First Look: Polaroid PoGo instant camera

It was a sad day when Polaroid stopped making its signature instant cameras. What their white-bordered prints lacked in quality they made up for in usefulness. This was probably best demonstrated in the movie Memento, whose amnesiac protagonist uses them as a partial substitute for his stolen short-term memory. Sure, today's digital pics are even more instant, but you can't write on them with a Sharpie.

Fantastic news, then, that there's a new instant camera in town: The Polaroid PoGo, which combines a digital camera with one of their super-tiny Zink printers. Zink tech uses paper with embedded ink, so no ink cartridges are needed. Polaroid sent us one of the new digital cams to check out before its release in March. Our first impression: Fun, but needs work.

More observations after the Continue jump below.

As you'd expect, the PoGo is a tad bulkier than most 7-megapixel cameras at 4.7 x 3.0 x 2.0 inches and 10 ounces — still pocket-friendly, but people may ask what you're packing. A thin slot on the side marks where the prints emerge. The buttons and menus are child's play to anyone who's used a digital camera before. I was bummed that the 4X zoom is purely digital, though. Really, what's the point?

Loading the 2 x 3 (wallet-size) prints is virtually effortless. PoGo prints come in packs of 10 ($4.99), and since it's just inkjet paper, there are no worries about light exposure or anything like that. Is it time to print? That's what the button marked PRINT is for, smarty. The paper is painfully slow to come out; from when it starts printing to the moment the paper pops out, elapsed time is 39.6 seconds. The guy from Memento probably would have gone through two memory fades in that time.

Then again, considering old Polaroid prints used to take minutes to fully develop and these come out completely dry, that's not bad. Options include cropping, fixing red eye, and putting goofy borders on your pics — including one your print look like a classic white-rimmed Polaroid. Fun!

In all, the process is totally painless… at least until you actually look at your photos. The prints from the camera I used looked washed out with fuzzy detail — you can see a few in the gallery below. This isn't exactly quality printing, but it's passable.

Still, if you take a step back and realize what the PoGo camera is — a digital camera and a printer in one small portable device — you'll marvel at all the technology stuffed into such a small package. The so-so print quality restricts it to being just a fun party trick, but the $199 list price doesn't presume otherwise. For novelty's sake, why not?