Although in reality, it may seem like a simple technology, there are many instant cameras on sale on the market produced by different brands.
Which stands out thanks to some technical characteristics that, never as in this case, are fundamental and determine the simplicity and quality of the photographs taken.
Here we had listed out the latest and advanced models of the best instant cameras that are presented below.
Buyer Guide to Choose Instant Cameras
When we talk about instant cameras, we immediately think of Polaroid. It is a fact, but this particular sector of photography is not just the US brand.
Especially in recent years were very important producers have attempted to ride the wave of new interest in instant cameras, producing models similar in concept but very technologically different from the first point and print cameras.
Two Technologies: Analog and Digital
It is easy to say instant camera, as if all models, from the cheapest to the most expensive, we’re the same and exploited a single technology.
The current instant cameras are divided into two main categories: the analogue ones, which are strongly inspired by the Polaroids of the past, and the digital ones, also called “hybrids”. These contain a special Zink type thermal printer and a CCD or CMOS sensor.
The first category includes all the Fujifilm Instax, the new OneStep 2 and OneStep + by Polaroid Originals, the Lomo of Lomography and the Leica Sofort. In the hybrid category, we find the Polaroid Snap and Snap Touch as well as the latest addition to the Kodak house, that is the Printomatic.
Analogue instant cameras see the images originate from more or less slow development of a photosensitive film, such as Fujifilm’s Instax films and the new Polaroid Originals i-Types.
They are inspired by the past also in design and produce photographs with decidedly vintage tones that have contributed, and contribute, to their success.
Hybrid instant cameras do not impress any film but record the images in the internal memory, or an optional microSD, through a common CCD or CMOS image sensor.
Usually, but not always, they display them on display and only after the user has decided to print them, do they transfer them to paper by activating an internal printer that exploits the thermochemical properties of a special paper.
Having made this necessary distinction, we add that the development of an analogue film is slower than the printing (chemical transformation) of a Zink card. Instax, for example, takes about 2 minutes to produce an image, Polaroid Originals OneStep 2 takes even 15, 20 minutes.
The hybrids of Kodak and Polaroid instead take about 40 seconds to deliver a beautiful and finished photo, to be hung on the bulletin board or attached to the album using the adhesive backing.
Are the Snapshots Produced Beautiful?
This is perhaps the most difficult question to answer when dealing with the topic of instant photography. To do this, you need a new approach to photography.
If we take as reference the impeccable prints obtained with the best photographic printers and the photographs taken with the various reflex cameras, compact or mirrorless, the comparison with the instant photographs is nothing short of ruthless.
These are most often poor in detail, have pale colours and are small. What makes a snapshot irresistible is the “concept” behind every single shot, not the quality. And by a concept, we mean the uniqueness and unrepeatability of the images themselves, the fact that they are formed before our eyes.
The possibility of collecting them in unrepeatable albums, the need to think about the composition before pressing the shutter button. Not surprisingly, snapshots are said to be “reasoned” photographs.
It may seem like a paradox since instant cameras are lacking in manual functions and adjustments, yet they are perhaps the most creative cameras on the market.
Each photo is intrinsically linked to the light conditions, the position of the photographer about the subject, the temperature of the environment in which he is located, the few adjustments made before clicking.
All this makes the world of snapshots stand-alone and fascinating at the same time. So keep this in mind when you are about to choose your snapshot: some, like Lomography, allows you to create and express your creative flair freely, also thanks to additional optics.
How to Use an Instant Camera?
For a creative photographic apparatus what your new instant camera is, it is almost impossible to list rules and instructions for use.
Beyond the functions associated with the buttons and levers of the various models, the rest is entrusted to the skill and imagination of the photographer. Both are refined over time, according to the instant camera purchased.
Right below we had shared the video guide so that you can understand how to use the instant cameras.
Unique and Unrepeatable Photos
Among the advantages of instantaneous photography, there are its “uniqueness” and its “unrepeatability”. Every paper photo, unless you choose a digital-hybrid model like the Polaroid Snap Touch, is unique and unrepeatable.
You can also make an effort, in front of the same subject, to recreate the same light conditions: different shots will correspond to equally different images.
To understand the concept even more deeply, just think that analogue photography, which is obtained by chemical development of photosensitive sheets, is also affected by the ambient temperature.
However, none of this uniqueness belongs to the digital world which offers us images in sometimes exaggerated and reproducible quantities, by a thread and by sign, infinite times.
Better Manage the Light
Since between you and the subject, when you use an instant camera, there is only light, it is good practice to manage it better. So avoid taking photos against the light.
The exposure meters of instant cameras are quite simple, and they struggle to manage subjects with intense light sources behind them (landscapes in broad daylight, windows, sunsets, etc …). Always turn your back on the main lighting, be it natural or artificial, and you will get better results.
