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Best instant camera 2019: 9 fun cameras perfect for parties

Instant cameras were once huge news. While the digital revolution has made analogue and film photography a niche undertaking carried out by relatively few people, Instant cameras have managed to keep hold of a good degree of popularity. Here's our pick of the best models you can buy right now.

Whether it’s nostalgia or the unique aesthetic they provide, instant cameras and their distinct prints are a pretty big market right now - even with the dominance of the smartphone, you can’t beat having a print in your hand. The proliferation of the Fujifilm Instax brand has probably done a lot to boost that, but there's also some interesting options available elsewhere too.

These are the kind of cameras that come out for special occasions and parties. They bring out your fun side and allow you to get a bit more creative than simply snapping away with your smartphone. 

Take a look at our list below for some recommended instant highs.

Best instant cameras 2019 at a glance

  1. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9
  2. Fujifilm Instax Mini 70
  3. Polaroid OneStep 2
  4. Leica Sofort
  5. Fujifilm Instax Wide 300
  6. Impossible I-1
  7. Fujifilm instax SQUARE SQ6
  8. Lomography Lomo'Instant Automat

Best instant cameras in 2019

1. Fujifilm Instax Mini 9

A classic favourite available at a great price

Lens: 60mm | Focusing: Macro, Normal and Landscape | Flash: Built-in | Self-timer: Yes

Simple to use
Fun selfie mirror
Good value 
Limited control
Quality could be better

If you're looking for a cheap and easy to use instant camera, you're not going to go that wrong with the Instax Mini 9 from Fujifilm, which remains as a perennial favourite. 

It may lack the more sophisticated controls that pricier models enjoy, but that's half its charm. With little input required to produce decent credit card-sized instant prints, anyone in can use it. 

Great fun at parties, the little mirror on the front of the camera means it's easy to get an instant selfie. It's also available in a range of fun colours, so you should be able to find one that matches your favourite. 

Another great thing about the Instax Mini 9 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 Instax Mini film, though. 

2. Fujifilm Instax Mini 70

Another well-priced Instax Mini model

Lens: 60mm | Focusing: Macro, Normal and Landscape | Flash: Built-in | Self-timer: Yes

Really easy to use
Selfie mode
Can obscure flash
Limited control

Slightly more advanced than the Instax Mini 9, 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). 

3. Polaroid OneStep 2

A big dollop of retro charm

Lens: 106mm | Focusing: Macro, Normal and Landscape | Flash: Built-in | Self-timer: Yes

Retro design
Easy to use
Controls could be laid out better
Film is pretty pricey

Polaroid was the shorthand for instant photography in its heyday. Since closing the factory doors in 2008, its popularity has remained - so much so that a group of enthusiasts were able to step in to recreate the famous Polaroid film and, later cameras. 

The OneStep 2 was the first Polaroid Originals branded camera. It embraces a retro design from the spec sheet of the original 1970s OneStep, an is set-up to be as easy-to-use as possible. Large square prints are the order of the day thanks to I-Type film, with Polaroid Originals film readily available - but noticeably pricier than its Instax rivals.

4. Leica Sofort

Leica making an instant camera? Yup, you heard it right

Lens: 60mm | Focusing: Macro, Normal and Landscape | Flash: Built-in | Self-timer: Yes

Premium feel
Lot of control
Similar to Fuji's instax mini 90
Pricey option

If you dream of owning a Leica, then this relatively affordable option (compared to other Leicas) could be a way into notoriously expensive brand. The Leica Sofort is a few years old now, so it's harder to find than it once might have been, but it's not impossible. Considering this is Leica's one and only foray into the Instant camera genre, perhaps they weren't well received, but we were very pleased with the image quality. It uses Instax Mini film so finding compatible film won't be a problem - but it is a little on the small side. 

