Update April 2020: Polaroid Originals is now just ‘Polaroid.’ Along with the rebranding comes a new lower price for the OneStep 2, making it an even better buy than before. I recommend getting it over the slightly more expensive Polaroid Now.
The iconic Polaroid OneStep is back! Well, sort of.
This is actually the Impossible Project/Polaroid Originals’ second attempt at building a camera. Last year we saw the incredibly innovative, yet at times frustrating I-1 camera. However, the high price point (and likely non-Polaroid branding) held the camera back from the heights of Fuji Instax Mini sales glory.
This year, however, that camera has been overhauled, simplified, and blessed with the Polaroid brand and iconography. It’s an eye-catching camera, with an impulse purchase price of 100 USD (Update: now even cheaper in some markets with the rebranding!). Everyone who spots it always tells me how cool it looks. I think it’s going to sell like crazy.
So how does the OneStep 2 fare as an instant film camera? With a no-fuss, simplified focus, how does it stack up to vintage Polaroid cameras?
Long story short: this is an awesome beginner camera, but if you’ve already invested in a more advanced camera like the Impulse AF, SLR 680, or even the Impossible I-1, feel free to skip it.
Once again, Impossible/Polaroid Originals hits it out of the park with design. It’s noticeably cheaper in materials and feel than the I-1, but it still looks great. I have the white version, which gives off that classic vibe a bit more than the sleeker black one.
The camera looks like what would happen if the Impossible I-1 and Polaroid OneStep had a baby. The front panel, lens, and shutter are all clearly riffs on the OneStep’s iconic design. Honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t include the rainbow stripe sticker below the lens.
Like the OneStep, this camera is super simple to use. Turn it on (Polaroids never had to be turned on, but this is a simple enough step to figure out), then press the big red button on the front to get a picture. That’s it. It’s the kind of simplicity Fuji still can’t figure out with their cameras.
There are some other buttons and knobs, which I’ll get into below, but it can all be easily and safely ignored. The camera is blissfully simple, which is the biggest advantage of the OneStep 2 for newbies and those who just want to take a picture without all the fuss and stress.
The viewfinder is big and bright, and much easier to see through than the original OneStep’s tiny viewfinder hole. However, it keeps a quirk of the I-1 that makes it a bit imprecise, where there’s no ’tube’ (for lack of a better word) that you press your eye to. You have to sort of guess how far your eye should be away from the viewfinder, which makes it hard to gauge the rough edges of your image.
Even though this is a cheaper camera, there’s still thankfully a flash on/off button. However, most people should probably just keep the flash on, as only bright sunny days are going to be bright enough that you won’t need it to prevent blurry photos. Polaroid Originals seems to be aware of this, which is why the ‘flash off’ button is hidden and has to be held down while pressing the shutter in order to keep the flash off.
There’s also a timer button, which is a super helpful addition for those interested in self portraits on a tripod. Rounding things out, there’s an exposure compensation slider, but it only goes one ‘click’ in either direction. Polaroid cameras used to have a bit more subtle controls here, but one step in each direction (no pun intended) is better than nothing.
Exposure works fine on the OneStep 2. It doesn’t seem any smarter or dumber than Polaroid cameras from decades past. If you have a subject on a dark background, the camera might blow it out trying to expose for the background, and vice versa for a bright environment. It’s consistent enough that you can usually adjust for it.
Camera lens is fixed focus, so it’s not nearly as sharp as the I-1 or autofocus Polaroid cameras like the Impulse AF. It’s on par with the OneStep Closeup and other Polaroid fixed focus lenses, although the lens in the OneStep2 manages to keep nearby objects in focus better than older Polaroid fixed focus lenses.
Overall, picture quality is passable, but AF cameras like the Impulse AF, Spectra System, and Polaroid SLR 680 are far superior. For most people, however, it will be fine. I shot with a fixed focus OneStep Closeup for years without worrying about sharpness.
Polaroid Originals Film
The OneStep 2 is essentially the equivalent of a 600 type Polaroid camera when it comes to the film it uses. It can shoot vintage Polaroid 600 if you happen to have it lying around, and it can use Polaroid Originals film for 600.
