Inexpensive. Selfie mirror. In-camera filters and editing tools. Doesn't require ink for printing. Smartphone printing via Bluetooth. Affordable prints.
Underwhelming image and print quality. Slow autofocus. Lackluster LCD. Quirky UI.
- Bottom Line
The Polaroid Snap Touch is a fun, affordable camera with a built-in printer, but it's slow and only offers smartphone-level image quality.
By Jim Fisher
The Polaroid brand is synonymous with cameras that spit out a finished image after you've tripped the shutter button. In the old days this meant a unique piece of photographic film that developed in front of your eyes. The Polaroid Snap Touch ($179.99) doesn't use film. It captures images digitally and prints them on demand using heat-sensitive paper, so there's no ink to worry about. The camera can be a lot of fun—especially if you want to hand out prints to friends and family—but its performance and image quality are disappointing. There are modern instant cameras that use chemical film, including our low-cost Editors' Choice Fujifilm Instax Mini 8, that are better choices for fun, instant snapshots.
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The Snap Touch is an attractive camera. It's very pocket friendly, measuring 4.0 by 6.1 by 1.1 inches (HWD) and weighing about 8.9 ounces. Rounded corners, a fun rainbow stripe accent running across the front, and a soft red shutter button make it easy to hold and use. You can choose a version in your favorite color—we received the camera in white, but Polaroid also sells it in black, blue, pink, purple, and red.
There aren't a lot of controls. The shutter release is on the top, along with the pop-up flash. The flash is also the power control. Pressing in at the center of the top raises it and turns on the camera. A small mirror sits next to the flash—you can use it to frame a selfie.
The rear is almost all screen. The LCD is big, 3.5 inches, but offers a sparse 460k-dot resolution. You can't make out fine details in the frame when setting up or reviewing a shot. It's not possible to zoom an image when reviewing shots, so you can't check for fine focus before making a print.
The touch experience isn't great. Icons are fairly low resolution, and viewing the screen from an askew angle limits visibility. The interface is a bit inconsistent—sometimes you'll press a back arrow to leave a menu, other times the arrow isn't there and you need to tap on the screen to return to taking pictures. In the ultimate example of randomness, the camera shows a cartoon skull and crossbones, with rabbit ears, when asking you if you want to delete an image.
The Snap Touch has some internal memory, so a microSD card isn't required. But it only has enough room for about 14 images. You're supposed to be able to use memory cards up to 128GB in size, though my 128GB test card caused it to lock up. The only way to get the camera working again was to let its battery drain fully, remove the card, and recharge the camera using its micro USB port—the battery isn't removable. A 64GB card worked without issue.
The Snap uses Zink paper, which costs about $0.50 per image and produces borderless prints that are 3 by 2 inches in size. If you've got young kids, be careful giving them prints, because each is also a sticker—the back peels off to reveal an adhesive—and kids love sticking stickers to things that shouldn't have stickers on them. The rear LCD swings out from the body to reveal the paper compartment.
If you don't like the borderless look, you can add a plain or colored border to images in camera. It's also possible to add Snapchat-like stickers to photos—a flower, heart, lips, smiley face, and sunglasses face are available. The camera also shoots photos with a filter—black-and-white, negative, sketch art, and a faded vintage look are options. Borders, filters, and stickers can be applied before or after you take a shot, and you can apply multiple filters to the same shot. The process is progressive, so if you add a sticker and then apply the sketch filter, the filter will apply to the sticker. But stickers added after the filter is set will appear as normal. So it does matter in which order you edit photos.
You can also print images from a smartphone. You need to connect it via Bluetooth and use the Polaroid Print app (for Android and iOS). I had a little trouble connecting the Snap Touch to my iPhone at first, but after updating the camera firmware it worked like a charm. The app prompts you to connect the phone via its interface, but you first need to pair the phone and camera using the main Settings menu in your phone. Wireless printing makes the Snap Touch a more versatile device—think of it like the Instax Share SP-2 printer with its own lens.
Print quality is mixed, though. The image size is actually a bit bigger than the Instax Mini format used by the SP-2 in order to accomodate borders, but handling images can be a concern. The glossy finish picks up fingerprints easily, which made me yearn for the imageless border of real instant film.
Details are crisp in prints—I made a few from high-resolution shots captured with an SLR to show the format at its best—but there's noticeable banding in areas of uniform color. A blue sky is riddled with narrow lines that are much lighter in color, akin to a scratch on film. Colors are mostly good, with the exceptions of tones that drift toward magenta.
