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Alternative Photography, Gear Discussions, Tech Talk

Polaroid Socialmatic: First Look


Polaroid Socialmatic: First Look

Alright, pretty big news: The ‘Instagram camera’ is here! And it’s a Polaroid. Yeah, after weeks (or months) of speculation, teasers, leaks, and all that, Polaroid has finally made official the Socialmatic camera

Alright, so it was made known around a week ago, when it was still 2013, so it’s probably not SUCH big news…but it’s official only now, and it looks good

Yeah, so what is it? Well, it’s a 14MP digital camera. It looks like the Instagram icon. It’s square, it’s flat, it’s slim. And it’s got a built-in printer that simulates the feel of an instant camera. Oh, and (like other recent digital instant cameras by Polaroid) it uses what they call Zero Ink Technology (ZINK) which means the camera needs no ink – just the ZINK paper

On top of that, it features a 4.3” touchscreen, a system that runs Android, built-in WiFi – which means you can run Facebook, Twitter, etc. to share your images instantly, while also getting a print for yourself. On paper. Yeah, it looks great

Polaroid Socialmatic

Image from Polaroid

But how does it actually feel? It’s not out till Fall 2014, so I can’t say yet. But it looks very promising. At $299, it’s not super-cheap – especially when you add the cost of the ZINK paper which it needs to make prints – but you can’t call it super-pricey either. Actually, people would definitely buy it – except for the fact that it IS rather similar to your smartphone, apart from the built-in printer. And with gadgets like the Impossible Project’s Instant Lab, a device that makes instant prints straight off your smartphone, it’s going to face competition. But I like the look of it anyway

I don’t believe it’s available for pre-order yet – it’ll only be available in 8-9 months, so it’s a bit too early to want to order this – but you can subscribe for updates on the product at Polaroid. Pre-orders should be available soon

Specifications You Would Want To Know

As this isn’t the typical ‘photographers camera’ that I usually write about, spec’ing this camera isn’t going to be easy – but here goes:

  • Body: Square, Instagram-icon-style body, most probably plastic, and comes in black or white
  • Resolution: 14 mega pixels (main camera) / 2 mega pixels (secondary camera)
  • Sensor Size/Type: Unknown at this moment
  • Lens: Focal length/maximum aperture of both main and secondary lens are unknown. The only thing I know about the lenses is that the main one is a (optical) zoom lens

In fact, most of the other specs I usually write about – exposure, metering, AF system, etc. – is currently unknown, and to be honest, based on the type of camera we’re talking about here, it’s likely that these specs might never be really known, nor will they be considered that important for such a product. Here’s what IS known:

  • LCD: 4.3” Touchscreen (resolution unknown!)
  • LED Flash: Doubles up as the ‘Mood Assistant A.I.’ (more on this later)
  • Operating System: Customized version of Android (Android version unknown!)
  • Storage: 4GB internal storage, expandable via microSD card – and I believe different versions based on built-in storage will be available i.e. 16GB/32GB
  • Printer: Built-in ZINK (Zero Ink) printer that requires ZINK photo paper
  • Print Size: 2”x3” prints
  • Connectivity: WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth
  • Apps: As far as I know, most Android apps should be able to run on the Socialmatic. If third-party camera apps will work on this camera, that will really expand its potential. Having said that, I hope the primary camera app that the Socialmatic comes with is a capable one

And that’s about it, really. There’s not much more to be said about the specs of this camera. It takes 14 mega pixel images, and prints them on 2”x3” paper. You can also share them via Facebook and other apps that its Android system can run, via built-in WiFi. Simple

First Thoughts

As always, the very first thoughts are all about the looks. And then there’s the build. And how you think it might handle

Alright, the looks are good. Retro, vintage, hipster – whatever you want to call it, the Socialmatic is designed for the people who want to use it. It looks just about right

It seems to be designed well enough, largely around the touchscreen, with few external controls. Its fairly large, to facilitate the large screen, so it’s probably not pocketable, but I like the look of it. There’s a flash in front, the printer output on the side, and a couple of buttons on top (see Controls), a port or two on the side, and that’s about it. Pretty clean

Handling, however, is where I have a couple of doubts. I mean, it looks right – but how does it handle? The square shape, the slim profile – how comfortable does it feel in your hand? How easy to hold and shoot? That remains to be seen, but from my experience, this shape doesn’t seem to be ideal for handling comfort

The concept seems just about right. People like instant cameras, but they obviously love sharing their shots on Facebook and Twitter too. Traditional instant cameras – even the new ones, like the beautiful Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 neo – can only make instant prints; some digital cameras allow direct sharing via WiFi – but obviously cannot do instant prints. The Socialmatic does both. And from what I see, the system allows you to do either (print or share) rather easily. It even places a QR code on your print, so people can scan the code and get directed to your shot online – very nice. And if you’re one that feels that QR codes ruin your print (it might, actually) I’m pretty sure you can turn this off

