For a Silicon Valley gadget designer, Robert Brunner can get surprisingly nostalgic. “Very few people print pictures anymore,” says the founder and president of design firm Ammunition. “Now, you share on social media, or at a party you pass the phone around. Photography used to be about that sense of joy and the physical artifact.” These days, photos are digital ephemera, not keepsakes. In a world where we casually scroll through, tap on, and instantly forget hundreds of photos each day, Brunner asks, “How do you reestablish something that has value?” Brunner ponders questions like this because Polaroid is among his firm’s clients, along with companies that make things like Beats, Nook, and the new Obi Worldphone. With Polaroid, Brunner and the Ammunition team set out to redefine the retro instant photography company for a smartphone-carrying audience. The Polaroid Snap ($99) is their latest attempt.
The Snap—Ammunition’s third design for Polaroid, after last year’s Cube action camera and Zip instant mobile printer—is a decidedly modern instant camera. Unlike its predecessors, it doesn’t use ink cartridges. Instead, it uses inkless printing tech developed by a company called Zink. Heat from the printer reacts with dye crystals embedded in the photo paper to create the image.
The Snap is a funny camera. For one thing, it’s a point-and-shoot at a time when, as Brunner admits, “the idea of needing a dedicated point-and-shoot camera is going away.” On top of that, it’s a point-and-shoot that doesn’t allow the level of editing that even a basic tool like Instagram does. There’s no image customization beyond a button for color, black-and-white, or sepia filters. But, unlike other instant cameras, this one is small enough to fit in your pocket, just like your phone. You can’t fetishize its chunky ’70s-era body and pop-up vintage flash bulb, because it doesn’t have them.