These cameras really are the digital replacement for the instant snapshot camera. It has quite poor image quality compared to a medium-quality 35 mm film camera, and really only takes decent pictures in medium contrast outdoor lighting conditions. It's not too bad for taking pictures to be shown on computer screens, but not really good enough for photos to be printed on paper. I would class it more as an expensive toy, than anything else.
When changing resolutions, the image size stays the same. Which suggests that either the higher resolution could be faked (a simple doubling of the real resolution), though looking at the picture that assumption wouldn't appear to be the case; or that when you drop to half resolution it's skipping the extra pixels in between (which also doesn't seem to be the case); or averaging out the difference between them. The last option would appear to be how it works, since the lower resolution does like quite good, it's just got less pixels.
|1280 × 960 pixels||17 photos
(500 kB each)
(250 kB each)
(200 kB each)
|640 × 480 pixels||34 photos
(150 kB each)
(100 kB each)
(90 kB each)
(If you insert a 128 meg memory card, you can take around 266 photos at maximum resolution and quality settings. That's probably more than enough that you wouldn't bother with compression, unless you really wanted small files.)
The fine and medium compression options are quite reasonable, the heavy compression is a bit gross. Though none are great, it really is a digital replacement for the cheap instant Polaroid cameras.
If you were going to have photos printed onto paper, you'd really want to be using the maximum resolution of the camera. But for e-mailing photos to your friends, to view just on the monitor screen, the lower resolution and medium compression, would be the way to go. The large resolution is larger than many people's screens (meaning that they've either go to shrink it to fit, or scroll around looking at only part of it at a time), and the smaller one is smaller than most people's screens (meaning that the entire picture can be seen at the same time).
I haven't really tried the software that came with the camera, Arcsoft's PhotoImpression 2 (just played with it enough to work out that I didn't want to use it), but the drivers that came with the camera aren't the latest. Be sure to download updated ones from Polaroid's website, and install them instead of the supplied ones (if you do install the Arcsoft software, opt not to install the drivers from the CD-ROM). I don't know whether it's the old drivers, and them not uninstalling properly, or all the drivers, but this camera is unusable on a Hewlett Packard Pavillion PC I tried (instant death to the PC, during any attempt).
The focus is fixed, with a control to change between macro or normal shooting. There isn't any auto-focus, its lens has a very large depth of field so that nearly everything's in focus, all of the time.
There are controls to set the flash mode:
You can override the automatic exposure, but not by directly selecting an F-stop, only by setting an offset from the current automatic exposure setting. It's extremely cumbersome to do, you have to go into a menu, pick the option, choose your offset, then exit the menu, before you can preview the result. Then repeat all of that, if it's not suitable.
You can override the automatic white balance, but you can't “set” the white balance on a test object (like with video cameras), you can only pick from between four different preset lighting conditions:
The photo quality is rather mediocre, especially if you want to print shots on paper. Even if you get a photo lab to print them for you, the results are quite poor—the camera has a low dynamic (contrast) range, rather lack-lustre spectral response (poor colouring), and the flash is really only usable for objects within about 2–3 metres from the camera.
It chews through batteries quite quickly, even if you don't use the LCD display; you really do want to get rechargables. Rechargable alkalines will only last for a single session (e.g. 24 photos) if you're lucky. Ordinary non-rechargable alkalines will last for several sessions. Likewise with rechargable NiMH batteries, but since they're rechargable (supposedly) hundreds of times, you'll get your money's worth quite quickly.
Many settings are not remembered, and always reset back to a default after the camera powers down (like your white balance setting).
Although the camera apparently datestamps the images, they all have the same date, regardless of when the picture was taken (01-Jan-2001), and there is no option to set a clock on the camera (there doesn't appear to be a clock).
Connecting to a PC is less than user friendly. It's got to be done in a certain manner:
If you try turning on the camera while it's already connected, the computer doesn't notice it. You have to pull the lead out, and plug it back in again. This is quite annoying, and is going to lead to premature death of the connectors. Certainly, when you consider that the camera will only stay switched on for a certain time period.
While connected to the PC, it can only transfer images from the memory; you can't take another picture. So, if you were trying to take shots while working at your computer, you'd be plugging and unplugging an awful lot.
You can get it to work on Linux (Fedora Core 4 Linux, at least), as a MS-DOS or FAT-12 SCSI drive over USB. But it's a bit of a chore, as the drive reports incorrect device and size parameters. Getting it to work will depend on your computer's willingness to work with bad information.