We spent some time with the new Polaroid Z340, a new digital camera with an in-built instant printer capable of producing 3x4 inch prints. It will be available at the end of the year.
When Polaroid bowed out of the instant analogue camera market in 2008, there was a huge uproar.
Today, packs of film from the last production days in the factory sell for extraordinary amounts, while the Impossible Project has done its level best to keep Polaroid mourners satisfied.
Now, in a bid to recapture the lucrative market of photographers looking for instant physical prints, Polaroid has announced the Z340.
Using the vintage styling of the classic Polaroid One, lookswise, the camera instantly appeals to fans of the original.
On the top of the camera is a flip-up LCD screen which you use to compose the shot, as well as review images.
In practice, it's a little disorientating to use at first. Classically of course, you would have held the camera to your eye to use a viewfinder, which the Z340 doesn't have, so you need to use it with arms stretched out as with most modern compacts.
Given the rather cumbersome build of the Z340 – which is an obvious necessity given that it also houses a printer – it's a little awkward shooting with it arm's length, but this is possibly something to get used to over time.
The buttons on the camera are few and far between – a good thing considering this is meant to be as basic and simple to use as possible.
Obviously the biggest risk with traditional Polaroid shooting is that if the picture was no good, you ended up wasting paper.
With digital photography, this problem is of course removed. With the Z340 you can even go one step further and make basic edits to a shot, such as cropping, before deciding to print it. You can also add borders, including the classic Polaroid white frame.
Printing speed is one of the most important aspects of this camera, and using this pre-production model was impressive. The time from taking a photograph to holding the physical print in your hand is around 30 seconds.
The Z340 is equipped with a 14 megapixel million effective pixel sensor, but looking at the image quality from our albeit brief time with the camera indicates that it is not superb. But, who ever bought a Polaroid camera for high quality shooting? The quality is certainly no worse than the traditional prints of old and perhaps even adds to the 'retro' feel of the camera.
ZINK printing technology
Although you will have to purchase paper packs for the Z340, because it uses ZINK (Zero Ink) technology, you won't need to buy ink. The process works using thermal technology to produce images, with the paper containing cyan, yellow and magenta dye crystals inside the paper that are activated when heated.
We can see this camera appealing to photographers looking for something a little bit different, perhaps the street photographer who wants to give their subjects a copy of the image, or at parties.
One of the drawbacks however is the price. At over £200 it might put off the typical 'fun' consumer that the product is so clearly aimed at. That said however, with availability scheduled for December it might see itself at the top of several Christmas lists.
The Polaroid Z340 price will be £229.99 RRP and will be available from December 2011.