Polaroid Snap full review

The Polaroid Snap captures a happy middle ground between quality and budget. For less than £100/US$100, you get a likeable 10Mp camera which supports microSD saving and, most notably, prints colour photos (fairly) instantly and inklessly, thanks to Zink Zero Ink paper.

Zink paper uses a heat reactive technology (which we will explain later) and is not film-based like other instant cameras, like Fujifilm's Instax Mini 9. Our experience with the Snap revealed you are really just paying for the novelty of materializing your photos in under a minute, and not the quality of the photo itself. The camera is intended to be playful, and nothing more. If you would rather print high-res photos from your phone, check out our round up of the best instant printers of 2018.

Polaroid Snap price and availability

The Snap costs £89/$89 and is available from a number of retailers including Amazon, VERY, and Currys PC World. In the US, the Snap is also available from Best Buy and Walmart.

The Snap is Polaroid's base model in its zero ink camera range. The next model up is the Snap Touch (£139.99/$179.99 in the US) which is equipped with a 3.7in screen. There is also the higher end Polaroid Pop (£199/$199) with a 3.97in screen.

Polaroid isn't the only instant printing camera that uses Zink, however. Kodak has the Printomatic Instant Print (£89/US$69), and there’s the slightly more expensive Kodak Mini Shot (£119/$119.99) with a 1.7in screen. Not to be outdone, in the US there’s also the Bluetooth-enabled HP Sprocket 2-in-1 at $159.95. See our round up of the best instant cameras of 2018.

If you'd rather have the prints without the camera, Polaroid also offers a remote printing service, Super Snaps - you just upload your photos and the company will ship retro-style Polaroid prints directly to you.

With all these cameras vying for a share of the instant print market, where does the Polaroid Snap stand?

Polaroid Snap design and build

The Snap features a compact and lightweight body with friendly rounded edges, making it easy to operate with one hand or to stow in a handbag or waist pack. The only drawback to its pebble-like smoothness is the lack of grip, but fortunately it comes with a wrist strap, and you can buy a designated Polaroid case too (£19.99/US$19.99). The Snap is available in black, white, blue and red, pink and purple.

A magnetic lens cap protects the Snap’s lens which – for a lack of a better word – snaps into place when you’re ready to put the camera away. Keep in mind the Snap does not have a screen. If you’re spoilt with digital camera lens caps that automatically open when powering on, remembering to remove the Snap's cap can feel like a slight hindrance. Though, we were glad to see the camera doesn’t simply print off a black sheet if you do accidentally take a picture with the cap on. The camera just doesn’t operate.

There’s a microSD slot (that fits up to 32GB) if you’re interested in saving the pictures you’ve taken, and a micro USB port for charging or transferring images.

LED indicators at the top left of the camera let you know when the Snap is low on charge or paper, or when it’s busy printing. We charged the Snap for approximately 2 hours and it allowed an afternoon of use until we ran out of paper (20 shots in total). The battery is built in, so you won’t need to replace it. You can also mount the Snap onto a tripod and there is a 10 second timer option too.

Polaroid Snap features and image quality

The obvious appeal of the Snap is its instant inkless printing, and that is really what you pay for. Photos are printed onto Zink Zero Ink paper which contain micro-crystals. The micro-crystals react to varying intensities and lengths of heat. This exposure to heat respectively produces yellow, cyan and magenta hues that overlap to form the final image.

Compared to Fujifilm's Instax instant film (and not to mention Polaroid's colour film), Zink paper is affordable. A pack of 30 Zink sheets costs £14.99 on Amazon, and 200 will cost you about £90. In comparison, Fujifilm's Instax square instant film costs £16.99 for a pack of 20 or $22.99 in the US. Zink sheets look like regular gloss photo paper and are 2 inches by 3 inches large (slightly smaller than a business card).

The paper loads into the back compartment of the camera and prints out from the side. Zink papers have an easy to peel adhesive back and are water-resistant.

Each pack of paper (we had 10 sheets in a pack) contains a blue paper with a barcode too. To load the paper, you place the stack of 10 with the barcode facing down and the compartment door should close effortlessly. Your first snap should process the barcode sheet through the printer. Your print should then follow shortly after.

Though we did not time how long each print took, you can expect a wait of about 20 to 30 seconds.

In our experience, loading the paper was simple. However, the Snap struggled to register the new load. On a couple occasions pressing the shutter button after adding a fresh pack only left the printer whirring and humming and the printer LED indicator glowing red. Removing a couple sheets resolved the issue, though we can see this putting some users off if it is a consistent problem.

Otherwise, operating the camera was straightforward. The power button is integrated into the viewfinder. It remains locked down flat when the camera is off. Simply press it when you want to use the camera and the viewfinder pops up (remember to take off the lens cap at this point though!).

There is no zoom option, so what you see is what you get. Sort of. The viewfinder lets you see what's in front of the camera, but the actual lens is lower on the body so expect the height of the final image to be ever so slightly different. There's a slight fisheye distortion through the viewfinder too, but you don’t see this in the final print, thankfully.

If you much prefer an LCD viewfinder, again there’s the Snap Touch (£139.99/$179.99 in the US) and the Polaroid Pop (£199/$199), which boast 13Mp and 20Mp sensor, respectively, and support 1080p video. The Snap does not support video.

A button on the top left of the Snap controls colour effects. You have three to choose from: full colour, black and white, and vintage sepia tone. Pressing the colour effect button rotates through these options (an LED light tells you which setting is active).

Beside the colour selection button, there’s a button that lets you print with a border if you want more of a classic Polaroid look. 

We mostly tested the camera outdoors. Across all three modes, the image quality varied from underexposed in moderate lighting, to overexposed in brighter lighting. Details always looks softened.

In the colour mode, shadows appeared heavy without much definition and colours looked under-saturated. We also noticed that prints sometimes appeared streaky, regardless of colour setting.

Brighter areas, such as a streak of afternoon sunlight on a brick wall looked washed out and overexposed. The Snap struggled with preserving details here as well (like surface textures). Similarly, with the vintage sepia option, we saw a combination of overexposure and undersaturation with an overall bluish purple overtone – this may be the intended aesthetic for an old world feel, but it would have benefited from greater detail and depth.

As for the black and white setting, moderate to bright lighting produced the most balanced results. While the shadows were deep, the contrast appeared stronger, which made up for the loss of detail.

Also, while the Snap does have a flash, it only went off once under low light indoors. There isn’t an option to turn off the flash either, which some users may not like if they're photographing in flash-free areas. We can also see the Snap struggling with subjects in motion, as you are more than likely to print out a distorted, unintelligible blur.

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