Best Polaroid Cameras: 7 Instant Cameras For That Vintage Vibe

Sometimes you just can’t help but give in to a good old fashioned polaroid camera and succumb to the feeling of nostalgia, can you?

Polaroid Photo

It’s fun to reminisce over that terrible fashion style that plagued the decade.

To think back on it and wonder where exactly all your common sense was at the time.

Or that haircut that everyone had that was so old it’s now coming back into fashion again.

A trendsetter I hear you murmur to yourself?

Call it whatever you want, but polaroids are going through the same cycle as your old haircut and they are now right back in fashion.

For good reason too, polaroids give an immediacy even greater than digital cameras do.

From taking the photo to having it print out directly in front of you can be a satisfying experience. The cameras are perfect for social gatherings like weddings and birthday parties.

The Best Polaroid Cameras For That Instant Vintage

With some new products and greater accessibility to them we have seen sales skyrocket. Now on to the best polaroid cameras and how they stack up against each other.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 – The Best Instant Camera

Fujifilm Instax Mini 90
Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 – Now isn’t that a drop dead sexy camera?

Update: The Fuji is currently selling at a massive discount to its retail price. Jump in and grab a bargain before it expires. Check out the deal by clicking here.

Fuji are awesome, they have seen a huge resurrection in the past few years, particularly in the direction and style of the company and they haven’t put a foot wrong.

They have done an incredible job of leveraging off that old school 35mm SLR camera aesthetic, but not only that the quality of their cameras can not be faulted.

I love them.

If only they made a camera with a full frame sensor in a mirrorless body I’d be a 100% brand loyalist.

But I’m getting off topic.

Here’s why the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 rocks:

  • Fully automatic exposure control with automated flash fill to ensure your shots always come out looking great. No underexposure or overexposure.
  • Has a simple double exposure control mode so you can get creative with two shots on one piece of print.
  • Bulb mode lets you photograph light trails if you want to get even more artistic at night. Great for light painting too.
  • Built in macro mode which lets you accurately shoot up close subjects (within distances of 30 – 60cm).
  • It has a sport mode that cranks up the shutter speed so you can capture sharp images of friends or kids playing sports or generally anyone moving faster than a mild amble.

Find out more about the Fuji.

Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 Instant Film Camera

Fuji Instax Wide 300
Fuji Instax Wide 300 – Wide Load Coming Through..

Make room for the Fuji Instax Wide 300 – it’s a big, bulky, behemoth of a thing, but if you can get past that then the shots are sure to make your pants rock.

Why is it so big?

It takes polaroids reminiscent of the aspect ratio on a typical photograph, check it out.

Polaroid 300
Look at all that space!

Ever notice how getting everyone in the frame for group shots on classic polaroid photographs is like trying to keep your aircraft baggage weight under the carry on allowance?

It’s impossible. You always go over. 

That’s where this Fuji shines. It’s hands down the best polaroid camera for big group photos.


A word of warning:

If there is bright light shining in the direction of the photo exit slot it can cause light to leak in and expose part of the film. You can combat this by covering the area with your hand or whatever else you want. Something to be mindful of!


Make sure to get the correct polaroid film for this. It takes Instax Wide instant film. Not the more common instax mini stuff.

Too Big? Try The Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 Instant Polaroid Camera.

Fujifilm Instax Mini 25
Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 – The baby of the family

If the Fujifilm Wide 300 was the big daddy of the polaroid family then the Fujifilm Instax Mini 25 is the new born baby.

The little baby polaroid measures in at around 2″ x 3.4″.

So what’s the point with such a small photo?

I think the Instax Mini 25 was made for vanity – plain and simple.

The camera has a selfie mirror for god-sake. If that’s the name of your game, cool, it is for the majority of the people in the world these days too.

The other thing it has going for it is that it’s much more affordable. At almost half the price of the other two it’s a good option if you want to get into the polaroid game on a budget.

