A flash from the past, old school Polaroid cameras have been making a dramatic comeback in the last couple of years, with everyone posting photos on social media of their recent polaroid shots. These cameras are great because they print photos on the spot and give one-of-a-kind memories that you can cherish. With so many different cameras to choose from, it can be tricky to find the right one for you. If you don’t know the difference between your old-school, retro Polaroid camera and the more modern Instax mini range, we have a breakdown of the best Polaroid-style instant cameras and printers this year to help you make the right decision.
- 1 Instant Camera vs. Retro Printers
- 2 Instant Cameras
- 3 Polaroid Printers
Instant Camera vs. Retro Printers
Go back around 30 years, and the only way to print your photos was to visit your local photography shop to process your film. Or you bought a Polaroid camera and printed photos instantly from the camera itself.
These images have a touch of vintage class about them, so much so that people have been jumping back on this vintage bandwagon to take incredible photos. For those who don’t want to carry a camera around, or would like to decide later which photos to print, a Polaroid-style photo printer could be the best option. But what’s the difference between the two, and which one is better?
- Polaroid cameras only print one photo at a time, making these photos unique and special. If you buy a printer then you can print any old photo, which might make them feel less original
- Polaroid cameras are convenient, so you can take photos and print them while you’re out and about
- Polaroid printers are great for those that want to edit photos before printing. It means you have control over the appearance of the shot so they are incredible every single time
- Polaroid printers save wasted shots because you can pick which photos to print. If you have the camera then you don’t always know how the photo is going to come out before it’s printed. One bad shot will waste photo paper, which can start to get expensive after a while
Whether you go for an instant camera or printer, you can still get the old-school look you want for your photos. Take a look at our top picks below.
Instax dominates the instant camera market with its collection of versatile Polaroid-style cameras and accessories. The Instax Mini 8 is perhaps the most popular instant camera from the Instax range and offers a simple, no-frills approach to photography.
They come in a range of different colours, including white (pictured above), pink, blue and black. They look great and they take good quality photos when exploring. It comes with an in-built flash and a basic viewfinder, along with a range of different features like brightness adjustment and Hi-Key mode.
This camera is durable and versatile and looks great when you’re out of the house. The only downside with the Instax range is that purchasing photo paper can get a little pricey. Though there are some good bundle deals that allow you to purchase the camera along with photo paper at the same time.
- Brightness adjustment dial
- Built-in flash
- Print size: 54 x 85 mm
- Image size: 46 x 62 mm
This camera is made by the experts – Polaroid themselves. Given the jump in popularity of these much-loved cameras, Polaroid decided to bring out a new range of their own. The Polaroid Snap Instant camera is a striking camera that will give you photos on-the-go.
Its minimal design gives it the iconic look of their older Polaroid models, making it easy for anyone to start using an instant camera. This camera is pocket-sized and can be easily carried for longer excursions.
Photos taken on this camera will be printed instantly, as well as being saved to your digital devices, making uploading to social media easy. It also means that you never lose your photos because you have a backup copy saved.
- Zink Zero Ink Printing Technology
- Item Dimensions: 25 x 120 x 75 mm
- 10 MP camera
- 32 GB of space
- Rechargeable battery
Going back to the Instax range, the Instax Mini 90 is perhaps one of the best instant cameras on the market. It looks sleek and similar to an old video or film camera. The Mini 90 comes with a few extra features that the Mini 8 does not. So let’s get into it.
The Mini 90 comes with an in-built flash, like the Mini 8, but this version comes with three different flash controls, depending on the lighting. There are forced firing, flash off, and red-eye reduction modes to ensure your photos always look crisp. The Mini 90 also comes with self-timer, macro-mode, landscape mode, LCD menu screen, tripod mount, and double exposure – all things that the Mini 8 does not.
Although this instant camera comes with lots more features than the Mini 8, they are only really worth it for those that intend to use these new features. For those looking to experience owning an instant camera who just want the retro-style images, then the Mini 8 might be enough for you. Again, it’s possible to buy this camera in a bundle deal including photo paper, so you can start using your camera straight away.
- Print size: 54 x 85 mm
- Image size: 46 x 62 mm
- Selfie mode
- Macro mode
- LCD screen
- Landscape mode
- Built-in flash with three different settings
- Adjustable brightness
- Double exposure mode
Back to the old classic, the Polaroid PIC-300. This camera looks similar to the Instax Mini 8, is available in bright colours and shares the same general characteristics of the camera. However, it is a little more expensive than the Mini 8.
This camera is slightly smaller than the Mini 8, though it is a little heavier. It operates fairly similarly to the Mini 8, though it has an electronic shutter, energy-saving mode (if left unused for over 5 minutes), and four settings for various lighting environments, which the Mini 8 does not offer.
