Pho­to: imore.com

If you like film pho­tog­ra­phy, but devel­op­ing your own film is an unat­tain­able height, instant cam­eras are a great com­pro­mise. In the past cou­ple of years, instant pho­tog­ra­phy has regained its for­mer glo­ry, with more and more com­pa­nies releas­ing their own instant cam­eras. Fuji­film’s Polaroid and Instax are still the most afford­able and pop­u­lar brands. Let’s fig­ure out togeth­er how to choose such a cam­era and which brand suits you best.

Film Instax vs Polaroid

The most impor­tant aspect that any­one who decides to take up instant pho­tog­ra­phy should pay atten­tion to is choos­ing the right film. The choice of the cam­era fades into the back­ground.

Instax film is very dif­fer­ent from Polaroid film: both the pro­duc­tion tech­nol­o­gy and the chem­i­cal for­mu­la are dif­fer­ent, and the shoot­ing process and the final results depend on them. There­fore, the pic­ture that you plan to get is deter­mined pre­cise­ly by the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the film, and not by the cam­era.

The size

The first thing that sep­a­rates Polaroid and Instax is the size and for­mat of the pho­to. Mod­ern Polaroid cam­eras use a sin­gle unique pho­to size in a square for­mat, while Instax offers three dif­fer­ent sizes/formats (mini, wide and square). The square ver­sion of Instax pho­tos is slight­ly small­er than a stan­dard Polaroid, while the wide ver­sion is about the same sur­face area as a Polaroid.

Instax pho­to sizes:

  • Mini (mini): 4.6 cm x 6.2 cm
  • Square (square): 6.2 cm x 6.2 cm
  • Wide (wide): 9.9 cm x 6.2 cm

Uni­ver­sal pho­to size of mod­ern Polaroid cam­eras (i‑Type and 600):

You’re buy­ing a cam­era that can only shoot in one for­mat, and you can’t use anoth­er for­mat film in the same cam­era. So what size and for­mat of pho­to you want will deter­mine which cam­era options you need to look out for.

Film handling and picture quality

Image qual­i­ty is a sub­jec­tive mat­ter for instant pho­tog­ra­phy, and choos­ing between Polaroid and Instax film is up to your taste. Some peo­ple pre­fer the vin­tage, slight­ly fad­ed Polaroid pic­ture, while oth­ers pre­fer the sharp­er, clear­er Instax pic­ture.

On the left is a pho­to­graph on Polaroid film, on the right on Instax. Pho­to: Youtube chan­nel Room 111 Pho­tog­ra­phy

There are sev­er­al main dif­fer­ences in work­ing with these brands.

First, Polaroid film needs a lit­tle more light com­pared to Instax. While both films are gen­er­al­ly very light sen­si­tive (cam­eras often come with a built-in full-time flash), Instax cap­tures ambi­ent light bet­ter. This is proven by their ISO (film speed) rat­ings: the high­er the ISO, the more sen­si­tive the film. Polaroid has ISO 640, Instax has ISO 800.

Sec­ond­ly, Polaroid film requires more atten­tion. The film must be used with­in a year from the date of pro­duc­tion, and it must be stored in the refrig­er­a­tor. There are also fea­tures of oper­a­tion — if you shoot on a Polaroid in the cold, the pic­tures may turn out with a bluish tint. In addi­tion, some users report that pho­tos are eas­i­ly over­ex­posed at high tem­per­a­tures.

Instax film has nei­ther oper­at­ing fea­tures nor strict stor­age con­di­tions. There are only a cou­ple of rec­om­men­da­tions: it is bet­ter to keep the film in a cool place (but not in the refrig­er­a­tor) and not expose it to heat.

The third aspect is relat­ed to the qual­i­ty of the pic­ture. Again, this is a sub­jec­tive para­me­ter, and if your opin­ion does not coin­cide with the opin­ion of the author of the arti­cle, this is nor­mal.

Visu­al­ly, Instax film pro­duces a wider dynam­ic range with dark shad­ows and bright high­lights. At the same time, pho­tographs tak­en in dif­fer­ent con­di­tions do not dif­fer much in qual­i­ty from each oth­er — every­thing is quite con­sis­tent.

Arti­facts in Polaroid pic­tures. Pho­to: pola-store.ru

Polaroid shots have a spe­cial char­ac­ter — the col­ors are warmer and the shad­ows are less harsh. At the same time, spe­cif­ic Polaroid arti­facts some­times appear on the cards: loss of col­ors in the low­er parts of the pho­to or traces of uneven­ly dis­trib­uted chem­i­cals. Some users real­ly love these lit­tle imper­fec­tions that make pho­tos unique.

Development time

Instax film devel­ops much faster — it takes 1–2 min­utes to ful­ly devel­op, while Polaroid takes 15–30 min­utes (although this has a spe­cial twist).


Instax film is cheap­er than Polaroid. This can be part­ly explained by the size of the pho­tographs.

For exam­ple, a Polaroid Orig­i­nal Col­or I‑type Film cas­sette for 8 shots costs 2,290 rubles. A Fuji­film Instax Wide car­tridge for 20 shots can be pur­chased for 1,790 rubles.

Instax vs Polaroid cameras

At first glance, it seems that the choice of cam­eras is huge, but in fact, the mod­els are very sim­i­lar, both with­in the same brand and between them.

Con­ven­tion­al­ly, all mod­els can be divid­ed into entry-lev­el and advanced cam­eras.

Entry level instant cameras

These mod­els are designed pri­mar­i­ly for enter­tain­ment. You can start shoot­ing imme­di­ate­ly, with­out hav­ing any knowl­edge. Focus­ing in the cam­eras is auto­mat­ic, and the flash is always on.