Meet The Frankenstein Polaroid Instant Digital Camera

Polaroid Instant Film Camera

Yeah I said that right. An instant film camera that prints polaroids, but has a digital LCD screen display on the back.

I know what you’re thinking…

What level of dark magic sorcery has gone into creating such an abomination!?

Who knows, but we do know this is Polaroid’s very own Frankenstein.

A freak of nature with two diametrically opposed systems and ideologies forged into the one body. Film and digital finally sharing a home together. A work of art or a work of insanity?

You be the judge.

Can it succeed where Frankenstein failed? Does it have the nuance and gentle touch to make this monster palatable?

I think it does. Kind of.

Part of the allure of shooting film (or polaroids) is that each shot has a material value as it becomes a tangible thing. It assigns some level of value and importance.

With the digital aspect you are removing that tangible value. But in this instance I think you’re replacing it with the possibilty of even greater things. And at the crux of that is saving your hard earned scrilla. I’ve wasted a decent amount of cash on film, taking similar shots over and over hoping one of them turns out the way I wanted. The digital back is like the cheat code for DOOM that gave you God mode. It will turn you into a photography overlord of the underground film scene.

Frankenstein features:

  • 1080p video
  • MicroSD card slot
  • 13MP sensor
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Print on demand zero ink prints (no smudge)
  • You decide which polaroid to print

You can check out the camera here.

But Where Does The Leica Instant Camera Fit In?

Leica Instant Camera

It doesn’t.

Sorry Leica, but I just don’t think you’re one of the best instant cameras at that price point. 

And I bleed film photography. Leica is the God of silver halide. But it’s just not worth it in this arena.

The Leica Sofort is pretty much identical in performance and functionality to the Fujifilm Instax 90. You will just be paying nearly 3 times more to get a little red circle with Leica branding. Not a bad deal right?

Yes it is bad. 

Look, Leica have a fantastic reputation among the film community and digital alike, there’s no denying that. Their M3 and M6 are the most sought after cameras in the film world and cost a minimum of $2,000. Thinking of going digital? Well then you should expect to pay no less than $5,000 for the decent Leicas.

But it just seems like people are being fooled into getting some of that quality Leica in their instant camera. That’s just not the case.

People are happy to spend considerable sums of money on gear that makes them feel as though they have something exclusive, something elite, something that everyone wants – you have to admit that’s a pretty good feeling. But it wears out faster than the welcome you give to unsavory guests. Don’t be like those people.

It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t run through a few of the Leica features, so here they are:

  • Oh wait, that’s right – it’s pretty much identical to the fuji. See above.

Check out the Leica here – but I recommend against it!

Lomography LomoInstant

Lomo instant

Now here’s something to phone home about!

The lomography lomo’instant camera basically gives you three different focal lengths for the price of a little over one.

As well as the 27mm wide angle lens that is a permanent fixture in the camera, you get three additional attachments that can change the lens to a:

  • Fish eye with 170 degree views
  • 35mm portrait and street photography focal length
  • Quasi macro lens that allows for focusing 10cm from your subject for awesome detail

According to them they also provide a polaroid camera with the largest aperture in the world at f/8. Now it’s a big claim for a small aperture, I don’t see why this should be so much of a selling point. Really most of your shots should be happening during the daytime and if they aren’t then you’ve got a flash, so use it.

Some other cool features about the camera though is the fact that it lets you take long exposures. The bulb setting lets you keep the shutter open for as long as you like. If you’re a fan of multiple exposures then they have you covered as well – the camera lets you shoot an unlimited number of exposure on the one slide of film. Shoot away until it turns into a brown blurry smudge!

The camera is unique compared to the others as it provides plenty of opportunities for experimenting and learning with the different lens attachments that come with it. For this reason I think it would be more well suited as a gift to first timer photographers than the rest of the cameras as it should more easily nurture an inquisitive photographer spirit. In light of this it’s good, but not the best polaroid camera.