The Polaroid PIC-300 prints using PIF-300 instant film, which can work out as slightly more expensive than the FujiFilm equivalent. This camera works in much the same way as the Instax Mini 8, making it easy to use for anyone.
- Captures instant colour photos
- Electronic shutter and manual exposure compensation
- Four different light environment settings
- In-built flash
- Item dimensions: 70 x 119 x 121 mm
- Takes four AA batteries
Here’s another one from the Instax range, this time, focusing on quality instant images shot in wide angle. The Fujifilm Wide 300 makes its way onto our list because it comes with a range of fun features and added benefits.
Most of the instant cameras available don’t offer much in terms of control of the image – until the Fujifilm Wide 300 was launched. They offer two different focuses, either normal or landscape, giving you more control over your image. This model prints using the Instax wide photo film, making it great for up-close images. This camera also comes with macro mode, landscape mode, and has an LCD display menu screen and a tripod mount.
Though the Fujifilm Wide 300 doesn’t necessarily come with all the swanky features the Mini 90 does, this camera still prints high-quality, large images that make a statement.
- Print size: 108 x 85 mm
- Image size: 99 x 62 mm
- Macro mode
- Landscape mode
- LCD menu screen
- Tripod mount
- Exposure compensation and backlight
The cameras listed above will print your photo straight away, making your photo unique, and that’s what makes Polaroid photography and film cameras so special. However, the beauty of instant-style printers is you can take a look at your photos before printing. Let’s be fair, the photo paper can cost quite a bit so you want to make sure every photo printed is top-quality so you don’t waste any unnecessary money. It also means you can leave the camera at home when you’re exploring – and print your shots when you get home. So let’s take a look at the best Polaroid-style printers around.
The Polaroid ZIP mobile printer is a fast and convenient way to print your favourite photos straight from your mobile phone. It provides the same picture quality and style, without having to use the instant camera when out of the house. This little printer is small and can fit in your pocket if you want to print photos while away.
This instant mobile printer comes in a variety of different funky colours, like this pink one above, as well as blue, black or white. Photos are printed using Zink Zero ink printing technology, so you don’t ever have to worry about ink in your printer, the Zink Zero photo film takes care of that for you.
The Polaroid ZIP mobile printer can be connected to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth or NFC technology for fast and convenient printing. It comes with its own lithium rechargeable battery and can print around 25 sheets before needing to be charged again. This printer is great for those looking for crystal clear photos in a retro style.
- Zink Zero ink printing technology
- Sleek design with a variety of colours to choose from
- Small and lightweight
- Product dimensions: 74 x 23 x 120 mm
- Print using tablet or mobile
The HP Sprocket is another nifty instant film photo printer that can be synced to your phone or tablet. Its sleek, lightweight design means you can take it with you anywhere to share your photos with friends and family.
Personalise your photos fast with fun borders, effects, and emojis to make your photos stand out. This printer by HP is by far the smallest printer made using inject quality technology, giving you crisp photos every single time.
It comes with a lithium rechargeable battery offering you loads of power to print photos while on-the-go. The printer connects to your phones or tablets Bluetooth to print photos easily. This printer works using Zink technology for ink-free printing and quality photos.
- Takes up to 40 seconds to print
- Printer dimensions: 75 x 115 x 22 mm
- Weight: 172g
- Printer can connect to social media accounts
- Charged by micro-USB
And who would have guessed it? Yes, we are moving back to Instax because they are one of the biggest contenders in the instant photography-sphere. They actually have two printers, the SP-1 and SP-2, though the older SP-1 is still one of the best instant photo printers out there. It’s easy to use and portable.
Change your settings to ‘real time template’ and take a photo. When you come to print your photo, the date, place, temperature, weather and humidity are all captured in the image, making your photo unique. The Instax SP-1 works via Wi-Fi and so can be easily connected to smartphones and tablets.
This printer is ideal for those that want the retro-style of a polaroid photo, without actually having to carry around the camera itself. It means you can take photos on your phone or tablet and decide later which ones you want to print. This will save you lots of money on wasted shots and photo film.
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- Printer dimensions: 123 x 42 x 102 mm
- A variety of photo templates and filters to your image before printing
- Fast printing time
Which one should you buy? With so many different brands and models on the market, you can’t really go wrong with any of these new instant style cameras and photo printers. They all offer pretty good photo quality and ensure your photos look unique and stand out from the rest. Don’t feel that you need to get the new models of instant camera though – there are lots of old-school Polaroid cameras around that you can buy second hand.
Whatever you decide to buy, make sure it is the right choice for you and your lifestyle, because maintaining an instant camera isn’t a cheap pastime. Will you go for an instant camera or a printer? Let me know in the comments below.