Polaroid Go Generation 2 (2023/2024) Camera Review

The Cutest Polaroid, Refreshed

13 min read by Dmitri.
Published on .

Polaroid Go Generation 2 is a 2023¹ refresh of the original Go camera, released two years ago for the new miniature instant film format.

Gen 2 is still the world’s smallest instant camera². Like its predecessor, it can take regular and double-exposures with an integrated rechargeable battery good for 15 packs of film. It hasn’t lost its selfie mirror, either. But the new version comes with a few changes that I think make it a better camera.

In this review, I’ll discuss the image quality, ergonomics, build quality, and overall value of this camera. I will also compare Generation 2 vs. Generation 1 Polaroid Go side-by-side in terms of image quality and explain my preference for the updated version.

¹ — The camera was announced in late 2023, but it’s only becoming available in stores worldwide in early 2024.

² — As per Polaroid marketing material.

Polaroid Go Generation 2 features and build quality.

The new Polaroid Go comes with a 51mm polycarbonate resin lens which has a 65° diagonal field of view on film — a little wider than 50mm on full frame (which is 47°). This fixed-focus lens has an aperture range of 𝒇9-𝒇42.

The electronically-controlled shutter fires between 1s and 1/300s.

The Go has a built-in flash with a maximum range of 2m (6’6”). Under the flash, there’s a sensor to check if your finger is covering the bulb — if your digit is in the way, it won’t fire.

With a fresh pack of film and the included wrist strap, the camera weighs 273g (9.6oz); without film and accessories, it’s 242g (8.5oz). The go is 105mm × 84mm × 62mm or 4.1” × 3.3” × 2.4”; it’s not quite pocketable — unless you’ve got a jacket with large ones — or you can just stick it in a purse or a small bag.

Polaroid Go Generation 2 in cerulean blue (thank you, Betty, for such an accurate colour name, TIL).

A single battery charge should last you 15 packs; it took less than 30 minutes to charge from my laptop via an uncomfortably short USB-C cable. A tiny orange warning light next to the charging port will remind you to recharge each time you power your camera on. The camera does power down automatically.

The shell is made of plastic, 30% of which is recycled. It’s a well-made camera, though it may not have the precision Voigtländer Vito C, if feels reliable. My cerulean blue copy has tiny specs of shiny material mixed into the plastic that gives it a gentle, appealing sheen in bright light.

When the camera is turned on, a tiny single-digit LCD lights up next to the power button inside a black pill-shaped screen (which looks like [8.] with a full pack of film). The dot indicates the flash is turned on.

The Go encourages selfies with its oversized front viewfinder window that has a reflective coating, like a mirror.

You can also set a 9-second delay timer by pressing and holding the flash (⚡️) button for two seconds or activate a double-exposure mode by double-tapping the flash (⚡️) button.

Polaroid Go film in hand.

Polaroid Go film.

Polaroid Go film is often compared to Instax as those are the only two brands that make instant film today. The process is extremely complicated, and thus, we won’t see a competitor enter the market anytime soon.

If you compare Instax and Polaroid film side-by-side, you’ll notice that Instax has fewer defects overall and may have a wider dynamic range (Go is about 3.5 stops). This wider dynamic range makes taking well-exposed photographs easier, which is why many reviews will conclude that it’s a better film.

But despite being the trickier one to get right, Polaroid film has some creative advantages.

A tiny Polaroid Go film frame, it’s smaller than my palm! I should also note that under bright light, the frames show more contrast than when scanned.

The colours are typically warmer, and they can also vary based on temperature, which can create an interesting effect if you know what you’re doing — or ruin the image if you forget to keep it warm³. You can also create emulsion lifts with your Polaroid Go film — something you can’t do with Instax.

Polaroid Go film is the tiniest instant film frame, which means it’s smaller than Instax Mini (see instant film size comparison chart). However, I don’t think the difference is significant. Instead, I’d say it comes down to your preferences for a square (Polaroid) vs. 3:4 (Instax) image aspect ratio — whereas the amount of material makes little difference in terms of image detail or fidelity.

