Gadling @CES2010 — Polaroid moves back to its roots

Polaroid invited me to their VIP event at CES. Instead of gathering everyone behind a crowded booth on the show floor, the company rented the 12,600 sq. ft. Conrad Hilton Sky Villa (where Barry Manilow normally sleeps). Polaroid is not the same company it used to be – the original Polaroid went bankrupt (twice), and after years of uncertainty, the remaining parts of the iconic brand were picked up by investment firms Hilco and Gordon Brothers. The Polaroid brand is one of the most powerful in the world, in the charts with Coca Cola and Apple, so the joint owners are very well aware of its potential.

At the 2010 CES, Polaroid announced several cool new developments:

  • The return of the original instant camera and instant film
  • Expansion of their ZINK portable instant printer lineup

The return of the instant camera and film

When Polaroid announced the closure of the remaining instant film production facilities, fans all around the world were crushed. Sure – Polaroid instant cameras had mostly been replaced by digital photography, but the original Polaroid camera still had a massive following. The prints were recognizable all over the world, and almost everyone in the US had their photo taken with a Polaroid at one point in their life.

Hardcore fans put together a plan to purchase the equipment from the new owners of Polaroid, and signed a lease for the old production plant in the Netherlands. This has now evolved into something pretty cool – Polaroid is bringing back the instant camera. Later this year, the new Polaroid PIC 1000 will hit store shelves. It looks and feels exactly like you’d expect from a Polaroid, and it will still take the original 600 instant film. The camera comes from Polaroid (and one of their partners) and the film is being produced by “The Impossible Project”.

Expansion of the ZINK printer lineup

Polaroid was the first company in the world to produce a product using ZINK technology. ZINK stand for “Zero Ink” and the technology produces small prints from a printer with no ink (hence the name). Until now, the Polaroid PoGo printers only produced tiny 2″ x 3″ prints, and at that size, they are pretty useless. Sure – the final product looks decent (often a bit dull), and it takes about a minute to make a print, but it is still cool to see the technology in action.

Later this year, the “tiny print” problem will go away, thanks to a new 3″ x 4″ ZINK printer. Of course, the print speed will most likely be the same, and they will suffer from the same fairly high price per print as the current generation, but I’m happy to see some more developments in the technology. Polaroid ZINK printers are available as pocket printer (with USB and Bluetooth) and built into a camera.