Follow this tip even when using the flash. If, on the other hand, you are chasing a particular result and you want to reproduce only the outline of the framed subject, then place yourself in front or almost in the sun.
In these situations, turning off the flash (not provided by all models) can be a great help feature. For this reason, in the technical sheets that accompany the eight snapshot models that make up our comparison, we have included the item “flash deactivation”.
A Viewfinder Unlike Any Other
You will also need to get used to using the optical viewfinder whose axis differs from that of the lens. In other words, what you will see in the photo does not correspond to what you have framed inside the viewfinder.
You will need time from this point of view, and you will also have to accept that in some cases the photograph will be wrong, resulting in a waste of films and money.
To meet you, several manufacturers put guidelines in the viewfinder that give you an idea of what you will see on photography after developing it. It is important to become familiar with this type of support.
Exposure Compensation and Focus
Many instant cameras allow you, exactly as with digital cameras, to compensate the exposure by acting on simple levers and modifying (without you doing it) the aperture values and the shutter speed.
Contrary to digital cameras, with analogue snapshots, however, you will not be able to evaluate the compensation result until after taking a shot. Again, testing is a must.
Do not be discouraged, however, because after becoming familiar with your new instant camera, you will be able to get good results and images to frame with each shot, eliminating errors almost totally.
A little attention, you will also have to put it in focus. Forget about pressing the shutter button halfway to focus before shooting. You will have to assess the distance between you and the subject by eye and move the dedicated lever that in many cases the camera makes available.
Many models offer three options ranging from macro to infinity, others only two. Everything will be very simple, and the chances of having out of focus subjects will become more and more limited over time.
This is also due to the small apertures of the diaphragms installed in the instant cameras, which guarantee wide depths of field.
How to Choose the Best Instant Camera?
In addition to the image quality, the brand and the supported format, the factors to be evaluated before buying the best instant camera for your needs are different.
In many of the models on sale today, companies have practically combined the technologies of digital photography with those of instant photos, producing real jewels.
We immediately start from an assumption, and unlike other types of photographic machine, the instantaneous ones are generally purchased for pure fun and not for professional results.
Of course, the quality of the images is not a factor to be underestimated even in this segment. Still, the purpose of taking snapshots is to obtain a vintage and less precise style of photography than current standards.
An instant camera is rarely equipped with interchangeable lenses such as bridges or reflex cameras, so do not be afraid when you notice the fact that in the vast majority of cases, these cameras mount a fixed lens that cannot be replaced, with which it will be possible to shoot only in automatic mode.
Type of Films
The quality of the print changes based on the films used which, remember, are instantaneously developed. Commonly called paper for instant cameras, the small ones are now available in different types that stand out from each other based on the ISO, that is the sensitivity to light exposure.
Most of the films on sale today support ISO 800 and are suitable only for daytime exposure, although most instant cameras now incorporate a flash that solves the problem of photos in the dark.
Finally, it is important to take into account the expiration date of the films because, by containing chemical agents with which the image is generated, they are subject to wear over time. Wear that could cause a substantial change in colour and sensitivity.
It is perhaps the most important factor to consider before purchasing because it determines the size and shape of the printed photographs. Some compact models can print on very small sheets, while other models print larger photos. Here are the four most popular standards on the market:
- 50 X 76 Mm: it is the most common among the latest generation Polaroids and allows printing with or without a border, depending on the user’s needs;
- 46 X 62 Mm (54 X 86 Mm with Border): it is the most popular format, excellent for its practicality and for the fact that the printed photos can also be carried in a wallet. It remains a rather small format, but often these types of press sheets are also equipped with a built-in adhesive;
- 62 X 99 Mm (86 X 108 Mm with Border): it is a format defined wide, with which it is possible to print much larger images and which have a larger footprint both as regards the printed sheet and as regards the dimensions of the camera which must be equipped with a larger cart for the sheets;
- 62 X 62 Mm (86 X 72 Mm with Border): it is the square format, specially designed for anyone who wants to print photos with a 100% vintage style. A small number of models supports it, but it is also the most beautiful to look at.
Dimensions and Weight
The size and weight of an instant camera depend a lot on the print format and the battery. Most of the models currently on sale are relatively compact, except the wide and square models, which need much more space to be able to hold all the sheets for printing.
Our advice is to start with the assumption that an instant camera is also beautiful for its non-compactness, and rather than evaluating the size and weight, it is important to decide well the print format you prefer.
Generally, the autonomy of these cameras is quite limited. And the reason is the fact that these particular products must consume energy also to complete the printing process.
Depending on the model, it is possible to find cameras powered by alkaline batteries or rechargeable lithium-ion batteries which, compared to the first model, have the advantage of lasting longer and weighing less.
The autonomy of an instant camera varies depending on the model, and is measured in steps: the less performing models can get to print up to 25 photographs on a charge, while the more advanced ones also reach 100 images.