Polaroid Z340 review

Instant digital camera using ZINK paper
Photo of Polaroid Z340
£230

Like Hoover, Sellotape and Tannoy, in its heyday the Polaroid brand was used almost as a generic term for a certain product. Can the instant photography concept make a comeback in the digital age? The Z340 is hot on the heels of products such as the X720E camcorder and an extension of the Lady GaGa-promoted GL10 mobile Bluetooth printer. The Polaroid variant revives the instant camera genre, with a fully featured digital point-and-shoot with integrated printer. Instant classic, or retro rubbish?

Retro design

The Z340 is certainly retro in design, as well as origin, while sporting an unusually angled, chunky shape. This sees the camera section of this product occupying the front half, and the printer at the back. Complete with a flip-up 2.7-inch LCD screen, the size, shape, weight, orientation and positioning of the shutter release-button clearly points towards the Z340 being held in both hands. Holding it with one hand isn’t nearly as comfortable, or balanced enough. All of which makes us wonder why there’s a handgrip on the left-hand side; it’s comfy enough, but it leaves a thumb (or any other digit, for that matter) in a position where it overreaches the shutter release button, by some distance.

Aside from the flip-out, that isn’t adjustable, the nature of that LCD screen on the rear/top of the Z340, is almost identical to any other camera. The usual menu and functions buttons lay around an ‘OK’ button. The only subtle difference is the inclusion of a rocker, which switches between viewing of images on the LCD screen, video and photo modes.

Accessible via a small flap in front of the LCD screen, the printer takes only 3×4-inch heat-ZINK Zero Ink paper (a pack of 30 costs £15, which works out at a high price of 50p per picture), so don’t expect full size prints.

Core specs

Away from its retro styling and unusual print feature, the Z340 can easily work as a regular digital camera – and a reasonably impressive one, at that. The usual SD Card slot is included, so the results can be exported just as easily as printed, and with that in mind its 14-megapixel sensor will come in handy. You’re not going to see the best detail on 3×4-inch ZINK paper, but that’s not really the point of this product.

Although its auto mode is going to dominate for most users, the Z340 does include a variety of scene presets alongside some manual tweaks, for white balance and ISO. Few are likely to rely on the Z340 as their main digital camera, but it does boast a video mode, too. This is capable of 1280×720 resolution movies, where the Z340 delivers fairly mediocre results, but they’ll suffice for basic YouTube uploads.

Performance

Working the Z340 is not difficult. The camera behaves as you’d expect, albeit with the shutter release in a strange place. Ditto the zoom rocker, which requires your free hand to operate. Once a picture is taken, instant printing can begin, though most will want to deactivate that feature in favour of manually choosing which photos to print, from the photo viewer. Borders can be added, red-eye reduced, and photos cropped prior to printing.

It takes about 50 seconds for a single 3×4-inch photo to be produced, though the Z340 is hardly a silent operator. This is heat-sensitive paper so the finished prints are not just free from ink and completely dry, but also matte in texture – there’s no waving this Polaroid about in the air for a minute, as with the old system. We printed five images, each of which appeared a touch soft and washed-out, when compared to a digital version produced from a ‘proper’ printer, though gone is the slightly purple-ish tint of the Polaroids of old. Compared to a dedicated printer, the results are poor, but for the Z340’s purposes of instant gratification, they will do just fine.

Although the process of taking pictures is relatively slow and cumbersome when compared to a decent point-and-shoot, the results are good. From a dedicated photo printer, we managed to produce rich, vibrant digital photos from the SD Card that displayed plenty of detail from shots in bright conditions, while indoors (a crucial playground for a ‘party’ camera) the Z340 exceeded our expectations by managing relatively clear, clean images.

A fully charged Z340 can easily get through a pack of 30 photo sheets as well as taking over 100 photos – there’s no problem in that department.

Company: Polaroid

Website: http://www.firebox.com/

Contact: 0800 044 5010

Positives
  • Instant pictures; build quality; core specs.
Negative
  • Lacklustre ZINK prints; expensive to run; odd design.

Verdict

The built-in, all-in-one nature of the Z340 is a thing to behold. We’re sure it will find success as both a novelty item at events and for business-related site visits, where instant photography could be irresistible. The results are nothing special in terms of quality, but despite that and some design oddities. the Z340 offers enough as an all-round digital camera to more than meet its brief.