Digital instant cameras are perfect for taking and printing photos on the go. Most of them also enable you to print photos you took on your phone and even edit your pictures in an app first. They're small, compact and lightweight so great to take to festivals, holidays, weddings or weekend escapes. You can view the image before you print it so you can be sure no print is wasted.
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Most digital instant cameras use ZINK (a.k.a. zero-ink) thermal paper to print their images. There are several reasons for this: it doesn't require costly ink cartridges, it's reliable and the images are smudge-proof. They also tend to be hardier than instant film images and resistant to water. Another upside to ZINK printers is that the paper costs less to buy that instant film.
You may be confused as to why the best instant cameras (opens in new tab) don't use Zink but truthfully, the quality of Polaroid or Instax film is a lot better. The colors are much more vivid on instant film and the shadow and highlight areas retain more information. It's also possible to see banding on images with a lot of negative space when you're using Zink which is where instant film wins. Minolta is the latest brand to jump on the digital instant camera trend with the new Minolta Instapix (opens in new tab) - you won't find it on the list just yet but we look forward to getting our hands on one!
You can great images out of both instant and hybrid cameras but which you go for is down to you. The advantage of a digital printer is you can also print photos you took on your phone, edit them in specific apps and connect via Bluetooth.
We've picked out the top models on the market and put them through their paces. So, here are our picks for the best digital instant cameras and hybrids with instant printers. If you're sorted on the image-capture front and just want a quick and portable way to print your images, check out our guide to the best portable printers. (opens in new tab)
Hybrid digital instant cameras + printers(opens in new tab)
Unlike all the other cameras on our list, the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay uses Instax Mini Film which is much better than Zink thermal paper. This is the main reason it came top of our list - as well as the fact it's really cute and stuff with desirable features.
At just 255g, it's small, lightweight and can easily fit in jeans or a jacket pocket. It might only have a 4.9-megapixel sensor but that's big enough to make decent 1.8 x 2.8-inch prints. Plus you'll achieve that gorgeous vintage aesthetics that's impossible to recreate in other mediums. It stores up to 45 photos on the camera's internal memory or you can insert a micro SD card should you need more.
One nifty little trick LiPlay has is its ability to record a sound clip that can be shared with images via a QR code. So if you want to send a photo to someone with a short message or a clip of a song, simply record and the QR code will be printed on the photograph.(opens in new tab)
If you're happy capturing and printing on Zink paper, as opposed to real film, the Kodak Smile Classic offers both the best print quality of any Zink-based instant printer we've used, as well as full-size prints. Typical Zink prints are 2 x 3 inches, but the Smile Classic produces more substantial 3.5 x 4.25-inch pictures, which more closely resemble traditional photographic prints.
The superior quality is especially notable in images with a lot of tonality, which is an area that Zink printers – particularly the smaller ones – can struggle with. So if you're looking for an instant printer using Zink paper, this is the best one on our list. For photographs taken on the Smile Classic itself, this is no doubt aided by the larger image sensor in this camera, listed by Kodak as 16MP – though this is likely to be an interpolated figure (as with the standard Kodak Smile, below), with the actual sensor likely to be 8MP.
This is by far the digital instant camera that most closely resembles an analog instant camera, with a design reminiscent of the Polaroid OneStep that features a pop-up optical viewfinder. However, that throwback authenticity means that the camera has no LCD screen. That means you can't check the images you've taken, and every snap you take is immediately printed – arguably removing the usefulness of having a digital, rather than analog camera (though it does enable you to save to microSD).
Still, the pleasing design and pure point-and-click simplicity makes this an appealing camera to hold and use – especially for kids. Likewise, the app is friendly and fun to use, and enables you to add augmented reality features such as video. If you want an authentic retro instant camera experience, this is hard to beat.
One of the most affordable digital instant cameras out there, the Kodak Printomatic is an extremely basic setup for those who like to keep things simple. It's a no-frills digital instant camera, simultaneously saving 5MP digital photos and printing out 2x3inch prints on Zink paper. So while you get the advantage of a point-and-shoot so straightforward a child could operate it, the quality of the images you get is pretty average. There's also a lack of useful features like a self-timer or an LCD screen.
Still the design of the Printomatic is pretty minimalist and chic – we like it in the slate-grey pictured above, though there are plenty more gaudy options like pink, yellow and luminous green, should you prefer. If you're looking for a serious photographic tool there are better options on this list, but if you just want something cheap and simple that works, the Kodak Printomatic fills out that brief just fine.(opens in new tab)
The Polaroid Pop is the instant camera and printer hybrid with the best set of features, but it's also the one with the biggest price tag – and the biggest body! A real tank of a camera, the Pop is pleasingly designed but is definitely not pocket-sized, being about as chunky as an ordinary analog instant camera.
Not only can it take photos, but it can also shoot 1080p video and capture 15-second GIFs. There is space for a microSD card up to 128GB so you'll have plenty of memory to store video. The large 3.97-inch screen functions as a viewfinder and a touchscreen which enables you to edit, rotate, crop or even draw on your images prior to printing.