The fea­ture of instant cam­eras is col­or­ful designs from retro to bright caramel shades. You can find a mod­el that will reflect your style.

For each film type, we rec­om­mend the fol­low­ing entry-lev­el mod­els:

— Instax mini: Instax Mini 11
— Instax square: Instax SQ1
— Instax wide: Instax Wide 300
— Polaroid i‑Type: Polaroid Now

All cam­eras on the list have aut­o­fo­cus, so you can sim­ply point and shoot with­out wor­ry­ing about set­tings. All but the Instax Wide 300 have a timer that can be used for group shots.

Any of them is suit­able for every­day use. If you are not too fond of exper­i­ment­ing with con­trols and set­tings, but just want to please your­self and your friends with com­mem­o­ra­tive cards, we rec­om­mend tak­ing one of them.

The Instax Mini 11 is one of the most styl­ish ways to take self­ies. Pho­to: kubnews.ru

The light­est and bud­get choice would be Instax Mini 11 (6940 rubles). This is a sim­ple auto­mat­ic cam­era that uses the cheap­est mini film to cre­ate pho­tos about the size of a bank card. There is a built-in flash. The cam­era auto­mat­i­cal­ly cal­cu­lates the expo­sure, so you don’t have to think about the set­tings.

The cam­era has a mir­ror on the front pan­el, and the min­i­mum focus­ing dis­tance is 30 cm, so this is not a bad self­ie cam­era. The device runs on two AA bat­ter­ies. This is a basic and as sim­ple as pos­si­ble cam­era for enter­tain­ment with a very bud­get film.

The ini­tial Polaroid cam­era is not so bud­get (14,990 rubles), but it can do a lot of inter­est­ing things. For exam­ple, it has a built-in dou­ble expo­sure mode, which is not found on any of the entry-lev­el Instax cam­eras.

The Polaroid Now cam­era is equipped with a sys­tem with two lens­es with dif­fer­ent focal lengths — por­trait and stan­dard (the cam­era selects the lens auto­mat­i­cal­ly, depend­ing on the dis­tance of the object. Sim­i­lar tech­nol­o­gy in smart­phones).

The bright­ness of the flash is adjust­ed auto­mat­i­cal­ly depend­ing on the light lev­el and the shoot­ing dis­tance. If you are shoot­ing in good light­ing, the flash can be turned off. Polaroid has a built-in bat­tery, so you don’t have to wor­ry about bat­ter­ies.

advanced cameras

If it is impor­tant for you to con­trol how the final shots will look, cam­eras with a large num­ber of set­tings and con­trols are made for you. Although Instax has mod­els with more fea­tures, the clear win­ner in this cat­e­go­ry is the Polaroid OneStep+.

Polaroid OneStep+ can be con­trolled remote­ly via Blue­tooth from your smart­phone. It’s the only cam­era with true full man­u­al mode — you can adjust aper­ture and shut­ter speed through the app. The appli­ca­tion also allows you to cre­ate dou­ble expo­sures, auto­mat­i­cal­ly release the shut­ter at loud sounds (an inter­est­ing fea­ture for par­ties), work in light paint­ing mode (light paint­ing — for exam­ple, you can “draw” some­thing with a flash­light beam), and set a self-timer. Like the Polaroid Now, the OneStep+ comes with two lens­es.

The mod­el will cost 20 thou­sand rubles. This is a great option for exper­i­men­tal film pho­tog­ra­phy: not only do you get Polaroid film with all its arte­facts and unique looks, but you also get the abil­i­ty to man­u­al­ly adjust all set­tings.

The Polaroid OneStep+ is arguably the most pro­fes­sion­al instant cam­era on the mar­ket. Pho­to: techadvisor.com

The clos­est alter­na­tives from Instax, but with­out Blue­tooth and man­u­al mode, are Instax Mini 90 (12 thou­sand rubles) and Instax SQ6 (11 thou­sand rubles). Both mod­els have a dou­ble expo­sure mode, dark and light shoot­ing modes (reduces and increas­es expo­sure), the abil­i­ty to turn off the flash, dual lens­es and a timer.

Instax Mini 90 allows you to select one of the spe­cial modes (“Kids”, “Par­ty”, “Land­scape” and “Long expo­sure” for night shoot­ing from a tri­pod). There is a macro mode that works on objects locat­ed at a dis­tance of less than 60 cm from the lens.

The Instax SQ6 has macro, self­ie, and land­scape modes, but no long expo­sure mode. The cam­era comes with three flash fil­ters (orange, pur­ple and green) for cre­ative effects. Com­pared to Polaroid, you will have less room to exper­i­ment, but you will get pre­dictably sharp and con­trasty images.

In gen­er­al, advanced mod­els are bet­ter suit­ed for var­i­ous art projects. So if you’re inter­est­ed in film pho­tog­ra­phy, but don’t want to devel­op, this is a good solu­tion.


Film fea­tures are the most basic thing that dis­tin­guish­es instant cam­eras of var­i­ous brands from each oth­er. While most instant cam­eras avail­able today are very sim­i­lar, there are a few options to con­sid­er when choos­ing.

For begin­ners, it is bet­ter to start with Instax cam­eras — the film and the cam­eras them­selves are cheap­er. If you need a cam­era for fun and tak­ing pic­tures for mem­o­ry, Instax Mini 11 will be per­haps the most ver­sa­tile option.

If you have big plans for film pho­tog­ra­phy and need a real cre­ative tool for your art projects, then Polaroid OneStep+ is your option.

* when prepar­ing the arti­cle, mate­ri­als from the resource medium.com were used