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If you’re thinking about the best Polaroid digital camera, you’re in the market for an instant camera that offers immediate photo printing functionality. Polaroid was the first manufacturer to launch instant film development — long before the dawn of digital cameras. While the brand’s instant camera offerings temporarily fell out of favor with the rise of point and shoot digital cameras in the 90s and early 00s, it has seen a resurgence of late thanks to digital innovations and a nostalgic drive from Millennials and older Gen Z consumers.
Although Polaroid isn’t the only instant camera brand on the market, they’re so recognizable that the brand name is used interchangeably with the product category. And today’s Polaroid digital cameras are modern iterations of their clunky predecessors from previous decades.
Keep reading our Polaroid digital cameras buying guide to clarify a few factors you need to prioritize as you shop for an instant camera. And don’t forget to check out our guide on the best digital cameras for an overview of all camera categories. If you’re a birder, you may also want to read our best point and shoot cameras for birding guide to learn more about superzoom cameras.
Award: TOP PICK
WHY WE LIKE IT: This camera uses a Zink Zero Ink system and classic 3.5 x 4.25-inch classic polaroid paper to generate vibrant prints. The camera has a touch LCD for framing and editing.
The Polaroid Pop 20MP digital camera has an instant system that prints photos immediately. It boasts a 20MP photo sensor for capturing epic photographs. This digital camera uses Zink Zero Ink paper technology, which doesn’t require ink or toner. The camera uses 3.5 x 4.25-inch paper with a classic polaroid border for vibrant prints. This device allows real-time photo editing, so users can add notes and emojis. However, the prints a bit grainy.
A touchscreen display on this device simplifies framing photos and changing camera settings. This camera doubles as a multifunction printer, allowing users to send photos from smartphones, computers, and other cameras for printing. It uses Wi-Fi tech for easy photo sharing and records high-quality Full HD videos. The camera features a built-in mic for audio capture, while a built-in speaker supports audio playback. This camera comes with a handy strap for effortless mobility.
Award: HONORABLE MENTION
WHY WE LIKE IT: This camera has a microSD card slot, so users can expand the storage. It features a handy mirror to facilitate capturing selfies. The camera is compact for easy transportation.
The Polaroid Snap 13.0MP digital camera blends the classic features of legacy Polaroids with advanced tech, allowing users to enjoy a bit of both worlds. It boasts an optical viewfinder that will appeal to enthusiast photographers. This camera is compact, fitting easily in pockets and purses. It uses a zero-ink system that prevents the kinds of messes associated with toner-equipped cameras. However, the images produced by this camera have a relatively low resolution.
This camera produces instant 2×3 inch prints to help families preserve memories. It also has internal storage space, so users can save the images in digital format. A microSD card slot lets photographers insert cards with a maximum capacity of 32GB. Featuring various picture modes, this camera enables users to take photos in a wide variety of situations. This camera has a built-in selfie mirror for capturing selfies. A self-timer lets users take photos that include all family members.
Award: BEST RUGGED
WHY WE LIKE IT: This camera has a rugged design that’s water-resistant, shockproof, and freeze-proof. The camera has two LCDs that simplify framing normal photos and selfies.
The Polaroid iXX090 20.0MP digital camera features a 20.0MP sensor, capturing detailed images. This camera features an innovative 1.8-inch front screen for framing selfies and reviewing captured photos and media. It also has a rear 2.8-inch screen for framing. Weighing just 0.42 pounds, this digital camera is easy to carry around. A built-in flash enhances photo quality in low-light conditions. However, this model needs maintenance-intensive AA batteries to function.
This camera has a rugged shockproof, freeze proof design suitable for capturing extreme sports. It has a digital zoom function, zooming in up to 4x. Intuitive manual buttons and dials simplify zooming, adjusting exposure, and snapping. This Polaroid camera is waterproof to a depth of 10 feet, making it a good choice for swimmers and divers. It has a microSD card slot for extending the storage space. The camera has an elegant red color scheme.
Award: BEST FOR VLOGGING
WHY WE LIKE IT: This action camera has a water-resistant design suitable for recording up to a depth of 10 feet. It records UHD footage and comes with a helmet mount for hassle-free vlogging.
The Polaroid ID922 18MP digital camera has a stunning red color scheme that offers visual appeal. This camera has an 18MP photo sensor, capturing high-quality photos. The camera has outstanding video recording capabilities, capturing 4K UHD footage. It also has built-in Wi-Fi for transferring photos and videos to other devices. An easy-to-read screen enables previewing photos and videos easily. This LCD also showcases the battery status, time, date, and other info. However, this camera has a poor flash.
A built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery provides simple on-the-go convenience, while a USB charger offers convenience. This camera is waterproof to a depth of 10 feet, so it’s ideal for wildlife underwater photographers. The camera has a digital zoom function that increases the size up to 8x. It has dual screens with a 2-inch rear LCD for normal photos and front screen for framing selfies easily. An included helmet mount allows users to document their excursions easily.
Award: BEST OPTICAL ZOOMING
WHY WE LIKE IT: This digital camera has an excellent photo sensing system that produces crisp photos. It has a powerful wide-angle lens with excellent optical zooming abilities. The camera also features built-in image stabilization.
The Polaroid iTT28 20MP digital camera has advanced features that will appeal to seasoned photographers. It has a high-quality wide-angle lens that captures group photos and landscapes well. It supports up to 20x optical zoom, capturing images and videos from far. The camera has digital image stabilization, preventing image distortion due to camera shake. A rear 2.8-inch LCD supports proper framing and previewing photos. However, this LCD is fixed, so it won’t help with selfies.
This camera has intuitive buttons and dials for zooming, navigating the OSD menu, and managing the exposure compensation. A 20-megapixel image sensor captures crisp frame-worthy photos. The camera records Full HD videos at resolutions of up to 1080p. With an ISO range of 100-400, this device fights camera gain. A built-in flash helps to enhance image brightness. This camera has a number of scene modes for easy customization.
Award: BEST FOR CHILDREN
WHY WE LIKE IT: This camera has intuitive controls and an adorable color scheme that will appeal to children and beginner photographers. It is water-resistant to a depth of 10 feet and comes with a protective housing.
The Polaroid ISO48 16MP digital camera is a compact, lightweight model that supports one-hand operation. This camera has intuitive controls that will appeal to children and photography novices. The camera has a microSD card slot, enabling users to expand storage space. It has a 2.4-inch rear screen for browsing photos and videos and features a strap for securing it on the wrist. However, this camera needs a regular supply of AA batteries, so it’s expensive to operate.
A 16MP photo sensor on this model is ideal for capturing photos for sharing with friends and family. This camera also captures HD videos, allowing users to document precious memories. The camera is waterproof to a depth of 10 feet, so it’s ideal for documenting underwater excursions. It’s available in adorable colors, including teal to appeal to children and adults. This camera comes with a tough protective cover to cushion it against dings and knocks.
Polaroid is an American imaging company headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota, that is best known for its instant photography camera portfolio. Founded in 1937, the brand has always focused on cameras, imaging equipment, and as film. In fact, Polaroid provided imaging equipment like goggles to the armed forces since its inception, including during World War II.
In addition to commercial solutions, they are best known for their instant self-developing film and accompanying camera which debuted in 1948 and was targeted at the average consumer. As the first first brand to offer the instant film format, the popular product continued to be a mainstay as an alternative to traditional film cameras that required photos to be developed separately in a dark room. Polaroid’s instant camera maintained its dominant market position through the 1970s when it held nearly two-thirds of the American instant camera market.
Unfortunately, the instant camera market faced steep competition once point-and-shoot digital cameras were introduced since digital photography eliminated the need for having film developed developed or buying expensive replacement film packs. For several decades, Polaroid instant cameras fell out of favor, and the brand did declare bankruptcy twice. Yet, new life would be breathed into Polaroid in 2008 when new ownership decided to incorporate digital technology into the classic instant camera concept.
Along with robust digital instant cameras, such as the Polaroid Now+, Polaroid also offers several other modern photography products, including updated analog instant cameras like the Polaroid Go, point and shoot cameras with autofocus like the Polaroid Now, iPhone scanners, and 3D printers.
Today, the brand has seen a resurgence in instant film sales and even offers refurbished vintage cameras for sale, such as their Polaroid 600 and Polaroid SX-70. While Polaroid cameras don’t need them, if you purchase any other camera, consider protecting your investment with the best small digital camera case.
(Pro 1) A Digital Camera with an Analog Feel: If you grew up using the classic Polaroid cameras and love the idea of that oversized, somewhat clunky camera body, you’ll like that their modern offerings still maintain that iconic shape.
(Con 1) Film Development Takes Time: Unlike its predecessors, the modern Polaroid cameras rely on I-type film, which takes 15 minutes to develop. And during that time, the film must be shielded from light or else it will ruin the image.
(Pro 2) Fairly Affordable Camera Portfolio: Polaroid offers instant digital cameras that range from $99 to $149 (not including the fim pack) for casual or nostalgic camera fans who want to get their hands on an instant camera.