A number of modes come in useful, such as Macro, Bulb, self-timer, Party & People, Sport & Action, Double Exposure and (of course) selfie modes, while there's also fully automatic modes for those who just want to point and shoot. 

Although cheap by Leica standards, the Sofort is much more expensive than the comparable Instax models - so if you can live without the little red dot, head that way for savings. 

5. Fujifilm Instax Wide 300

Large camera that delivers large photos

Lens: 95mm | Focusing: Normal and Landscape | Flash: Built-in | Self-timer: No

Easy to hold and use
Large prints
Bulky design
Tiny viewfinder

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.

6. Impossible I-1

Curious mix of old-school chemistry and new-fangled technical wizardry

Lens: N/A | Focusing: 5 focusing modes | Flash: Built-in (ringflash) | Self-timer: Yes

Handy ring flash
Creative shooting
Bulky to carry
Loses power quickly

Resembling a cross between a plastic pyramid and a spaceship from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Impossible I-1 features lights around the lens to form a ‘ring flash’ for softer portrait lighting, while it even comes with a free I-1 app for your smartphone. 

Expect to generate some "looks" while tooling around with this, it uses Polaroid Originals i-Type film, which produces "mixed" results at best - but that's all part of the charm, right?

You can use the app as a remote trigger, a noise trigger and a self-timer. The app also allows double exposures, light painting, and aperture and shutter speed adjustment – and it works as a photo scanner too. 

If you don't want to bother with all of that, you can also simply point and shoot the camera at its subject. Owing to its unpredictable nature, bulky shape and expensive film use, the I-1 is an excellent tool for experiments in instant photography, but too cumbersome for informal party shots. 

7. Fujifilm instax SQUARE SQ6

Square-format prints for the Instagram generation

Lens: 65.75mm f/12.6 | Focusing: Macro, normal and landscape | Flash: Built-in (can be turned off) | Self-timer: Yes

Built-in selfie mirror
Relatively compact
Film is a little pricey...
... as is the camera next to rivals

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.

8. Lomography Lomo'Instant Automat

Beautiful design and the option to use different lenses makes the Automat special

Lens: 60mm f/8 | Focusing: Close-up, normal and landscape | Flash: Built-in | Self-timer: No

Excellent design
Unlimited multiple exposures
No self timer
Pricey with additional lenses

Arguably one of the more handsome options here, the Automat is one of many recent cameras that initially began life as a Kickstarter campaign.

It comes in a particularly broad range of finishes and conveniently captures images on Fujifilm’s widely available instax Mini film, but the thing that sets it apart from its contemporaries is its ability to be used with close-up, wide and fisheye lenses (that can be bought with the camera), in addition to the default optic. 

Further control includes unlimited multiple exposures and a bulb option, and while it’s a shame it doesn’t have a self timer this is hardly a deal-breaker.

What might be more painful to bear is the high price that the Instant Automat commands - it takes out of impulse and fun territory, but if you're particularly keen on the genre, you might be willing to fork out for it.

(Image credit: Fujifilm)

9. Instax mini LiPlay

A fun mix of digital and analogue - capture sounds with your prints

Lens: 28mm f/2.0 | Focusing: 10cm - infinity | Flash: Built-in | Self-timer: 10sec/2sec

Small size
Easy-to-use
High price
Sub smartphone image quality

The newest model on our list combines retro-analogue charm with modern-day digital credentials. It's essentially a basic, low-resolution digital camera with a printer inbuilt 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.

(Image credit: Future)

4 films to choose from

1. Instax Mini

The most common instant film format, producing pictures measuring just 62 x 46mm.

2. Instax Wide

Twice the size of instax mini and twice the price, but photos measure a meatier 99 x 62mm. 

3. Polaroid I-Type

Designed for use in the Impossible I-1and OneStep 2, I-Type film packs don’t have batteries built in. 

4. Polaroid 600

Film designed for Polaroid 600-type cameras. It can also be used in the Impossible I-1 and OneStep 2.