The Best Polaroid Cameras for That Retro Look and Feel

The Best Polaroid Cameras for That Retro Look and Feel
Image: iStock
At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW - prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.

Instant and Polaroid cameras are making a comeback in a big way. Sure, our phones can take sophisticated pictures, but sometimes we want to hold onto our memories in a more physical way.

Whether it’s a collective nostalgia or a genuine love for photography, it seems people are rushing out to buy these nifty little devices in droves. This type of camera is special as it can develop a picture in front of your eyes and gives you a physical memory to keep as well. Whether you want to give it to someone, keep it in your wallet or string them all up on display in your bedroom, there’s no limit to what you can do once your photo has been developed.

If you’re keen to learn more about this camera and find out the best ones to buy, keep reading.

How are they different to other cameras?

Without getting too technical, a polaroid camera is fitted with internal development mechanisms and self-developing film. It’s basically like having your own photo development studio in the palm of your hand – pretty clever, right?

They’ve changed quite a bit over the years (as you’ll see the difference between the vintage and the instant cameras below). Nowadays, they’re a clever combination of the classic 80s camera and modern technology, giving you a unique photographic experience.

Things to consider before buying:

There are a number of things to consider before diving headfirst into the instant camera world.

Firstly, polaroids come in a variety of different sizes, so it’s important to choose a camera that’ll hold the right size film. If you’re happy for your photos to come out a little smaller, you can opt for a pocket-sized camera. If you’d rather have a larger photo for a collage or display, opt for a camera that can hold a bigger film size.

The second thing to think about is the shutter speed. Basic cameras like the Instax Mini come with a shutter speed of 1/60-second. This is a pretty decent speed that will reduce the amount of blurring in your photo while maximising light to create clearer images. If you’re a more advanced photographer or someone looking for a wider range of shutter speeds, you might want to choose a different camera.

There are a few other aesthetic things to consider as well, like selfie mirrors (some have them while others don’t) and in-app editing capabilities. Some are also fitted with self-timers and various modes (like landscape), so it’s important to read up on all the camera features before hitting purchase.

Below, we’ve broken down all the different polaroid cameras you can buy and where to find them. Plus, where to shop for the right film if you’ve gone a little snap happy and need to grab some replacements.

The Best Polaroid Cameras

Fujifilm Instax Mini

instant camera, cheap polaroid camera, polaroid camera film

If you’re someone who just wants a cheap easy to use and affordable polaroid camera, try this one from Instax. It’s user-friendly, comes with autofocus and exposure, has a selfie mode and develops in minutes. It also comes in a variety of colours — blue, pink, purple, white and black.

Where to buy: Amazon ($79.20, usually $109)

Instax mini 40 instant camera

instant camera, cheap polaroid camera, polaroid camera film

We recently reviewed this little retro baby on Lifehacker, and absolutely loved it. “The whole point of point-and-shoot cameras like the Instax range is that they’re easy to use. Because if you’re really living your life, you don’t want to have to make a million setting adjustments on a camera just to take a quick happy snap.” This is also probably one of the cheaper polaroid cameras on the market, too.

Where to buy: Amazon ($126.65, usually $165.95)

Kodak Printomatic Instant Camera

The Best Polaroid Cameras for That Retro Look and Feel

This little baby is the perfect summer companion. The Printomatic camera is an easy to use point-and-shoot that prints high-quality, full-colour photos. It’s durable, water-resistant and fits easily into your bag or pocket.

Where to buy: Amazon ($163.76)

Fujifilm instax SQUARE SQ1

instant camera, cheap polaroid camera, polaroid camera film

I actually received one of these little babies as a gift recently and I’m obsessed with it. Not only does it take full square polaroids (you know, like the old school cameras), but it also has a mini mirror on the front so when you swap it around to selfie mode you can see roughly what you’re capturing. I’d recommend stocking up on the film though, if like me, you get all excited and take tonnes of pictures. Oh, and you can also buy a cute leather carry case for it if you like.

Where to buy: Amazon ($185.79)

Polaroid 9030 Now I-Type Instant Camera

The Best Polaroid Cameras for That Retro Look and FeelIf you’re after a more vintage-looking polaroid camera that still has all the features you love of the modern-day camera, this one might be for you. Not only does it come in nine different colourways, but it also has features like double exposure, self-timer, autofocus and flash, so you can confidently capture it all.

Where to buy: Amazon ($177.48, usually $229.95)

Polaroid Originals OneStep+

The Best Polaroid Cameras for That Retro Look and Feel

While it isn’t one of the cheaper polaroid cameras, you do get even more out of your photos with the Polaroid Originals OneStep+. You can instantly go from a classic point-and-shoot while in automatic mode to full manual control, double exposure to light painting and self-timer when you sync with the Polaroid Originals app.

Where to buy: Amazon ($477.66)

Where to buy polaroid camera film:

As we’ve established, these cameras require film to work. While the exact film you need varies from camera to camera, we’ve rounded up a bunch of options that’ll cover all bases (compatible devices are also listed in the product description).

It’s always a great idea to keep one or two packets spare because you never want to run out when you need it most!

Log in to comment on this story!