“Yeah, but what about the smiles that you put on everyone else’s face?” is what a woman told me at my yoga studio. Before the Polaroid i2 was announced, I gave out free portraits to folks that I regularly interact with there and in other parts of my neighborhood. The camera and the photos didn’t really put major smiles on my face — and there are several reasons why. But it put a lot of smiles on the faces of people around me. If that’s what you’re looking to do, then Polaroid has a formula that’s very worth looking at.
Table of Contents
A Very Important Disclaimer
Yes, you’re seeing the review of a Polaroid camera on the Phoblographer. For several years, we stopped working with them on the account that they were supporters of the Unsplash awards. Your personal ethics and thoughts on that aside, we can’t, in good conscience, support any company that does this and blindsides aspiring photographers across the world. When we were briefed on this product by Polaroid, they addressed it with us. Previously, a rep worked with Unsplash and didn’t get permission to share the Polaroid logo and all for the collaboration. And currently, Polaroid doesn’t have any association with Unsplash, according to Ruth Bibby, Global Public Relations Director for Polaroid.
With this in mind, we’re elated to rekindle our press relationship with Polaroid.
The Big Picture
I like my film cameras retro. The Polaroid I2 is a fascinating camera that feels like a brand of retro from a time when manufacturers started to make cheaper feeling products. And overall, the Polaroid I2 doesn’t feel like the highest quality option on the market. But at the same time, this is arguably one of the most modern analog cameras to date. In the end, I’m quite happy that Polaroid made this camera.
It’s bound to put smiles on lots of peoples’ faces. But it really didn’t do so for me.
The Polaroid I2 wins three out of five stars. Want one? Be sure to check it out on Amazon.
- People will love the images they get because they like the look. By that, I mean specifically people who aren’t photographers.
- I love that Polaroid worked with retired Olympus engineers to design the lens.
- It looks really cool
- There’s a multiple exposure mode
- USB-C charging
- It’s a nice follow up to the Polaroid I1.
- I truly wish that I could at least have some sort of prediction as to what the image would look like.
- The light metering doesn’t make any sense according to the Sunny 16 methods
- LiDAR autofocus is very bad at autofocusing on POCs with lots of melanin in low light. And this is a major heartbreak.
- I really wish that this had a diopter for people who wear glasses.
- The wrist strap that you get is kind of crappy
The Polaroid I2 we used was a loaner unit provided to us by Polaroid. We returned it. They also provided us with the film for the camera.
This Polaroid camera has full manual controls, app control, an LED display, a new lens designed with Olympus engineers at the heart, and multiple exposure controls. Some of these things are innovative, but others are not. Still, this camera is surely doing things that others don’t.
The Polaroid I2 is a camera that balances the classic and modern look pretty well. It’s all black and in many ways resembles the older Polaroid cameras on the market. But this one makes it different with controls on the back, an LED display, manual controls that are wholly digital feeling, and USB-C charging. You’ll get the retro images for sure. But you won’t totally get that experience.
In a meeting with Polaroid, the reps (specifically Ruth) let us know that the Polaroid I2 doesn’t have weather resistance built in at all. However, if one decides to take it out into the rain during a light shower, it should continue to work as long as you wipe it down. We only had a week with the Polaroid I2, so we couldn’t test this. As it is, I don’t think I would. This camera is very plasticky. And considering all the cameras we test, I don’t think it would survive.
Durability aside, the Polaroid I2 feels like a camera that I truly wish many digital camera manufacturers would go for. It’s bold and harkens back to a design from a long time ago. Amongst all the monotonous cameras out there today, this one truly stands out. More importantly, we love it for that.
Ease of Use
The Polaroid I2 isn’t a proper SLR-style camera in that the viewfinder is just giving you an approximation of the framing. And overall, it’s doing a good job of that. Some of the more revolutionary things are the manual controls. You can set the aperture and shutter speed, but you have to change the settings up a bit in order to do so. It’s a slow process — and that’s part of the joy of using a camera like this. Most of the time though, I truly see people just using it in the auto mode. And for better or worse, that could be a problem.
Oh yeah, it charges via USB-C, and that’s pretty cool.
The light metering from the Polaroid I2 is pretty inconsistent. Outdoors, it might nail the exposure. Or it might not. Indoors, it also varies quite a bit. Let alone, if you’re using color or black and white, things change too. But the biggest problem to me has to do with the automatic metering and people of color. Most of the time, it doesn’t know how to expose for them. This is a huge problem to me — but it’s not unique to Polaroid. Lots of camera manufacturers can’t get. But it’s worse when you’re shooting instant film that you can’t edit later on.
Granted, people still love the novelty of it. But with time, that could pass.
The Polaroid I2 uses LiDAR — which is really cool to know. Not many other conventional cameras do this. But the idea here is that LiDAR would autofocus really well on people of color and in low light. Again though, the Polaroid I2 failed pretty badly when trying to focus on people of color. Specifically, I’m talking about trying to tell the camera to focus on someone’s face. In the photo above, Suraj has darker skin. In fact, when I shot my first photo of him, he thought it came out too dark. So instead, I had to have it focus on his wife. He doesn’t look all that dark-skinned in the photo. But he surely is around my same shade.
The Polaroid I2 is limited by the film that it uses. Granted, this can shoot pretty much any Polaroid film that the company currently makes at the time of publishing. And depending on who you are, that could be a good or bad thing. The new stuff is nowhere near as good as the old stuff, and there are great reasons for that, which we’ve written about previously.
In truth, I don’t think that the main audience buying the Polaroid I2 would care. And the artistic nude audience would really, genuinely not care.
Some of the earliest use of Polaroids for erotic art can be attributed to Robert Mapplethorpe. He got himself a Polaroid pack film camera with the initial idea of integrating its photos into collages. But he soon grew to like the photos themselves and eventually shot increasingly homoerotic photos with it, all while he was discovering and embracing his sexual identity.POLAROID AS A POPULAR MEDIUM FOR FINE ART NUDE PHOTOGRAPHY TODAY (NSFW)
So. why don’t I like it? I’m not a fan of having to shoot and re-shoot to get the shot. I know how light and metering work, and if I’m not getting the results that I get, I get frustrated. This is especially the case when I have 8 shots a cassette. But we’ve interviewed photographers who would probably really love this camera. Photographer Kirsten Thys van den Audenaerde would love this, I’m sure. Nir Patel would too!
The point here is that the image quality doesn’t allow me to make the most of the 8 shots in the cassette. That’s part of Polaroid’s problem — their film. This is fascinating, as Ruth told us Polaroid recruited and used retired Olympus engineers to make the lens for this camera.
Who Should Buy the Polaroid I2?
Buy the Polaroid I2 if you’re brand new to photography and have a lot of money to spend. If you want more consistency, there are lots of options that shoot Fujifilm Instax film out there instead.
We’ll update this section once we get an official list!