Instant Retrofication

The new Polaroid Now is an instant camera for simpler times

A welcome distraction from a company that survived its own existential crisis and near-death experience.

A little over a decade ago, Polaroid was for all intents and purposes dead. In 2008, the company announced it would stop making its instant film, whereupon a handful of fans rescued and resuscitated the last Polaroid-making facility in the Netherlands, and the brand lived on. Various consolidations and name-changes later, Polaroid remains alive and kicking. Today it’s unveiled a new camera, the Polaroid Now.

The Now is an instant camera for 2020 insofar as it manages to cram thoroughly contemporary camera technology into a device that’s easier to use than its predecessors. It’s also a great modern camera because it uses retro film and looks like it’s fallen out of a time traveler’s pocket: a surefire combination for sales in the age of the terrazzo aesthetic.

Point and shoot, shoot, shoot — Polaroid’s packed its new $99 shooter with a new autofocus system that, unlike the one on the OneStep+ and OneStep 2 that preceded it, can switch between close focus and infinity automatically. The flash has been updated, too, and now adjusts its output based on ambient lighting conditions.

Finally, there’s a bigger 750mAh rechargeable battery, which Polaroid says should manage up to 15 packs of film. The company’s also releasing new i-Type films along with the Now, one with a black frame — something rival Fujifilm has been offering for years for its Instax range — and a special edition called Color Wave that, as the name suggests, includes colorful frames inspired by Polaroid's rainbow branding. The films are priced at $16.99 each, and the Now works perfectly well with 600 film, too.

Fewer happy accidents? — One of the charms of instant photography has always been the inconsistent results it produces. We romanticize its failings because the output is unique and tangible in an ara where digital photographs are infinitely malleable and clinically repeatable. That said, taking the same shot three times to get it right for the price of a sandwich can be infuriating. Perhaps the increased precision will be welcome. Perhaps it’ll spoil the fun. We’ll reserve judgment until we’ve tried it.

Ultimately, we’re just pleased a brand like Polaroid — which has at various times been The Impossible Project, Polaroid Originals, and now simply Polaroid once more — continues to endure. For a time it seemed the once legendary name would be doomed to be affixed to disappointing audio gear, gradually eroding what little brand equity remained.

But here we are. If Polaroid can survive the digital revolution of the aughts and teens, perhaps we can survive 2020. And then we can get out there and take goofy, deeply-impractical-but-ineffably-endearing, instant photographs of ourselves, our pets, the people we love — possibly even strangers — in parks and on pavements. Now, won’t that be nice?