I always liked the Zero Ink printing technology. The fact that you never have to worry about ink really simulates the feel of using instant film. In fact, it’s basically a kind of instant film of its own – a digital instant film, if you like. And that’s very cool. And if that’s not enough for you, the camera also offers remote printing, so that you can use other printers wirelessly. The only thing I don’t love about the printer (I’m actually pretty disappointed with this) is that it makes 2×3 prints, and not the traditional 1×1 prints that you expect from a Polaroid or Instagram shot. Oh well

A quick note on a feature that HAS been included in the press release, the Mood Assistant A.I., for those of you who have no idea what it is: it uses the LED on the front (which doubles up as the flash) to display your current ‘mood’. I’m not sure if you need to set it yourself, or if it actually attempts to detect your mood, but it’s rather gimmicky and I’m not sure it was necessary

And yeah. That’s about it. It’s a pretty interesting gadget – something people have been wanting for a while – so even at this price, it really might take off. I’d definitely be tempted to get one as soon as it becomes available

Okay, so if there’s any feature that I’ve missed here, let me know – but I think, based on the little that is known about the innards and workings of this camera, that’s all there is to write about. Simple but functional. And very unique

Controls

This section is going to be brief. There’s hardly anything to speak of here. The top has the power button and the shutter button. One side has the printer output slot, the other has what looks like a mini USB for charging etc. and the rear is filled by the 4.3” LCD. The secondary camera is also here. The front has the lens, what looks like an AF lamp, speakers, and the large LED flash, which doubles up as the Mood Assistant A.I. That appears to be all there is. Nice, clean, simple. That’s what a camera like this should be all about

Polaroid Socialmatic

Image from Polaroid

NOTE: Even proper product images of the Socialmatic are scarce, so it’s hard to tell exactly what the buttons are – but after having a look at everything I could find, that’s what I think the exact controls are

Conclusion

Yeah, so that’s the Polaroid Socialmatic. There’s probably a lot more to it, but as the details are still fairly sketchy, that’s the best I can get for you at the moment. I’ll update this post as soon as I get anything more

But from what I can tell, it looks to be pretty solid. Interesting, unique, hipster-esque design that is perfect for its target market; a practical concept that blends instant photography and digital/social photography well; very nice set of features that combines the large touchscreen, an Android-based system, together with an optical zoom lens; and at what I consider a reasonable $299, it’s priced alright too. Maybe a tad expensive when you consider the cost of making instant images (around $25 for a pack of 50 ZINK sheets) but consider the Fujifilm Inxtax Mini 90, which costs around $200, and requires film that costs a lot more than ZINK paper, it’s not bad. If you want this unique, first-of-its-kind camera, don’t expect it to be cheap


Well, that’s all for now. Leave a comment if you have a question or if you have something to add to my post here. I’ll update you when pre-orders are open – that’ll be soon – and I’ll leave it at that. Until next time

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By Heshan Jayakody
 All content in this post is my own - images from Polaroid

Discussion

9 Responses to “Polaroid Socialmatic: First Look”

  1. As they say, shut up and take my money!! Hahah. I love it,, I really do. It looks just the kind of thing I was hoping somebody would do!

    Posted by Jazz | January 10, 2014, 15:12
  2. cant quite decide if its worth the price. and isn’t it kinda too early to talk about pricing? who knows, the way google is going, you could probably get a smartphone for $100 by fall of 2014…and then this is going to look rather stupid. cool idea though

    Posted by Jonny | January 10, 2014, 15:37
    • That is very true. It’s quite a long wait till the thing is actually released – but then again, the first thing that everyone is going to ask when they hear the announcement is ‘how much is it?’ – so I guess they had to give some pricing info. This product has a long way to go – some are a bit doubtful it’ll even release – so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see

      Posted by pixelogist | January 10, 2014, 17:22
  3. ur right about this getting competition from smartphones+printers. didnt fujifilm release some sort of instant printer at CES too? that, plus the impossible project lab, and it’s going to be a problem if this price doesn’t come down…still looks pretty good as a unique sorta product by itself, i think…but competition might be stiff

    Posted by David Ruddess | January 13, 2014, 07:45
    • That’s right – Fujifilm released the Instax Share printer. That’s going to compete with the Impossible Project’s Instant Lab as well as the Socialmatic. The only advantage that the Socialmatic has here is that it’s cheaper to run, because the ZINK paper is much cheaper than the instant film that the Fuji and Impossible Project printers need

      Posted by pixelogist | January 14, 2014, 08:21
  4. Polaroid is dying, they needed to come up with something special. I’m not sure if this is it – could be. Time will tell

    Posted by Neerai | January 14, 2014, 07:29
    • Yeah, they really need this to be a hit. It might be, especially based on the looks, and the number of people who want something that looks like this and does what this claims to do

      Posted by pixelogist | January 14, 2014, 08:22

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