Polaroid’s new camera is great for pros, bad for idiots (like me)

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The beauty of Polaroid shooting is that it’s dumb-proof: you point, you shoot, you wait a few minutes for your film to develop, you realize the photo came out blurry and weird because the lighting was bad you take another photo. It’s an old-fashioned ritual that has stood the test of time for a reason, and more than a fraction of that reason is the simple, retro elegance of something that’s truly as easy to use as it is. it looks like it.

With the new Polaroid Now + at $ 150 ($ 206), Polaroid has once again tinkered with this age-old formula to make its intuitive camera a bit more feature-rich, loading it with creative new tools that enhance the core functionality of the camera. camera and give discerning photographers greater creative remote control over the photos they produce. In other words, the camera that was once dumb-proof is now less so, which is great news for seasoned photographers and bad news for me, an idiot.

Polaroid now +

WHAT IS THAT?

Polaroid Bluetooth enabled point-and-shoot camera with manual shooting controls

THE PRICE

$ 150 ($ 206)

LIKE

The app is easy to use, just like the camera; bulb icons at the top of each setting give users helpful shooting tips

DO NOT LIKE

I’m sorry, the photo quality is just awful – but it’s an evergreen thing with Polaroid, it’s not specific to this camera

Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for local Australian pricing and availability.

Old fashioned looks with new capabilities

While the brand has made some thoughtful changes to the camera body, simplicity and functionality are still Polaroid’s calling card. Physically, the Now + still looks a lot like the brand’s original Polaroid OneStep from 1977, with a chunky polycarbonate and plastic body and a slanted back that makes it quite difficult for your eye to press down on the viewfinder. Adding a small “+” button just to the right of the lens makes it easy to activate the self-timer and switch between double exposure mode. In addition to the traditional white and black colourways, Polaroid also offers the Now + in a sleek blue gray, which is the version I tested.

The Polaroid Now + is the second major release of Polaroid this year, following the international launch of the Polaroid Go in April. The main feature of Now + is that it has Bluetooth connectivity, with settings that can be adjusted remotely through Polaroid’s newly redesigned app. The closest cousin to Now + is the OneStep +, which Polaroid released in 2018 and which also offers a built-in double exposure mode and light painting mode, as well as manually adjustable aperture and shutter speed settings. New features include the addition of aperture priority settings and tripod mode, tools that allow great freedom with depth of field and long exposures.

While the addition of Bluetooth still doesn’t mean users can preview their photos before they’re developed – or upload their photos digitally, for that matter – the app allows photographers to manually cycle through various creative settings, including including light painting mode, portrait mode, double exposure and manual mode. Unlike OneStep +, Now + also offers dedicated tripod and aperture modes, which make taking portraits a much more interesting and rich experience. The Now + is also a step up from the precise, instant camera that Polaroid released in 2020, offering improved core features including autofocus, dynamic flash, and self-timer.

No more manual controls

While real photographers will no doubt love these new additions, which essentially allow more creative freedom than anyone who has filmed on a Polaroid, there is a real disconnect between the new features and the other kind of. person who wants to shoot instant film: amateurs.

Photo credit: Brianna Provenzano / Gizmodo Photo credit: Brianna Provenzano / Gizmodo

The appeal of the film is obvious; There’s a reason people keep shelling out for Polaroid and Instax cameras, then suggestively perch them on shelves and coffee tables at their New Years parties. Wait for a small frame to grow into it. real time is exciting and rewarding, and the photos – when and if they turn out – have an undeniable retro appeal. The intended effect of the new creative tools on the Now + is that those memories will be captured in more vivid detail, but in practice having more buttons to press only increases the likelihood of messing up the end result. That in itself could still be great, were it not for the fact that the Now + uses Polaroid’s i-Type film, which is still ridiculously expensive at US $ 16 ($ 22) a pack, or around US $ 2 ($ 3). a photo.

At US $ 2 ($ 3) a photo, it’s hard to comfortably justify wasting, say, six photos in a row because you wanted to “experiment” with the shutter speed. It’s not that more features are necessarily a bad thing; on the contrary, the new tools are genuinely thoughtful and fun ways to play with light and portraiture, and it’s obvious Polaroid designed them in close consultation with its community of dedicated artists. But for those outside of that artist community – the average photographer, if you will – this is an expensive camera with expensive film that will likely require more than a few overhauls to work properly. .

Less than desirable results

Unlike any previous camera Polaroid has released, the Now + comes with five included physical lens filters, which allow users more flexibility to experiment with moody lighting effects. In addition to the blue, orange and yellow lenses, the new pack also includes a red lens with vignette effect and a starburst lens, which should conspicuously refract existing light to create a radiant effect.

Lenses are a cute touch, but again the main problem – at least for an amateur photographer – is that it’s already so difficult to get a Polaroid to work under normal circumstances, under normal lighting conditions. Throwing a blue filter on your lens doesn’t really change the mood of your photo as much as it makes an image that’s already blurry and poor quality… bluer.

After heavy rains from hurricanes and high winds compromised our initial plans to test the camera at a friend’s birthday party across town, my friend agreed to a few glamorous shots in my little Brooklyn with his dog. Even after playing around with the lighting settings, playing around with the lens filters gave surprisingly poor results – resulting in dark, grainy photos with disturbing bleeding lines that didn’t do much to capture properly. the moment.

Photo credit: Brianna Provenzano / Gizmodo Photo credit: Brianna Provenzano / Gizmodo

Why I wanted to love this camera

The mix of digital and analog technology is new to Polaroid, but hardly surprising given the recent parallels to the brand’s own history. After attempting – and failing – to reinvent itself as a digital brand in 2008, Polaroid announced plans to stop production of its instant film for good.

That’s when a company called the Impossible Project stepped in, leasing the production facilities from Polaroid and ensuring that new instant films and analog products remained in production. The Impossible Project worked well – surprisingly well – and in 2017 the company’s largest shareholder announced that it had acquired the original Polaroid company to form a merged entity called Polaroid Originals. In 2020, that merger came full circle when the resulting company changed its name one last time, changing its name to simply “Polaroid” and immediately launching an updated line of cameras with digital integrations.

Photo credit: Brianna Provenzano / Gizmodo Photo credit: Brianna Provenzano / Gizmodo

It’s the kind of victory that makes you want to take root for Polaroid, a brand so simple and straightforward that it was already easy enough to take root to begin with. The Polaroid Now + is a cool little camera that has been designed to maximize the creative potential of power users. I wanted to like it – I really did – but its steep price and even higher potential for human error make it not the perfect choice for a silly amateur photographer like me. Analogue-loving pros might love all of the manual features, but at some point you’re better off shooting with a DSLR.


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