Update November 2020: Expanded guide with new releases – plus new video guide!
Many years ago, Fujifilm quietly made a deal with Polaroid to release their own line of instant film without getting sued into oblivious like Kodak. This came to be known as Fuji Instax film, and never quite reached the iconic status of Polaroid at the height of instant film’s enormous popularity in the nineties. Who knew, then, that in the twenty-first century Polaroid as we once knew it would have ceased to exist and Fuji Instax film would be explosively popular, dominating instant film sales?
Fuji Instax is easily most popular instant film format out there, surpassing even the Impossible Project/Polaroid Originals/New Polaroid’s replacement for vintage Polaroid film. Arguably, Fuji Instax is the only film product that still sees significant sales from everyday consumers outside of hardcore photography enthusiasts. Great cameras and low-cost film make it a great entry point in the world of analogue film photography.
With the Fuji Instax line thriving, I thought it was time to put together a guide as to which Fuji Instax film cameras are best for different people. Luckily, there’s something out there for nearly every level of experience and purpose.
Wondering whether you should be shooting Impossible Project/New Polaroid film on Polaroid cameras or Fuji Instax Wide or Mini? Check out my Polaroid vs. Fuji Instax vs. Impossible Project instant film comparison.
An Introduction to Fuji Instax Films
Fuji Instax instant films come in three sizes, the wallet-sized Instax ‘mini’ format, the slightly larger Instax Square format, and the largest Instax ‘Wide’ format. Instax Wide is almost exactly twice the size of Instax Mini, and comparable to the size of a traditional Polaroid frame. All three sizes share the same height, it’s just a matter of how wide the film is cut.
Fujifilm makes many different cameras for both formats, and other companies like Lomography also make cameras that utilize Instax film. Instax Mini cameras are the most common, and are also far smaller and easier to use than Instax Square and Wide cameras.
Specific Camera Recommendations
Unlike my Polaroid camera guide, all of the cameras that I recommend below are actively in production and sold new. That means less hassle with prices and availability and that when you buy a camera you can be certain that it will work.
Best Camera for Events and Weddings – Instax Mini 11 and Instax Square SQ1
The Instax Mini 11 is a great, affordable camera that is one of the most user-friendly cameras Fujifilm has made. The Instax Square SQ1 is also great and even easier to use, but it costs a twice as much as the Mini 11.
Fuji Instax Mini film shines in events like weddings and parties, where guests can take home photos as keepsakes. The affordability of the film makes it easy to shoot lots of photos, and the Instax Mini 11 camera is cheap enough that if one gets damaged its no great loss.
Also making it great for events is the fact that the Instax Mini 11 uses standard AA batteries. You don’t need to worry about charging up a bunch of lithium ion batteries the night before, just pop in some fresh batteries and you’re good to go.
The Mini 11 is the way to go for most people, but if you really want a square frame that looks more like vintage Polaroid (but smaller), the SQ1 is a great camera that does essentially the same thing.
Best Camera for Beginners – Instax Mini 11
The Fuji Instax Mini 11 is also perfect for people just getting started with instant film photography for many of the same reasons above. It’s a perfect combination of value and quality, and the film is highly affordable.
Best Camera for Active Photographers – Fuji Instax Neo 90
The Neo 90 is designed for photographers who are going to be using their Instax camera a lot. A rechargeable lithium ion battery saves you from having to carry around batteries, and also slims down the camera.
Speaking of camera, this thing is a beauty. Small and easily transportable when not in use and featuring great ergonomics, the Fuji Instax Neo 90 is a joy to use and one of the best instant film cameras ever made.
It’s got a price tag to go with the quality, but for somebody who uses their camera every week it’s worth every penny.
Best Fuji Instax Square Camera – Fuji Instax SQ6
The Fuji Instax Square format is the newest addition to the Instax film family, slotting right between Mini and Wide in size. The cameras share more characteristics with the Mini format and are fun and small. Instax Square frames look more like vintage Polaroid, but they are significantly smaller than an actual Polaroid frame.
The Fuji Instax SQ6 is the best square format camera. It’s a handsome piece of kit and can often be found on sale. It has more controls than the SQ1, and none of the dumb digital ‘features’ of the SQ10 or SQ20.
Best Fuji Instax Wide Camera – Fuji Instax Wide 300
You’ll notice that Fuji Instax Wide cameras have been missing from most of this list so far. Unfortunately, despite being a fantastic film format, there are no great cameras available for Fuji Instax Wide. The best of the bunch is the Fuji Instax Wide 300 camera, which with a little practice, can produce some fantastic images. Unfortunately, it’s hobbled by a user-hostile lens and awkward body size. The Fuji Instax Wide 300 is, however, a vast improvement over the 210, which was the standard-bearer up until recently. The 210 is extremely difficult to use, but you might be able to find a used one for cheap. It has the same lens as its newer cousin, so you can still get some quality images out of it if you work at it.
For art, landscape, and fashion, I find that the Fuji Instax mini format is simply too small for me to use on a regular basis. That’s why, despite being one of my least favorite cameras, the Fuji Instax Wide 300 typically sees the most use from me. It’s also one reason why I continue to use Impossible Project film with Polaroid cameras despite Fuji Instax being a far more affordable option.
Best Camera for Experimentation and Hardcore Photographers – Lomo’ Instant Wide
Lomography makes some bonkers cameras that use both the Fuji Instax formats. Last year I reviewed the Lomo Instant Wide, which is the only camera Lomography makes that uses the Wide format. I found it extremely difficult to use, with blind manual focus and strange ergonomics. However, it has a bevy of options that no other camera can match. If you want to experiment with double exposures, crazy filters, and manual focus, this is the camera for you.
Lomography has a whole bunch of other cameras and camera backs that use Fuji Instax Mini film, but I haven’t gotten a chance to test them yet. I expect them to be similar to other Lomo cameras I’ve used in that they are difficult to use as a practical camera, but fun to use as a photographic toy.
Purchasing Film for Fuji Instax
You can find Fuji Instax in a variety of different color frames and in both monochrome and color variations. I personally really like the monochrome format, as I sometimes find Instax color a bit cool and unflattering. Below are links to where you can buy the various formats.
It’s an exciting time to be shooting Fuji Instax film. New cameras are still being developed, and other companies like Lomography are pushing the boundaries for what an instant film camera can do. There’s even a brand new monochrome film for Fuji Instax Mini.
Using any of the Amazon links above to purchase your gear helps me keep this site running and costs you nothing. Thank you and happy shooting!
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