When we think of cameras, we tend to forget that plastic disposable cameras were all the rage once upon a time. You may be surprised to know that some of the best disposable cameras are still being sold. While advanced digital cameras dominate the industry, disposable cameras still hold a special place in many photographers’ hearts.
Disposable cameras, also known as single-use cameras, provided an affordable and portable solution for capturing images on film. Photo-Pac’s early cardboard cameras (circa 1949), which enclosed 35mm film, cost $1.29. Companies like Kodak and Fujifilm began producing plastic-encased single-use cameras in the 1980s. The trend took off and models eventually appeared with advanced features like built-in flash or waterproof housing.
Disposable cameras cannot rival the technology of modern digital cameras. In fact, these point-and-shoot cameras generally feature cheap plastic lenses, fixed focal lengths, and average film quality. Yet some photographers embrace the imperfections created by these cameras and have given them newfound purpose.
In recent years, disposable cameras have become popular wedding party favors or centerpieces for ‘lost art’ projects. Still available in-store in many parts of the world, they’ve also come in handy for travelers seeking affordable underwater cameras. Whatever brings you to back to single-use cameras, some are made a cut above the rest. Here’s our roundup of the best disposable cameras out there.
Best Disposable Cameras By Brand
- Best Kodak Disposable Cameras: Kodak FunSaver, Kodak Water & Sport
- Best Fujifilm Disposable Cameras: Fujifilm QuickSnap, Fujifilm QuickSnap Waterproof
- Other Disposable Camera Brands: Ilford Single HP5, Lomography’s Simple Use Film Camera Black & White, LomoChrome Purple Single
The Kodak Water & Sport brings the same dependability as the FunSaver while offering a few extra features. Built for water adventures and sports, the Kodak Water & Sport comes in plastic shock-proof housing that is waterproof down to 15m (50ft). On top of that, it’s loaded with Kodax MAX 27-exposure Versatility Plus Film known to produce images with vibrant colors, even in low lighting conditions found underwater.
While the Kodak Water & Sport is great for all kinds of adventures, it is not ideal for indoor use because it lacks a built-in flash. This single-use camera is best used for sports, recreation, and adventures – especially the kind that would make you feel nervous about carrying an expensive digital camera.
Fujifilm’s QuickSnap is a nifty and compact disposable camera with a built-in flash. The camera is loaded with finer grain 27-exposure ISO 400 film. The QuickSnap works best in good natural light, making it a good companion for landscapes and outdoor photography. It also works in low-light environments, but using the flash is key. The 3m (10 ft) flash range is most effective on close subjects.
What makes the QuickSnap unique is that the flash has an on/off button that allows you to keep the flash activated instead of pressing a button to turn it on for each new shot. The QuickSnap also smaller and sleeker than other single-use cameras, making it a great travel partner.
This Fujifilm QuickSnap Waterproof is a 27-exposure all-weather camera waterproof down to 10.7m (35 ft). Thanks to the camera’s rugged plastic housing, this disposable camera is a great addition to any kind of outdoor adventure. It also comes preloaded with Fujicolor Superia X-TRA ISO-800 35mm film.
The QuickSnap underwater camera does not have a built-in flash and won’t fare well in dark or indoor conditions. However, it is perfect for situations involving water and ample natural lighting. It’s a top choice for beach holidays, hikes, subsea adventures. In fact, it even has an over-sized shutter release for easy use underwater. If you are planning to take it on a dive, keep in mind that it’s not rated to go as deep as the Kodak Water & Sport.
If you’re partial to black and white photography, get your hands on the Ilford Single HP5. It features classic black & white HP5 Plus 400 film, producing images with superior tones, contrast, and grain than its competitors. This single-use camera is equipped with a 30mm lens with a shutter speed of 1/100 and aperture of f/9.5. You will get 27 exposures from the preloaded film and a versatile focus range of 1m to infinity. The flash reaches a distance of up to 3m (10ft).
While this single-use camera operates well in natural light and low-light conditions, you can also activate the flash to brighten dimly lit or indoor spaces. Overall, it’s a versatile disposable camera that comes loaded with quality film. You may also want to try the Ilford XP2 loaded with XP2 Super 400 black & white 35mm film.
Going for a classic look? Try Lomography’s Simple Use Film Camera Black & White. This disposable camera is preloaded with Lomography Lady Grey ISO 400 film. Once the roll has been used, you can reload the housing with any 35mm film.
The camera features a built-in flash that’s handy for indoor or low-light situations. It features a 31mm focal length lens, 1/120 shutter speed, and f/9 aperture. Keep in mind that the built-in flash takes roughly 15 seconds to recharge. Focus ranges from 1m to infinity so super closeup subjects may be blurry. Lightweight and compact, this portable camera is perfect whether you are shooting landscapes, exploring the city, or heading on a night out.
If black and white isn’t your thing, don’t worry. Lomography also sells Simple Use cameras loaded with colored film.
The LomoChrome Purple Single Use is preloaded with LomoChrome Purple ISO 100 400 film designed to produce images with deep reds, earthy plums, and velvety violet color tones. You can also apply Color Gel flash filters to engineer all kinds of hues.
Aside from being loaded with a different film, this Simple Use disposable is made with the same specs as its Black & White counterpart. It takes 35mm film and shoots with a 1/120 shutter speed and f/9 aperture. The lens has a focal length of 31mm and a focal range of 1m to infinity. It also comes with the same built-in flash. The LomoChrome Purple Simple Use is a fun and easy-to-use option for wildly colorful images. If this aesthetic appeals to you, be sure to try some of this limited batch film.
Having Fun with the Best Disposable Cameras
Disposable cameras are easy to carry, point, and shoot. They’re low-maintenance, lightweight, and full of pleasant surprises. The fact that they fit in pockets and purses and don’t need to be charged both mean they’re great to keep on hand for spontaneous moments.
While a higher level of effort and cost goes into developing film, the results are often worth it. Digital cameras may be more reliable or higher resolution, but it’s hard to capture the color, tone, and aesthetic of film photography.
There are many quality film cameras on the market, both new and second-hand, but they tend to be heavy and cumbersome. So slip a disposable camera into your pocket, beach bag, or carry-on. Send one as a gift or use them as a party favor. Whether they wind up in the hands of a newbie or an analogue pro, these great disposable cameras are sure to spark some fun.