Polaroid Settings on Popular Instax Cameras

By Emma Johnson •  Updated: 07/15/21 •  8 min read
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Polaroids are suddenly back in style in a very big way. These cameras give you instant physical copies of your memories that you can use for scrapbooking, decorating, and more.

If you are unfamiliar with the settings, then you may be more frustrated than delighted with your new camera.

In this article, we will explore the various polaroid settings that come with the most popular instant cameras currently on the market.

READ NEXT: How to put film in a Polaroid Camera

We will not only look at what these settings are but also how to use them correctly to get pictures you can cherish and proudly display.

What Is a Polaroid?

Many people use the word polaroid to refer to any type of camera that immediately produces a physical picture via a film pack.

The term polaroid is technically a brand, not a type of camera.

Polaroid was the brand whose instant cameras were incredibly popular in the 1970s.

So popular, in fact, that the brand name has become synonymous with the technology itself.

Polaroid Settings

Fujifilm and the Instax

By the 1980s, the popularity of the Polaroid was on the decline. Today, instant cameras seem to be on the rise.

These cute portable cameras give you physical copies of your memories.

However, it is not Polaroid that is leading the current rise of the instant camera. If you have seen or bought an instant camera lately, it is likely a Fujifilm.

Fujifilm cameras are commonly referred to as polaroids, but this is technically not accurate.

Fujifilm cameras go by the name Instax.

The Polaroid brand has some modern instant cameras on the market, but the Fujifilm Instax is dominating.

What Are the Settings on an Instax?

‘Settings’ is a broad term that can refer to a lot of aspects of a device. What exactly do we mean when we refer to the settings on an instant camera?

One aspect of the settings on any camera, and especially an instant camera, is aperture.

Aperture is the opening of your camera lens that lets light in.

That opening widens or narrows depending on the setting you pick, which controls the amount of light going into your camera lens.

What Does Aperture Do?

By impacting how much light goes through your camera lens, aperture impacts both the brightness and sharpness of the picture.

A larger aperture means more light and a brighter photo.

A large aperture also has a smaller depth of field. That means that the background will not be as sharp.

Aperture is measured by numbers where a smaller number means a bigger aperture.

Thus f/1.4 is a large aperture while f/16 is a small aperture.

This is because this number is referring to a fraction, so the bigger the number, the smaller the actual opening.

Advanced cameras give their users great control over aperture and some other settings like shutter speed and ISO.

Instant camera settings, in contrast, tend to focus on aperture value, but there are a few additional modes that some Fujifilm Instax cameras offer.

The exact model of the Instax camera will impact which polaroid settings you get.

Some allow you to manually control the aperture, while others offer settings for selfies and more.

Let’s look at the most popular Instax cameras and what settings they offer.

Instax Mini 9

The Instax Mini 9 remains one of the most popular Instax cameras because of its affordability, ease of use, and portability.

The Mini 9 has 5 different brightness settings:

  • Very Sunny Setting: f/32
  • Sunny Setting: f/22
  • Cloudy Setting: f/16
  • Indoor Shots: f/12.7
  • High Key: This mode is not an aperture setting. Instead, it uses additional lighting to create a brighter photo. It is best used for indoor shots when the largest aperture setting (f/12.7) is still not creating a bright enough photo.

The name of the settings tells you the condition where they should be used.

The smaller apertures (f/32) let in less light, making them best for images in bright light.

The bigger apertures (f/12.7) let in more light to create a bright image in shadowy locations.

The Instax Mini 9 will tell you what setting is best based on the lighting.

The dial lights up the best setting for the detected lighting, and you simply turn the dial to the appropriate icon to change the setting.

Still, you can create artistic effects by experimenting with different settings.

Instax Mini 11

The Instax Mini 11 is an upgrade over the Mini 9, but it has fewer settings.

With the Instax Mini 11, the manual setting dial that allows you to pick your aperture is gone.


