Tech often goes in strange circles. Back in the 80s, Polaroids were the fastest and most efficient way of taking pictures and seeing the results straight away. Then, a few decades later, Instagram came along and brought that idea online, letting users apply polaroid-like borders and filters to their pictures to share around the world.
But now, as technology once again completes its cycle, we’ve seen Polaroid license C&A Marketing to create the Polaroid Snap: a small, feature-lean camera that works takes physical prints just like the old-fashioned cameras it’s inspired by.
The camera prints out small pictures smaller than the old-style square images, but the novelty is still there: we’ve taken the camera out to urban environments, low-lit gig venues and just around the office and it’s functioned well in each environment. That isn’t to say the digital pictures it takes with its 10-megapixel camera are up to scratch, though: you’re probably better off sticking with your smartphone if you actually want good pictures. The ones you get out of the Snap have a nice aesthetic and there’s definitely a nostalgic novelty to them, but any budding photographer will be more inclined to spend money elsewhere.
If you’re looking for snaps to serve as mementos to stick up around your house, or a cute way to give friends
of family instant prints of the times you spend together, you could do far worse than the Snap. Just be aware that it costs roughly £8 for a set of 30 Zink sheets, but that’s still far, far cheaper than buying then developing film on any other physical format camera.
How does polaroid printing work?
Instant camera paper basically has its own built-in developing studio and dark room, all in one. The Zink paper follows the same principles as traditional film paper – it’s got light-sensitive grains arranged on a plastic sheet – but it doesn’t expose the film in the same way…
1. Zero-ink paper
Zink paper is so named because of its ‘zero-ink’ content; instead of dying the paper like cameras have done for over a century, Zink uses dye crystals in the colours cyan, yellow and magenta.
2. Colour combinations
Each of these colour layers are stacked upon a neutral base layer, and each has a polymer coating that protects the paper from UV exposure, moisture and fading. All this is thinner than a human hair.
3. Apply some heat
Zink-enabled printers use heat to activate the colour-forming molecules embedded in the crystals within the paper, while the printer produces intense heat for split-second intervals, turning colourless crystals to white.
4. Quick results
Thanks to the crystals’ molecular make-up, they retain the colour that’s exposed onto them even after they cool down. They also cool rapidly so there’s no smudging or smearing on the print.