Which instant cameras for kids are best?

Today’s youth love to take photos, and smartphone “selfies” are a specialty. But younger kids, those not old enough to own a smartphone, also enjoy taking photos with instant cameras. They can share printed photos immediately with friends, stick them to their school books, create a photo album or hang them on the wall.

Instant cameras have been around for over 70 years. Today, several companies make models explicitly designed for kids, and the best is the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera.

What to know before you buy an instant camera for kids

How does an instant film camera work?

Instead of using regular film or ink cartridges, instant cameras use film packs that include a negative, chemical developers and substrates, and the positive paper needed to create the finished photo.

When you depress the shutter button, the image is projected onto the film, which is then drawn across rollers and emerges from the camera. Once the film is out of the camera, the chemicals react to the light, and the development process begins. Within minutes, the blank sheet becomes a color photograph.

No longer bulky cameras

Today’s instant cameras, especially those made for kids, have made significant improvements since the first Polaroid was released in 1948. They are no longer big and bulky, and many models are easy for children to hold, and nearly drop-proof.

Instant camera uses

Instant cameras were first developed to give people the pleasure of seeing their photos immediately after shooting them and the opportunity to retake or recompose the photos that weren’t right. They were also valuable for other purposes, such as passport photos, ID cards, ultrasound photos, and other applications which needed an instant photo.

However, with the advent of digital photography, instant cameras lost much of their consumer appeal. Passport photos and other instant photo products have gone digital, leaving instant cameras to niche markets, such as a fun photography learning tool for kids and candid photos by guests at a wedding reception.

What to look for in a quality instant camera for kids

Picture quality

Although the quality of an instant camera photo is inferior to that of a high-resolution digital camera, most users accept it as a reasonable tradeoff for getting an immediate printed result. However, some instant cameras create better photos than others. Look for a camera that rates high (relative to other instant cameras) for photo quality, and the kids will appreciate the difference.

Easy to use

An essential factor to consider when buying an instant camera for kids is its ease of use. The camera should function intuitively, and automatic exposure will help produce a near-perfect photo every time.

Cuteness factor

A camera made to look like a toy, such as a minibear with ears or a small Minion, appeals to kids, is less imposing, encourages a child to take photos and helps them learn about photography.

Durability

Select a model that will hold up to bumps and falls. Some cameras have a silicone protective coating that absorbs impacts.

Reasonably priced film

Before purchasing any kid’s instant camera, calculate the cost of the film. No instant film is cheap, but the less expensive film will save you money when your child starts clicking photos by the dozens.

Zero ink

ZINK tech is an ink-less technology using CMY dye on paper to develop photos. The no-mess zero ink printing process uses multi-layered thermal paper with magenta, yellow and cyan dye crystals that activate when heat is applied.

Most Zink photo prints are small-sized, usually measuring 2 inches by 3 inches or 3 inches by 4 inches. The adhesive-backed paper makes it ideal for sticking to refrigerators, scrapbooks and journals.

Although Zink photo paper is susceptible to heat, it is durable, resistant to water and smudges and won’t fade with time. 

Creative controls

Many kids’ instant cameras are simple point-and-shoot models. However, several of the better cameras allow for minor adjustments to exposures and even allow multiple exposures on a single print for special effects. Some cameras allow kids to edit their photos with filters and decorate them with a set of stickers.

Look for a camera with creative controls to give your child the most rewarding photographic experience.

Micro-SD card

The better kids’ instant cameras allow storing photos on a micro-SD card. The feature gives you a digital copy of every photo if the printed version gets damaged or lost.

Battery life

Instant cameras that allow you to shoot at least 100 photos with a set of batteries will help avoid the unfortunate circumstance of missing a photo opportunity due to dead batteries. Some models use rechargeable batteries.

How much you can expect to spend on an instant camera for kids.

While a Polaroid instant camera sells for about $180, most kids’ models are priced under $100.

Instant camera for kids FAQ

What feature made instant cameras popular when first introduced?

A. The introduction of instant cameras allowed for more creativity among users. At the time, photographers were limited to developing photographs in a darkroom requiring the proper equipment and chemicals, and the results took some time to achieve.

When did instant cameras become popular?

A. Although introduced in 1948, instant cameras’ popularity exploded in 1965 when Polaroid introduced the Model 20 Swinger, one of the top-selling cameras of all time.

What’s the best instant camera for kids to buy?

Top instant camera for kids 

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera

Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera 

What you need to know: This lightweight and compact camera is simple to use, includes big buttons to point and shoot and comes in several brilliant colors that kids love.

What you’ll love: Features include a built-in selfie mirror, a high-key mode for dramatic effects and a macro lens for close-ups from 35 to 50cm away. The camera uses Instax Film and prints out 2.13-inch by 3.4-inch photos, ideal for carrying in a wallet or purse.

What you should consider: The camera’s orientation, held horizontally or vertically, determines if the photos come out black or color.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top instant camera for kids for the money

Dragon Touch Instant Print Kids Camera

Dragon Touch Instant Print Kids Camera 

What you need to know: This cute camera is lightweight and made with a protective silicone cover that is durable and drop-resistant, making it ideal for kids to begin developing an interest in photography.

What you’ll love: The young ones can be creative coloring and decorating the black-and-white images printed on safe, environmentally friendly and BPA-free photo paper. The Dragon Touch supports an external memory card ensuring your child has a digital copy of all the printed photos. The dual front and rear cameras capture images of friends and family and imaginative selfies.

What you should consider: The controls can be confusing for kids and they may need parental assistance initially.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Canon IVY CLIQ 2 Instant Camera Printer

Canon IVY CLIQ 2 Instant Camera Printer 

What you need to know: This pocket-sized instant camera is perfect for young children’s small hands, and it produces no-mess photos using ZINK technology with no ink.

What you’ll love: All the photos measure 3 inches by 2 inches and have a peel-and-stick adhesive back, making them ideal for scrapbooks or bulletin boards. Selfies are made right with the first try using the large 2-inch built-in mirror. Kids can customize photos with the Frame and Filters feature, and all pictures can be saved digitally on a micro-SD card.

What you should consider: The camera does not include Bluetooth for those who want immediate prints of digital photos taken with a cell phone.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Jeff Harper writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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