And now for something completely different: the Polaroid PoGo Instant Printer

Almost 10 years after digital photography started replacing silver-halide technologies for everyday use, there is still no equivalent to the user experience that the instant cameras (Polaroid) of yesteryear used to offer. With a digital camera (or a good mobile phone), you can take pictures and immediately visualize them, email them or post them on social networking sites, but you still need a relatively bulky equipment to print pictures. Distributing prints during a party of a social event – a very common (although expensive) practice in the Polaroid days, now requires some planning: you need a laptop, a printer, a table and one or two power outlets – a far cry from the press-the-shutter-release-share-the-print experience of instant cameras.

Polaroid PoGo printer next to a Pictbridge compatible camera
Polaroid POGO printer next to a Pictbridge compatible camera. A picture taken by the camera and printed on the PoGo is shown next to a business card. The business card is a bit wider than the printed picture.

A few weeks ago, Polaroid started selling a relatively low end digital camera (5MP), the PoGo Instant Digital Camera , equipped with a built in printer. It is a welcome evolution from the PoGo Instant Printer they launched last year.

In both cases, Polaroid is using a technology developed by a company named ZINK (for Zero INK). In a nutshell, ZINK is using a thermal paper containing cyan, yellow and magenta crystals, which are revealed by the heat provided by the printer head. Apart from the paper itself, no consumable is needed, and the process does not use any liquid and produces no waste. It does not need a lot of power either, and can be packaged in a pocket sized device powered by Lithium-Ion batteries.

The PoGo Instant Printer was the first product based on ZINK technologies to be widely available in the US. The size of a paperback book, it fits in a large pocket. It is battery powered, contains a pack of 10 sheets of ZINK paper, and is ready to use provided you find a cell phone or a camera compatible with it.

Printing with the PoGo printer:

Compatibility is one of the issues that the user of the PoGo printer will face:

  • cell phones can only connect to the PoGo if a “Bluetooth print” driver has been implemented by the phone manufacturer.
  • Polaroid published a long list of compatible phones, but it does not include the iPhone or any Android device, or any phone brought to market during the last 18 months. It looks as if the cell phone makers (and the carriers) had stopped supporting the PoGo technology. Too bad.

  • digital cameras supporting the PictBridge standard.
  • Pictbridge is an industry standard adopted by the major manufacturers of digital cameras. I tested the PoGo printer with a tiny Sony Cybershot T20, and with a Nikon D80. In both cases, it is necessary to use the USB cable provided with the camera. The PoGo is very sensitive to the connection sequence (practice before you use it in public for the first time) but once you know what to connect and power on first, it works as advertised: select the picture to print on the camera, activate the Pictbridge “print” command, and after sixty seconds, the PoGo magically ejects a print. It has to be noted that the PoGo only prints JPEG files (no RAW files – convert them to JPEG in the camera before printing).

    Print with a Pogo Printer
    Color print produced by a Pogo printer connected a Nikon D80 with the Pictbridge function enabled)

    The quality of the prints

    The prints are small – 7.5cm x 5.0 cm (approximately 2×3″). Since the camera and the PoGo printer are directly connected, all the adjustments to the images have to be done through the menus of the camera. The color balance is difficult to set right – the pictures coming from the Sony T20 tended to have a pinkish-redish hue, the pictures coming out of the Nikon D80 were a bit yellow, but it can be fixed. The definition of the pictures is surprisingly good, and dynamic range of the prints is acceptable: the shadows are detailed, but the highlights tend to be a bit washed. The prints are perfectly usable, and thanks to their small size, they will fit in a wallet between two credit cards.


    The PoGo printer is a first attempt at producing a really pocketable printer. It works relatively well, and is not very expensive ($40 for the printer, $0.30 per print), but it it is not very practical to use and looks a lot like a proof of concept for the ZINK process.

  • Most of the cell phones and smart-phones that people currently buy and use are not compatible with the PoGo
  • cameras have to be connected to the printer with a USB cable (the printer only offers Bluetooth connectivity for cell phones, and does not support WiFi).
  • Its battery is depleted after 15 images have been printed, and the power brick is as large – and heavier – than the printer itself.

  • The ZINK process shows lots of promises – it’s a relatively cheap and eco-friendly way to produce pictures on the go. Polaroid’s decision to integrate the printer in a digicam (and to resurrect the old Polaroid instant camera experience) is obviously the way to go. Zink is also proposing 4 x 6 paper, but nobody so far has tried to integrate a 4 x 6 printer in a digital camera. That would be great, though. A sort of modern equivalent to the SX-70 cameras. Mr Polaroid, please…

    More about the PoGo printer

    An interesting review by Tracy and Matt (that’s the name of their Web site)

    Polaroid SX-70 Alpha 1 Model 2 (close up) - when will we get a ZINK equivalent?
    Polaroid SX-70 Alpha 1 Model 2. The lens (4 glass elements with close focus capabilities) is much better than the single element plastic lens used on the non folding Polaroid cameras such as the One step.

    One thought on “And now for something completely different: the Polaroid PoGo Instant Printer

    1. Congratulation on your innovation for the Pogo instant print camera. It is indeed a welcome development. It would be more appreciated if can be upgraded to a 4 by 6 inches output for commercial purpose. Thanks and I do hope you take this comment into cosideration.

      Oyakhilome D.

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