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The Best Disposable Cameras for a Little Nostalgic Fun

A disposable camera is the cheapest way to get into film photography. And depending on the camera you get, you can take some pretty artsy photos.

disposable cameras and film on a table
Tucker Bowe

For many of us, disposable cameras are nostalgic. They represent a time before we all had cameras in our pockets when we took photos and didn't know exactly how they were going to come out. Then, days or weeks later, filled with a kind of giddiness — like a kid on Christmas morning — we were finally able to sieve through a sleeve of developed photos. It was unknown, imperfect and exciting.

These days, disposable cameras are mostly used as a party trick. They are a fun thing to hand out to guests at special events, like weddings or birthday parties, so they can take photos with reckless abandon. But there is a niche crowd of enthusiasts who use disposable cameras as a kind of cheap form of analog film. They use disposable cameras with a little bit higher-quality film that's more dramatic, grainy or even monochromatic. It's an art form.

If you're in the market for a disposable camera, know that you've good a few good options to choose from — and they're not all the same.

What to Look for

Type of film: Different disposable cameras have different types of film. Many of the cheaper options also have cheaper film, such as Kodak Gold or Fuji Superia, but you can spend a little extra on a disposable camera with high-quality film, like Ilford's HP5 or XP, and it'll deliver a better photo with more contrast and style. You also want to decide whether you want your photos to be in color or in black-and-white.

Number of exposures: This is simply the number of photos that each disposable camera can take. Most range between 27 and 36 exposures.

ISO: Pretty much every cheap disposable camera shoots film with a fixed ISO (or a fixed sensitivity to light) and it's usually either 400 or 800. These are both high-speed films that allow the camera to capture photos in most lighting settings. But, generally, the faster the film (or the higher its ISO), the grainier the image will be.

Flash: Most disposable cameras on the market come with a built-in flash that you can turn on or off whenever you like. But not all of them do.

Price: Disposable cameras are known as "single-use" cameras and therefore they are designed to be cheap. Most options range from between $15 and $30, but most retailers will sell them in packs for less. Keep in mind that it typically costs between $14 and $16 to get the film developed in each disposable camera depending on where you go.

5 disposable cameras on a table
Tucker Bowe

Common questions

Where can I get my photos developed? You can bring your disposable camera to most CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid stores and they'll typically have a photo department or photo service that can help you. Once dropped off, it typically takes a week to ten days for your film to get developed. (We recommend checking ahead of time to make sure the store has the ability to develop photos and that it's up and operational. )

Should I keep the negatives? After getting your film developed, most places will include the negatives with the sleeve of photos. If you're not sure, ask ahead of time. The negatives are important because they make it easy to scan and print higher-resolution copies of each photo.

Can a disposable camera expire? Yes. The camera's built-in battery and flash can expire, but (more importantly) its film can expire as well. If the film expires, so will the color and overall resolution of the photo. Most disposable cameras have an expiration date of between four and six years, so make sure to check it before buying.

Can disposable cameras be recycled? Believe it or not — yes. You can take the disposable camera to the same place that develops its film and they'll recycle it for you. You can also take it to an E-Waste facility near you.

Kodak FunSaver

Kodak FunSaver
bhphotovideo.com
$12.95

  • Great for shooting in most situations
  • Affordable
  • Simple to use

  • Sometimes difficult to find/buy

Film: 35mm Kodak Gold 800
ISO: 800
# of exposures: 27
Flash: Yes

The Kodak FunSaver is a great all-around option. Not only is it one of the most affordable disposable cameras you can buy, but it stands out because it's one of the few options that shoots film with an ISO of 800. This higher speed helps it capture warm and bright images, even when in lower-light situations.


Kodak Professional Tri-X 400

Kodak Professional Tri-X 400
walmart.com
$17.76

  • Affordable
  • Shoots black-and-white photos with high contrast
  • Easy to use

  • High contrast photos might not be for everybody

Film: 35mm Tri-X 400 Black and White
ISO: 400
# of exposures: 27
Flash: Yes

Kodak's monochromatic camera is able to capture images that look like they're straight out of the 1950's — which is when the Tri-X 400 film was originally introduced. It's the ideal disposable for anybody looking to shoot black-and-white photos that are sharp with high contrast. It's a popular option for weddings.

Fujifilm QuickSnap Flash

Fujifilm QuickSnap Flash
amazon.com
$22.00
$16.99 (23% off)

  • Affordable
  • Easy to use

  • Not the best in low-light situations

Film: Superia X-TRA 400
ISO: 400
# of exposures: 27
Flash: Yes

The QuickSnap Flash stands out because it's slightly smaller than the other options on this list. It uses 400 ISO film that's ideal for daytime shooting, but it has a built-in flash for indoor and low-light situations. It's a solid alternative to the Kodak FunSaver for those looking for a disposable that shoots slightly slower.


Ilford XP2 Single-Use

Ilford XP2
amazon.com
$19.99
$15.99 (20% off)

  • A "more serious" disposable camera for film enthusiasts
  • Great black-and-white photos
  • Simple to use

  • A touch more expensive

Film: Ilford XP2
ISO: 400
# of exposures: 27
Flash: Yes

Like the Kodak Professional Tri-X 400, the Ilford XP2 is another monochromatic disposable camera. It also shoots film with 400 ISO. The difference, however, is that this disposable uses Ilford XP2 film and the end result is a black-and-white photo that's not as high-contrast and looks softer. It's a different vibe.

Ilford HP5 Single-Use

Ilford HP5 Plus
amazon.com
$21.99
$15.31 (30% off)

  • A "more serious" disposable camera for film enthusiasts
  • Great black-and-white photos
  • Simple to use

  • Slightly more expensive than other options

Film: Ilford HP5 Plus 400
ISO: 400
# of exposures: 27
Flash: Yes

This is Ilford's slightly higher-end monochromatic disposable. It uses a different film — Ilford HP5 Plus 400 — that produces photos that have a higher contrast and are more exposed than the XP2. The end result is a more detailed photo.

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