Like the Kodak Smile Classic, the Polaroid Pop prints larger 3.5 x 4.25-inch photographs in the classic Polaroid format (with border). The print quality isn't as good as the Classic, however. And even though Polaroid claims a 20MP sensor (which is likely interpolated, and is likely 10MP), the image quality isn't notably improved. This is a pricey choice but if you want an instant camera that can also shoot decent video then you're not gonna find much better.(opens in new tab)
Amazingly, despite its long history and diverse product range, Canon has never released an instant camera before. Thankfully, its instant camera / instant printer hybrid gets a lot of things right. Called the Canon Ivy Cliq+ in North America and Canon Zoemini S in Europe, it is clearly geared towards the selfie generation with its giant mirror with frame markings (which takes up a quarter of the camera's front), along with an 8-LED ring light for flattering self-portraits.
It's quite analog in operation, with no rear LCD screen meaning that every shot you take is immediately printed. Strangely, then, there's no counter to indicate the number of shots remaining, though with microSD card support you know that all your images can be stored safely. The free app is both easy and fun to use, and makes transferring and printing images from your phone an enjoyable and kid-friendly process.
The resolution is slightly higher than the junior Canon Ivy Cliq / Canon Zoemini C, at 314 x 600dpi, so the prints on this model are ever so slightly better. However, while the Cliq+ / Zoemini S comes in slightly more serious colors, it features the same plasticky build quality.(opens in new tab)
Spitting out stylish photos onto Kodak Zink paper, the Mini Shot Combo 2 is a pretty straightforward instant digital camera and printer. While it's not exactly palm-sized, it's slim enough to fit in a jacket pocket or small bag, and the photos it prints come out looking punchy and sharp. The little mirror on the front is a welcome extra that makes it easy to compose selfies and group shots, and having Bluetooth connectivity is also useful for printing directly from a smartphone.
The LCD screen isn't huge or terribly high quality, and it would have been nice to have some kind of low-paper warning for those who aren't as good at remembering how many shots they have left, but for the price, this is a great little camera and printer combo that reliably gets the job done.
Digital instant cameras(opens in new tab)
The Kodak Smile is a slim-as-a-smartphone instant camera that sports a sleek design, and uses Kodak's smaller 2 x 3-inch sticky-backed Zink paper. Like its bigger brother, the Kodak Smile Classic, the printing here is a cut above, as Kodak's apparently superior printing process combined with the smaller resolution produces the most pleasing results for these credit card-sized prints.
With an LCD screen, you can check your image after every shot and decide whether or not it's worth printing – and the microSD card (opens in new tab) slot means that you can save all your photos, and only print out the best or the ones you want to share (there's internal storage for three shots, if you're in a jam). Though obviously, with the camera's 5MP sensor (software-interpolated up to 10MP), the images are intended for the 2 x 3 format and not for blowing up on your computer.
The design is a genuine highlight here, as the Kodak Smile is the only camera with a sliding mechanism that keeps the lens protected. It also protects a pleasing button interface on the rear of the camera, so you don't have to worry about scratching the lens or accidentally taking pictures when you slip this in your pocket. The downside with the Smile is its battery life, as you only get around 40 prints per charge – a far cry from the 120-160 shots you get from film-based Polaroid cameras. And of course, unlike the Smile Classic, you can't print pictures from your phone.
One of the newer digital instant cameras from Kodak, the Kodak Step instant camera (not to be confused with the Kodak Step printer... I mean, why on earth would anyone mix those two up?) is a delightfully simple point-and-shoot. There's no control over exposure, no zoom or anything like that. You hit the button, and it prints, while also saving a digital copy of your file to an SD card. There's some scope to choose colours, and you can add a frame or use the self timer, but otherwise that's it.
So it's not exactly going to win awards for photographic latitude, but the Kodak Step works pretty well and is a good choice for kids and families. Technical perfection is not the name of the game here; indeed, using the four-shot "Photobooth" mode makes it very obvious that prints can come out more than a little crooked. But it's affordable knockabout fun, and hard to fault on those grounds.(opens in new tab)
The little brother of the Cliq+ / Zoemini S, there are a few key differences here on the Canon Ivy Cliq (in North American) / Canon Zoemini C (in Europe). Firstly, if beauty is only skin deep, this model comes in a more fun and expressive series of colors – Bumble Bee Yellow, Mint Green, Seaside Blue and Bubble Gum Pink, to be precise. These capture the fun, summer-loving spirit of the camera, and make them both kid-friendly and fashionably Instagrammable.
More fundamentally, though, this model comes with a smaller 5MP sensor, slightly reduced 314 x 500dpi print resolution, a single flash light and a much smaller selfie mirror – and, of course, it isn't an instant printer, so you can't use it to print photos from your phone.
Still, it otherwise handles and offers the same functionality as its big bro, with fire-and-forget simplicity that foregoes things like exposure so that you spend more time snapping and less time faffing. Again, it prints every time you press the shutter so it behaves a lot like a traditional instant camera. Kids seem to especially love playing with the Cliq / Zoemini C, thanks to its candy colored body and sticker photo prints, so this could be a hit with the little ones if you want to get them into photography.
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