December 13, 2011

The new Polaroid Z340


Out now

The Polaroid Z340 Instant Digital Camera ($299.99 direct), isn't Polaroid's first digital iteration of the Polaroid film camera, but it's the first one to let you go beyond wallet-size photos, upping the picture size to 3 by 4 inches. Basically a fully integrated combination of a 14-megapixel camera with a second-generation ZINK printer, it delivers on ease of use, reasonably good quality for the printed photos, and, most of all, the traditional Polaroid promise of letting you snap a picture and have the finished photo in hand in less than minute.

The Z340 is a lot closer in physical design to the consumer-level Polaroid film cameras we remember than the first version was. The Polaroid PoGo Instant Digital Camera ($200 street, 4 stars) that has been reviewed a little more than two years ago was basically a 1.4-inch-thick rectangular box, with a slot on the side for the photos to exit through. The photos were only wallet size, at 2 by 3 inches.
The Z340's wedge shape is reminiscent of some of the old film models. The dimensions, not counting the hand strap on the side or the tiltable LCD in its fully up position, are 4.8 inches deep by 5.8 inches wide, with a height of about 2.3 inches in front tapering off to about 1.3 inches in back.

If you went back to, say, the 1980s with it, and handed it to someone to take your picture, they'd probably be impressed by the 2.7-inch color LCD for framing the image, but they'd probably not notice anything else special about it. Just snap the picture, and a reasonably good-quality print comes out the front slot.

As anyone who has ever used a Polaroid film camera knows, bringing along a camera that prints is qualitatively different from bringing along a camera plus a printer. It's simply a lot easier, and a lot less cumbersome, to take a picture and print it on the same fully integrated gadget than to carry two gadgets so you can take the picture on one and print it on the other.
On that score alone, the Polaroid Z340 Instant Digital Camera succeeds quite nicely. PC magazine likes it a lot better if the final result—namely, the printed photos—were of a higher quality or the initial price and running cost were lower. But if you don't mind the level of output quality for the price, it's otherwise highly attractive as a fun toy, or, in some cases, a useful tool for work, when you want the convenience of taking pictures and then printing them with minimal effort.

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