Capture Instant Memories with Instant Film

How Analog Instant Film Works

If you’re new to instant camera film, you probably recognize just one type: the shake-it- ‘til-you-make-it type of Polaroid. This style of Analog film is old-style, but its quality is still hard to beat.

Slowly-developing analog instant film is also known as “slide film.” It works using a multi-layered process: to simplify it to its base components, what’s happening is that (essentially) silver particles on each sheet (or “slide”) of film react with acids, dye couplers, and a timing agent. They stay blank when kept in the dark but begin to develop your photo when you click your shutter button and they’re exposed to the light.

A fun quirk of instant film is that today’s versions use gel dye stabilizers rather than liquid ones—because, as it turns out, shaking a Polaroid-style photo can actually smear and disrupt the image!

Types of Analog Instant Film

Best Buy carries two great variations of instant film. Fujifilm’s Instax Instant Film comes in mini, wide, and square formats for their different instant cameras, with a couple of stylistic variations for each. The Instax line is the current reigning instant film champ, and these sheets of film don’t limit you to just one camera model. It’s styled like Polaroid film, but a little easier to find—and still gives you that really rich, creamy result that you can only get with analog instant film. Each image comes out looking a little filtered, like an old-school vignette.

Beyond Fujifilm Instax film packets, you can also find Polaroid instant film here. These slides work with the brand’s current instant film cameras (not their vintage cameras), and deliver rich hues in larger formats.

How Heat-Sensitive Instant Film Works

Another type of instant film for cameras is known as ZINK photo paper. These sheets work using layers of heat-sensitive dye crystals, which develop as each sheet comes out of the printer. ZINK is a portmanteau of “zero ink,” a reference to the fact that the technology develops in colour using thermal crystals instead of ink cartridges. You’ll see ZINK paper used by brands like Kodak, Canon, HP, and even Polaroid.

Because ZINK paper uses heat-sensitive crystals instead of silver particles, it tends to be both more affordable and more pixelated than analog film. ZINK film is great for collages and kids, as each sheet is super-thin with a sticker backing. Expect results that look more “digital” on ZINK film: it does its best to copy exactly what you see through a lens finder or view on your smartphone.

Whether you’re using analog or zero-ink film, these pocket-sized sheets provide a way to capture moments in an instant. They’re always ready to go when you are and offer something different from a digital photo.