While smartphones have undoubtedly revolutionized photography, allowing us to capture countless memories with ever-improving quality, the experience can sometimes feel detached from the tangible world. Enter the Polaroid camera – a delightful bridge between the convenience of digital photography and the nostalgia of physical film.
In an age of instant gratification, where photos are often taken and forgotten in the digital abyss, there’s a unique allure to instant film cameras. Watching a blank sheet of paper transform into a cherished memory holds a special magic. Polaroid cameras not only deliver this enchanting experience but also offer remarkable simplicity, making them an excellent choice for both children and adults. They might even ignite a lifelong passion for photography in your child.
In this selection, we present the six best affordable Polaroid cameras available today. Some cater to those who seek straightforward selfie-taking, while others effortlessly blend retro charm with modern connectivity. Choose your favorite and embark on a photographic journey that combines the best of both worlds – the convenience of digital and the tangible charm of instant film.
Best Cheap Polaroid Camera Reviews
1. Polaroid OneStep+ Black Instant Film Camera
The OneStep+ pays a heartfelt tribute to the iconic OneStep camera from the 1970s. Its design is a nostalgic nod to the classic boxy black shape, complete with the signature rainbow descending from the lens toward the photo output. Picture framing is done through an optical viewfinder (OVF) situated on the left side, and the resulting images maintain perfect alignment.
This Polaroid camera boasts a minimalistic yet intuitive control layout that leaves no room for confusion. The prominent, bright red shutter release button sits at the front for easy access, complemented by a similarly eye-catching on/off button at the rear. On the top, a vivid switch allows you to seamlessly switch between distant and close focus modes, while another button empowers you to deactivate the flash when shooting in well-lit conditions. In terms of on-camera adjustments, there’s an exposure control toggle that lets you make precise adjustments to the exposure settings in full-stop increments. Finally, the back of the camera houses a Bluetooth button that illuminates during an active connection.
One of the standout features of the OneStep+ is its Bluetooth connectivity. Pairing the camera with your smartphone is a breeze – just download the app and press the button. The app significantly enhances your control and flexibility, allowing you to manually fine-tune aperture and shutter speed settings. Your phone can serve as a remote shutter, and you can even activate a timer for group shots that include you. Furthermore, each photo can be digitized, and the camera offers a social aspect where other OneStep+ users can share their images.
In terms of image quality, the OneStep+ delivers results on par with other mid-range Polaroid cameras. It accommodates both color and monochrome films, with the latter even available in a square format, a unique feature not supported by the competition. Each film pack contains eight photos, and the camera conveniently keeps track of how many shots you’ve used through a series of LEDs on the top. The internal battery can be charged via micro USB, and the camera provides a low-battery warning through flashing LED indicators in standalone mode, or you can check the precise battery status in the app.
2. Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Instant Film Camera
The Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic is a beautifully designed camera, earning its place as the top choice in our review. Its compact and lightweight build makes it an ideal travel companion, fitting effortlessly into your bag and ready for action. Adorned with a stylish leatherette strip, it comes in a choice of three attractive colors. What sets it apart from our previous entries is the centrally positioned OVF (Optical Viewfinder).
Remarkably, the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic boasts a plethora of controls while remaining incredibly user-friendly. It provides two shutter release options: one at the center of the on/off switch and another on the top plate. This dual setup allows for seamless transitions between landscape and portrait orientations, ensuring easy access to the shutter in both cases. You can effortlessly disable the flash with a single button press and switch between various photo modes either through another dedicated button or by adjusting the lens ring. A straightforward monochrome display indicates the currently active photo mode and the remaining number of shots.
The ability to switch between different photo modes grants you significant creative control. You can experiment with double exposures or utilize the bulb mode, which keeps the shutter open for up to ten seconds to capture captivating light trails. Additionally, it offers situational modes such as ‘Party Mode,’ which tones down the flash to preserve details in darker areas of the photo. If you need to capture the high-energy antics of kids, ‘Kids Mode’ offers an increased shutter speed, perfect for the job.
In terms of photo quality, the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic delivers impressive results when the right conditions are met. You can expect vibrant and saturated colors, as well as a high level of detail in your shots. Moreover, the Instax Mini format is one of the most cost-effective options per photo, even when switching to monochrome, especially if you buy film in bulk.
3. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 Instant Film Camera
The Instax Square SQ6 lives up to its name, boasting a near-perfect square design that’s slim and lightweight enough to slip into your pants pocket with ease. Its stylish two-toned color scheme combines matte and metallic shades for a visually appealing look. Left-eye dominant photographers will appreciate the thoughtful placement of the OVF on the right side, preventing any smudging of the viewfinder with their nose or face.
