Review: Polaroid GL10 Instant Photo Printer

Next Story

Eink’s Screens Explained With A Snowglobe

Short version: A nice-looking device, and it works more or less as advertised, but the quality of the printing simply isn’t good enough. If you want instant photos, analog is still the way to go.

Features:

  • Bluetooth transfer of images
  • Designed by Haus of Gaga
  • Uses Polaroid Zink thermal imaging paper
  • Printing photo takes about 20 seconds
  • MSRP: $170

Pros:

  • Handsome, fairly compact design
  • Negligible setup
  • Photos really do print more or less instantly

Cons:

  • Prints have smeary, desaturated color and poor resolution
  • Around a dollar per shot means it ain’t cheap either

Full review:

The Grey Label line of Polaroid products, first announced at CES early this year, seemed promising. Apart from those sunglasses, anyway. The GL10 printer is the first real fruit of that design effort, and with the sunglasses and camera no-shows as yet.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t set a very promising precedent, at least as far as print quality is concerned. The products of the printer are really the most important thing, so I may as well just come out and say that they’re pretty bad. Unless you want to take a few tries correcting each image for the shortcomings of the colors and contrast in these prints, the results are likely to be unsatisfying.

Take a look at this photo of my parents’ deck and the dog. Here is the original (half sized but you get the idea). As you can see, allowing for the usual weaknesses of phonecam shots, it’s actually quite sharp and vibrant. Here is it next to the Zink version:

Lacks something, doesn’t it?

The same result occurred in a number of shots I tried, with different people, various lighting situations, and so on. There’s not much I can say in their favor. They’re desaturated and there isn’t much detail retained, even from a large and sharp photo. It’s not the charming kind of low fidelity, the kind that’s a major part of the Polaroid legacy.

The free Grey Label app is pretty weak too, considering the popularity and functionality of apps like Instagram. You can add text and effects, but you can’t rotate the text or make it very large, and you’re limited to one effect. No black and white and Polaroid border for you! You can take pictures in-app, as well, but they don’t appear to… use the camera properly. The image is stretched vertically and the autofocus wouldn’t go. Not the best companion app I’ve ever used.

The device itself, however, is perfectly functional and easy to use. I charged it, turned it on, and paired it with my phone without any trouble at all. After that, I simply sent pictures using the existing “Send using Bluetooth” option, and after a bit of a wait (Bluetooth isn’t the quickest at file transfers, and my images were ~4-5MB) the print started to emerge. About 20 seconds later, it was done (and dropping on the floor). If you want to print more, just hit the button on the side and it’ll spit out another.

I never had any trouble printing, but there isn’t much to mess up. I can imagine a paper jam but I don’t think it’s very likely, and the Zink paper is sturdy enough to pull out from one end or another if that happens.

The design is tasteful and I wouldn’t mind it sitting out on a desk or shelf. It’s fairly light and wouldn’t fall apart if you brought it on a trip with you — but it’s not compact enough for a night out.

Conclusion

Ultimately the product is about printing photographs, and it simply doesn’t do that very well. I’m a little apprehensive now regarding the upcoming camera. If the quality is the same, then it’s not going to be worth buying no matter how cool it looks. If you want a fun, cool way to make instant pictures, there are a few cameras like the Lomo Diana F+ I reviewed last year that use Fujifilm Instax film, which ends up costing a little more but is much more fun to use. Hopefully Polaroid can up the color and sharpness on these devices, but until then they’re just not good enough.

Product page: Polaroid GL10 instant photo printer