Instant cameras are a time-honored trend that goes back all the way to the 1940s when Edward Land, the founder of Polaroid, invented them. Rather than simply storing digital images of a photograph, instant cameras use a chemical process in the prints themselves to create photographic images as soon as the picture is captured. After the image is taken you can watch the images develop and magically appear within 90 seconds.
Instant cameras are a great choice for teenagers since they allow them to generate physical nostalgic photos on the spot – something that their phone can’t do. They’re also a great choice for vacations or school trips where taking an expensive digital camera is not a practical option. Below you’ll find a list of the nine best instant cameras (plus an honorable mention) you can buy for a photography-loving teenager and why in no particular order.
1. Polaroid Original OneStep+ – $139.99
Polaroid is one of the oldest names in the game when it comes to instant cameras because the company created instant photography, and in fact, most people instantly associate the brand Polaroid with this style of photography. This analog-style camera is perfectly made for a vintage feel. It’s a great camera option for the selfie-loving teenager in your life, especially one who is into retro technology.
Here are some of the best features of the Polaroid Original OneStep+:
- Bluetooth connectivity: Unlike older versions of the Polaroid instant camera, the Polaroid Original OneStep+ comes complete with a Bluetooth application that takes photographs with light painting techniques, noise trigger shots, and even double exposure that is controlled via a mobile app. The OneStep+ combines old-school style with new-school technology.
- Standard and portrait lens options: The Polaroid Original OneStep+ has two interchangeable lens options so that the photographer can switch up their style in the middle of a shoot. Portrait lens photography is a great option for teenagers who spend most of their time photographing other teenagers or themselves.
- Standard compatibility: This camera is compatible with both iOS and Android operating systems, which means you’ll have access to your photographs digitally no matter which major operating system you use in your smart devices or home computer.
- Film Cost: This camera can take both Polaroid I-Type and 600 Type Polaroid film. When purchased in bulk, the price of the Polaroid I-Type on Amazon is $64.99 for 40 images (5 packs of 8 images each). This makes the cost $1.62 per exposure for Polaroid I-Type instant film, which is the cheaper of the two options but the film is one of the most expensive films per exposure on the list.
Even though the Polaroid Original OneStep+ is a great choice for many teenagers, it isn’t the perfect camera for everyone. It has a rechargeable battery that will last a while on one charge. Some of the drawbacks include a relatively high cost per shot and the fact that film is not always included with purchase and can be difficult to find in some stores. This is especially the case for a teenager going on a trip since finding the right film after the fact may become difficult.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic is an instant camera that is scaled down, making it easy to carry along for even the most active teenagers. While this instant camera only prints out photographs around the size of a credit card, it is capable of taking pictures even in low lighting conditions, and it can take photos of fast-moving subjects.
Here are some of the best features of the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic:
- Built-in flash: The built-in flash in this Fujifilm instant camera offers additional lighting for taking photographs in low-light conditions.
- Automatic exposure control: This instant camera features automatic exposure control that helps to cut down on over-exposed or under-exposed photographs. This allows the photographer to produce more consistent shots over time. It also includes two modes that a teenager may be interested in: a party mode to make it easier to get images of people and a mode to capture fast-moving subjects like pets.
- Optical viewfinder: The optical viewfinder on the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic makes it easy for even novice photographers to set up a good photographic composition once they have the camera calibrated correctly.
- Film Cost: Although this camera comes with a 2 pack of film with 10 images each (20 images in all). Your teenager will go through the images quickly. So, how much will more film be? This camera uses Fujifilm Instax Mini instant film. When purchased in bulk, the price of the Instax color film is $64 for 100 images (5 boxes of 2 packs with 10 images each). This makes the cost $0.64 per exposure.
Like many instant cameras, this Fujifilm model does require a little tweaking to get the hang of the settings, and it will occasionally put out a few poor-quality photos. However, the cost per shot is significantly cheaper than some of the others on this list. But the instant nature of the photography means it’s easy to produce a perfect spontaneous memento of a teenager’s time socializing with others, making it a great choice for someone’s first instant camera.
3. Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 – $99.95
For teenagers who want the vintage vibe of the classic square Polaroid prints, the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 is a good choice. The square-style film (3 x 3 inches) prevents the photographer from having to fiddle with either landscape or portrait settings, and the prints produced by the Square SQ6 are 1.3 times bigger than the photos produced by the Fujifilm Instax Mini.
Here are some of the best features of the Fujifilm Instax SQUARE SQ6:
- Strong construction: The Square SQ6 is built with thick, sturdy plastic that is more likely to take an accidental drop or two without sustaining permanent damage to the camera’s mechanisms. This can make it a better choice than some of the more fragile instant cameras on the market.
