Recently both a Polaroid Socialmatic and a Zip printer arrived for testing, and I couldn’t have been more excited.
I was a bit shocked when I opened the box for the Socialmatic. The camera itself is quite large, much larger than I was expecting. It’s very flat, very square and was difficult to grip. While many digital cameras fit neatly in your hand, this camera is quite the opposite. That’s probably because it does more than just take pictures. It’s a video camera and printer too, all in one package.
From full off to on and ready to go, the Socialmatic takes a frustrating 30 to 40 seconds to start up. Then if you don’t touch the screen immediately it goes dark with no obvious way to get it back on. Eventually I figured out a quick touch of the power button does it, but it was bothersome.
I started taking photos almost immediately and noticed a few things right off the bat. First of all, it takes about three seconds from the time you press the shutter button until it actually registers the photograph, which resulted in plenty of closed eyes and movement in my test pictures. The other thing I did not like was the quality of the screen was not good. The resolution was surprisingly low.
Photos & Quality
Initially I was expecting Polaroid style photos with the papery white border, however Polaroid no longer owns this technology. So my test pics printed edge to edge on the photo paper. The photo quality was not great. For the most part the photos were grainy and dark. Even photos I tried to take in good strong light didn’t come out looking as high quality as I was hoping for. I tried to take some photos in a pub that was not super dark, but all the photos came out very very dark and grainy. We turned on the flash to compensate but using it made us all look like deer in headlights. There was no happy medium.
One thing I did enjoy about the photos was the sticky backing on the Zink photo paper so you could use the photos as stickers. That’s a nice touch.
After testing for a couple hours that first day, I put the camera away until three days later. When I went to turn it back on, the batteries were already dead. I’m wondering if perhaps this was because I didn’t turn it fully off, only put it to sleep. That’s something to be aware of. I would charge it up for several hours to full battery, turn it off and use it once or twice for just a few minutes, then power it down again, a few days later if I went back to it the battery was dead and required a full recharge.
Video Review of the Polaroid Socialmatic Camera & Printer
Polaroid Zip printer
The Polaroid Zip printer is much smaller than the Socialmatic, but is it it is a printer only. I found this device very easy to set up and use, in fact, within seconds of plugging it in and selecting a photo you’re printing. The quality of the photos is not quite what you’d expect from a high resolution fancy camera shop, but for the size and availability, it’s very handy and easy to share with family and friends where you are, and for me, the fun and convenience factor here is more valuable than crisp HD copies.
There are some things about the Zip app I don’t like. For example it does not have a ‘reprint’ feature like others do. This means you cannot easily select photos for reprint without starting the printing process over from scratch. However the app’s layout and user interface are straightforward and simple, and very easy to read, navigate and understand.
The Zip also used Polaroid’s Zink paper, and as I said, the quality of the photos is not good. Worth noting, it does not appear that the photo paper is light-sensitive, like film is, or like some other photo papers can be. I dropped the printer and the back popped open and scattered the remaining photo paper pieces all over the place. I reloaded it and put it back together, and in subsequent print jobs, everything printed just fine. So it’s nice to know the paper is not light sensitive, and losing the back off the printer will not destroy a whole stack of expensive photo paper.
The Verdict Overall
While I’d definitely like to buy a Zip printer, I’ll take a pass on the Socialmatic. The Zip is easy to use, infinitely portable, and makes printing fun sized photos easy. I also like the sticker option for the photos.
The Socialmatic is just too large and unwieldy to be a fun take-along. Basically it was just a bulky exercise in frustration, and not a fun and enjoyable and social tool. I’d much rather use my smartphone for great quality photos and a high-res display, then print them on the spot with the Zip. I’m interested to see if there’s a future incarnation of the Socialmatic, and if there is, I’d love to give it another chance.
The Socialmatic and the Zip are available at Bestbuy.ca as well as from Polaroid.com