Polariod has just released their new Z340 "instant" digital camera. It's a less-cool version of the GL30 that we saw at CES, featuring an integrated photo printer. It's a neat idea, but does it give you the "classic Polaroid instant experience" like the press release says it does? Our gut: No way.
First, the camera: it's got a 14 megapixel sensor with no zoom, a 2.7" LCD screen, and stores your pics on an SD card. The ZINK printer built into the camera can print out 3" x 4" pics on special sheets of paper that'll run you about 30 cents each, while the camera itself is $300. You'll get 25 prints before the camera battery runs out.
This is all fine. It's great. But it's not what the Polaroid instant experience is all about. Part of the reason that using instant cameras is so much fun is that you look through the viewfinder, press that button, and you've just permanently captured a moment of time on film. There's no preview, no delete button, and watching the picture develop often reveals something entirely different than what you were expecting.
Adding digital technology to the mix effectively removes a huge amount of the excitement and spontaneity that comes with instant photography, since it's not "instant" anymore. Now, you can take a picture, and you know exactly what it's going to look like, because there it is right on the screen. You can take your time to decide if you like it and whether it's worth printing or not. There's no suspense anymore, and no surprises. You're just printing a picture, you're not creating a picture.
Of course, I'm sure that lots of people will prefer to do it this way. You only have to print the pictures that you actually want to print, and from a dispassionate perspective, I guess that's good. But sometimes, it's the pictures that you didn't want to print, or maybe even had no intention of taking, that turn out to be the most creative and most meaningful, and that was the beauty of the instant camera that you'll have a hard time finding in the Z340.