Enter the Polaroid Go — a $99 analog camera that offers loads of creativity for your photography desires. The prints are small — roughly 3.5 inches by 2.1 inches — so they’ll fit perfectly in small spaces or frames, or can be combined for a larger collage.
It’s pretty simple to navigate once you’ve tinkered around a little bit. Polaroid doesn’t offer a lot of instruction, so we found it to be a lot of trial and error to get the shot we were looking for. Once we got the hang of it, though, it was mostly smooth sailing.
We’ve spent a couple of weeks testing out the Polaroid Go, and we’re into it. We have some gripes, and we’ll spell them out a bit later, but for the most part the camera is fun and downright cute.
The who, what and how:
Who it’s for: The Go is a great option if you’re looking for a highly portable analog camera. You can get away with simple point-and-snap photos but can also take advantage of settings like double exposure and a self timer.
What you need to know: As the smallest camera in Polaroid’s lineup, the Go had no problem traveling with us in a purse, backpack or tote. The Go isn’t pocket-size at 4.1 inches by 3.3 inches by 2.4 inches, but it works well in a bag. A battery charge takes about two hours and will last you through 15 packs of film. Another bonus is that the camera will turn off after a period of inactivity to save battery life.
How it compares: The Go is smaller than the Fujifilm Instax Mini ($61.77, originally $69.95; amazon.com) and Polaroid Now+ ($149.99; polaroid.com), but you get a solid combination of features that you’d get from the larger options. The small film prints of the Instax paired with the photography features like double exposure and timer capabilities of the Now+ are brought together in this mini camera. The price tag on the Go is slightly higher than that of the Instax, but we feel the difference is justified by the additional features.
Design, setup and battery
Like the Polaroid Now+, the Go, while housing all its features in a smaller build, looks like a classic camera from the brand. It’s pretty pint-size in that you can fit it comfortably in your hand, but it also doesn’t lack a long roster of ways to shoot. To be precise, it measures in at 4.1 inches by 3.3 inches by 2.4 inches and is similar in size to a grapefruit.
You’re able to shoot in modes like double exposure, selfie and timer and of course standard point and shoot. And switching between those modes is all done with a large red shutter button and flash control switch on the front. So yes, the basics are covered here and the only really missing modes — like aperture mode, tripod mode and light painting — are reserved for a higher-price unit like the Now+.
The key piece of any instant print camera would be the film to print the image in. Loading film into the Go was as simple as hitting a button and having the bottom of the camera up. You’ll then find the film tray and can slide in a film pack — just make sure you line it up properly. Polaroid’s design is smart here, with graphics that guide you in, and the film-loading experience is much easier than on the Now+.
You should do this while the camera is on, since once you’ve shut the film tray the exposure protection will be released and you’re ready to start capturing photos. The Polaroid Go doesn’t come with any paper out of the box, which was disappointing, but on par with other analog and film camera options. You’ll need to purchase a pack or two, like this double pack with 16 prints for $19.99.
Polaroid promises that a full charge on the Go is enough to last through 15 film packs. And in our testing over several weeks we found that to be accurate. We didn’t shoot through 15 packs of film, but between using the camera here and there throughout two weeks we didn’t have to recharge. And when it comes to charging the Go, you can use the included USB-A to Micro USB cable for 0% to 100% in just under two hours. You’ll need to bring your own wall plug, though, as one is not included in the box.
Another great feature is that it will automatically shut off after a few minutes of inactivity. This way you’ll be able to save the battery and not have it run out after a quick period of time. The battery-saving feature is a huge bonus.
A few steps before capturing candids
The Polaroid Go features different modes for different styles of photos. Fear not, though — if you still want to take a standard point-and-shoot shot, it’s still as simple as that: just point and shoot. On average — regardless of shooting mode — images took around 15 minutes to develop after the Polaroid Go spit them out. The development time is the same as the Now+ and a little longer than that of the Instax Mini. You’re ultimately left with a shot that’s on the lo-fi and darker side but still cute and fun.
For selfies, the front of the viewfinder acts as a mirror, which makes it easy to frame the shot. You won’t have to switch anything on the camera to take a selfie either; you just turn the camera to face you and take your photo. The act of engaging the self timer is a bit trickier and Polaroid doesn’t offer much explanation or instruction for activating this. You have to hold the flash button down for two seconds and then press the shutter button to activate the nine-second timer. There’s nothing in the box that explains this clearly, which is why it took us some time to figure out.
Similarly, engaging the unique double exposure mode was pretty difficult. This effect lets you overlay two different images on the same film print (think a portrait overlaid on a bouquet of flowers). You have to double tap the flash button until the film counter displays the number one. This signals that the camera is ready to take the first image or exposure. If you lightly tap the shutter button it’ll start to capture the image and expose the film. The longer you hold the camera on the image the stronger the image will stay on the film print. Clicking the button will finalize that capture and let you take the second shot. There’s no set time to hold before the final capture; it’s up to you how strong you want the first image to be on the film print. Then the film counter will display the number two and that’s how you’ll know you’re ready for the second image.
With double exposure shots, the photos tended to develop on the darker side, whether we were filming in daylight or night light. This was frustrating because even with flash on, some images just didn’t develop fully, which leads to a poor shot. Polaroid suggests letting the photo sit under the exposure sheet for about five seconds, and whether or not we did this, photos erred on the darker side.
Ultimately we didn’t love the Polaroid Go for much beyond standard point-and-shoot and selfie photos. Double exposure was tricky to figure out given the very limited instruction, plus the lack of info on the camera screen — and even the timer was a bit of a pain to set up. With the $149.99 Now+, you had the option of using an app for better control and understanding of your shot and better understanding of the camera function.
With the Go, there’s a lot left up to sheer guessing, and with only so many prints per film pack, you don’t want to sacrifice too many shots. It’s great for simple picture snapping and quick print sharing, though, and we think it’s worth it on that end. If you have the time and patience to work out the double exposure, it sure is fun, but odds are it’ll take a bit of practice.
Using the Polaroid Go is simple and fun, and leaves you with cute prints to share with your family, friends and to hang up and hold on to. At $99 it’s a small but technically advanced camera that is easy to take with you out and about.
We think it’s a super-fun addition to any gathering with friends and family. And, with the holiday season on the horizon, it makes for an excellent addition to family and group gatherings to capture fun memories that everyone can take home at the end of the night.
If you’re on the market for a point-and-shoot cam, the Go is great. For those looking to get a bit more artistic and take as much advantage of film camera features while using an analog camera, the Now+ is a better fit.