Kodak's latest instant-print camera produces sharp, vivid photos in less than a minute, but is it worth the buy?
Ten years ago, when Polaroid announced it would no longer produce film for its instant cameras, I went into mourning. I’d been using my bulky silver model since the late ‘90s, and while its boxy size wasn’t necessarily conducive to travel photography, the nostalgia factor was strong, and the pleasure of having physical prints right there in your hand right away was unparalleled. But by the time the Impossible Project brought back the film, I’d gotten used to going without it, my camera long relegated to the dusty bottom drawer where it still sits next to a box of faded snapshots. Over the years, companies have attempted to recapture the old magic, from Fujifilm’s Instax line to models from Leica and Lomography—even the resurrected Polaroid brand is getting in on the action. The Kodak Mini Shot Instant Camera is the latest contender in a crowded field, but is it the one for you? We've broken down the good and the bad to help you decide.
A 10-megapixel camera with a 1.7” LCD viewfinder, the Mini Shot ($120) is compatible with iOS and Android and comes in black, white, or yellow. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth (you’ll need to download a free app that offers filters, light editing tools, and a remote shutter option) so you can send pictures to your phone to edit and share, or send them from your phone to print. It kicks out square or credit-card size waterproof photos, either with adhesive backing or without, so you can choose whether to turn your shots into stickers or regular photos. One print cartridge comes with the camera, but otherwise they’re sold separately. It uses a lithium battery that'll get you 20 prints per charge and takes 90 minutes to juice back up.
The filters, accessed via the app and the camera itself, are fun to mess around with, and the autofocus means you’ll have to work pretty hard to get a blurry picture. But the main draw is the print function—that little thrill of seeing your image materialize right before your eyes remains unchanged, but the option of printing from your phone means you won’t waste as much precious film striving for the perfect shot. The camera delivers a sharp four-color printout in just under a minute, with much more vivid detail than my old Polaroid used to produce. (And though we’ll need a few years to confirm, it sounds like they’ll sidestep the classic Polaroid fade and remain that way, thanks to an extra protective layer that Kodak says preserves image quality and color integrity.) For travelers, snapping pics of people you meet on the road and gifting them with a print is a great conversation starter or memento, and the fact that you can then upload it to social media is an added bonus; for professional photographers, it’s the perfect way to say thank you for participating in a shoot or sitting for a portrait.
Call me old-fashioned, but I missed the traditional viewfinder—the LCD screen is fine, but it can have a bit of glare in certain lighting. My eyes aren’t great, so this could just be an issue on my end, but I couldn’t help thinking that a classic viewfinder would’ve given me more control and better results. I also found that when I printed shots straight from the camera, they came out with an ever-so-slight warp or bend to the image. This wasn’t a problem with photos printed from my phone via Bluetooth, but when I used the camera alone to point, shoot, and print, it was noticeable. And while it’s much smaller than the Polaroid One I used to tote around, it’s about the size of a small book, so you’ll still need to find room for it if you carry a small day bag. Finally, some Amazon users complain about print-cartridge availability—the 20-pack was in stock when I checked recently, but it seems to be frequently sold out, so you might want to consider buying multiples when you have the chance. (You’ll probably need to place a special order if you want adhesive backing or 30- or 50-count packs; try B&H Photo Video for that.)
The filters and editing tools are nice, but the print function is the main draw here, and between the camera and the film, it's a bit pricey for what it is. If you're looking for an upgrade on a classic, though, and don't mind the expense, it's a fun addition to your travel pack.
Kodak Mini Shot Instant Camera, $120; amazon.com.