Polaroid saw the curtain raise early on its Android-based interchangeable lens cameras thanks to early leaks, but today was the first day we got to go hands on with the new cameras at CES 2013. The cameras, based on Android 4.1 (but fully upgradeable to 4.2, Polaroid tells me), feature a 10-30mm F2.8 lens (which maintains that aperture through the zoom range) and a pop-up flash, and they come in three flavors, including two with built-in Wi-Fi.
The cameras are advertised as lightweight, and they felt surprisingly so; the bodies appear to be made mostly of plastic, and don’t have the rigid metal lens mounts you may be used to if you’re coming from a DSLR. The price reflects the feel of the build, however, at an entry-level pricing of $349, which puts it well under the average range for interchangeable lens cameras.
Android on the camera works pretty much as you’d expect Android to, offering all the conveniences of direct integration with Instagram and Facebook apps, but with some of the quirks inherent in using a smartphone OS on a camera, too. The OS stuttered and froze a couple of times, but this device is planned for a Q2 launch after all; there are bound to be bugs at this stage.
Polaroid’s interchangeable lens system will include a zoom lens and a pancake to be released following the camera’s introduction, a company representative told me, so there will be more than the general-purpose walkaround lens for photographers to experiment with. All told, it’s still very early days for this camera, and the price point and vision of the product are ambitious, to say the least. If the shipping hardware can offer the style of these prototypes, but at $350, and if Polaroid can nail the experience for a broad audience, we could see a significant change in the accessibility and appeal of the interchangeable lens market from a company that some would likely peg as an unlikely contender.