Instant cameras are supposed to be fun, but their bulky nature usually means planning ahead if you bring one with you. Not so with the Polaroid Go, which aims to give the increasingly popular medium back the much-needed spontaneity.
The “smallest analog digital camera in the world” is a scaled down version of the attractive retro Polaroid Now, but without the autofocus lens system of this camera.
That could mean wasting a few more film packages on blurry frames, but then again, it’s small enough to be taken anywhere, which makes it perfect for snapshots on the spot.
It is only the second camera from Polaroids modern incarnation after a ten-year journey that began as The Impossible Project in the late 2000s and gives the reborn brand a direct rival to Fuji’s successful Instax Mini range.
The brand new camera comes with a brand new instant photo format. Each pack of Polaroid Go film contains eight exposures measuring 67 x 54 mm (2.6 x 2.1 inches) with a square image area of 47 x 46 mm (1.85 x 1.8 inches).
Only color film is currently available, unlike Polaroids’ larger I-Type, which is also sold in black and white. Polaroid sells two packs of film for around £ 19 / $ 20 each, which makes them around 25% more expensive per shot than Fuji’s Instax Mini.
Design and functions
- Downsized design that stays familiar
- Easy to use with just a few buttons
- Useful indicator for remaining exposures
It’s easy to believe that Polaroid claims the Go is the world’s smallest instant camera as soon as you get one in your hand: at 105 x 84 x 61 mm (4.1 x 3.3 x 2.4 in), it fits tiny plastic bodies right in the palm of your hand and make the Polaroid look positively gigantic now.
Only hybrid instant cameras that use digital sensors and effectively “print” their photos with zero ink paper are smaller.
Don’t expect portability comparable to a compact digital camera: the Go is just small enough to fit in the back pocket of your jeans. and is more at home in a jacket or handbag.
It’s very easy to use, with the flash and triggers on the top and the viewfinder and on / off switches on the back. Pressing the flash button twice activates double exposure shooting, and holding the button turns on the self-timer, although the lack of a tripod thread on the bottom detracts from its usefulness.
It’s impossible to overlook the digital recording counter next to the power button which, hopefully, should keep you from opening the film drawer prematurely and ruining any recordings left in the currently loaded pack.
There is a micro USB port on the side for convenient charging. However, it would have been nice if Polaroid had been stretched to the newer, reversible USB-C standard instead.
- 35mm equivalent lens
- Automatic flash with manual override
- Self-timer and double exposure mode
Turn on the camera and the flash will activate automatically. You can turn it off for brightly lit outdoors, but you want to keep it on for indoors. With a small LED indicator you can check at a glance whether it is triggered or not.
The viewfinder may be offset slightly from the camera lens, but what you see through it largely indicates what was captured. Selfie fans will also appreciate the lens-facing side of the viewfinder, which doubles as a giant mirror and helps with composition. The smaller dimensions make it so much easier to hold than the Polaroid Now, which can be quite unwieldy.
The clasp has the same half press stud as the Polaroid Now. On the larger camera, this would activate autofocus, but that’s missing here – instead, the aperture setting is adjusted based on the amount of available light.
You can hear an internal mechanism work when you use it, and the shutter won’t release until after choosing between the two available settings, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally overexposing or underexposing your shot.
At full pressure, a photo is taken and ejected from the front of the camera. Full development takes about 15 minutes and can be a bit delicate. So don’t toss your prints in a coat pocket and expect them to get through the process without a stain or two.
Polaroid Go film is square aspect ratio and 47mm by 46mm image area, so each film looks like a Type I miniature photo. For comparison: The rectangular Instax Mini film from the rival Fujifilm has a larger image area of 61 x 46 mm.
- Dreamy, pastel-like colors
- Impressive detail
- Use cases with focus focus have been fixed
Just like with I-Type, Polaroid Go prints create muted, almost dreamlike colors mixed with darker, more dramatic shadows.
What looks blue in the viewfinder can often turn into a purple hue that changes the skylines and views a scene from a different perspective. It’s not an uncomfortable effect, but Fuji Instax film is more lifelike if that’s what you’re looking for.
The focal length is usually 0.5 m and more. So if you try to get a close up, you will usually just get a blurry final image. Selfie fans should always hold at arm’s length and take a break before pressing the shutter button the rest of the way down. Accept this limitation, and given the small size of each photo, it will show a reasonable level of clarity.
In the open air, exposure is usually pinpoint, with the flash helping to softly illuminate subjects without overwhelming the natural light of a scene. Switching it off tends to lead to more realistic colors, with the risk of significantly darker shadows as the photo paper has less light to work with.
Instant film often struggles with bright skies, but the Go survived our tests well and only blew out the final image when shooting towards the sun.
Step inside and the flash becomes a necessity as even well-lit rooms can appear dark and gloomy without it.
This has always been a feature of instant film, so it’s by no means a camera’s fault – it’s just something newbies to the medium will have to adapt to.
With its size on the side, the Polaroid Go is a reminder that instant photography should be fun. It takes almost everything we liked about the Polaroid Now, including a battery pack and distinctive pictures, and then fits it into a body that you’d love to carry around with you all the time – not just when your photography thoughts are on.
Polaroid’s film produces a delightful mix of detailed, yet lo-fi images with eye-catching colors, and while there isn’t an autofocus here that can make close-ups a stumbling block, it is surprisingly powerful in most lighting conditions. The smaller photos are arguably even cuter than the Type I originals they are based on.
However, you pay a premium for portability. The larger Polaroid Now costs a similar amount, and the entry-level Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 is much cheaper. You can buy the camera itself and five packs of film for the price of the Polaroid Go alone.
If portability has kept you from taking instant shots so far, the Polaroid Go is likely the camera that will change your mind.
Unconvinced? Try this …
Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay
The most compact Instax camera is a digital / instant hybrid with an LCD viewfinder and integrated Bluetooth. It can even be used as a portable printer for pictures taken with your smartphone, making it a fun stop between digital and analog that (almost) fits in a pocket. There’s no in-camera editing, however, and the companion app has some rough edges. Digital snapshots are also below the smartphone quality.
Canon Ivy Cliq + / Zoemini S.
Using zero ink film, which “prints” photos with heat-responsive paper rather than chemically-treated paper that reacts to light, Canon has made the Zoemini S pocket-sized. Bluetooth connectivity makes it more flexible than the Polaroid Go, and with the support of SD cards, you can create a digital backup of any photo you take. However, the prints it contains are not as authentic as those from Polaroid or Fuji.
The Now is physically much larger than the Polaroid Go, but almost identical in operation. It’s the immediate alternative for those who want full-size T-type photos. It’s still a simplified point-and-shoot with auto flash, but it also has auto focus and more creative features. A self-timer and double exposure should appeal to photographers already familiar with instant film, while the battery will help reduce consumables.
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