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Blog // Images
January 19, 2012

Polaroid Z340 Review

Santa* brought me a really cool present this year – a Polaroid Z340 instant camera. First Impressions The camera is very black and reassuringly heavy. It is plastic, but it doesn’t feel unpleasant to touch. If anything, it is surprisingly bulky, which along with the classic wedge shape helps gives the Z340 a solidly retro […]

Instant Polaroid

Santa* brought me a really cool present this year – a Polaroid Z340 instant camera.

First Impressions

The camera is very black and reassuringly heavy. It is plastic, but it doesn’t feel unpleasant to touch. If anything, it is surprisingly bulky, which along with the classic wedge shape helps gives the Z340 a solidly retro feel.

The menus are fairly simple, but not very intuitive – you can’t always work out what a function is from its icon. I had to refer to the manual a fair bit, especially when it came to printing.

The Photos

This is an easy camera to use and there’s something very intriguing about the way people behave in front of it. I’ve noticed that when I use this camera, my subjects seem more relaxed and need less coaxing to smile than when I point a big dSLR at them.

However, the camera is slow – painfully slow. It takes an age to boot up and the shutter lag is epic, or maybe that should be, tragic. Even by comparison with budget point and shoot cameras, the Z340 is sluggish.

The JPG files (no RAW) from the Z340 are decent enough. I’m not a fan of in camera presets, but the ones here are usable, including a cool lomography-style filter.

There are also some fun features that allow you to set the camera to automatically take an image when the Z340 detects motion, a face, or a smile.

The Print

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Z340 is the print quality. It takes an age – over a minute – for the prints to come out. With the old polaroid system, it took a while for the photo to develop, but you could keep shooting in the meantime. With the Z340, if you try to shoot in the old “instant” style, you’ll be waiting a long time between shots.

And, sadly, the image quality is poor. Colours are not good, the images are unsharp (not in a cool way) and you can forget about trying to print with the classic Polaroid white border, as it never comes out looking clean.

However, they are prints and you have them right away. I think we’ve forgotten, to some extent, the joy and magic of holding a print in our hands. Sure the G340 prints are nothing special (I far prefer the cute little prints from the Fuji Instax Mini 7s, which I used to create the image at the top of this post). But, as gift, as something to laugh at and play with in the moment, they are a lot of fun.

It’s All About The Fun

The Z340 is not a serious camera. These days film and, to some extend instant film has become the domain of serious arty types (sometimes with serious arty pretensions). The Z340 doesn’t play in that space; it’s a not a digital substitute for the arty side of vintage instant or film photography.

When I was a kid these kinds of Polaroid cameras were not the preserve of the studio or serious photographer. Rather, they were the camera of everyday moments; parties, picnics and good times.

Which is why I don’t have this camera on my studio desk, or my travel gear bag. My Polaroid Z340 sits in the living room, right by the front door, where it makes photos after school, on weekends and during family cooking adventures. It’s a nice alternative to all those iPhone photos that get shared electronically, but never seem to find their way into print.

*The Santa in question was of course, my family.

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