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Long before Facebook and Twitpic, photos were shared by simply handing someone a print. No camera made this easier than the once-ubiquitous Polaroid. Nothing represented instant gratification better in the film era than having a print develop before your eyes, ready to hand out in a minute. Unfortunately for Polaroid, the advent of digital photography sounded the death knell for its iconic instant print cameras. A brief reprieve in the form of inexpensive sticker-printing versions was ended by the cellphone camera revolution.
Now, after a decade in remission, Polaroid has returned with a full-up digital camera that incorporates instant printing technology. The Polaroid Z340 is a 14MP digital with an integrated Zink-enabled (
) printer. In a nostalgic touch, the new camera prints 3×4-inch images, the same size as the original
cameras. Remarkably, all this fits in a one-pound, seven-ounce package, about the same weight as a mid-range
, although over twice as heavy as a typical point-and-shoot.
More problematic for the Z340 may be its limited battery life. In this day of “snap away” photography, the Z340 can only print 25 images, and capture an additional 75, on a single charge. As a special purpose camera for sharing, that may be fine, but serious shooters will find that they’ll need to have another camera, for when printing isn’t needed. The image quality of the Z340 is not what you’d expect from a typical $299 point-and-shoot either — it’s quite a lot lower — but of course that’s not why you’d buy one.
As a travel photographer, I delight in sharing my images with people around the world as I photograph them. In the Polaroid era this was easily accomplished by snapping a few extra images on its instant film and handing them out. Since the advent of digital, that process has become much more complex. Traveling with a small digital printer, setting it up, then waiting as the 4×6-inch prints chugged out was hardly as thrilling as handing out prints right on the spot. The Z340 is an exciting new development for anyone who wants to return to that thrill of instant gratification. For those willing to settle for lower image quality and tiny 2×3-inch prints, Polaroid also offers the
PoGo Instant Digital Camera
, which is available for under $200.
As befitting a digital reinvention, the Z340 goes well beyond what was possible with film. You can not only review your images in the 2.7-inch LCD before deciding which ones to print, but also crop or add your own custom borders. The prints show up in under 30 seconds, much faster than waiting for Polaroid film to develop. Of course, in addition to the usual SD card for storing your digital images, you’ll also need to buy special paper packs, which list for $19.99 for 30 sheets. The camera is available now, so there’s no excuse for those who want instant sharing without the hassle of uploading.
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