This camera introduces the innovative Square format, producing 2.4 x 2.4-inch exposures that develop instantly, without the need to shield them from bright light. The colors it captures are accurate and richly saturated. You have the flexibility to fine-tune your images by adjusting the exposure in precise 0.6-stop increments. Turning off the flash and opting for a longer exposure time allows for greater detail and usable shots even in low-light conditions.
Taking a cue from the Mini 90 Neo Classic, the Instax Square SQ6 offers a selection of shooting modes accessible through a mode toggle button, each represented by an LED indicator on the camera’s top. You can let the Instax Square SQ6 handle everything automatically, adjust the exposure manually, or switch between macro and landscape modes. A convenient selfie mode is also available, assisted by a built-in mirror near the lens.
While Fujifilm’s instant cameras have a solid reputation, they lacked a square format until the recent introduction of Instax Square film and its accompanying cameras. Among these options, the Instax Square SQ6 stands out as the top choice, blending user-friendliness with a compact design that fits easily in your pocket. Its square format is both more convenient and less cumbersome than what Polaroid provides. While it may not be the most ergonomically comfortable camera in the lineup, its picture quality more than compensates for this minor drawback.
4. Polaroid Originals Now I-Type Instant Camera
The Now I-Type share many similarities, particularly in their appearance, which is quite striking. They both feature a similar outer shell with a prominent red shutter button and a bright Optical Viewfinder (OVF) on the left. However, the Now has fewer physical controls and includes a small monochrome display that conveniently shows the remaining number of photos you can take. The two-tone design and playful color options are also appealing.
Both cameras employ a plastic lens with a variable focal length that’s slightly narrower than a typical smartphone lens, approximately equivalent to 35mm in full-frame terms. You can manually focus on subjects as close as 1.8 feet away or use the half-press shutter button to engage the autofocus. The lens has a fixed aperture at f/11, which means you’ll need the flash in enclosed spaces. This flash is adaptive and adjusts its brightness based on the distance to your subject.
The Now is an improvement over its predecessor, the OneStep 2, which had issues with inconsistent exposure. This problem has been rectified in the newer model. A comparison of photos from the two cameras reveals that the Now’s flash metering system and autofocus work together to achieve optimal exposure and accurate color reproduction.
Another noteworthy feature is the battery, which is the same design used in the Now I-Type and can be recharged via MicroUSB. It can last through approximately 15 to 20 packs of either I-Type or Polaroid 600 film, which is quite impressive, considering it powers both the ejection of the photo and the flash.
5. Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 Instant Camera
We are enamored with the Instax Mini 11’s gracefully contoured design. There’s not a single sharp edge to be found; it’s a masterpiece of curves, slimmer and taller than its predecessor. It offers a delightful array of pastel colors and fits comfortably in smaller hands. While other cameras in our review are user-friendly, the Instax Mini 11 takes user-friendliness to a whole new level. With this camera, you can capture usable prints with almost every shutter press.
Every aspect of the Instax Mini 11 is designed with simplicity in mind and optimized for capturing portraits. The camera is oriented vertically, suggesting its inclination toward portrait photography. While it lacks a tripod mount, its base and self-timer function allow you to place it on flat surfaces for stable selfies.
To power on the camera, you simply press a large button near the lens, which partially extends the lens and puts the Instax Mini 11 into standard mode. For selfie mode, you can manually extend the lens one step further to achieve a close focus distance of 11.8 inches.
This camera uses the same film as the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. The film cartridge slots into the back and includes a yellow circle and a number to indicate the presence of film and the remaining shots. The Instax Mini 11 operates on two AA batteries, which is excellent since they are cost-effective and readily available.
In the world of photography, there’s something truly magical about holding a physical photograph moments after taking a shot. Polaroid cameras capture this enchanting experience, offering instant gratification and tangible memories. If you’re seeking an affordable Polaroid camera, our selection covers a range of options. The Instax Mini 11 is perfect for beginners, making instant photography a breeze.
For vintage charm with modern tech, the OneStep+ is an excellent choice, featuring Bluetooth connectivity. The Instax Square SQ6 delivers a unique square format, while the Polaroid Now+ offers tech-savvy features. Lomography’s Lomo’Instant Automat combines style and versatility, and the Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic offers a classic design with customizable controls. No matter your preference, these affordable Polaroid cameras bring the joy of instant photography into your hands, allowing you to capture memories on the spot.