I printed a shot of a pig statue that was shot on Kodachrome 25—the bright pink finish that I see on my screen and in a print from a photo lab is muted in tone on Zink paper. Once I saw that effect I printed another shot on my phone, a pink water lily captured with Canon G1 X Mark II. The deeply saturated petals came out as a muted, darker purple, and the orange center appears as one solid color, not the gradient tone in the original shot.
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So while the SP-2 produces smaller images, it does a much better job reproducing the entirety of the color spectrum. If you're patient, you can wait for the upcoming Instax Square SQ10, an instant camera with a digital sensor that makes square instant film prints that are 2.4 inches on each side. It doesn't have any sort of Wi-Fi, but Fujifilm says you can print any JPG image from a microSD card. That's not the case here—the Snap Touch just says "Image Error" when trying to view or print a JPG shot with another camera that has been loaded onto a card.
Performance and Image Quality
The Snap Touch is really, really slow. It takes about 5.6 seconds to power on and snap a photo, which is an eternity when trying to capture a candid moment. Autofocus is also slow, clocking in at 2.7 seconds. The camera doesn't always try to engage AF before taking an image—when that's the case it grabs a shot in a more reasonable 0.2-second. But autofocus is engaged before most shots, which slows operation. Focus accuracy is inconsistent—I'd say that most shots focused properly, but about one of every 10 is a complete out-of-focus blur.
There's no continuous drive setting available—this isn't the camera to use if you want to shoot multiple consecutive shots of fast-moving action. Manually shooting in succession netted an average 3.3 seconds between each photo. It's not a consistent interval—our tests showed lapses as short as 1.8 seconds and as long as 5.9 seconds.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the 3.4mm f/2.4 lens, which captures images that are about equal in view to a 26mm prime in full-frame photography. The lens is reasonably sharp, netting 1,970 lines per picture height on Imatest's sharpness test. That's not as good as the lens on a smartphone with a comparable image sensor. The iPhone 7 nets 2,454 lines on the same test, and the Galaxy S7 shows 2,717 lines.
Our sharpness test is performed at a camera's lowest light sensitivity (ISO) setting. The Snap Touch doesn't support manual ISO adjustment, but it will increase its ISO when shooting in dim conditions. In our studio scene I was able to get it to shoot at the lowest ISO 50 setting, as well as ISO 100 and ISO 800 by adjusting the strength of our lights. As you can see from the images in our slideshow, image quality at ISO 50 is pretty solid, lagging just behind similar test shots from an iPhone 7 in detail—you won't be able to tell the difference in the real world.
But at just ISO 100, details are very heavily blurred. When comparing it with shots from a flagship smartphone at the same ISO, you'll see the smartphone resolving much more detail. The ISO 800 shot is a big blur, but smartphones don't show much detail when pushed that far either. For low light, you'll definitely want to use the Snap Touch's flash to get the best detail out of photos.
In a typical home interior I was seeing the camera default to ISO 200 or 400, which certainly isn't as crisp as ISO 50. Noise reduction works to minimize grain, but because of this a selfie or similar portrait is going to smooth skin, giving your subject a bit of a waxy look. If you love the smooth skin filter in modern cameras you probably won't mind.
The Snap Touch also records video at up to 1080p quality at 30fps. Video quality is fine—the frame rate is smooth and colors are accurate. There's no image stabilization, so handheld footage can be a little jittery. The Snap Touch is likely to get more use as a still camera, but it's nice to have video as an option.
The Polaroid Snap Touch is a camera that should be loads of fun and easy to recommend—an affordable, pocketable, point-and-shoot that can print small photos on demand should be a crowd-pleaser. But it has a few too many drawbacks to give it a hearty endorsement. It's slow to turn on and focus, occasionally struggles to capture a properly focused shot, image quality isn't as good as a top-end smartphone, and print quality is a bit spotty as well, especially in colors toward the magenta end of the spectrum. The Snap Touch gets some points simply based on its novelty, but there are other ways to create small instant prints.
You can save a good deal of money and go with an entry-level Instax Mini camera like the Fujifilm Instax 8 or the new Instax Mini 9 ($69.95). You'll lose the ability to capture digital shots and print images shot with other cameras, but you'll get the real instant film experience. There's also the aforementioned Instax Square SQ10. It's not out yet, and it's more expensive at $280, but it makes prints on photographic film from digital captures, and lets you print any shot from a memory card. Finally, there's the Instax Share SP-2, a $200 printer that uses Instax Mini film and connects wirelessly with your smartphone. It's not a camera, but will net glossy prints with a physical border and better color reproduction than the Zink format offers.
By Jim Fisher Senior Analyst, Digital Cameras
Senior digital camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H Photo, where he wrote thousands upon thousands of product descriptions, blog posts, and reviews. Since then he's shot with hundreds of camera models, ranging from pocket point-and-shoots to medium format… More »
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