- Multiple photography modes: The Square SQ6 photographs in landscape, selfie, and normal modes. The camera has auto-exposure control with a high output flash also allows for adjustments in light exposure, macro photography, and double exposure.
- Camera color options: The Square S6 comes in three different colors (bronze, gray, and white), which makes it easier to choose a camera designed to match the preferences of a discerning teenager as well as any accompanying camera accessories.
- Film Cost: This camera uses Fujifilm Instax Square instant film. When purchased in bulk, the price of the Instax square color film is $95.98 for 100 images (10 boxes of 10 images in each). This makes the cost $0.95 per exposure, which makes it one of the more expensive on the list.
While there are some appealing features of the Square SQ6 that make it one of the best instant cameras available, it does come with a few downsides. The Square SQ6 doesn’t come with a memory card option, so it’s only capable of printing in-the-moment analog photographs. Another thing to note about this camera is the price per exposure is also more expensive compared to other instant films on the list.
4. Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 – $96.99
For teenage photographers who like the Fujifilm brand but don’t want to be limited to miniature analog photography, the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 offers a much wider lens that is perfect for capturing both landscapes and selfies. The sleek, contemporary design of this instant camera also helps make it almost indistinguishable from its digital cousins.
Here are some of the other best features of the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300:
- Focal zoom dial: The zoom dial on the Instax Wide 300 makes it easier to take macro photography as close as 40 centimeters (15 inches) from the subject. This ability to zoom in and focus also makes it easier to take selfies and other close-up portraits.
- Exposure control: The light/dark exposure controls on the camera allow for the photographer to add both high and low-key effects with a powerful flash. This is a good setting to play around with for more experienced photographers to calibrate the exposure of the instant camera for a perfect shot.
- Long-lasting battery power: The camera takes 4 AA batteries which allow the photographer to take up to 100 photographs over an 8-hour day period without having to change them out.
- Film Cost: This camera uses Fujifilm Instax Wide instant film. When purchased in bulk, the price of the Instax wide color instant film is $84.99 for 100 images (5 boxes of 2 packs with 10 images in each). This makes the cost $0.84 per exposure. This puts the film in the upper range on this list compared to other camera systems.
Consumers reported a few drawbacks to this instant camera model, such as a relatively cheap construction design and some light leaks around the photo exit slot that may negatively impact images. However, the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 is still one of the best instant cameras for teenagers that money can buy because of the exposure control and the unique wide images it can produce.
Kodak has been one of the biggest names in photography for decades, and their mini shot instant camera holds to the same standard of quality put forth by the rest of the Kodak camera line-up. These tiny analog cameras print 3 x 3 inch images instantly or you can choose a digital image to print from the camera or your phone. These cameras contain all of the vintage charms of old-school analog cameras with the best 21st-century photography technology available.
Here are some of the other best features of the Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro:
- Compact design: The pocket-sized design of this portable instant camera makes it a good choice for teenagers since it can be easily packed away in a backpack or purse. It’s also a good option for travel since it won’t take up much space in carry-on bags or luggage.
- Print gallery connectivity: This instant camera isn’t just capable of printing analog photographs on the fly. It can also be connected to your phone via mobile apps so that you can print any of your stored digital pictures on the camera. There is also a Kodak App that allows for even more customizing and editing of your digital images.
- 4Pass high-definition technology: The Kodak Mini Shot features the same 4Pass technology that allows the larger camera models in its line-up to print sharp, precise high-definition photographs in about 50 seconds. It can also print both images with the typical Polaroid-like border (edges with more space at the bottom) or without borders on all sides for true 3-inch x 3-inch images.
- Film Cost: This camera uses the Kodak 4Pass Cartridge All-In-One Paper and Color Ribbon. When purchased in bulk, the price of the paper and color ribbon cartridge is $34.99 for 60 images (3 cartridges). This makes the cost $0.58 per exposure and puts the film as one of the less expensive options on this list.
Even though the photo quality of the Kodak Mini Shot may be slightly lower than Polaroid or some of the other instant cameras in this line-up, it makes up for this disadvantage by being one of the best wireless photo printers on the list. This function will also save you money in the long run because you can choose which images to edit and print. The paper and color ribbon is also one of the least expensive on the list. The printer function makes this a perfect instant camera for the teenage photographer who already has a huge backlog of photos.
