The Polaroid Socialmatic — more commonly known as the that Instagram camera thing — feels like it has been on the "coming soon" list for years now. But behold! The Socialmatic is finally shipping, and we had a bit of a play with it at this year's CES. So what does a $300 Instagram camera from Polaroid actually do?
Good question. Glad I made you ask it.
The Socialmatic is a slab of a gadget that more closely resembles a square tablet rather than a camera. It's packing a 14-megapixel primary camera and a 2-megapixel rear-facing camera for your selfies. There's also an LED flash for low-light situations.
You operate the Socialmatic via a 4.5-inch rectangular touchscreen on the back of the device, which essentially functions like an Android tablet. It's packing a stock-ish version of Android 4.4, complete with access to Google Play. That means you can load compatible camera and image editing apps onto the Socialmatic for the perfect image, as well as all your social apps for sharing them direct from the device. It's packing Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS for all your camera needs.
You've got 4GB of space for your photos, which means you'll probably have to be pretty vigilant about storage once you've captured those images.
And of course, it wouldn't be a Polaroid product unless it bundled a printer inside the unit. The Socialmatic prints 2x3 photos straight out of the box so you can share your memories the old-fashioned way in a jiffy.
The $299 price tag gets you the Socialmatic camera/printer, as well as a 10-pack of paper. Polaroid won't say how much replacement paper costs, but it can't be more than $10 for a pack, we assume, so factor that into your ongoing cost of ownership with this thing.
The image quality you get out of the 14-megapixel camera is great, but the 2-megapixel selfie camera is a little disappointing. In a world of 13-megapixel front facing cameras from mid-range devices like the HTC Desire Eye, 2-megapixels of front-facing resolution is disappointing.
Because it needs to make room for that printer, the thing is freaking massive, and more than a little awkward. It's square, boxy and thick. You won't be pocketing this thing ever. Not even in those parachute pants, you crazy raver.
It's a pretty niche product, but I know more than a few Instagram tragics (myself included) who would enjoy this thing for a party or on an adventure with friends. The Socialmatic's size is its biggest limitation. It's not pocket-able, and barely bag-able which means taking it out to a concert or music festival, or even out to the beach is out of the question. These are places that your phone already goes and performs admirably.
For all its faults, though, I'm a fan. It looks exactly like the Instagram app logo, and it's a retro throwback from a company that has a firm place in photographic history. Despite the fact that the Socialmatic is very niche, it's retro cool at its best.
The Socialmatic ships in Q3 of 2015 for $US299. We'll keep you updated with Australian pricing if and when it gets a local distributor.