Polaroid Snap digital camera blends nostalgia with technology to print photos without ink

By Shawn Knight
Sep 4, 2015
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  1. Nostalgia makes it nearly impossible to truly write something off for good. Advancements in technology are often to blame for the phasing out of a particular product or category, like how the iPod led to the demise of the CD or how Netflix decimated Blockbuster.

    As crazy as it might sound, many products and services have failed simply because they were too advanced for their time – case in point, the Nintendo Virtual Boy and XBAND. Still others like BlackBerry have fallen from grace simply because they failed to innovate in the face of new competition.

    A recent wave of nostalgia, however, has breathed new life into a number of products from yesteryear.

    That warm and fuzzy feeling is directly responsible for driving up the price of Apple’s discontinued iPod classic on eBay and led to the doubling of sales of vinyl records last year. The resurgence isn't limited to technology as we’re also witnessing the comeback of Clearly Canadian, a once-popular sparkling water drink from the ‘90s that ultimately disappeared from store shelves due to management missteps and the absence of a premium beverage market.

    Polaroid is another name that’s attempting to once again become relevant. The iconic optics company was formerly a household name thanks to its instant film technology yet much like Kodak, its business model was annihilated by the rapid rise of the digital camera (the popularity of smartphone photography and sharing via social media hasn’t done the company any favors, either).

    Polaroid isn’t going down without a fight, however. The company has continued to develop (no pun intended) its instant photo technology, the results of which were on display at IFA 2015.

    The Polaroid Snap is a pocket-sized instant digital camera. It features a modern, minimalist design that’s able to spit out prints on the fly. What’s most impressive about the Snap is not the fact that it can print photos (competitors can do the same thing) but that it does so without using ink. How can that be?

    The Snap uses a technology that Polaroid calls Zink Zero Ink Printing which replaces traditional ink and photo paper with an advanced composite material that’s embedded with cyan, yellow and magenta dye crystals under a protective polymer overcoat. The Zink paper, which looks like a standard sheet of white photo paper before use, is heated up during printing to activate and colorize the crystals.

    The end result is a 2- by 3-inch (roughly wallet-size), full-color, high quality, long-lasting, smudge-proof photo that’s printed in under a minute. It has an adhesive back meaning the photo can be used as a sticker should you choose to do so.

    The camera itself features a 10-megapixel image sensor and a microSD card slot so you can store captured memories to transfer to a computer at a later date for keeping and sharing on social media. Snap has multiple capture modes – think Instagram filters – and even a self-timer feature.

    Polaroid plans to launch the Snap instant digital camera in black, white, blue and red color schemes during the fourth quarter at a price point of $99. The Zink photo paper can be found on Amazon priced at $29.99 for a pack of 100. Regardless of whether or not the Span will be a hit, it's encouraging to see companies like this continue to innovate rather than throw in the towel. And who knows, maybe one of these new technologies will lead to products and services we haven't even conceived yet.

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  2. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 6,341   +1,939

    I'd almost clean forgotten about the name Polaroid until I read this article. I owned a Polaroid Instamatic camera back in the 70's which I won in a table tennis (OK, ping pong then) tournament and that reminds me... I wonder whatever happened to it, I haven't seen it in years.
  3. mojorisin23

    mojorisin23 TS Booster Posts: 109   +13

    I think its a great idea for parties and stuff, when people are generally just messing around.

    Price point is decent too. Hopefully the cost of the paper decreases and it can get below 20cents a photo. I'd be in then
  4. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,114   +1,377

    It would be kind of cool keeping such a camera on top of your fridge, so for any party or just a dinner with friends you can take a picture and stick it onto your fridge right away! :)
  5. Puiu

    Puiu TS Evangelist Posts: 1,813   +484

    The price seems to be alright for what it does. the paper uses a really interesting technology
  6. fimbles

    fimbles TS Evangelist Posts: 1,159   +198

    Is this a new technology or is it the same as the old polaroid instamatic cameras of the 70s?

    Shake it like a polaroid picture :)
  7. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 6,964   +355

    I believe "Instamatic" was a Kodak camera. I had a couple of Instamatic cameras back in the day. For Polaroid it was just the word "Instant" but, of course, a different technology.
  8. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,889   +645

    This is actually pretty neat, I would get one just to mess around with at that price point!
    Might keep an eye out in the UK see if it pops up for a decent deal.
  9. Afenix

    Afenix TS Member Posts: 55

    iPod didn't lead to the demise of CD.
    MP3 players did.
  10. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 820   +247

    And what do you think an iPod is(was)?!?!? It was the BEST MP3 player...

    I actually DON'T find it encouraging to see a company not "throwing in the towel" when faced with a dying market.... people have overwhelmingly said "no" to instant print cameras - just because you make the technology more modern doesn't make the underlying principle any more desirable.

    The vast quantity of people never actually print their photos - and when they do, they want size options (posters, wallet, 8x10, etc)...

    This camera will fill a very small niche - I highly doubt it will ever make enough money to save Polaroid....
  11. Jack Colgan

    Jack Colgan TS Rookie

    I want one!
  12. Mathiau

    Mathiau TS Rookie

    Debatable, the MS Zune was better over all in features and quality (dac/build),. but Apple had the marketing, what Jobs was good at, behind it...
  13. Mathiau

    Mathiau TS Rookie

    I am curious, do the "crystals" ever "exhaust" themselves..
  14. Badvok

    Badvok TS Booster Posts: 118   +47

    Most Popular is not the same as Best. The iPod was in fact one of the poorer compressed (mangled) audio players when you consider things like audio quality and value for money, but neither of those factors stopped it being the most popular.
    Mathiau likes this.
  15. Badvok

    Badvok TS Booster Posts: 118   +47

    This thing really takes a whole minute to produce the image? Seems to me like this will be Polaroid's last attempt to resurrect itself. Fujifilm have already got the retro instant photo market all sewn up, yes their photos still take time to develop but at least they pop out of the camera immediately so you can take lots without waiting, just like on the old Polaroid cameras.
  16. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Guru Posts: 820   +247

    The original point was that mp3 players led to the demise of the CD.... quality is therefore irrelevant and POPULARITY is the only factor of any importance... and the iPod was (and still is) the most popular mp3 player of all time...

    The definition of "best", in this case, means "the one used most often" :)

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