Review: Polamatic

Table of Contents

Polamatic home screen

A Polaroid app! It seems so obvious an idea, it’s a wonder it took so long to happen. I’m happy to report: Polamatic was worth the wait.

Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way: yes, Polamatic is late to the photo-sharing party. But it’s also a supremely well-made app, and it’s got an ace in the hole: the instantly-recognizable Polaroid brand brings with it a nostalgia factor that many a casual photographer will find hard to resist. After all, the current king of the photo-sharing mountain, Instagram, plays off of that same nostalgia, even if it’s not in an obvious, overt way. (It’s no coincidence that Instagram‘s photos are square.)

Polamatic frames

If you read the word “Polaroid,” what comes to mind? Probably a square picture in a white photo frame, with an extended white area on the bottom. Developer Appadana, shrewdly realizing that this would be the most identifiable factor to a Polaroid photo, put a lot of care and attention into bringing those white frames to an easy-to-use app format. There are a total of twelve white frames to choose from, in fact, and they come in a variety of states — from a pristine, “new” Polaroid frame, to a “crushed,” “dirty,” or “smudged ink” frame. One of the best features of the app is that these frames aren’t CG mockups or vectors or what have you. They’re high-resolution scans of actual Polaroid film frames.

Polamatic filters

Like Instagram, which this app was obviously built to go head-to-head against, Polamatic comes with a selection of built-in filters that make your photos look better with a single tap. Twelve filters (twelve is a recurring theme throughout the app) bring out more vibrant colors, turn your image black & white, apply sepia tones, and lots of other effects. To my eyes, Instagram‘s filters tend to produce more beautiful results, but what’s cool about Polamatic‘s filters, is that they really do make your pictures look as if they were taken on an old Polaroid camera. These filters seem custom made with that in mind.

Polamatic text editing

To take a photo, you simply start up the app. The photo-taking screen is the first thing that comes up. Tap the shutter button to take your photo. One area Polamatic definitely scores over Instagram is that it lets you zoom your camera lens. (I’ve always wondered why you can’t zoom with Instagram; the only way around this is to use the iPhone’s built-in camera app to take your picture and then import it into Instagram after the fact. It’s clunky, it takes longer, and it’s just plain dumb.) Polamatic lets you pinch-to-zoom the same way that the iPhone camera app does.

Polamatic's frames have names like "Crushed" and "I Sat On It"

After you’re happy with the photo you captured, use the various tabs in the app to apply the frame of your choice and a nice filter. The next step is a great one for those who remember Polaroid photos: you can write on the bottom white space on the frame. Write anything you want, choosing from twelve (there’s that number again) fonts and twelve font colors. Click the “Save” button and the entire image — frame and all — is saved to your photo album. Polamatic is also well-connected for social network junkies: you can upload directly to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Instagram, or email.

Unlockable content packs for Polamatic

Polamatic‘s smartest move was probably not creating a new social network just for this app. iPhone users already have loads of social networks for sharing photos; I don’t think anyone is clamoring for yet another. Another difference from the competition: Polamatic‘s not free. It’ll cost you $.99, and there’s $3 worth in unlockable add-ons that provide extra content like more filters and more frames.

A finished Polamatic photo as it appears in your photo gallery

Some users have complained that photos output to a resolution of only about 500px square; a helpful staff member at Appadana tells me they’ve already submitted an update to the App Store that increases the resolution. (The update also adds some new customization settings for the text editing feature.) I experienced a couple of crashes while working with the app — though it never caused me to lose my work — but this doesn’t concern me, since Appadana is already demonstrating a strong commitment to updating the app.

Depending on your level of enthusiasm for photography apps and/or how strongly you identify with the Polaroid generation… Polamatic might just be a must-have. It delivers a quality experience that beautifully brings Polaroid photos into the digital age. It’s best when it’s used in conjunction with your favorite social network — even if that just happens to be Instagram.

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