Let’s get something out of the way; the Kodak Printomatic is not a replacement for your smartphone’s camera. If you’re looking for a megapixel dense, Instagram-sharing, video-recording camera that fits in your pocket; the Kodak Printomatic is not that. That said if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to shoot film without having to dive right into the costly world of film development, this little camera may have something for you.
Specs from Kodak’s site: KODAK PRINTOMATIC Instant Print Camera
- Maximum resolution of 10-megapixel camera
- Built-in flash
- Built-in lithium-ion battery
- Two picture modes: vibrant color, black & white
- Low battery indicator
- Printer status indicator
- MicroSD™ card indicator
- MicroSD™ card slot
- Slots for neck strap
- Comes in grey or yellow
Handling and Ergonomics
The Printomatic is as barebones as it gets. It’s an attractive rectangle with a bright color palette (oddly enough the white on gray stands out much like the iPods of old did), a front lens and optical viewfinder. On the topside, you’ll find a shutter button and switch for choosing color or black and white shooting mode. The rear of the camera has a film door hinge and power button. On the bottom of the camera, it’s equally minimalist – a MicroSD slot and Micro USB connection are the only things you’ll find here. It’s plasticky, with rounded edges, and took some time getting used to it – it felt as if it would fly off my hand at first. There’s no grip to speak of.
If it sounds spartan, that’s because it is. Instead of lots of controls, image capture options, or even the ability to turn printing on and off, Kodak kept to the automatic part of the Printomatic’s name. Focusing on simplicity and function, the Printomatic is a simple point-and-shoot style camera. The 8mm lens (approx. 28mm, 35mm equivalent) is housed behind a plastic covering and does not appear to require any focusing. It’s pretty much set to infinity by default with a very close focal plane. It entirely takes away the guesswork when it comes to knowing what’s in focus. The shutter button sits on the top right of the camera and has enough push back to keep you from firing off frames in your pocket. One thing to note, there are times where I wish I could turn the flash on but alas, you’re not really in control with the Printomatic.
Again, it’s a very functional design and layout, but the Printomatic’s smoothed edges and face can make it a bit tricky to handle at first. Our review unit didn’t include a strap, and if you lose the one that’s in the box, you’ll be longing for it almost immediately.
As the name suggests, the Printomatic allows you to snap a photo and instantly print the picture. The Printomatic uses Zink (zero ink) paper to transfer those electrons into a physical image that you can – gasp – IRL share with your friends and family. The Printomatic accepts packs of 10 Zink sheets and includes a kit to get you started. One of the caveats of the Printomatic is the lack of control over photo printing – there is none. When you pop in the 10-pack into the camera, you will print the next ten shots you take – my kingdom for an on/off print switch.
The prints themselves leave a lot to be desired. While the retro-styling and even the nostalgia-inducing Kodak name may be enough to peak your interest, the washed out colors and chromatic aberrations in the prints will make you wish you spent a bit more and went with a Fujifilm Instax Mini camera instead. Each Zink pack of paper includes a blue color sheet to help the camera calibrate colors, but we found that colors were muddy at best. Blues included random shades of purple especially around the edges of a frame. While the JPEGs the Printomatic captures aren’t Leica quality, they are far more serviceable than what it can print. The printer’s performance is a considerable let down since the ability to print your images instantly is the Printomatic’s entire raison d’etre.
Despite the lack of an electronic viewfinder or even a rear screen to view your images, the Printomatic includes a MicroSD card slot so you can continue shooting long after you’ve run out of film (good luck trying that with an Instax camera). The ability to keep shooting was something that ended up being the biggest draw for us – it was a pure way of shooting that harkens back to the camera’s film roots. There’s no fear of chimping, spending time reviewing shots instead of being in the moment and we honestly wouldn’t want it any other way. There’s something exciting about waiting until you can get the images off the card to see what “develops.”
The images themselves are more than good enough for sharing on Facebook or Instagram. The colors are bright without being overly saturated, and while you won’t get tack sharp images corner-to-corner, they are comparable to a mid-tier smartphone. Again, this isn’t a professional camera and isn’t trying to be – it’s a fun, pocketable budget shooter; in this respect, we can’t ask for more.
While shooting without worrying about what we captured at that moment was refreshing, the Printomatic felt like a camera that was trying too hard to do too much. The heat-transfer Zink paper doesn’t have the kind of dpi needed to produce lasting prints, and the size of the prints make this little more than a novelty than a draw. The spartan design is visually appealing, but we’d love to see more controls for specific functions – namely the ability to choose when we want to print a photo or not. The Color/Monochrome switch is smart and one design choice that makes sense in the overall scheme of things and we’re not even upset that there’s no review monitor for pictures. We like the addition of the MicroSD card slot as well.
It would be unfair to judge this camera based on the spec sheets of modern cameras that are easily 10-times (and up) more expensive. It would also be stretch to say that this camera will replace your phone as your primary shooter, but for a camera that retails well under $100, it’s a fun little camera that understands the core of photography – being present in the moment. Often we’re asked, “what’s the perfect travel camera?” Sometimes the honest answer is one you wouldn’t be upset if it got lost; the Kodak Printomatic would fit that bill.