Polaroid film is more expensive. In Canada, a basic Go pack currently sells at 28.99 CAD for 16 frames, whereas Instax Mini is 12.99 CAD for 10⁴. Based on those prices, Polaroid frames cost 1.4x more than Instax (although the prices also depend on how many frames you’re buying and if you want your Instax to have special borders). This shouldn’t come as a surprise: there’s only one Polaroid factory in the world, whereas Instax film is sold by an enormous Japanese corporation at an incredible scale.

Cherry blossoms with Polaroid Go Generation 2
Polaroid Go film frame, enlarged.

If you’d like to learn more about Polaroid Go film and how to take better photos with it, check out this review of Polaroid 600 colour film. The 600 is identical to the I-Type and Go films.

Please also see this article on how to recycle used Polaroid cartridges. The Go film is a little different than the examples I cover in the link above, but the tips still apply.

³ — For best results, keep your Polaroid frames in a breast pocket or near your body as they develop.

⁴ — Prices from major authorized retailers that sell both films. I looked at Best Buy and London Drugs.

Polaroid Go Generation 1 (white) and Generation 2 (cerulean blue).

Polaroid Go Generation 2 vs. Generation 1: specs and image quality.

The first Polaroid Go got mixed reviews. Despite the cuteness that it is, PCMag gave the Generation 1 Go 2½ stars. Learn Film Photography described Go as having “consistently blurry [images],  underexposed, and have an unnaturally warm tone.” It appears that Polaroid took comments like that to heart and made some changes in its new model.

The new Gen 2 Go comes in a box with “improved picture quality” listed as a key feature. Well, for this review, I’ve got both cameras, so let’s examine that claim:

Indoor tests with Polaroid Go Generation 1 & 2 side-by-side.

I spent two packs comparing Polaroid Go Generation 1 and 2 side-by-side in various conditions. Generation 2 consistently made brighter photos, which addresses Go Gen 1’s common criticism: under-exposed photographs.

Polaroid Go Generation 2 (cerulean blue) and Generation 1 (white) with their respective test frames laid out. Generation 2’s prints are consistently brighter than the previous model’s, which I think makes more flattering images in most cases (especially in backlit and dimly-lit scenes).

What I found particularly interesting about this change is that the darker Gen 1 prints are technically more accurate exposures. They look sharper IRL and better preserve details in the highlights, like the shower curtain’s pattern in the backgrounds above. The flash selfie shows significantly more detail on the earlier Gen 1 camera.

When I laid out these images on the table in front of my partner, Betty, she preferred the Gen 1 results.

But more detail isn’t necessarily better for everyday photography. It’s not hard to see that over-exposed images, despite their relative lack of visual information, are more flattering on Polaroid film. Especially in the casual context of a tiny 2” square frame.

Backlit tests with Polaroid Go Generation 1 & 2 side-by-side.

Generation 1 Go struggles with backlit scenes. If the brightest light is behind your subject, Go will paint them black. This should not be a surprise if you know how a reflective light meter works. The photographic industry came up with tons of engineering solutions to solve this issue. Generation 2 Go circumvents it by over-exposing all images and thus opening up the details in shadows.

Once again, Generation 1 makes technically correct exposures, whereas Generation 2 wins by over-exposing everything.

Macro tests with Polaroid Go Generation 1 & 2 side-by-side.

There are scenes for which Generation 1 made significantly better images — technically and aesthetically. Macro/close-up shots are a good example where Gen 2 would consistently wash out the subject (with and without flash), whereas Gen 1 would make nice images.

Given that the Gos are the only cameras that can shoot this tiny film, I’d seriously consider using both for better creative control.

Double-exposure tests with Polaroid Go Generation 1 & 2 side-by-side. The first exposure (chandelier) was taken without flash; the second (selfie) — with flash.

When it comes to image sharpness, the Generation 2 camera adds a wider aperture (𝒇9 vs. the previous 𝒇12) and a faster shutter speed (1/300s vs. the previous 1/125s). Those spec bumps help take (motion) blur-free photos without flash in darker settings (like a shadow under a tree, see the Sunny 16 Calculator app).