Another instant camera from the Fujifilm Instax brand, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 is a good camera for teens who want to keep their camera size as small as possible while still maintaining photo quality. Like other Instax Mini cameras, this instant camera prints out credit card-sized photos. However, it is capable of printing out clearer pictures than some of the older models.
Here are some of the best features of the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11:
- Stickers and shutter button accessories included: These accessories allow the photographer to customize both the camera itself and the photographs once they’re printed out. The colorful stickers are perfect for teenage photographers who like to include their photographs in scrapbooking activities.
- Wide variety of camera colors: The Instax Mini 11 comes in five different colors-pink, lilac, white, grey, and sky blue. This makes it much easier to find a camera as a gift that matches up with the recipient’s favorite hue.
- Automatic exposure: The automatic exposure settings on the Mini 11 make it easier to control than instant cameras which feature a zoom dial since the exposure is controlled by the camera sensors rather than manually controlled. This allows novice photographers to just “point and shoot” rather than fiddling with different exposures.
- Film Cost: Although this camera comes with a 2 pack of film with 10 images each (20 images in all). Your teenager will go through the images quickly. So, how much will more film be? This camera uses Fujifilm Instax Mini instant film. When purchased in bulk, the price of the instax color film is $64 for 100 images (5 boxes of 2 packs with 10 images each). This makes the cost $0.64 per exposure, which is one of the less expensive options on the list.
The small photo size of the Fujifilm Instax Mini (2 x 3 inches) and the lack of an SD card for digital photo storage may be a turn-off for some photographers who want the ability to use either analog or digital functions. But the convenient size and affordable price of this camera and film make it a great choice for teenagers interesting in getting into instant analog photography.
Many teenage photographers are looking for an all-in-one camera that allows them to change between either taking analog photographs and storing their photos for digital use as well as printing them. Luckily, the Kodak Printomatic Digital Instant Camera allows for the best of both worlds. This 10-megapixel camera takes sharp images that are printed on 2 x 3 inch paper. The wide-angle lens on this camera also makes it suitable for a wide variety of photographic techniques and interesting compositions.
Here are some of the best features of the Kodak Printomatic:
- Charming vintage design: The two-toned look of the Kodak Printomatic gives off a distinct seventies feeling that meshes well with analog photography. The camera is also constructed of high-quality materials for long-lasting durability.
- Instant print capability: Unlike some other instant cameras, which may require ink or film, the Kodak Printomatic operates using 2 x 3 inch Zink Instant Camera photo paper, which is made by another company for Kodak. These images print quickly compared to other types of instant images. Zink images are also resistant to water damage, tearing, and smudging from contact with your fingers. See this article about Zink paper for more information.
- Fast action photography: The design of the Printomatic allows the photographer to set up and take a new photograph while the previous photograph is still printing, which means that you’ll never miss part of the action while you’re waiting for a photo to print.
- Film Cost: Although this camera comes with a pack of film for 50 images, your teenager will go through the images quickly. So, how much will more film be? This camera uses 2 x 3 inch Kodak Zink Photo Paper. When purchased in bulk, the price of the 2 x 3 inch Zink paper is $24.85 for 100 images. This makes the cost $0.24 per exposure, which is one of the cheapest options on the list.
The Kodak Printomatic has a slightly shorter battery time than some other instant cameras and the photo quality isn’t as sharp as other instant camera brands such as Polaroid. However, you can save printing costs by storing your images and choosing which images to print. This combined with the very low cost of Zink paper (one of the lowest on the list) including the cost of the camera, you can’t deny the great value for the teenage photographer in your life.
8. Polaroid Now I-Type Instant Camera – $99.99
This I-type instant camera from Polaroid is probably familiar to anyone who has seen the original Polaroid cameras since it has the same general style and design. This camera comes in 7 bright colors and provides all of the instantaneous qualities of the original Polaroid instant camera with the added benefit of autofocus and a new upgraded flash system.
Here are some of the best features of the Polaroid Now I-Type Instant Camera:
- Bright vivid photographs: The images produce sharp and vivid colors with autofocus and auto-exposure coupled with an on-camera flash. You can also use the double exposure function to create two images in one. Also, includes a self-timer function.
- Rechargeable battery: Unlike other instant cameras which may require replaceable batteries, the Polaroid Now I-Type features a rechargeable power system that is charged up through a micro USB port.
- Easy to use: Older instant cameras can be somewhat difficult for photographers to learn how to adjust the settings and exposure and result in dozens of “dud” photographs. The Polaroid Now I-Type features automatic focus and exposure controls that let even the newest photographers just point and shoot.
