POLAROID ZIP(-a-dee-doo-dah): my oh my what a wonderful gadget!

At CES 2017, I was invited by Polaroid to “experience” the company’s instant photo product line, which includes three digital cameras with built-in photo printer and a pocket-sized photo printer. All share the same printing technology, which uses ZINK (Zero-INK) photo paper.

ZINK (or Zero-INK) is a full-colour printing system for digital devices that does not require ink cartridges and prints in a single pass. The paper has several layers: a backing layer, heat-sensitive layers with cyan, magenta and yellow dyes in colorless form, and overcoat.

The colour addressing is achieved by controlling the heat pulse length and intensity. The colour-forming layers contain colourless crystals dyes. These dyes form micro crystals of their colourless tautometres, which convert to the coloured form by melting and retaining colour after re-solidification.

It became abundantly clear why Polaroid chose the word “experience” in the invitation, as not only was the booth fun to look at, but trying out the instant printing capability was indeed a fun experience. Take a picture, press print, and voila, the photo comes out dry, smudge-, fingerprint-, and water-proof, in all its Polaroid glory. What I mean by that is the picture quality was reminiscent of the original Polaroid signature picture quality, with muted colours, exaggerated contrast, and blown-out highlights.

Since review units were not available at the show, I made a special trip to the nearest Walmart Supercenter in Las Vegas before my flight back to Toronto to pick one up and quench my further curiousity. I grabbed one in black (US$120); white is also available, and red and blue were sold out.

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Having mentioned my intention to buy the product for review, Polaroid was kind enough to give me 10 packs of ZINK paper (100 sheets total) with which to experiment. I ended up picking up another 23 packs from the damaged packaging bin for a steal so I could really get snapping.

While waiting at the airport, I found out that the firmware on the printer was version 0.0.4 – beta – so I immediately updated it to version 2.1.0 via Bluetooth. The process was quick and easy. There was no need to read the manual at all.

The same can be said about the iOS app that I downloaded to my iPhone 6. It’s intuitive, and designed to be used without reading the manual. Choose a picture, add filters, borders, write notes, crop, rotate, and print. It couldn’t be simpler.

So far, I have made 100 prints, and did the firmware update, all in a single charge with battery life to spare.

My only qualm is that I cannot get rid of the Polaroid signature look. Perhaps I’m being a perfectionist by wanting a natural coloured prints. Or maybe I just don’t “get it.”

Although colour accuracy and picture quality is merely acceptable, the Polaroid Zip scores high in the fun department. And in certain situations, having fun is the most important thing. So I’ve gone ahead and ordered more ZINK paper for some upcoming gathering where fun will be at the top of my list, and guests will get a kick out of the instant prints.

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