There’s no change in the lens’ focusing system (of which there’s none) or lens quality otherwise. Detailed frame scans (like the one near the top of this article) reveal a consistently soft image with some aberrations that get more pronounced towards the corners. However, those issues are hardly noticeable without a loupe IRL and thus mostly irrelevant.

Polaroid Go Generation 2 from the user’s end.

Polaroid Go Generation 2 camera in use (ergonomics).

Polaroid Go cameras are designed to be held with thumb(s) on the bottom and index finger resting on the shutter button. This is different from a typical box Polaroid camera, which would have you rest your index finger at the front/near the lens (if you do this with the Go, you’ll cover up the flash and the camera won’t fire).

All the buttons on the camera are tactile with clicks (which is nice). However, the flash button has a slight delay before it turns on and off — presumably because it’s waiting to see if you want to double-tap it to take a double-exposure. Note that the flash will auto-enable itself after each shot, even if you’ve disabled it (so you’ll have to disable it each time if you don’t want it). The flash’s max range is 2m/6”; thus, it’ll have no effect on far-away objects; still, Polaroid recommends disabling it in bright light, and as you’ve seen from above, it doesn’t do good at close-ups on Gen 2.

The camera appears to have a close-focus sensor: even though the lens is fixed-focus (or “focus-free”), the camera won’t work at distances closer than ~30cm/1’. I noticed that I could get closer when the flash is turned on, but I wouldn’t recommend that with Go Generation 2.

Double-exposures create layering effects on film, which the Go cameras make easy to create. Once you double-tap the flash button, it’ll blink [1] on display (meaning you’re about to take exposure 1 of 2). Press the shutter to take the first image and then repeat for the second exposure, which will then pop the film out. You can disable flash for your double-exposures (even when the number is blinking; note that even if you turn the flash off for exposure 1, it’ll re-enable itself for exposure 2).

The viewfinder is small but I could still use it with glasses. It’s located very close to the lens which fixes much of the unwanted parallax shifts.

On the other side of the finder, there’s an oversized selfie mirror that shows faces a little closer than how they’ll appear in the photo — this helps with avoiding cutting parts off in the image and forces you to stretch your arms out for a sharper photo.

Polaroid Go cameras come with a built-in “frog tongue” flap that covers the photo once it comes out of the camera. This little device helps preserve contrast in the tiny film frames. You’ll need to unroll it slightly, then lift and release — it’ll then pop back into the camera. The photo will develop for about 20 minutes (but you’ll start to see the picture appear after about 2 min). It’s best to keep Polaroids in a breast pocket as they develop best close to body temperature.

Polaroid Go Generation 2.

Addictive fun.

Polaroid Go is the easiest Polaroid camera I’ve ever used.

I’m glad the team decided to tune its light sensor to over-expose, which creates a lot more keepers for me than I get even with the full-size Now I-Type cameras. I would love to see Polaroid implement a center-weighted meter for even better exposures in the next version.

I found myself burning through three packs in two days, easy. Putting this cute little gadget down to rest is nearly impossible. It’s a lot of fun and I’m considering buying Gen 1 specifically for shots I’d like to keep darker on this tiny film format (now that I know exactly how the meter behaves).

Thankfully, the cameras and the film aren’t particularly expensive — though the costs can add up quickly, so I promised myself to limit use to a pack a week. Let’s see how that goes.

How much does Polaroid Go Gen 2 cost, is it worth the money, and where to find one.

You can get the camera and two packs of film (16 frames in total) for less than $100. The Gos sell at many major electronics retailers, including Amazon, eBay, and on the Polaroid website (see link below).

Considering all the things the camera can do and the unique appeal of Polaroid film (i.e., warm tones, possibility of emulsion lifts), this is a good deal. Generation 2 will generally make flattering images out of the box; it’s the beginner-friendly camera of the Go series.

So if you like instant film and would like to try the cutest Polaroid camera ever made, you’ll enjoy this one.

By the way: Please consider making your Polaroid Go Generation 2 camera purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!