The instant camera - also known as the Polaroid camera - was a household name in the 1970s. After the turn of the millennium, however, it gradually disappeared from the shelves and thus also from the lives of amateur and professional photographers. Until then, it was considered a cult and had a similar significance in photography as today's compact camera. It worked according to a simple principle: only the shutter release had to be pressed to directly produce and print a photo. An additional printer was not required for this, nor was there an image preview. The photos from such a camera were therefore anything but perfect, but rather great, unique snapshots that captured beautiful moments for eternity.
Till today, the instant camera has a special appeal for many people. It is the counterpart to digital compact cameras, which offer a lot of storage space, but often produce photos that later disappear on the hard drive and are never looked at again. The average recreational photographer tends not to go through the extra work of editing and developing photos. It is therefore hardly surprising that the instant camera is currently experiencing a real comeback.
Whether privately for baby photos, at parties, at weddings or out and about in nature - with a Polaroid camera you can take nostalgic photos and truly unique ones. Modern instant cameras have all kinds of practical functions and accessories that make taking photos even more fun. You can find out what you should look out for when buying such a Polaroid camera in the section below.
Like any other camera, the instant camera also has many advantages, but of course a few disadvantages as well. The following list shows the most important arguments for and against this particular camera model.
photo available within minutes
Photos cannot be faked
High fun and entertainment factor
Easy to use - even without background knowledge
High price per image
Quality not as good as other modern cameras
So long as you can live with the two drawbacks, the instant camera is a good choice for you.
In principle, an instant camera is suitable for every photographic application. However, it is especially popular for celebrations, festivals and parties. It is so small and handy that every guest immediately knows how to use it. This creates unique snapshots that can be pasted directly into the guest book. Every guest will try to pick up the retro camera themselves to take a few photos. This way, not only great photos are created, but also many conversations: older people can reminisce about the classic analogue Polaroid camera, while younger guests can have their parents or grandparents show them how the instant camera works.
The instant camera is also still popular when travelling. Although it is not a substitute for a digital, smartphone or SLR camera, it is an excellent addition on holiday. A spontaneous snapshot at the beach, for example, can be sent as an individual postcard that will definitely stand out positively from the boring standard postcards. But the Polaroid camera is also ideal for adding memories, photos and notes to the photo album during the holiday.
The terms "instant camera" and "Polaroid camera" are often used as synonyms. This is because photography in the 1970s and 1980s was largely shaped by Polaroid instant cameras. Similar to the Tempo handkerchief, the Polaroid brand name therefore became established as a term for all instant cameras, even if they actually came from other manufacturers. For a long time, Polaroid was the only company to offer instant cameras. Another manufacturer, which also brought a model onto the market, had to take its cameras off the market again after a legal dispute with Polaroid due to a trademark infringement.
Unfortunately, Polaroid filed for bankruptcy in 2008. The instant camera had now been completely replaced by the digital compact camera. The production of Polaroid films was also discontinued as a result, which annoyed many Polaroid fans. The company "Impossible", which was founded by Polaroid lovers, solved the problem by producing films for the instant camera again. This revived the old Polaroid cameras, which also led to an increased demand for new instant cameras.
In the meantime, the Polaroid company has re-entered the market and, together with Lady Gaga as its advertising face, is successfully producing digital instant cameras. The pictures are no longer produced chemically, but with a printer that is integrated into the cameras. Other companies also have instant cameras on offer today. The Fujifilm Instax models, for example, which have Polaroid lettering on the housing, are popular. However, they now only share their name with the traditional analogue instant camera.
Polaroid cameras today come in many different variants, so they are equipped with a wide variety of functions. Inexpensive Fujifilm Instax models are available for around 60 euros. They are easy to use and come with a rather rudimentary set of features: A built-in flash, high-key exposure and an internal colour printer provide instant snapshots in acceptable quality. If you are willing to dig a little deeper into your pocket, you can also choose an instant camera with more extensive features. The technical highlights of the modern generation include:
However, many Polaroid cameras have problems with moving subjects such as animals and children. To get sharp pictures even in such situations, it is better to shoot with a smartphone or digital camera.
In this context, many photographers who want to buy an instant camera ask themselves which model is best. There is no general answer to this question, because it depends on what you want to do with the camera: Where, when and whom do you want to photograph with it? What do you expect from the camera?
If you are only looking for an instant camera for the nostalgic effect, you would be well advised to buy an inexpensive model from Polaroid or Fujifilm. These cameras take pictures the size of business cards, but have the advantage that the film is inexpensive. In addition, the purchase costs for the camera are kept within limits and the photos are immediately available. Such a model is usually perfectly adequate for the next party or holiday at the beach. Even as a party gag, the inexpensive devices come into question. However, in terms of picture quality, the photos cannot keep up with the standards of modern digital cameras.
If you want to buy a camera that offers good picture quality and some of the features of modern digital photography, you will have to invest a few euros more. Then you get useful additional features such as a WLAN function, an internal memory and a display. Some models are even equipped with a zoom function and allow you to select the photos you want to print on the display.