Click here to find out more about the lomography lomo’instant.

Beam Me Up, Scotty

Analog Instant Camera

You see a series of bright shining lights in the middle of the night peering down above you. A gentle weightlessness starts to envelop your body as you begin floating towards this unidentified object that just seems to hover in place. This must have been part of the dialogue the design team covered when they conceptualized the Project 1-A Analog Instant Camera. It’s design could be fool any tinfoil hat conspiracy theorist that alien’s do exist with one quick flash.

Admittedly, this wacky design does have some perks. With the ring flash you’re going to get some really good portrait photography as you get equal lighting on your subject. You’re also not stuck with the single focal length like many of the other instant cameras. Here you get 6 different types of lenses including:

  • Macro (0.3-0.5m)
  • Close-up (0.5-1.0m)
  • Near-field (1.0-2.2m)
  • Mid-field (2.2-4.5m)
  • Far-field (4.5 – infinity m)

Despite these attractive propositions, the camera does come with some issues. It appears the Project 1-A instant camera’s battery or recharging system is prone to malfunctioning. A simple reset can fix most of these issues, however it appears that the extra voltage required to power the 12 LED ring lights means that if the battery gets too low you’re going to need a high voltage recharging cable. This is not something that is sold with the kit and several customers have lamented over this issue.

So while it is a great attempt at a new spin on an old favorite, it still has a few kinks to be ironed out before coming a cult classic.

You can check out the Project 1-A here. 

And If You Want To Go Back To Classic… Well, You Can

Refurbished Polaroid Camera

Get your hands on a piece of history with a recently refurbished polaroid camera. The great thing about getting one of these is you are holding one of the pioneering cameras of the polaroid era and it will shoot like brand new.

The company that do the refurbishing (called Impossible), sell the film you will need to use for with it. It’s sold separately to the camera so don’t expect any with your package if you buy the camera – you can get the film here.

Reminiscent of a 1980s style Polaroid camera, these refurbished options come with some new age updates. Included in the refurbishment is the Impossible frog tongue, the benefit of this is that it protects your polaroids as they exit the camera giving you greater vividness and crispness to your images. The instant camera comes with all the basics that you need to take great images, you get simple exposure controls and a built in flash.

Summary

For a classic polaroid, with a classic looking aesthetic you can’t go past the classic Fuji Mini 90. It has the tried and true aspect ratio that we all fell in love with when polaroid was the rage before the rage it is now.

For those wanting to shoot large groups or need a bit more space to work with then the Wide 300 is your go to.

For the selfie-lords.. You know what to do. Grab the best polaroid camera for yourselves and get shooting!

Just a word of warning, be aware that there are several different varieties of instant film out there. You will need to check what type of film the camera specifies and use that. Don’t just grab the first thing you see.

Related Posts

James Grundy

I’ve been photographing for 13 years and have a penchant for 35mm and medium format film. Black and white street photography is my go-to. My work has been featured in online and print media through a few publications like Shutterstock, Brooklyn Resource Mag, Off The Rails and Collective Quarterly.

2 thoughts on “Best Polaroid Cameras: 7 Instant Cameras For That Vintage Vibe

  1. For cost/size ratio how do they new instant cameras stack up? I picked up an old school Polaroid camera, but at $20+ for 8 photo pack I’m not sure if it would actually be cheaper in the long-run to get a newer camera. However I wouldn’t want to get a new camera with cheaper film if they’re significantly smaller than Polaroid 600 film.

    1. Hi Robert,

      Yeah it’s a tough one. Polaroid can be painfully expensive. I think 600 is the best film size. I’m not a fan of the smaller size Polaroids, the larger ones are great but again they cost more. If money is a priority and you’re just looking to enjoy some novelty then I think over the long run the smaller sizes will be fine for that. My recommendation is stick to the 600 and use greater discretion with your shots.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *