If you remember using a Polaroid camera as a kid, you probably recall the appeal of taking a photo and, just minutes later, having a finished and unique print in hand. Sure, you can take some great photos with your smartphone camera, but if you still like shooting film or having a real photograph in hand, a Polaroid camera and some instant film may be just what you need.
But Polaroid itself has long quit making instant cameras and even instant film. And Fujifilm, which long made some great pack film, has discontinued its production. If you’re unfamiliar with the models of Polaroid cameras that are available either new or secondhand, figuring out exactly what cameras are available, and what kind of film you’ll need to buy, can be a little confusing. Fortunately, the options aren’t quite as confusing as they initially appear.
The Polaroid cameras ahead are all models that you can still buy, either online or in some cases, at a local store. You can also still purchase the film required to shoot with these cameras, and you won’t need to amass a stash of expired film to enjoy your Polaroid camera for years to come. It’s worth noting that if you’re the type to scour yard sales and antique malls for old cameras, there are plenty of vintage cameras out there. But some of them are easy to break (and hard to evaluate on the fly), while many need film that you can’t buy anymore unless you want to pay exorbitant prices for expired stock on eBay.
The moral of the story? The easiest way to get into instant photography is to choose a Polaroid camera and an instant film that are still in production. The six options ahead will make it easy for you to take photos on instant film — the perfect change of pace if you’re tired of taking all your photos on your smartphone.
1. Fujifilm Instax Mini
Fujifilm’s new Instax systems are the easiest way to get your hands on a Polaroid camera (even if, like most of the other cameras and films on the list, they aren’t technically made by Polaroid). Fujifilm’s instant film is offered in two sizes: Mini, which yields pictures about the size of a credit card, and Wide, which is larger — about the side of Polaroid’s Spectra film. If you like the idea of a smaller picture, you have lots of cameras to choose from, including the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 or the Mini 90 Neo Classic. Another choice if you really want your camera to say Polaroid on the front is the Polaroid 300. It’s the same camera as the Fuji Instax Mini, just labeled with Polaroid’s brand. Each of these cameras is compatible with Fujifilm’s Instax Mini film.
2. Fujifilm Instax Wide 300
If you prefer a bigger photo than what the Instax Mini format offers, then Instax Wide might be the right format for you. While you might think the fact that Fujifilm’s Instax Wide is about the same size as old Polaroid film would mean that you could use other cameras to shoot it, as well, you’d be mistaken. Instax Wide won’t fit into the Polaroid cameras you can find at a yard sale or a vintage shop. But you can choose between a couple of cameras, nonetheless. The Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 is a popular option, since it’s just as easy to use as Fujifilm’s Instax Mini cameras, just bigger. Another option is Lomography’s Belair X 6-12, a medium format camera which you can fit with an instant back to shoot Fuji’s Instax Wide film. You might be surprised to learn that you can have a Polaroid camera and a medium format camera for the Belair’s low price tag, which makes it a versatile choice for budding film photographers.
3. Impossible Polaroid 600
600 and SX-70 film are the classic formats that most people think of when they imagine a “Polaroid camera.” When Polaroid itself stopped producing this type of film in 2008, an organization called the Impossible Project bought the equipment from Polaroid’s last factory in the Netherlands. The Impossible Project essentially had to start from scratch and therefore couldn’t exactly replicate Polaroid’s chemistry for a variety of reasons, but the resulting film has garnered its own cult following. In addition to reviving instant film, Impossible Project also refurbishes vintage Polaroid cameras, which makes 600-type cameras and 600-type film easy to get your hands on.
4. Polaroid SX-70
An important thing to realize when shooting Impossible Project film is that it isn’t exactly like the old Polaroid film that you may remember. Because the company had to start from scratch in developing its chemistry, the film has been a work in progress. It’s generally slower to develop, a bit trickier to shoot, and a little less stable than the film you probably used with your old Polaroid camera. But most users don’t complain, because they can use equipment like the iconic SX-70 Polaroid camera, another camera type that Impossible Project refurbishes (and warranties for an entire year). There are also several films to choose from for the SX-70, including color, black and white, and expired varieties.
5. Polaroid Spectra
Spectra, which was originally introduced in 1986, is similar to 600 but wider in format. Impossible Project has carried on the task of making Spectra, which was often used for commercial purposes by police evidence departments, movie sets, and modeling agencies. Shooting a wider format photo gives you more options, and the format works well for everything from landscapes to portraiture. Impossible Project refurbishes a variety of Spectra cameras, and produces both black-and-white and color films in the format.
6. Impossible I-Type
If you don’t necessarily want something old, then you might want to consider a completely new camera and film type: Impossible Project’s I-type. The I-1 is a new camera system intended to function as a point and shoot. It works with Impossible’s I-Type and 600-type film, and uses a ring flash that’s great for taking portraits. Additionally, you can connect your phone to the camera via Bluetooth to gain full control over the aperture and shutter speed. The I-1 model is a unique kind of Polaroid camera, and uses Impossible’s I-type film.