Hands-on with Polaroid’s interchangeable lens camera

The company that once made the most used instant film hasn’t exactly been entirely successful keeping itself relevant in a digital society, but Polaroid is branching out and trying to reinvent its cameras for today, and thanks to CES, we’ve had a play with one.

Launching as the iM2132, this camera is Polaroid’s first push into the world of digital interchangeable lens cameras, including its own lens and mount, which Polaroid claims uses the Micro Four-Thirds system, which should provide compatibility for Olympus and Panasonic lenses.

The specs of this little camera include a 3.5 inch LCD screen that can flip up, 18.1 megapixel sensor, WiFi, ISO up to 3200, SD card slot, and pop-up flash.

In the hands, it’s a surprisingly comfortable fit, though we can’t say that this camera is at all well built. Whether or not the samples Polaroid brought to CES were prototypes, the cheapness of its build is a feeling that was completely unavoidable.

Aesthetically, it’s hard not to see that Polaroid has borrowed the look and design of a Nikon camera for this model. The interchangeable lens it will arrive with doesn’t only boast the same range, but a close-to-identical font.

It’s actually the second of the mirror-less cameras Polaroid was showing, with a smaller model – the iM8316 – borrowing yet another Nikon design, but producing a more compact body with the similar specs and the ability to run Android, similar to Samsung’s Galaxy Camera.

Interestingly, a spokesperson for Polaroid told us that the company will be making lens adapters for pretty much every camera brand, so you’ll be able to bring your Nikon, Canon, Sony, and Pentax lenses across to these cameras, while also being able to take advantage of lenses already in the systems in use by each of these bodies.

We’re not quite sure how good the quality of images will be, but the feeling we had from our play with the iM2132 could be explained with one word, or one name, anyway: Holga.

Photo enthusiasts may have heard the term in the past, and it harks back to a camera considered one of the most inexpensive ways one can get started in the world of medium-format film photography.

The Holga is a camera that features a plastic body, moveable film frames – to let you change the aspect ratio of the shot – and a very cheap lens, making it one of the most cost-effective cameras for enthusiast photographers. In fact, the Holga camera tends to be so poorly built that you have to attach the back with duct tape every time you want to re-use the camera.

Everyone with a Holga knows that it’s a cheap camera, but the images you can get out of it can often be very good, because even though it’s not a high quality shooter, the images come down to the skill of the photographer.

There hasn’t ever been a digital Holga, but Polaroid’s interchangeable cameras might just fill that spot, albeit with a body that lets you run your own lenses.

We’re not expecting amazing quality here, mind you. Polaroid’s previous attempts at digital cameras haven’t been incredible, and the lack of quality was obvious in our hands-on with this body at CES, from the plastic lens and body to the low-grade LCD used in the build and weak menu systems.

Still, if Polaroid can bring this model to Australia with a reasonably inexpensive price point, it could provide some interesting competition in the mirror-less camera game.

Leigh D. Stark traveled to CES as a guest of LG Electronics Australia.