The new Polaroid Now+ offers the very latest in instant camera gratification while, happily, retaining the quirks of its historic predecessors.
Younger readers may be surprised to learn that the original, humble Polaroid camera was once an integral part of the magazine-making process. In the pre-digital, pre-iPhone days, a Polaroid was the fastest way of getting an image back to base, as well as the best way of checking light levels and general composition.
A Polaroid ‘back’ for a Hasselblad or other full-frame camera was considered an essential piece of professional kit, and there are still outfits promising such back kits that’ll allow you to use Fujifilm’s widely used Instax film in the most high-end 8x10 cameras.
Polaroid’s fall and rise
All that was done away by digital. The new Polaroid Now+ camera comes from a company that has only a spiritual connection with the original Polaroid Corporation of North America, established in 1937 and responsible for a raft of technological innovations. Edwin Land, who co-founded the company with George W Wheelwright III, was the Elon Musk of his day, a high-profile and sometimes controversial inventor who was indelibly associated with his company’s products.
While Polaroid never made the same missteps as its close rival Kodak (which invented and then shelved the idea of a digital camera back in 1975, fearful of its effect on film revenue), both companies were to die a slow and probably avoidable death in the 20th century, missing the digital window that transformed the industry.
The Polaroid name stayed alive thanks largely to enthusiasts, who kept the once-miraculous instant film in production after the company’s bankruptcy. Through a series of legal hoops and ownership changes, the Impossible Project company came to acquire the Polaroid name and identity.
Today, the reborn brand once again offers a range of instant cameras, including the ultra-compact Go and even carefully refurbished versions of the iconic 600. Most importantly, it also makes instant film in a variety of sizes, all the way up to 8x10 for professionals.
Polaroid Now+ is connected and creative
This is the new Polaroid Now+, a more connected version of last year’s Now camera. With the ability to pair with your smartphone, as well as a set of physical filters, the Now+ plays up Polaroid’s role in pop culture – everyone from Andy Warhol and Keith Haring onwards – and invites you to get creative. (Polaroid art is the subject of a 2017 book, The Polaroid Project, should you need inspiration.)
For those creatives who are happy to immerse themselves in the power of a thousand smartphone filters, this exhortation might feel a little underpowered, but part of the joy of instant photography was the experimental and accidental nature of the results. Its limitations turn out to be its strength. The revised Polaroid app allows you do things like double exposure and change settings manually, functions that were simply not possible on those basic Polaroid 600s.
But there’s no getting away from the fickle hand of fate – you will get unexpected results, and that’s to be celebrated. Best of all, you’ll end up with something physical that will hopefully endure.
Polaroid Now+ camera, £139.99
polaroid.com (opens in new tab)
Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.
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