Update November 2020: Replaced the former champion, the Fuji Instax 9, with the new and improved Fuji Instax 11. Polaroid has unfortunately discontinued the OneStep 2, so I recommend the OneStep + below instead.
It’s a great time to get started with instant film! New cameras and films are being released every month, and even in the world of digital cameras, people are discovering the fun of instant analogue.
However, it can be intimidating to jump in at first. There are countless formats, companies, and cameras out there. What’s the best instant film camera to buy for somebody who is just getting started? If I just had a single, one-word answer to the question ‘what Polaroid camera should a beginner get?’ or even just ‘what camera should I get?’ what would it be?
I have all sorts of articles on this website that go in depth, but below I’m spelling out some simple answers for people who just want to jump in and shoot without getting into the nitty-gritty. If you want recommendations for collectors, experienced photographers, and more, check out my full Polaroid Camera Buying Guide and my Fuji Instax Camera Buying Guide.
There are two major formats out there right now: Fuji Instax and Polaroid. Fuji Instax film is a bit cheaper and great for events, and Polaroid is, well, classic Polaroid. Modern Polaroid film is a bit more finicky to use, but generally gives much more of an artistic effect to photos than Instax.
You can’t go wrong with either though! Below are recommendations on where to start with each format. I’m only recommending new cameras in this article so there’s none of the fuss dealing with vintage camera gear.
Best Instax Starter Camera – Fuji Instax 11
No idea where to get started and just want a simple answer? Get the Fuji Instax Mini 11. It’s affordable, relatively easy to use, has a selfie mode that works well, and a great place to start.
The Fuji Instax Mini 11 takes pictures that are wallet-sized, so they’re a bit smaller than a traditional Polaroid camera. But because of this, the cameras are compact, and the film is very affordable. I recommend getting the monochrome (black and white) variant of the film if you really want to get some stylish results.
Best Polaroid Starter Camera – OneStep+
What if you want to dive straight into Polaroid? I don’t blame you. I love Polaroid. Vintage Polaroid cameras are great, but they can be difficult to use and troubleshoot sometimes simply because they’re, well, old.
Lucky for you, a newly revived and rejuvenated Polaroid is releasing new cameras like the OneStep+ that’s perfect for beginners. It uses the same Polaroid film as vintage cameras, and has an eye catching design reminiscent of the white rainbow stripe Polaroid OneStep of yore. The OneStep+ is relatively easy to use, but it also carries some advanced features enabled by a bluetooth app.
The OneStep 2 and the film it uses is quite a bit more expensive than the Fuji Instax Mini 11 and the film it uses. That’s why I sometimes recommend the Instax Mini format for those who are just getting started and aren’t sure how much they’ll actually shoot. However, if you’re serious about instant film photography, you really can’t do any better than the much larger Polaroid frame.
You can pick up a Polaroid OneStep+ at Amazon. You’ll need some Polaroid Originals 600 or I-Type film to go with it, which you can also get at Amazon and directly from Polaroid. I also have an in-depth review of the camera if you want to learn more.
If you like the Fuji Instax Mini, and want to do more, you can check out Fuji Instax Wide and Fuji Instax Square formats, each which is just a bit wider than the mini format, giving you more detailed photos. Lomography and other companies also make Fuji Instax cameras with a focus on experimentation and wild effects.
If you’re enjoying your time with the Polaroid OneStep+, you can give vintage Polaroid cameras like the Impulse AF or (if money is no object) the Polaroid SLR 680. These cameras give you more accurate viewfinders, autofocus, and sharper lenses. You can also try out some of the other cool films that Polaroid has created, like their black and white lines, monochromatic color lines, and alternate frame types. Feel free to ignore the Polaroid Now, as I like the OneStep+ much better and I think it is more than worth the extra cash.
Once you take your first pictures, check out my guide to how to scan your images to get your instant photography online where it can be shared.
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