Since I can remember I’ve always loved taking photos and I’ve always had a camera of some kind. I’m also a firm believer of “photos or it didn’t happen” when it comes to social events, so to make sure that no moment is missed, I’m always the one with her camera ready. This is something that has paid off tenfold throughout the years.
When I was 20 years old I received one of the best gifts ever: my partner bough me an Instant Camera.
Since then physical printed photos have been a staple in my life. I have birthdays, holidays, events, bad ideas, engagements and weddings all captured in print – and they’re some of the most special things I own. In the close to a decade since I received my first Instax camera, a lot has changed. Now you no longer just have a choice over what colour you want your camera to be but you also get to pick what photo size you want, what features you want and if you want to be able to edit your photos before you print. It’s a lot.
That’s where I come in. I’ve made a list of my favourite Instax cameras and broken down their main features and price for you. If you’re looking to get an Instant Camera – this would be the best place to start:
Instax Mini 9
The Instax Mini 9 prints business card-sized prints. It’s simple, easy to use, bare-boned, and hardy as anything. Seriously, I’ve dropped this thing out of cars, downstairs and off tables and bar some scuff marks, it still works well almost 10 years later. You can get these in Lime Green, Cobalt Blue, Smoky White, Flamingo Pink, and Ice Blue. It has a selfie mirror in front but unless you have the best eyes ever (and I don’t), it’s easier to just position yourself with the camera in the centre and hopefully on you than to try to see your reflection in the world’s tiniest mirror. It also comes with a clip-on lens attachment to take close up shots, a hi-key lighting mode and if your camera is dead it just takes two AA batteries and you’ll be good to go again.
The camera goes for R999 and honestly, this still remains one of my all time favourites.
Instax WIDE 300
Out of all the cameras listed in this post, this is the only one that prints wide photos. Wide photos are twice as wide as the mini, business card-sized prints making them PERFECT for group shots and for getting everyone into the picture in their entirety… Trust me, I have so many pictures of my friends featuring just my ear that the Instax Wide 300 was a rather attractive purchase. Selling for R 2,160.00, the Instax Wide 300 comes with an automatic flash, a fill-in flash, close up lens, focal zoom dial, and a tripod socket – perfect for taking to conventions, festivals and gatherings, fitting everyone (including me) into the photo and thanks to the fill-in flash, having them look good too.
The wide layout is also ideal for taking pictures when you travel and of landscapes.
Instax SQUARE SQ6 Taylor Swift Edition
I really doubt you’re buying this particular Instax for its features but let’s pretend you are and I’ll run through them. There are two versions of the SQ6 camera: The regular version comes in Blush Gold, Graphite Grey and Pearl White for R1895 and the Taylor Swift version for R2495. There is absolutely no difference to these cameras other than the obvious cosmetic ones. Both cameras come with three clip-on flash colour filters (Orange, Purple, Green) to give your pictures really creative and artsy looks, a double exposure mode, landscape, and macro as well as a selfie mode with automatic exposure control. Both cameras print square images and use the regular Instax Square paper.
If you already have an Instax that prints square photos but you’re also a huge Taylor Swift fan, you can buy the special Tayor Swift signed paper and it will work for any of the Instax Square cameras.
Instax mini 70
In my opinion, these Instax cameras are definitely the “coolest” looking in the collection – you can get them in Passion Red, Stardust Gold, Midnight Black, Canary Yellow, Island Blue, and Moon White. Along with looking cool the Mini 70s also boast some really sick features, from a hi-key mode (for vibrant skin tones) to a landscape and macro mode. The thing that sets this apart from the other cameras on this list is that it was designed specifically with Selfies in mind. There is a tripod socket so you can mount it, a self-timer so you can get into position, a fill-in flash to make sure your lighting is always on point and a special selfie mode to ensure the best brightness and shooting distance for those selfie gems.
You can pick one up for about R 2,000 and if you’re looking for something to take your selfie game to the next level, this is it.
Instax Mini90 Neo Classic
If I had to recommend an Instax camera for my parents, this would be it. The Neo Classic was designed to capture the look and feel of a vintage camera and it does, while at the same time looking modern and sleek. It comes in Black or Brown and has a bunch of advanced features that you wouldn’t expect from a “vintage” camera, like a party mode that is designed to make sure that both your subject and the background standout and look bright, and a Kids mode – specifically designed to get pictures of Kids or Pets who won’t stay still. It also comes with a tripod socket, horizontal shooting button and an LCD panel that shows the current mode and number of remaining photos.
Going for R2289 I wouldn’t call the Neo Classic my favourite ‘everyday’ Instant Camera, but it’s definitely the best looking and if you’re ever wanting to use an Instax camera professionally, say to take photos at a wedding or a magazine shoot, then this is definitely the one I’d recommend.
Instax Mini LiPlay
This is the latest Instax baby from Fujifilm, and it’s also the first Instant Camera they’ve had in a while that felt different and new for me. Printing business card-sized photos, you can grab this ridiculously compact and light camera in Elegant Black, Blush Gold, and Stone White. You’re able to print roughly 100 photos on a single charge making it the PERFECT on the go solution. There are two main features to this camera: you can connect your phone to your camera via Bluetooth and print a photo directly from your phone or use your phone as a remote shutter for the camera. Before you print your picture you can use the screen at the back of the camera to play around with filters, stickers and frames customising your photo to look exactly how you want. The next feature is the mic button! Yup, you can press that to record a voice note to link to a picture. When you’ve linked a voice message to a photo and print it, it prints a small QR code in the corner which you can then scan with your phone and play. It’s rather cute and while I can’t picture myself using it often, there are times that hearing someone’s voice while looking at their picture would be pretty amazing.
The Instax Mini LiPlay costs R2695.
Instax SQUARE SQ20
This was the first ever Instant Camera I got that could print SQUARE! It was (and still is) amazing and it’s also the camera that I currently carry around with me. One of my pet peeves with Instant Cameras has always been how long it takes to take the picture. With your phone you press the shutter and it’s done, photo taken but with Instant Cameras there’s a delay and if I had to show you my piles and piles of blurred, out of focus pictures I have because I dropped the camera too soon, you’d probably cry alongside me and my wallet. Not only does the SQ20 have a really amazing screen that lets you preview your picture before you print (no more out of focus prints for me) but it also lets you record 15-second video clips and then choose the best frame out of that to print – and it’s basically my favourite feature ever. The SQ20 is a hybrid camera, you can get it in Beige or Matte Black and it comes with a host of built-in features for you to get the most out of your prints. You have full brightness control, bulb mode, partial colour filters for still and video shooting as well as an array of filters specially designed for both and vignette control. This is also one of the only Instax cameras to have a 4x digital zoom.
You can grab the SQ20 for roughly R2889, so it’s definitely one of the priciest models but it’s also got some of the best value for money. The camera’s internal memory holds up to 50 still images or you can use a micro SD card (like I do) – one of the awesome tricks with the SD card is you can save a photo from your phone or PC onto the SD card and then use the Instant Camera to print said photo – it’s a great way to get really sick looking Instant Pictures.
Keep in mind
Instax prints aren’t cheap. The packs of paper can cost anywhere from R120 up for just 10 pictures. But this also adds to the enjoyment of Instax pics. We live in an age where it is so easy to whip out your phone and take 50 odd photos, choose the one you like, FaceTune yourself beyond recognition and then post to social media. With the cost of print paper, you’ll be more inclined not to want to waste any so you’ll plan your photos and try make them as perfect as possible. Even then, you’ll end up with something unexpected that can be preserved in a physical print – which is the beauty of these cameras and the photos they take.
Let me know your favourite Instax camera in the comments below!