However, because the OneStep 2 has its own battery, it can also use Polaroid Originals ‘I-Type’ film. I-Type is essentially the same as Film for 600, but it doesn’t have a battery in the cartridge. This allows it to be a bit cheaper, and offsets a bit of the cost of the camera in the long run.
If you’re debating between this camera and a Fuji Instax camera, you can find my comparisons between the two kinds of film here. I love using Polaroid Originals film for art projects, but Fuji Instax is often a better fit for events and bulk shooting.
As mentioned above, the battery for the OneStep 2 is built in to the camera. That means you’re going to have to charge the camera with a micro-usb cable before shooting. If your camera dies in the middle of a shoot, you’re hosed until you can recharge it, so make sure you charge before heading out.
I don’t know how easily the lithium battery inside the camera can be replaced, or how long it will last. Inevitably, five years from now or more, these batteries will die, or hold so little charge that they’re essentially useless. Unlike the Instax Mini 90, this rechargable battery isn’t meant easily popped out and replaced, which might mean trouble down the road.
It might seem bizarre to harp on a camera for how it’ll perform years from now, but all the other Polaroid cameras I use are decades old. Film cameras tend to stick around a whole lot longer than disposable digital toys like iPhones and laptops.
Older Polaroid films benefitted from batteries being contained within the film cartridge. Simply swap out that film pack, and the camera is often good as new. AA battery-powered cameras would often get gummed up with rotting batteries, so this also had the side effect of keeping the cameras clean over the years.
How will the lithium battery of the OneStep 2 fare? Only time will tell.
OneStep 2 vs Impossible I-1
The Impossible I-1 disappeared with the Polaroid Originals rebranding, but can still be found at a few stores and used. When it came out it was quite expensive, but the price has dropped considerably in the past year.
All things considered, the I-1 is superior to the OneStep in nearly every way, and has a ton of innovative features. If you’re serious about selfies, or want a more powerful camera, the I-1 is a solid choice. Also, if you already have an I-1, there’s not much of a reason to purchase the OneStep 2. Personally, I like using Spectra System or Polaroid SLRs for advanced work over the I-1.
OneStep 2 vs OneStep Polaroid Land Camera
The original Polaroid OneStep camera was an SX-70 box-type camera from several decades ago. It was one of the cheapest mass-produced models, and it required an external flash bar to use indoors. The SX-70 format is far less sensitive than 600 type film, and has a low ISO that all but requires an extremely bright flash or direct sunlight to shoot in.
The original rainbow stripe OneStep is a great collector’s camera, but is very difficult to use for actual shooting. If you want to take pictures, any 600 type box camera is a much better place to start, including the OneStep 2.
You can find a box-type vintage Polaroid 600 camera used for far less than a new OneStep 2, and you might even be able to grab a better camera like the Spectra System used for cheaper. However, buying used is always a bit more risky, which can be offset by the fact that you can purchase multiple cameras for very little money.
However, if you purchase a ‘refurbished’ vintage camera from Polaroid Originals, the OneStep 2 is comparable in price. If you just want something that works to get started, the OneStep 2 is a solid value, especially since it can use cheaper I-Type film.
For all purposes, I would consider the OneStep 2 equivalent to a fixed-focus cheap 600 box camera like the OneStep Closeup. Autofocus 600 cameras like the Impulse AF are sharper and a step up, and Polaroid Spectra System cameras are even better. Finally, the SLR folding Polaroid cameras are the best out there, and still the gold standard.
This camera is a great place to start for somebody who wants to jump into the world of Polaroid instant film. Since this is a brand new camera, you don’t have to worry about decades-old tech failing on you. All you have to do is pull it out of the box, put some film in it, and start shooting. Unlike Fuji Instax cameras, it works just like it should.
If you already have Polaroid 600 cameras that you’re happy with, the Polaroid OneStep 2 isn’t necessarily superior to anything else out there.
Polaroid Originals brought back Polaroid film from the dead. Now it’s brought back the simple box-type camera that people love. It’s a potent combination, and it’s an exciting time to be shooting Polaroid instant film.
Who knows? If it does well enough, maybe I’ll be writing about the Polaroid Originals SLR in a few years…
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