Oh Polaroid, What Are You Thinking?

Polaroid was an iconic brand that is now a fading giant. If you want a good read on Polaroid and what happened, I highly recommend “Instant: The Story of Polaroid“. It is a look into a corporate giant that lost it’s way and was ultimately devoured by it’s lack of vision and corporate culture after Dr. Land was removed from the company.

Today Polaroid is struggling to stay alive, and like Kodak trying to compete in a world dominated by smartphone cameras, and a different view on photography. I’m a huge fan of what Polaroid was. I think the original SX-70 is one of the most beautiful cameras ever manufactured, and there is a quality to the images that were produced by higher end Polaroid cameras that is unique. At this point though, I’m not sure what is going to happen to Polaroid.

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About a month ago, Polaroid released a new camera. The Polaroid Z 2300. It is a simple point and shoot camera that records images and video to a HDSC card an allows the user to print instant photos via zink ( zero ink) technology in a 2 by 3 inch form factor. The images come with a sticky back, and are ready in a few seconds. Polaroid is banking on the instant gratification, and physical sharability of the images to help sell the camera, and they might be on to something. My issues with the Z 2300 are its limited functionality, lack of connectivity, and the fact that it is an kind of an ugly piece of photo gear.

The Z 2300 is a 4.7 x 3x 1.4 inch black or white  box with a fairly basic 10-megapixel camera. It has the familiar Polaroid rainbow stripe with body styling and details that make this thing feel more like 1995 rather than 2013. It’s retro, but not quite, and that is a big miss for Polaroid. If they are going to pull on the retro vintage heartstrings, why not go all the way and pull a Fuji, or Olympus with solid retro styling like the X-100 or the OMD. I know for many people the physical design isn’t that big a deal, but when the novelty factor of instant printing wears off, Polaroid is going to need something to keep this camera alive.

The Z 2300 features 3-inch LCD that opens to reveal the space for the Zink printer paper, (the same technology that is used in PoGo instant printers). Unlike Polaroid Instant Film, there is no waiting for the picture to develop and it takes less than a minute to print a single photo. Printing can be set via the LCD to print every photo, or selected photos. The camera also lets you add frames or you can print with the classic Polaroid border. There are also color filters that can be added to enhance the retro feel.  Aside from that there isn’t much else. No advanced features to speak of, and no ability to share digital photos, a space Polaroid should probably want to play in.

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You would think that if you are expecting people to shell out more than 150 bucks for this camera, it would have built in WiFi so you could share your photos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tadaa, Tumblr, Flickr, etc. It just makes sense to play in that space. The combination of a camera that prints instant images, plus shares them to every major social network is much more powerful, than an ugly point and shoot digital camera that lets you print small photos at a cost of about .50 cents a print. ($24.99 for a 50 image pack of Zink paper)

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If Polaroid had teamed up with Instagram, and produced a camera that not only printed instant prints, but shared directly to that service, this could be huge. Unfortunately if you want to share your Z 2300 photos on a social network, you’ll have to take the memory card out, load the photos to another device, and push them out. Not exactly a solid user experience. It’s to bad. I really love the polaroid brand. I really want them to make it another 25 years to the 100 year mark. In order to do that though, they are going to have to do some serious thinking about the state of digital imaging in the 21st century.

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