Instead of a manual selection, the Instax Mini 11 uses a fully automatic exposure system.

This means that the camera automatically selects the best aperture for a well-exposed photo.

There is less likelihood of taking a bad photo, but the ability to mess around with the settings for artistic effect is also gone.

Despite getting rid of the 5 setting options of the Mini 9, the Mini 11 still has an additional setting: selfie mode.

You can access selfie mode by pulling out the camera lens on the 11.

This setting gives the camera greater focus at close range. There is also a mirror to make selfies even easier.

Thus the Instax Mini 11 has greatly reduced its number of settings, but this makes taking better pictures easier.

If you are the artistic type you may not enjoy losing the manual controls.

Instax Mini 70

Like the Mini 11, the Instax Mini 70 foregoes manual settings for the use of a fully automatic exposure system to pick the correct shutter speed, and proper exposure when shooting.

The Mini 70 has several additional features to adjust when taking photos. These are called modes.

The modes on the Instax Mini 70 affect the focus distance.

Here are the modes with the range they give the camera: 

  • Auto Mode: 60 centimeters to 3 meters
  • Macro Mode: 30 centimeters to 60 centimeters
  • Landscape Mode: 3 meters and up
  • High-Key Mode: 30 centimeters to 60 centimeters with extra exposure for a brighter photo
  • Force Flash Mode: The flash will activate regardless of when shooting. This helps to fill in areas in very bright pictures.

Besides these modes, the Instax Mini 70 also includes a selfie mode like the Instax Mini 11.

Instax Square SQ20

The Instax Square SQ20 has the most bells and whistles of an Instax camera currently available.

In other words, it has a lot more settings.

The Square SQ20 allows you to edit your photos before printing. It also can shoot videos.

It lets you select a specific frame to print.

You can store up to 50 photos in the camera’s memory, and the SQ20 is the first Instax camera to feature a zoom capability.

There’s a lot you can do with the SQ20, but here are a few of the different features.

  • Filters – Lets you change the look of your image before printing.
  • Collages and Splits – Allows you to select multiple images to print on a single photo
  • Double Exposure Settings – Print two superimposed pictures on the same photo for some cool effects
  • Brightness Control – This allows you to adjust brightness before printing
  • Bulb Mode – Lets you open the shutter manually
  • Time Collage – Takes four different pictures at a set time apart

There is a lot the SQ20 can do, but all of that capability does come at almost double the price of the Mini 9 or 11.

The SQ20 does not give you manual settings for aperture or exposure.

Instead, it focuses on lots of editing abilities after the photo is taken to give you creative photos.

What Polaroid Settings Should I Look For?

As you can see, there are a lot of different instant cameras on the market.

Those cameras have varying settings and abilities.

As technology improves, newer models of Instax cameras are foregoing manual aperture settings in favor of an automatic exposure system.

If you want the ability to mess around with the aperture settings yourself you will need to go with an older Mini model.

If you go back to the Mini 7, the five setting options will be reduced to four. 

Newer Instax models give you modes rather than settings with options designed for specific pictures like selfies, landscapes, and close-ups.

Then there are the fancy options like the SQ20 that move the bulk of their settings into a large array of after photo editing options.

The settings depend on what you want your camera to do.

If you struggle to select the correct aperture setting for a great picture then picking a camera with automatic exposure can do the work for you.

If you like changing the exposure of your photos yourself for certain effects then an instant camera with more manual settings may be better.


The exact settings on an instant camera vary widely. Before purchasing any Instax model, you will want to thoroughly research the polaroid settings available and what differentiates it from other models.

Once you have your camera, using the settings well is the key to great photos.

Remember to select a small aperture for brightly lit photos to prevent an overexposed shot, and to take advantage of close-range modes when you want a close-up.

Happy shooting! 

Emma Johnson

I have loved photography from a young age and more recently started experimenting with Instant Cameras from Polaroid and Instax. I also love dancing and hanging out with my friends :)

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