Polaroid Now I-Type Instant Camera Review
A Reborn Classic10 min read by, with images by
Polaroid Now i-Type Instant Camera is a modern film camera by the same company that makes Polaroid film. It’s fairly compact and is a lot of fun to use.
Now is a descendant of an earlier project by the company known as The Impossible Project that’s a blend of modern materials and the fifty-year-old instant film design that still reigns supreme despite its inherent drawbacks: Polaroid square frame format is the largest instant film print by area.
However, Polaroid 600 can be a tricky film to shoot, and not all packs are the same. This is why this review will include a list of tips for making better photos with the i-Type cameras, along with everything else you’d want to know about this camera.
Polaroid Now i-Type Generation 2 cameras and Now+.
Polaroid has recently released an update to their “Now” i-Type cameras: Polaroid Now Generation 2. The new cameras feature 40% recycled materials — which is a little better for the planet — and some improvements to the optics that may yield sharper images when photographing up-close subjects. But for the most part, they work, look, and feel the same.
The Plus+ versions of Polaroid Now cameras let you use your Bluetooth connection to change settings and trigger the shutter. You won’t be able to “download” your pictures using the Polaroid app since your photographs are truly analogue, made by exposing the light-sensitive film to the light directly. Aside from the remote control feature, they are identical to the non-plus versions.
Polaroid Now controls and viewfinder.
Loading Polaroid instant film is easy: hold the eject button on the side of your camera, open up your film pack (the paper box, then the silver plastic — but don’t remove the darkslide paper on the top of the cartridge!), slide the pack in tightly (darkslide side up), and shut the lid up. Same with charging: just plug your camera in and wait until the charging light is off.
The big red button will activate the shutter and take your picture. The flash button at the back will let you disable the automatic flash; the power button next to it does exactly what you expect it to. So does the frame counter that goes from 8 to 0. And finally, the timer button at the front, opposite the red button, lets you take selfies with a delay.
You’ll need to look through the viewfinder — a small window protruding at the back of the camera — to frame your images. It’s small and could be difficult to use with glasses on. Also, there are no bright lines or parallax compensation marks in it, which means that close-up images may have their top bits cut off — but probably not significantly, as the finder does not seem to cover 100% of the resulting frame.
I’d say that Polaroid Now is even easier to use than its older Polaroid 600 cousin, which was a breeze in hand when I had it. Better yet, Now uses an internal rechargeable battery that lets it use both Polaroid 600 and Polaroid i-Type films — the latter being a more eco-friendly battery-free pack.
Hitting the red button will get your camera to expose a single frame, which it will immediately inject under a flexible black film (sometimes referred to as a “frog tongue” or film shield). This black plastic roll shields your light-sensitive material from light as it develops. It’s best to let it stay that way for 5-10 minutes until pulling the frame out (which will snap the black plastic roll back inside the camera).
✪ Note: Touching the shutter button lightly will make a light sliding sound inside the camera; however, that’s just the focus mechanism getting ready to take the shot. You will need to press it firmly in to get the picture you want.
Once you’ve exposed all eight shots from your Polaroid film pack, you’ll need to use the same eject button on the side to open the film door and pull your used cartridge out by the thin plastic flap at the front.
(Don’t forget to properly recycle your used Polaroid film cartridges!)
Polaroid Now specs, size, weight, and ergonomics.
Polaroid Now i-Type cameras aren’t pocketable. With film, mine weighs 500g or ~1lb and measures 15cm × 11cm × 10cm (6” × 4⅓” × 4”).
The lens is a 103-95mm 𝒇11-𝒇64 coated polycarbonate. The focal length of the lens is smaller when it’s used in portrait mode (i.e. close subjects), and the camera lists it as a 35-40mm lens, which is a 35mm/full-frame equivalent.
Polaroid film frames are larger than medium format; thus, you may expect some bokeh even with this setup. Although the only distances this camera will produce noticeably out-of-focus areas is at closer than its minimal focus distance of .55m or 1’9⅝”.
The close-up lens (for the min. focal distance, above) is 95mm while the “normal” 103mm lens is used for .6m-∞.
The shutter on Polaroid Now can fire between 1/200th and 1s, whereas Polaroid Now+ will let you hold the shutter open for up to 30 seconds in Bulb mode.
The camera is powered by a 750mAh lithium-ion battery via a Micro USB cable, which should last for about 15 packs of film (after ~2h charging). Given the cost of the film packs and the fact that most occasions call for at most two packs, a single charge can last months.
