rather than creatives looking to experiment with the medium.
Still, it's a welcome step up from the entry-level Instax for those wanting larger prints, without adding a handful of extra features they may not want to use.
- Read our in-depth Fujfilm Instax SQ1 review
Canon's first instant effort is actually more of a hybrid, blending analogue 'film' with digital smarts. The Zink (zero ink) paper it uses doesn't need exposing to light like regular instant film, so the camera can be much smaller. The Ivy Cliq+ / Zoemini S is truly pocket-sized, beating even Fuji's Instax Mini LiPlay for portability.
A built-in LED ring flash helps you take pleasing portraits, the mirrored lens barrel is purpose-built for selfies, and focusing is automatic, making this a great party camera. Still, it can be sluggish to start up and printing a picture takes around 10 seconds – much slower than our current favorite, the Fuji Instax Mini 9. The credit card-sized prints it produces are much more detailed, though, with colors more like a traditional 35mm photo than the dream-like lomographic effects seen with other instant film.
Battery life typically stretches to two packs of 10 images, but even with an SD card installed, it won't take any more pictures once you're out of film. The 8MP sensor is merely on par with today's entry-level smartphones, and with no built-in screen, you'll need a computer to review your digital snaps.
It seems a lot simpler than other hybrid cameras, but built-in Bluetooth support lets it perform double duty as a portable printer. Being able to turn your smartphone snaps into physical prints gives it an edge over bulkier instant cameras, and it's sensibly priced too.
Big hardly covers it. The Instax Wide 300 is the size of an old-fashioned medium-format rangefinder camera, even a small folding field camera. It’s because it uses Instax wide film packs rather than the regular Instax mini. The Instax 300 wide might look big and clumsy but it’s light, and the generous grip makes it easy to hold and use. You power up with a spring-loaded switch around the shutter release, which extends the 95mm lens.
The Instax wide format is much larger than a digital sensor, so this equates to a moderate wide-angle lens. For a big camera, though, the Instax Wide 300 has a tiny viewfinder. It takes practice even to get your eye lined up with the eyepiece.
Otherwise, it’s simple to use and delivers very good results. Where the regular Instax mini format produces small photo ‘tokens’, these are more like proper photographs - we'd love to see Instax producing a printer in this format , as it has done with its Mini and Square formats.
Unlike the original instax SQUARE model, namely the analog/digital hybrid SQUARE SQ10, the SQ6 has a different idea in mind. Shaped like the Instagram logo and very much targeted at the kind of younger user who shares their creations on the platform, the camera runs on a pair of CR2 batteries and spits out 6.2x6.2cm prints, with the selfie mirror integrated into the front of the camera allowing for more effortless self captures.
Instax square prints feel like more serious photographs, with their larger size giving your subject more room to breathe. Fujifilm throws in orange, purple and green flash filters to allow for an instant injection of colour into images, and as the body is nowhere near as cumbersome as some of the other options here, it ends up being as convenient to carry as it is fun to use.
This is another great option for a gift, too.
- Read our in-depth Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 review
Combining retro-analogue charm with modern-day digital credentials, this is essentially a basic, low-resolution digital camera with a printer built-in for making instant snapshots. This gives you the opportunity to properly frame up your subject, and check it's something you actually want to print, before wasting expensive film (it uses Instax mini).
One of the gimmicks of the LiPlay is the function to record a sound along with your image capture and "embed" it on to your print in the shape of a QR code. You can then gift that to a friend and ask them to scan the code to playback the sound - modern digital ways are much easier though so how much you bother with that remains questionable.
You might find that purchasing an Instax mini printer is a better option for better quality prints, but the LiPlay is a fun option for kids and parties.
The downside to most instant cameras is their size: if you want large photos, you'll need a large camera, which can be a pain to lug around. An instant photo printer takes up a lot less room, and lets you print directly from your smartphone. That almost certainly means better image quality than what you'll get from the cameras on this list.
The Instax Link Wide is entirely controlled by a smartphone companion app, letting you edit, crop and customize your pictures before printing, and has a built-in battery that's good enough for up to 100 prints between charges. It could be quicker to top up, needing several hours on mains power before it's fully charged, but that's really our only criticism.
Because it develops photos, rather than printing them like an inkjet, each one has the signature contrast-heavy and colorful style we expect from instant film. You'll have to wait a minute or two between pressing print on your phone and the final image appearing in your hands, but that's all part of the charm of instant film.
We think it's a better buy than the Instax Wide 300 camera, which hasn't seen an update in eight years and is rather cumbersome to use. If you want the biggest instant photos possible, this is arguably the best way to go about it.
How to pick the best instant camera for you
While most instant cameras are simple and relatively affordable, there are still a few key things to think about when picking the best instant camera for your needs and budget.