- Film Cost: This camera can take both Polaroid I-Type and 600 Type Polaroid film. When purchased in bulk, the price of the Polaroid I-Type on Amazon is $64.99 for 40 images (8 packs of 8 images each). This makes the cost $1.62 per exposure for Polaroid I-Type instant film, which is the cheaper of the two options but the film is still one of the most expensive films per exposure on the list.
The Polaroid Now I-Type may be a little bulkier than some of the other instant cameras in this list, but it is lighter than traditional analog Polaroid cameras and it’s capable of taking larger photographs than many of the other instant cameras on the market. It is available in 7 bright colors and includes an upgraded flash system and autofocus and exposure system so you don’t miss out on all of those great images. However, Polaroid instant film is one of the most expensive on the list.
Honorable Mention: Polaroid Go Instant Camera & Film Started Set – $119.99
This white camera released on April 27, 2021 from Polaroid is the smallest camera on the list at 4.1 x 3.3 x 2.4 inches at 0.71 lbs (with film). Which, at the time, makes it the world’s smallest instant camera. It uses the iconic Polaroid film but in a much smaller size at 2.6 x 2.1 inches (vs normal polaroid square film which is 3.5 x 3.1 inches) However, because it released last month and difficult to find in stock I decided to give it an honorable mention.
- Bright vivid photographs: The small camera has a 35mm equivalent lens that produces sharp, bright, and vivid colors with autofocus and autoexposure supported by an on-camera flash.
- Rechargeable battery: Unlike other instant cameras which may require replaceable batteries, the Polaroid Go features a rechargeable power system that is charged up through a micro USB port and lasts through 15 packs of film.
- Easy to use: This camera is ideal for teenagers because of its smaller form factor. So small, in fact, it can be worn in a fashionable way. It also has a selfie mirror and self-timer.
- Film Cost: This camera is only compatible with the Polaroid Go color film. The film is $19.99 for a pack of 16 sheets of film. This makes the cost $1.24 per exposure for Polaroid Go film, which is one of the more expensive options on the list. However, it’s possible that in the future there may be bulk options for ordering film which could bring the price down even more.
You can currently order the camera from Polaroid.com by itself but both the starter pack (which includes the camera and film) and boxes of film are out of stock or back-ordered at the time of writing this article (this could change so I’d check the above links). However, you can (as of this writing) pre-order the camera here, here, and here.
Choosing an Instant Camera for a Teenager
There are many different types of instant cameras available on the market, so it can be hard to narrow down which ones would be the best option for a teenager. These are a few things you should consider when picking out an instant camera:
- Picture quality: The quality of photographs taken by instant cameras varies pretty wildly from model to model, so user reviews are a good place to look if you’re trying to get a general idea of how well the photos will turn out. Keep in mind it can be easier for novice photographers to get good photos from cameras with automatic controls.
- Digital options: Some instant cameras are analog only and have no digital memory at all, while others are able to function as a hybrid for taking either analog or digital photos. Cameras with digital capability may be a bit more expensive, but they can be worth the money for a teenager who keeps a large backlog of digital photographs. However, there are ways to digitize the prints from instant cameras and ways to keep the instant film print from fading so they can be kept for a long time.
- Price: When comparing prices for instant cameras, you need to look at the price of the camera itself as well as the average price of film for it. Some instant cameras may be cheap, but that doesn’t mean that the film used in them is. Some cameras also come bundled with accessories like straps or cases, while others require additional purchases.
- Portability: Some instant cameras are large and bulky and have to be carried around by a strap around your neck, while others are small enough to literally fit in the palm of your hand. Consider how large the camera you’re looking at is in terms of where the teenager is expected to take it. A mini camera is better for travel than a full-sized I-type.
- Film Type Used and Cost: Two important things to consider when purchasing an instant camera is what kind of film does the camera takes and how much does it cost. Some instant cameras use film that is expensive per exposure and can only be bought in low quantities, while other instant cameras use film that is less expensive overall and can also be bought in bulk to bring the price per exposure down even further.
While Polaroid used to be the major name in instant cameras, consumers are now able to choose from a large range of different instant camera models and specifications from several manufacturers and film types. This makes it a lot easier to choose an instant camera that is geared towards the type of photography someone is interested in.
Instant Cameras Are a Perfect Gift for Teenagers
Even though analog cameras might come off as somewhat old-fashioned technology, the new digital capabilities of instant cameras makes them a popular gift for a teenager.
No matter whether the teenager in your life just sits around taking selfies with their friends or they consider themselves a serious artistic photographer, there’s sure to be an instant camera on the list above that is perfect for what they want to do with their photography.