The design and controls’ layout is inherited from the vintage Polaroid cameras that are well thought-out and simple to figure out, with everything well within reach. The Now feels light in hand; even the tiny viewfinder is relatively easy to master. The only disadvantage in terms of ergonomics that I can think of is the power button that you’ll need to remember to activate before taking your first shot. But at least it will automatically power off after about two minutes of inactivity.
Polaroid Now lens and film: image quality.
Polaroid film is an incredible piece of technology. It’s one of the most chemically-complex human-made objects, and we’re lucky to still have it available. However, the nature of this film makes taking ultra-sharp photographs virtually impossible, and the camera’s focus-free plastic lens makes it even harder.
I’d advise against expecting distortion-free renderings with Polaroid Now cameras. Thankfully, as you won’t be enlarging your frames most of the time, these imperfections will stay hidden. As you can see from the samples in this article, good photographs can look colourful and reasonably detailed. And they look even better as physical objects in hand.
Still, this film and camera combo is prone to have under-exposed (indiscernibly dark) areas if your scene has a lot of contrast and shadows. You may also find that the flash does not always resolve the issue of insufficient light indoors.
But with some knowledge and skill, most of these issues can be resolved. And if that’s not enough, consider spending a little more on a vintage Polaroid SX-70 foldable SLR camera — it has the best optics ever created for this type of instant film.
How to take better photos with Polaroid Now film cameras.
Polaroid Now i-Type cameras are designed as beginner-friendly devices. Indeed, they can be used as such. However, the Polaroid frames’ limited dynamic range and the built-in flash’s finite power may yield botched images. But there are a few definitive ways to get better photos with Polaroid Now (or any Polaroid-film-based cameras):
If photographing indoors, ensure that your subject and the background are close to the lens, ideally no further than 1m/3’ away. For portraits, it’s best to have the person you’re taking a picture of stand against a wall or something that will reflect the light off the flash.
Don’t shake your Polaroid picture! Doing so won’t ruin the photo, but the results will be blurrier than they could’ve been; shaking disturbs the chemicals.
Avoid shooting in the cold and hide your film from the direct sun. The film shield/frog tongue that’s built-in to the camera is made specifically to protect your frames from excessive light — keep yours in there for a few minutes and avoid storing your Polaroids in direct sunlight as it will bleach them over time. If the air is chilly, store your freshly-exposed film in a breast pocket to keep it warm as it develops.
In daylight, pick evenly-lit scenes. Avoid situations with deep shadows next to brightly lit highlights; Polaroid Now will typically avoid over-exposure, which means that your shadows may render dark and muddy.
Consider using the Trim EV mode if you are well-versed in exposure in film photography:
To access the Trim EV mode, hold the flash button down for one second. A small line will appear in the display. Tapping the flash button cycles through +½ EV → Normal EV → -½ EV. When you have chosen your EV setting, press the shutter button as you normally would. Remember: the flash is on during this time unless you turned it off previously. After two seconds, the screen will alternate displaying the film count and EV setting.
Getting creative with Polaroid film.
Polaroid Now cameras come with a built-in double-exposure mode. Not only do you get to take two pictures on a single frame, but it also is a fun, creative process that isn’t accessible on most other cameras.
Double-exposures produce an effect that’s similar to blending layers in Photoshop — although the process and the results aren’t quite replicable digitally.
To get started, you’ll need to power on your camera and press the timer button on the front of the camera twice. On the back of your camera, you’ll see “1” flashing — this is your cue to make the first exposure. Once you’ve taken your initial picture, the camera will flash “2” — which is when you can take your second picture that will get layered on top of the first one in-camera, and the frame will come out.
Another neat effect you can get with Polaroid film is emulsion lifts. This involves disassembling your freshly-exposed photograph, soaking it in water, and transferring the extremely thin emulsion (picture) layer onto paper or any other surface of your choice.
Emulsion lifts can yield beautiful wrinkling effects, slightly enlarged images, and even improved sharpness and resolution in some cases. This is an involved process that can take a couple of hours; it may even prove to be tedious but also great fun if you get it right. I’ve got an in-depth guide on how to do just that here on Analog.Cafe: “How to Make Polaroid Emulsion Lifts & Transparencies.”
Where to buy your Polaroid Now instant film camera.
Polaroid Now film cameras aren’t very expensive. They go for about $120 or $150 for the Now Plus (new). Lots of them are available on the secondary market as well — but the film you will have to buy new; it currently sells for under $20 a pack for eight frames. i-Type film is slightly cheaper, but this camera will also accept the 600-series film.
If you’re careful not to waste your film and follow the advice in this article, this may be a relatively affordable way to get into instant film photography — especially considering how large the prints are.
❤ By the way: Please consider making your Polaroid Now instant film camera purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!