Top 5 things to check before buying an instant camera


Instant cameras are a lot of fun to use, and you have a physical photo in your hands within minutes. With the popularity of the Fuji Instax Mini 8, there has been a barrage of instant cameras over the years. But should you buy an instant camera? If so, what features should you check before clicking the Buy button?

5 things to check before buying an instant camera

Instant cameras are great additions for events like birthdays, weddings, etc. On top of that, they also make great gift ideas, especially during the holiday season.

But at the end of the day, you have to consider factors like cost of film, photo quality, size, among others.

In this today’s article, we’re going to explore what you need to check out before buying an instant camera. So let’s get started. But first,

1. Quality and size of photos

One of the first things that you should keep in mind when purchasing an instant camera is that the quality of the photos will be far from the photos printed by a laser printer or printers in general. Depending on the camera, printed photos may be a little darker or less saturated.

Camera snapshots are not as sharp as regular digital photos

More importantly, they aren’t as sharp as regular digital photos. Nonetheless, there are a few instant cameras that produce almost natural-looking photos regardless of the type of film.

5 things to check before buying an instant camera 3

For example, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 and the Lomography Lomo’Instant Automat are said to provide natural-looking photos compared to some of their counterparts. Night shots are also well lit.

Second, you will also need to consider the size of the photographs. Photos are a bit larger than regular credit cards for the most part and are perfect for scrapbooks, bulletin boards, or magnetized items for the refrigerator.

Instax films are available in three sizes: mini, square and large. If we are talking about numbers, the mini-film measures 2.21 x 3.34 inches. If you want gloriously larger prints, then Polaroid cameras are the ones you might want to check out. For example, the Polaroid Originals OneStep + camera provides 4.25 x 3.46 inch prints.

Check out the Polaroid Originals OneStep + if you haven’t already.

2. Zink vs Instax Film

Film technology is another attribute that you should consider when purchasing an instant camera. Currently, there are three types of films used in popular cameras. Fujifilm’s line of Instax cameras use full film, commonly referred to as Instax films, while cameras such as the Kodak Smile use Zink photo paper. Polaroid cameras like the OneStep 2 use i-Type film. So, what differences does the type of film make?

Embedded films have emulsion and developing dyes on the sheet, while developing and fixing chemicals are stored at the bottom of the film. This is why Instax films have thick borders.

On the other hand, Zink (or Zero Ink) photo paper retains layers of ink on the paper itself. When the shutter button is pressed, a pressure-based process mixes the ink to produce the photos.

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Unlike Instax photos, Zink prints look like traditional prints and don’t have a thick border around them. However, the photos take a long time to develop. Additionally, Zink-based instant cameras are slower than Instax. On the other hand, Zink photo paper is durable, waterproof and smudge resistant and it tends to have a wider color gamut.

Zink-based instant cameras are slower than Instax

Polaroid uses different technology to print i-Type film for photos with slightly toned down colors. However, Polaroid films are affected by temperature. That’s why cameras like the Now have a long protective film that unwinds when you click on a photo. At the same time, Polaroids take longer to develop. On the plus side, they bring home the retro vibe.

Long story short, your choice of instant camera will dictate what kind of film you get. However, if you are looking for more natural photos, Instax cameras cut it.

3. Film costs

Naturally, the cost of the film depends on the type of film and the camera you choose. For example, a 20-sheet pack of classic film for the Instax Mini 9 costs around $ 13.22, and a photo will cost you just over $ 0.50. Even if the price of the pack skyrockets, it will hover around a dollar at most.

Again, the price will vary depending on the type of movie. For example, a double pack of Instax Rainbow films will set you back $ 18.99.

Meanwhile, a 50 pack of Zink Photo Papers for the Polaroid Smile costs around $ 24.85, which costs you $ 0.50 per photo. The difference is more significant in the i-Type film used in Polaroid OneStep + will cost you almost $ 2 for a single print. Wow, right?

To note: This calculation is based on prices for August 2021.

4. Additional features: self-timer and exposure controls

Besides cost and type, check out the additional features when purchasing an instant camera. Most cameras today are compact cameras, which makes the job easier, especially if you are planning to buy an instant camera for your child.

That said, additional features like automatic exposure control, built-in flash, autofocus, and selfie timer add to the experience. Additionally, some cameras also come with extended storage if you want to have digital storage.

5 things to check before buying a Polaroid Snap instant camera

The Polaroid Snap supports micro SD cards up to 32 GB

For example, self-timer cameras like the Lomo’Instant Automat or the Instax Square SQ1 (see Instax Square SQ1 vs Instax Mini 11) allow you to take selfies. The fun part is that these cameras also contain a cute selfie mirror.

Another feature that you should pay attention to is the automatic exposure control. Cameras like the new Instax Mini 11 and the Polaroid Go come with this feature. This means that you won’t have to change the exposure settings manually. For those who don’t know, the old Mini 9 had different exposure settings for sunny and cloudy days.

Discover the Instax Mini 11

5. Form factor and ease of use

But at the end of the day, you’ll want a camera that’s both sleek and slim. But, again, it depends on the type of film used. Typically, Zink tech cameras like the Canon Cliq Ivy and the Kodak Smile are thinner than their counterparts.

On the other hand, the new Polaroid Now is a bit bulky, which makes it a bit difficult to hold, especially for small children.

Then there are cameras like the Instax Mini 11 or the new Polaroid Go which distinguishes between sleek and bulky instant cameras.

Lights, Camera, Smile

The problem with instant cameras is that they’re not just a one-time purchase like digital cameras. As you end up printing almost all of the photos, the cost increases in the long run. If you want to use the camera at casual events, the Instax Mini 11 is a good choice and the cost per print is decent.

However, if you’re in the mood to experiment, take a look at cameras like Lomography Lomo’Instant Automat. It comes with a bunch of colorful filters to spice up ordinary photos. It is based on instant film and offers better results than other cameras in its class.

But if you want to get your hands on some classic Polaroids prints, you know what to do.

Last updated on August 10, 2021

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