In our Polaroid Now+ review, we’re going to look at what might be the best instant camera ever. Since the unexpected and welcome revival of the brand by Impossible Project in 2017, Polaroid has gone from strength to strength, launching a range of instant cameras including the sophisticated Polaroid OneStep+, the pocket-sized Polaroid Go and the simple Polaroid Now.
Polaroid Now+ Specifications
• Compatible films: Polaroid i-Type, Polaroid 600
• Lenses: standard 40 mm, close-up 35 mm
• Power supply: 750 mAh lithium-ion battery, charging via USB
• Tripod support: yes
• Construction: polycarbonate + ABS plastics
• Dimensions: 150.16 x 112.2 x 95.48mm
• Weight: 457 g (without film)
Released in late 2021, the Polaroid Now+ is essentially a combination of the OneStep+ and the first Now. It inherits the streamlined look of the Now and Bluetooth-powered app control of the OneStep+. Meanwhile, a revamped app experience gives users more digital control than ever before, making the Polaroid Now+ perhaps the most ambitious blend of old and new to date.
As an instant film enthusiast, I’ve tried nearly every Polaroid camera since the revival except for the tiny Polaroid Go, and I’ve also used my share of the firm’s biggest rival – cameras Fujifilm Instax, which produce smaller cameras but cheaper prints. I’m a firm believer that Polaroids are some of the best compact cameras you can buy, as well as the best cameras for beginners, because they’re a blast and produce great quality photos that can be held in the hand, rather than languish forgotten on a hard drive.
But does the Now+ live up to what came before? It adds a few features and fixes a few annoyances from previous iterations, so is this the perfect instant camera? Let’s dive in and see how well it works in our Polaroid Now+ review. And if you can’t get enough retro style, also check out our guide to the best film cameras for beginners.
Polaroid Now+ review: Build and handling
Anyone who’s used a vintage Polaroid probably remembers it was a big camera, and the Polaroid Now+ continues that tradition. It’s two-handed operation, which makes sense given the size of the prints that come out. There’s a powerful flash that works by default (you can turn it off manually with the flash button) and an optical viewfinder that provides a semi-accurate representation of what’s about to appear in the scene. It’s best not to worry too much about the precise alignment of compositions – point the lens in the right direction and you’ll probably be fine.
The Now+ adds tripod support into the mix. You may or may not get much use out of it, but it’s really nice to have group shots. Otherwise, it inherits the twin-lens autofocus system from the first Now, with a 35mm close-up lens and a standard 40mm lens. In a cute touch, it also comes with a pack of colorful clip-on filters to give your photos some tint – blue, yellow, orange, red and starburst vignette (adds dots to light sources).
There’s not much to say about the physical operation – when you want to take a photo, you press the unmistakable red shutter button. You wait for a tantalizing second, resisting the urge to point the camera at your own face to check if it’s working (trust me), then the shutter clicks and an impression comes out. Set it aside – don’t shake it – and ten minutes later it’s developed.
Polaroid Now+ review: Smartphone app
It’s worth talking about the app in detail, because it’s the key to a lot of new things with the Polaroid Now+. Connecting via Bluetooth, the app adds all sorts of functionality – now you get a self-timer that can go up to 12 seconds and various shooting modes including light painting, portrait mode, double exposure and manual exposure control. With these and the aforementioned lens filters, you could have a good time and a lot of film experimenting with the Polaroid Now+.
The app works wonderfully. Pairing is quick and easy, control is instinctive, and the user interface design is bright, clear and intuitive. Some users may lament that some modes and functions are only available through the app, but that’s a price for keeping the camera body design as simple as it is – and it’s worth mention that if you don’t want to use the app, you don’t have to. You can aim and shoot just fine without it.
Polaroid Now+ review: Performance
Nostalgia isn’t all it’s made out to be. Some things, like Tamagotchis, lace-up jeans, and drinking a garden hose, deserve to stay in the past. I do want to point out, though, that Polaroid photos are as good as you remember them. Perhaps better – in the age of nearly endless disposable imagery, there’s something very special about a physical print you can hold in your hand.
The image quality of the combination of Polaroid Now + film and Polaroid I-Type is magnificent. The sharpness and contrast of the prints are top notch, blowing Instax frames out of the water in detail and character. It might be a matter of opinion, but I think Polaroid photos capture the vintage look and feel much better than Instax prints.
They’re big enough to display, clear and big enough to see what’s going on without a magnifying glass, and they have that iconic white border that everyone instantly recognizes. I’ve used various Polaroid cameras at parties and gatherings since the first OneStep 2, and they’ve always done well — so much so that several people who tried them immediately went out and bought one of their own. They’re awesome, and the Now+ is the best yet.
You may have sensed that there was a “but” ahead…
Something you inevitably have to talk about with modern Polaroid cameras is their running cost. Of course, the prints are much better than Instax, but they are also priced higher. And it’s a price you’ll have to pay, over and over, every time you want to use the camera. In the official store, a pack of just eight I-Type prints costs $14-16 / £13-16, depending on how much you’re willing to buy in bulk. It’s not a trivial amount of money considering you’ll want a lot of it.
This in turn exacerbates other issues with the camera. The Polaroid Now+’s metering system has a penchant for overexposure and if left to its own devices it can and will deliver blown out images with faces that are too pale. In most cameras this is slightly annoying. In a camera where a fluffy shot equals $2 down the bunghole, it’s a bit more. Having manual control in the app theoretically helps, but in reality, in the kinds of situations where a Polaroid camera will be used, are you going to want to juggle your smartphone and a two-handed camera?
This is a problem with Polaroids in general, not the Now+ specifically. But the thing is, everything about the Now+, from additional lens filters to creative shooting modes, seems designed to encourage experimentation, which is then actively discouraged by the high price you pay per shot. . It’s unclear what Polaroid can really do to fix this problem, and there are plenty of users (myself included) who love photos enough to be willing to pay the price. Not everyone will.
Polaroid Now+ review: Verdict
If you love fun, analog, retro photography and making real prints that you can put on a wall or in a scrapbook, the Polaroid Now+ is the best camera you can buy. It’s packed with fun features that are simple enough for anyone to use, yet provide enough depth of control to meet the needs of enthusiasts. You just have to be prepared to keep paying the premium that Polaroid prints demand, and learn to stay optimistic when one of your expensive shots is compromised by a slightly unreliable metering system.