On first contact, the Polaroid Z340 brings back all kind of warm fuzzy memories of the original instant-print cameras. Once the wave of nostalgia passes, you start to see the Z340 for what it actually is: a massive contraption made entirely from rather unflattering plastic. When you tap the casing, it sounds hollow.
The Z340 isn't the most ergonomically designed camera out there. The angular edges, the smooth, slippery plastic and the device's weight (618 g) mean that you'll need to hold it with two hands to keep things stable.
The interface is simple, and although the menus don't have a particularly stylish design, they're still clear and easy to read. The buttons are of similar quality to the camera body, and you'll have to be pretty insistent with the shutter-release and mode selector (video, photo, playback), as these are quite stiff. They're not particularly nice to touch either.
The Z340 is no speed demon. It's slow to start up (and with a fixed-focal-length lens, this doesn't have anything to do with powerful optics) and photo-to-photo turnaround could drive some users up the wall.
With its 5-Megapixel CMOS sensor (with interpolation to 7 million pixels), the camera part of the Polaroid Two was actually more like a webcam than a stand-alone camera. This time, the least we can say is that Polaroid has loaded the Z340 with a proper camera, based on a 14-Megapixel CCD and a more advanced lens.
Sensitivity is always a bit of a delicate matter with CCD sensors, and no miracles have been worked in the Z340. Noise and smoothing appear at 400 ISO, intensifying at 800 ISO to wipe out the contour lines on the map in our test scene. Both indoors and outdoors, the white balance tends to be a little on the warm side (red), but exposure is fine.
The Z340 lens isn't too bad. At wide-angle (which is 43 mm nonetheless!), the image is nicely detailed and consistent in quality over the frame. But with a fixed-focal-length lens, anything less would have been disappointing. There's no optical zoom in this camera, just a digital zoom that crops the image, stretching out pixels as it goes. Telephoto shots therefore look pretty terrible.
All in all, image quality at lower ISO settings is worthy of three stars, but quality at higher ISO settings and the awful digital zoom cost this camera a star.
The Z340 films 720p video with decent but not exceptional picture quality. Sound is recorded in mono. It's not awful quality, but a slight hiss is present in the background of very quiet scenes. Note too that the white balance isn't great under artificial light, with a strong yellow overtone. Plus, a slight speckling of digital noise is strangely visible in lighter parts of the picture.
- All-in-one camera and photo printer
- Print quality has improved
- Easy to use
- Decent picture quality in good light
- No stabilisation, no real wide-angle
- Sensitivity could be better / White balance a bit warm
- TN screen
- Handling isn't great
- Generally quite slow to use
- Video mode (sharpness, colours, mono sound)
After a few disappointing first attempts, Polaroid is back with a much better all-in-one digital camera and photo printer. The Z340 is no five-star show-stopper, but it takes pictures like an entry-level compact and spits them out as reasonable quality prints.