Hands-on review: myFirst Camera Insta Wi
Image credit: myFirst
Cheap-as-chips printing on thermal paper is just one feature of this chunky camera that lets young users snap away to their heart’s content.
This instant camera is aimed at anyone aged 7+ and includes enough bells and whistles that it could keep youngsters occupied and their fingers off your phone. Meanwhile, older ones - even teens - will put it to good use thanks to the built-in thermal printer for instant pictures.
Thermal printing? Basically, it prints on till rolls. That means black-and-white prints on thin paper, but this also means very cheap consumables. There’s no ink and till rolls are as cheap as chips. When you compare it with the cost of Polaroid paper or even FujiFilm instax paper, it’s brilliant.
The camera is chunky and endearingly kawaii. The design when it’s sat in its cradle is like a cute mammal with two ears (the lugs for attaching the neck lanyard at the top corners), with one open eye (the camera lens) and then the till roll looks like a tongue poking out.
Buttons are big and easy to use, although the controls take a little getting used to. I did manage to crash the camera once, but you can poke a pin in a tiny hole to reset it.
My teenage tester used it as a party cam and felt it was better than most instant cameras because you can choose to either print instantly or take 12-megapixel digital snaps with it, review them on the 2.4-inch colour screen, keep them and decide which to print. You can even print multiple copies, one for everyone, whereas instant pictures like Polaroids are one-offs: you can’t preview them or print multiple copies. This camera can record videos, too.
You can also connect it wirelessly (via Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth) to your phone and print your favourite phone snaps directly. You can even print screen grabs, texts and emojis.
My teenager and her friends decided that the monochrome paper pics looked cool. She used it for weeks and printed dozens and dozens of pics on a single till roll, without having to recharge the camera even once.
Rolls of paper cost £10 for three 6m long rolls, each enough for up to 60 prints. That’s around 6p a print; incredible value. You can also buy 57mm x 26mm rolls more cheaply in bulk – they’re the size used in credit-card machines.
Meanwhile, parents can buy rolls of stickers from myFirst and use them to make last-minute labels for school lunch boxes. Or children can get special rolls to make cool stickers. The prints are always monochrome, but they can be black on a coloured or patterned background or even a bright colour on white.
Our teen tester loved the Insta Wi as a party cam and as a printer for her phone snaps, but when she tried the camera’s built-in filters, they turned out to be minimal. You can add bunny ears or novelty glasses, but you can’t do heaps of arty image manipulation. For a good selection of filters, you must go back to the app.
That’s the only challenge. The app gives you fun filters, cool stickers, cartoon notes and more. It’s brilliant fun - but for those things, you need the app. The plan to use myFirst Camera Insta Wi to keep little fingers off your phone doesn’t quite work entirely as hoped. However, it can help: small people can take loads of photos of their world and then later you can sit together and filter and print favourites.
It’s not quite the electric babysitter we hoped for, but the flip side is that older children love it, too. As will parents. Those last-minute stickers will save you a fortune in lost lunchboxes.
Polaroid’s top-of-the-range instant camera pairs with a phone app. Sadly, it doesn’t store your analogue pics digitally or let you print your digital pics. Instead, it gives you smartphone control of the camera. Get creative with features including double exposure, light painting, noise trigger and more. You should budget at least £1 a snap for film, though.
From £139.99 polaroid.com
FujiFilm instax Mini Evo
A sleek little instant camera that doubles as a digicam. You can see photos on the colour screen and use filters before printing. You can also print from a smartphone app. It has similar two-way functionality to the myFirst Camera Insta Wi, plus proper colour instant photos, but consumable costs are higher. Budget from 70p a snap for the credit card-sized film.
The hipster brand’s instant offering uses FujiFilm instax film but adds cool industrial design. There’s no smartphone link or apps. Instead, if you want to get creative, pick a Lomo’Instant that comes with lens attachments such as fisheye, wide-angle, close-up and splitzer. Again, budget from 70p a snap for film.
From £89 shop.lomography.com
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