The cheapest models will usually amount to little more than toy cameras with basic point-and-shoot settings. These are fine if you just want a straightforward camera for fun party snaps. But you’ll need to spend a little more for modes like macro-focusing, while the higher-end is where you’ll find hybrid digital functionality. This allows you to hook up your camera to a smartphone for further creative controls – or to produce physical prints from your smartphone’s camera roll.
Print quality and size are also worth considering. Although no instant brand delivers super-accurate results (that’s part of the vintage charm), Instax arguably produces the most natural images. Polaroid prints tend to have a dreamier look, which can be just as appealing, depending on your preferences. Films also come in different sizes to suit specific cameras, so it’s worth considering whether you’ll want pocket-sized prints or something bigger.
While instant cameras are generally affordable, you’ll need to factor in the cost of film. It can add up pretty quickly, so pay attention to the price per pack – and think about how many pictures you’re likely to shoot on a regular basis. Polaroid film tends to be pricier than Instax – for the price of a single pack of eight color Polaroid I-Type shots, you can get two packs of ten Instax Mini film.
Some instant cameras with digital screens or smartphone connectivity allow you to preview your shots before printing them out, to dramatically reduce wastage (and therefore the cost of dud snaps).
What is the difference between Polaroid and Instax?
Polaroid and Fujifilm's Instax are the two biggest brands in instant cameras. While both use similar technology, using chemical reactions that self-develop each image in your hand, the main difference between them is the type of film their cameras take.
Polaroid cameras take one or two types of film: the larger I-Type, which produces square format photos, and the newer 'Go' film, used by its tiny Polaroid Go camera. You can choose between color and black-and-white film, along with a range of different border colors.
Instax cameras offer a wider variety of film types: there's Instax Mini, Square and Wide film. Like Polaroid's film, these can't be mixed and matched between cameras, so choosing your preferred film type is an important part of picking the right instant camera for you.
Which is the best type of film? Polaroid's I-Type has the edge for size, but Instax film tends to work out as a little more affordable. For example, for the price of a single pack of eight color Polaroid I-Type shots, you can get two packs of ten Instax Mini film.
For a full comparison between the instant camera brands, check out our Polaroid vs Instax guide. And to compare the sizes of all the different Polaroid and Instax film types, check out our full ranked list below.
Which instant camera film is the best?
1. Instax Mini
The most common instant film format, producing pictures measuring just 62 x 46mm.
2. Instax Square
Fuji's take on the square format film popularized by Polaroid. Camera support for these 62 x 62mm photos is more limited.
3. Instax Wide
Twice the size of instax mini and twice the price, but photos measure a meatier 99 x 62mm.
4. Polaroid I-Type
Designed for use in the Impossible I-1and OneStep 2, I-Type film packs don’t have batteries built in, so can't be used with vintage Polaroids.
5. Polaroid Go
Polaroid's answer to Instax Mini, the Polaroid Go film measures 66.6mm x 53.9 mm and is designed to work with the camera of the same name.
6. Polaroid 600
Film designed for vintage Polaroid 600-type cameras. It can also be used in the Impossible I-1 and OneStep 2.
7. Polaroid Zink 2x3
Credit-card sized instant film that uses heat-sensitive ink to produce images. Colors are more traditional than Instax. Compatible with many Zink-based cameras and printers.
Are new instant cameras still being made?
Instant cameras might seem a little old-school in 2022, but they're definitely still being made. In fact, they’re an increasingly popular photography format. Inspired by retro cameras from the days when analogue film was the norm, these modern remakes are designed to recapture the accessible fun of point-and-shoot photography.
There are plenty of reasons why you might want to buy an instant camera in 2022. Unlike smartphone photography, instant cameras give you a physical print to hold in your hands straight away, stick on the fridge or share with your friends. It’s a novel, tactile way to reconnect with photography’s fun factor.
Another bonus is how easy it is to shoot with an instant camera. The best options are really simple to use, making it straightforward to capture warm vintage prints. Most feature just a handful of buttons and limited shooting modes, leaving you free to focus on framing. What’s more, instant cameras tend to be available at much more affordable prices than compact cameras. That means they can be a great way for kids to get into photography, too.
Analogue photography has enjoyed a revival in recent years, and the trend shows no signs of going away any time soon. Instant cameras let you have a slice of the throwback pie without the steep learning curve, expense and hassle of more complicated film photography techniques.
How we test instant cameras
There's only one way to test instant cameras, and it isn't by pixel-peeping resolution charts – for these analogue snappers, it's all about real-world use. After analyzing each camera's design, build quality and features, we load it up with film and take it out for a day of instant photography. We take a range of shots of different subjects: people, high-contrast scenes and objects like flowers, to give us a good sense of how well the autofocus works (if the cameras has autofocus) and the kind of colors you can expect in different situations.
We also turn the flash on to see how that fairs, and time how long it takes for the print to be ready. Some instant cameras, like the Polaroid Now+, also have companion apps, so in those cases we'll test how well they connect to a smartphone and also take any special features (like double exposures, or light painting) for a spin to see how well they work in practice.