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Polaroid snaps instant gratification with Socialmatic camera-printer hybrid


A non-working prototype of Polaroid's new Socialmatic camera on the CES 2014 show floor.

Polaroid continues to maintain its iconic image of shoot and print cameras (made by manufacturer Sakar), all while continuing to innovate by using new technologies that straddle digital and the printed image. The newest camera, introduced at the 2014 International CES, adds social elements via Android-powered Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.

Expected to be released this fall, the Polaroid Socialmatic reimagines the camera with a look back to the old days of Polaroid cameras. Details of the camera were released on Monday, and we got take a closer look at the design on the show floor – though Polaroid had a non-working prototype model on display.

The Socialmatic camera was placed behind glass at at Polaroid's booth, nor was there a working unit. You can see the different faceplates you can snap onto the camera.

The Socialmatic camera was placed behind glass at at Polaroid’s booth, nor was there a working unit. You can see the different faceplates you can snap onto the camera.

The new camera works on the Android operating system that can connect to a mobile phone via Bluetooth or a Wi-Fi network. The digital camera has a 14-megapixel forward-facing lens, and a 2-megapixel rear-camera capable of taking selfies. Photos appear on a 4.5-inch screen before printing so users can do minor edits or even add clip-art such as rabbit ears on an unsuspecting person, or a “wish you were here”-type message.

While users can post photos directly to sites such as Instagram – the inspiration for the camera – there are other methods that will get the photos online and sharable. A 2 x 3-inch full color photo can be using an ink-free Zero Ink printing technology by ZINK Imaging. The photo is also sticker-backed so users can affix somewhere.

At the booth we were told that a QR code can also be printed on the back so that users can access a digital version of the photo to share it online.

The Socialmatic will be available in the fall. No pricing details yet, but we expect a price of around $299. A line of accessories will further push the retro-look of the camera. A leather case will holster the camera on a user’s hip for an easy carrying option.

In the photo, you can see how big the camera is in comparison to this reporter’s hand next to it. Not exactly pocket friendly, which seems strange for something that’s about instant and convenient. But let’s put the jaded journalist aside for a minute: Several show attendees we’ve observed checking out the camera all thought the device is pretty awesome, so, if this thing actually comes into fruition, Polaroid may have a hit on its hands. The issue with ZINK technology is that it’s fairly slow, so don’t expect the instant Polaroid you might be familiar with. (Check out Fujifilm’s new Instax Share SP-1, which is a smartphone accessory that uses Fujifilm’s Instax instant film, as an alternative that’s actually real.)

Polaroid has a number of shoot-and-print cameras, and continues to show its popular Z2300 that has some of the same capabilities such as printing 2 x 3-inch full color images using ZINK Zero Ink printing technology from the 10-megapixel camera. It’s not a new product, though, but it gives you an idea of what the Socialmatic camera will be like.

Polaroid Z2300

Polaroid Z2300

In the spring Polaroid plans to introduce the iXX3530W, a 20-megapixel camera with 35x optical zoom and Wi-Fi, with an expected price tag of under $200. A 50x and 40x version will also be available.


Polaroid iXX3530W

On the other side of the lens, Polaroid is setting up a chain of Polaroid Fotobars, experience stores that allow users to play with the Polaroid cameras, but also bring in old photos and have them scanned and reprinted into art inside an iconic Polaroid white frame, and then put into a physical frame that makes it easy to display. To date Polaroid has Fotobar locations in Delray Beach, Orlando, and Miami, Florida. The next location expected to open will be a 8,500-square-foot flagship experience store at the LINQ in Las Vegas. While there will be an experience shop in the lower level, an upstairs space will host a Polaroid museum with a permanent Andy Warhol exhibit that will feature the “Capturing Celebrity” exhibition. Funds to set up the exhibition continue to be raised at Indiegogo. The Las Vegas location will open in March, with more Fotobar locations planned to open at later dates.

A mobile Polaroid Fotobar at CES 2014.

A mobile Polaroid Fotobar at CES 2014.

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