The best digital instant cameras are perfect for taking photos on the go. Some of them also enable you to print photos from your phone, and even edit your pictures in an app first. They're small, compact and lightweight, so they're great for festivals, holidays, weddings, parties or weekend escapes. You can view the image before you print it, so you can be sure that no paper is wasted.
There are two main formats used by the best digital instant cameras: Zink (aka zero-ink) thermal paper and traditional Instax film – yes, the kind that you put in analog instant cameras. (And on that note, if you're looking for Polaroids and Instaxes rather than digital cameras, head to our guide to the best instant cameras.)
Zink printing doesn't require costly ink cartridges, it's reliable, and the images are smudge-proof. They also tend to be hardier than instant film exposures and are resistant to water. Another upside to Zink is that the paper costs a lot less than instant film.
Where Zink photos look like conventionally printed-out pictures, Instax photos are exposed photochemically – so they possess that unique, retro, otherworldly look you get from Instax and Polaroid cameras, with crunched contrast and vibrant colors. You can great images from both, so which you go for is down to personal preference.
In addition to being digital instant cameras, some of these models also act as a standalone digital printer – so you can connect your phone via Bluetooth and print them out. If you find this a more interesting option, check out the best portable printers that eschew a camera and double down on the printing side).
Best digital instant cameras: Our top picks
For my money, I love the look and tactility of instant film prints – so my top pick is the Instax Mini Evo. (The Instax Mini LiPlay is cooler-looking, but it's a step slower and doesn't have as many funky options.) It gives you the best of both worlds, behaving like a normal Instax camera if you want an instant photo or like a portable printer – but one that prints images onto real Instax photos.
If you're not a fan of the lo-fi look, my favorite Zink option is the Kodak Smile – another camera with the benefit of having a printer built-in, making it easy to share memories with loved ones on the go.
Best digital instant cameras: hybrid cameras / printers
This is my favorite hybrid digital instant camera, just outclassing the Instax Mini LiPlay. It's like an Instax Mini that enables you to edit your photos before you print them – and it also enables you to turn images from your phone into real Instax photos. Ever wanted to produce an instant print of a phone selfie, or a shot you took on a "proper camera"? Now you can!
On top of that, the Mini Evo boasts a beautiful vintage design. My favorite part of the camera is the physical lever on the back; designed to mimic the film advance lever on old cameras, here you use it to print photos when you're ready (and the image on the rear LCD even slowly "ejects" from the screen as it emerges from the side of the camera).
The Mini Evo has been a monster hit, marrying the fun of analog photography with filters and effects familiar to the Instagram generation. The ability to pair it with your phone for use as an instant printer seals the deal. If you're anything like me and you love sharing instant photos with friends, here you can give them the one you've just taken or transform a phone selfie into a sweet Instax print.
Read our full Instax Mini Evo review for more details
Most folks prefer the retro film camera look of the Evo, but I love the cute, quirky Japanese-ness of the LiPlay – which also has the benefit of being very pocketable. At just 255g it's small and lightweight, and can easily be slipped into jeans or a jacket. It might only have a 4.9MP sensor, but that's big enough to make decent 1.8 x 2.8-inch prints. It stores up to 45 photos on the camera's internal memory or you can insert a micro SD card should you need more.
Not only does it double as a printer, but it has a nifty trick: the LiPlay can record a sound clip, which can be shared along 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 it and the QR code will be printed on the photograph. A really neat way to include a personal message so that you have an aural memory of a special moment, to go with the visual one.
Read our full Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay review for more details
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.
This is by far the best Zink printer on the list and it's aided by the larger 16MP sensor (although it's more likely to be an interpolated 8MP sensor). Its design resembles an analog Polaroid camera, but the downside to that is it has no digital screen – so you can't check the photos you've taken. It does, however, have a slot for a microSD card, so you can review the pictures later on another device.
The pleasing design and pure point-and-click simplicity make this an appealing camera to hold and shoot with – 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 a retro instant camera experience that produces a modern digital photo, this is hard to beat.
Read our full Kodak Smile Classic review for more details
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 2x3-inch prints on Zink paper. So, while you get the advantage of a point-and-shoot that's 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.
See our full Kodak Printomatic review
Like the look of the Printomatic (above) but wish there was a touchscreen and pop-up flash? Then the Kodak Step Touch is for you. Again, it doesn't offer the best image quality on this list, but it's cute and compact – and it does come with an LCD touchscreen. It's definitely more a bit of fun than a serious shooting device, with its plastic-y build and washed-out prints, but it's definitely fun if you can find one for a value-added price.
Read our full Kodak Step Touch review for more details
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 probably 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.
Amazingly, despite its long history and diverse product range, Canon had never released an instant camera. Thankfully, its instant camera / instant printer hybrid gets a lot of things right. Called the Canon Ivy Cliq+2 in North America and Canon Zoemini S2 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, and I think looks pretty funky), 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 600 dpi, so the prints on this model are ever so slightly better. However, while the Cliq+2 / Zoemini S2 comes in slightly more serious colors, it features the same plasticky build quality, and ultimately image quality is disappointing
See our full Canon Ivy Cliq+2 / Zoemini S2 review.
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 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.
Best digital instant cameras: Camera-only
The Kodak Smile is a slim-as-a-smartphone instant camera that sports a sleek design (to me, this is the best-looking camera on this list), 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 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 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 into 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) 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 colors, and you can add a frame or use the self-timer, but otherwise, that's it.
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.
Read our full Kodak Step digital instant camera review for more details
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 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.
Best digital instant cameras: How we test
We don't test instant cameras using the same scientific lab tests we do on the latest mirrorless cameras and lenses – but our evaluation is no less exhaustive! When we get an instant camera, we take it to an actual shooting environment and run a few packs of film through it, seeing how it performs in a variety of lighting and environmental conditions. This is especially important with cameras that use a photochemical exposure process, since results can vary greatly even in only subtly different situations.
Factors such as feature sets are taken into consideration, especially as this relates to ease of use – since instant cameras are supposed to take pictures instantly, with minimal messing around. Battery life is a key point as well, given that there's physical printing / exposure and usually a flash being fired. Image quality is quite subjective, here; photochemical prints inherently possess a different set of characteristics, though Zink images can be more fairly evaluated in terms of print quality.
Best digital instant cameras: FAQs
Are any instant cameras also digital?
Yes! The cameras on this list are exactly that – instant cameras that use digital technology. (If you're looking for analog instant cameras, check out our best instant cameras guide.)
What is the best 2 in 1 instant camera?
For my money, I'd say the Instax Mini Evo is the most fully-featured instant camera that also acts as a standalone printer – though it prints onto Instax film, so your images are going to have that "retro look". If you're after more conventional "laser printer quality" on your photos, I recommend the Kodak Smile – a great instant camera and instant printer that produces the best quality Zink photos and prints.