(Con 2) The Cost of Film Adds Up Over Time: The added cost of film is a con for any instant camera. Traditional digital cameras don’t rely on film, meaning that you can opt to use digital picture frames or other means to display your pictures. But with instant cameras, if you want to print images natively from the camera, it’s going to cost you. And unfortunately, of the instant camera manufacturers, Polaroid’s film packs are the most expensive.
(Pro 3) You Choose Which Images to Print: Unlike their vintage cameras, the modern Polaroid cameras allow you to pick and choose which images you want to print. This can help you extend the time between buying new film packs.
(Con 3) Image Quality Isn’t as Good as DSLR or Mirrorless Cameras: While instant printing is a fun feature that’s alluring, a common complaint specific to Polaroid is that the images consistently come out dark.
(Pro 4) Upgraded Features Offer Modern Functionality: Polaroid’s Now+ model specifically comes with an accompanying app and additional lenses. With the app, you can play with different photography features like noise triggers and light drawing. You can also play with a double exposure function directly on the camera.
(Con 4) You Can’t Send Images Directly to Your Phone: To get image sharing to work, you have to leverage a weird workaround through the Polaroid app by taking a picture of your picture and sending it to the phone. This is clunky and can further degrade the image.
The modern Polaroid digital cameras are geared towards the nostalgic Millennial market while also creating an instant camera option for Gen Z-ers or event planners who want to include a fun twist on a photo booth. If you can ignore the higher cost of film packs and aren’t as compromising on image quality, this is a great option that’s sure to delight.
Thanks to a few new features, such as the option to pick and choose which images you want to print, and funky photography tricks like double exposure, you can flex your creativity while still enjoying the tactile experience of an analog-style camera.
The new Polaroid instant film cameras are essentially point-and-shoot cameras that incorporate instant prints. All the models come with autofocus and a selfie mode. You’ll also get a rechargeable battery that can last up to two months between charges depending on the model. And you’ll like the “accurate flash,” a feature that the brand claims allows the built-in flash to automatically adjust to light conditions so that you get better images in low-light settings.
However, the more premium offerings incorporate additional options such as manual controls, the ability to adjust aperture, and even a tripod mode. And thanks to the accompanying Polaroid mobile app — which works with both Apple and Android devices — you can control camera settings remotely. This even includes toggling between camera modes, a remote shutter trigger, and a selfie timer.
Unlike professional-oriented cameras such as DSLRs and mirrorless models, Polaroid’s digital camera offerings don’t list what’s known as a shutter actuation. This figure represents how many times you can trigger the shutter — or how many pictures you can take — before physical failure could potentially damage it and make it inoperable.
While Polaroid’s modern cameras are considered instant cameras, their digital autofocus function makes them a point-and-shoot solution. Because of this designation, they aren’t limited by shutter count. As with any other point-and-shoot camera, a Polaroid camera’s lifespan depends on how you treat it.
If you treat it with care, don’t purposely bang it across surfaces or handle it roughly, the camera can last for quite a while. However, keep in mind that there is the potential for mechanical malfunction, specifically with loading film packs. Getting a particularly difficult film jam could make it impossible to print future images.
All Polaroid products — new and vintage cameras, film, and printers — come with a warranty that varies depending on your location. For all countries outside of the European Union, all new cameras have a one-year warranty. Vintage cameras have a one-year warranty, while film and accessories have a limited warranty.
Within the E.U., new cameras are covered by a two-year warranty, vintage cameras have a one-year warranty, and film and accessories also have a limited warranty. Unfortunately, whether you’re located in the E.U. or elsewhere, Polaroid doesn’t clarify what their warranty policy entails on their official website.
If you love the idea of instantly printing images on the go without the need for a bulky portable printer, a Polaroid camera can allow you to be mobile while still offering solid photo options for ideal and low-light conditions. Along with app support and the option for color or black and white instant film, Polaroid cameras are a fun solution for would-be shutterbugs.
First, look for a model that’s user-friendly with controls that don’t have a steep learning curve. You’ll want to check the battery life to determine how many film packs you can use before you need to recharge it. Also, consider the photo size as, even outside of Polaroids, there are a variety of film sizes from three inches by three inches to more traditional larger instant film sheets. Also, consider how long the film must process once a picture is printed and if you have additional controls to adjust brightness or play with exposure.
The actual camera can last for quite a while as long as you treat it right. The better question is how long will the film last? All instant camera film comes with an expiration date that’s usually one year from the date of purchase. Once opened, experts recommend that you use the film ideally within two weeks but no longer than a month.
No, you shouldn’t. The film is designed to self-develop. This means that when you shake it, you might alter the chemical composition and create unwanted effects in the final image.