A few years ago, I was ecstatic to find my parents’ old Polaroid 660 camera in their basement. As much as I love the features of my digital camera, I missed the Polaroid’s ability to print out an instant memento.
For a brief time between 2008 and 2010, Polaroid stopped making cameras, and released the PoGo inkless printer, a portable device that produced two-inch by three-inch photos sent from a cellphone or digital camera. The PoGo was notable because it didn’t require ink. Instead, it used technology from a company called Zink, which made photo paper embedded with colored crystals that changed color when heated by the printer.
Polaroid has since taken that technology and built it into a new instant camera, the Z2300, which I’ve been testing for the past week.
The $160 Z2300 keeps the Polaroid tradition going by printing out pictures right from the camera, but also offers some modern-day features, such as a built-in display, photo-editing options and video-recording capabilities. Even so, I wouldn’t recommend it as your everyday digital camera, because it lacks basic features like optical zoom, and has a clunkier design. Instead, it works as a secondary camera that’s nice to have for parties and arts-and-crafts projects.
The Z2300 is a lot more compact than the old Polaroid models. The 10-megapixel camera measures 4.65 inches wide by 3 inches tall by 1.36 inch thick. It’s too big to fit into a pocket, but it easily slips into bag or purse.
One trade-off of the smaller size, however, is that you get smaller photos. The Z2300 prints out 2×3-inch photos compared to Polaroid’s other instant camera, the larger and more expensive ($250) Z340, which produces 3×4-inch prints. The Z2300 has a viewing screen on the back that shows a 2×3 border, so you can better frame your pictures.
Just to the right of the screen is a small latch that opens up the compartment where you can insert the Zink photo paper. I found that it’s pretty easy to hit the button by accident, causing the door to fly open. Though it this doesn’t have any effect on the photo paper, it got to be annoying.
It takes less than a minute for the camera to print a photo from start to finish, but the picture comes out fully developed, so you no longer have to wait for an image to appear. The photo paper also has a smudge-proof, water-resistant coating, and comes with an adhesive backing if you want to turn it into a sticker.
The photos I printed from the Z2300 were clear and colorful, though they also had a bit of a washed-out look, like the old Polaroid photos. This didn’t bother me too much, as it gave the pictures a retro look that I liked. I can definitely see myself using the camera to take pictures during trips and sticking them in my travel journal.
I also think it would be fun at parties. In fact, I bought a Fujifilm Instax Mini 7S a couple of years ago for my best friend’s baby shower, and took pictures of the guests and glued them to a card where they could sign and leave a message for the parents. The Z2300 would have been more convenient, as the photo paper already has an adhesive and the rectangular camera is more comfortable to hold than the awkwardly shaped Fujifilm. Polaroid says the camera’s lithium-ion battery can print 15 photos continuously or capture about 300 pictures before needing a recharge.
The only major issue I had with the Z2300’s picture quality is that some of the finer details of an object get lost when printing a photo that small in size. For example, in one image of a flower, it was hard to make out individual petals, as they blended together. In another, some text from a sign looked slightly blurry.
I wasn’t sure if this was due to the print size or the camera itself, so I transferred the photos over to my laptop using a USB cable and found that it was the former, as the original pictures were detailed and sharp.
Switching the camera from portrait to macro mode helps a bit. Macro mode allows you to shoot objects at an extremely close range so you can capture more detail; a button on the left side of the device lets you toggle between the two modes.
The Z2300 offers a number of features found on regular digital cameras, such as a self-timer and flash. And this camera’s lack of an optical zoom means that its lens doesn’t physically move to zoom. Digital zoom simply enlarges an already-captured image and, as a result, it degrades the quality of the photo.
You also get tools for cropping and red-eye reduction. I like that you can pick and choose which photos you want to print, so you don’t waste any paper. A 30-sheet pack of ZINK Photo Paper costs $15, and a 50-sheet pack costs $25.
There are numerous photo-editing options. You can add various color effects, such as sepia and black-and-white. There’s a setting to print multiple photos on one print, and you also have the ability to add fun borders to your pictures, including the classic Polaroid white border. Just be aware that adding a border or printing multiple images on one 2×3 sheet will make your image even smaller.
It takes several steps to access and apply all these effects, but the camera does a pretty good job of walking you through the process with onscreen instructions.
Finally, the Z2300 can capture HD video. Video quality is a bit grainy, but okay if you have nothing else on hand. I would recommend getting an SD memory card, as one is not included in the box, and the camera doesn’t have enough onboard memory to store numerous videos. Polaroid ships the camera with a 10-sheet pack of ZINK Photo Paper, a charger and a USB cable.
The Polaroid Z2300 isn’t for everyone. It certainly falls in the nice-to-have pile rather than the must-have category, and some might simply find it to be gimmicky. But I can see it appealing to kids and teens, and for adults, like me, who enjoy creative projects or want a fun way to capture instant physical mementos.
Corrections & Amplifications
An earlier version of this article incorrectly referenced Zink photo paper as film.