In-Depth Review of the Polaroid POP Instant Print Digital Camera.
Anyone who lived through the 80’s knows that Polaroid cameras were unavoidable. The instant camera is as much of a part of retro culture as VHS tapes and hair metal. At the time of its release, the Polaroid instant print camera was a technological revelation. Before the ubiquitous takeover of mobile technology, Polaroid was the only camera brand that provided the user with instant gratification.
Now, with the old days of dropping off a roll of film at our local pharmacy well behind us, it’s easy to take for granted the craze that Polaroid caused in the photo industry.
Take a quick glance around you the next time you are out in public and you’ll notice that the 80s are coming back in a big way. When the updated Teddy Ruxpin is the hot new toy of the holiday, it’s clear that 80s revisionism has begun to grace itself with its excellent presence. Now that millennials are beginning to creep towards middle age, nostalgia has taken the cultural wheel, and Polaroid had held on for the ride.
We were recently able to take a look at the new Polaroid POP Instant Print Digital Camera, which includes Polaroid’s patented ZINK zero ink printing technology. What we were hoping for was an updated instant print camera experience featuring modernized specs and functionality, without having to sacrifice our craving for nostalgia. Unfortunately, what we got instead was a product clearly rushed out to stores in an attempt to strike while the 80’s iron was hot.
In celebration of their 80th anniversary, Polaroid has taken their brief chance in the spotlight to give the next generation an instant print upgrade. Their POP camera aims to be an ultra-portable powerhouse of photographic technology, but falls short at almost every level, even managing to screw up its most essential feature – its printing technology.
Our first impression of the Polaroid POP was a positive one. The camera’s small size combined with the promise of a 20 MP sensor was a reason to be excited. The build quality of the camera itself does not feel like a premium product. Its square-shaped plastic body feels chintzy and oddly light.
Its plastic finish seemed to be a fingerprint magnet, and there were superficial scratches on the surface even after very light use.
Build Quality and Form Factor.
For a product that claims to be a new step in the advancement of digital camera technology, the blocky form factor makes taking photos feel pretty awkward. When we were testing out the POP’s selfie capability, we realized that the camera was nearly impossible to comfortably hold one-handed, which made taking candid self-shots a real problem. After taking a look at Polaroid’s marketing material I was surprised to find that Polaroid had already prepared the user for this problem by propping up its self-timer as some sort of technological marvel, rather than the standard feature that it is.
The biggest issue with the Polaroid POP is its biggest selling point – the instant printing feature. As much as it pains us to say it, the ZINK printing paper is just plain awful. It’s been over 30 years since the release of the beloved 80s model, yet the photo print quality has not only not improved, but has significantly decreased in quality.
The prints look more like they were printed from an inkjet printer than a next-gen instant print cartridge. The photos’ colors are terribly inaccurate and any artificial light makes the photos take on an air of surreal distortion.
The photo prints were so poor that we honestly couldn’t believe that our model was functioning correctly. We even tried another pack of ZINK refills, hoping that perhaps we had been sent a bad batch. To our disappointment, the quality remained inadequate and disappointing. Photos took way too long to print, and printing multiple photos in quick succession was out of the question because the camera needed a cool down period after every other print.
If the print quality was worth of the wait of a cool down period, we would consider it an excusable side effect of an aging technology – but the fact that the photos are so poor makes the slow performance seem even slower.
We were excited to try out the POP’s ability to sync with your phone and print out photos from your camera roll. Unfortunately, the Polaroid app for iOS was practically unusable. The Polaroid POP app promises the ability to print any photo from your smartphone in a matter of seconds, but the reality is that even when the app wasn’t crashing (which it did very frequently), we even found it nearly impossible to connect our camera to the app.
We were repeatedly greeted with warning messages alerting us of new firmware updates, only to discover that the firmware update would not download and install. We received the firmware warnings nearly every time we tried to connect our phone to the device. In the rare occurrence that we could print a photo, the app would immediately crash following the request.
There’s not much more that can be said about the app other than that it plain stinks.