Appareil photo instantané OneStep 2 de Polaroid Originals

Review: OneStep 2 (Polaroid Originals)



Impossible Project, which continued the production of instant films for vintage Polaroid cameras, changed its name to Polaroid Originals. A strong, emblematic name on which the company relies to gain momentum. To celebrate the occasion, Polaroid Originals is launching the One Step 2, a new device based on an old model… and seeks to confirm the saying that the best wine comes in old bottles. Here is a presentation of the OneStep 2, which marks the return of the old-fashioned Polaroid.

Polaroid Originals based its OneStep 2 on a model launched by Polaroid in 1977. The One Step (first of the name) isn’t remembered as the most efficient device released by Polaroid, but is nevertheless very representative of the 600 line produced by the brand for many years. Its ease of use and affordable price have made it a great success with the public.

Design and ergonomics

The OneStep 2 clearly seeks affiliation with its illustrious predecessor by mimicking its shape and general appearance.

  • The device is two-toned. The front, either white or graphite (the device is launched in two different versions) contrasts with the black body.
  • The OneStep 2 has the typical shape and angles of vintage Polaroid devices. The lens is positioned in the center of the “staircase” facade. It overlooks the prominent film compartment. The back falls at an angle shortly after the top.
  • The trigger is a large red circular button which can’t be missed.

For example, the OneStep 2 has the famous little black knob its front panel which was used to correct the exposure on the old cameras. You had to turn it one way or the other to brighten or darken the image before shooting. On the One Step 2, the knob is purely decorative! Another tribute to the reference model, no doubt.

The OneStep 2 plays the resemblance card with the old Polaroid cameras to the fullest and embraces the vintage trend.

The OneStep 2 plays the resemblance card with the old Polaroid cameras to the fullest and embraces the vintage trend.

The resemblance is strong. A newbie wouldn’t make the difference and would think that the One Step 2 is a decades-old device kept in good condition. However, the OneStep 2 differs from its reference model in other respects.
Unlike the first the OneStep, the OneStep 2 includes a flash. This flash, which was sorely missing on the OneStep model, is now placed on the front of the device. The flash on the old 600 cameras was located on a part that hinged the front panel and closed the camera. When the camera was open, the bar with the flash protruded from the camera.
On the back, the viewfinder is not peaking at the end of a “horn” anymore, as it did on the old 600 series models. It is now located in a cavity in an angle.
The frame counter is quite original; it is made of a series of small LEDs arranged in two rows of 4 on the top of the camera. The number of lit LEDs indicates to the user how many pictures are left in the cartridge. On older models, the more traditional frame counter could be seen through a small window on the back of the camera displaying a number.
Small, discreet buttons, arranged here and there, also set the OneStep 2 apart from the older models. They control functionalities we will describe later.
Finally, the observant eye will recognize a mini USB plug to charge the device, something totally unimaginable on a vintage model.

How it works

Easy to use

The simplicity of the One Step 2 seems almost childish at a time where reflexes, compact cameras and smartphones have countless settings and digital image processing capabilities.
To load a new film cartridge, you have to open the compartment by pushing the small latch on the front. Make sure that the small tab is placed downwards when the cartridge is loaded. The device is then closed and switched on using the on/off button on the back. This button is made of yellow plastic and its appearance is a bit cheap.
You frame by bringing the camera close to your cheek so you can look through the viewfinder. The viewfinder is clear, spacious, and comfortable. Be aware of the off-setting which can surprise you on the final images. In fact, the viewfinder is not lined up with the lens and the camera won’t capture the same thing as you. To trigger, use the large red button on the front of the camera.
When the photo comes out, it is automatically protected by a tab (the frog tongue) that unrolls and covers the image to protect it from light. When you retrieve your picture from the camera, the frog tongue rolls back up and returns to its original position.
The 8 LEDs on top inform you on the number of shots left on the cartridge.

The power button, the flash off button and the mini USB plug are located on the other side of the camera trigger on the back of the device.

The power button, the flash off button and the mini USB plug are located on the other side of the camera trigger on the back of the device.

Some key functions

In terms of advanced functions, the One Step 2 slightly differs from the One Step without creating a great revolution.

Turn the flash on or off

The most important element: the flash is now integrated in the front of the device, next to the lens. When taking a picture, the camera always activates the flash by default. However, it can be switched off by holding down a small button on the back while pressing the shutter release button. The flash adapts its intensity to the ambient light. Not surprisingly, you can’t do without it when taking pictures indoors.

Exposure compensation

If the small black knob mentioned above is only a decorative element, another button on the front panel controls the exposure compensation function. Press up (+) or down (-) to anticipate the result and produce a lighter or darker image than what the camera would develop by default.

The self-timer

Another innovative feature which wasn’t on older devices is the self-timer. This is a welcomed addition to the One Step 2, especially since it is intelligently managed. A small button activates the self-timer, and it is also possible to use it while deactivating the flash with a simple combination of buttons. The self-timer is always handy for group shots, or for self-portraits needing a little more preparation. You will gain a lot of stability by mounting the camera on a tripod and using the self-timer.
Other than the functions we described and its classic look, OneStep doesn’t offer much more to be honest. At times, we wonder if the company could have been bolder. But what is missing exactly? It’s hard to say… when you think about it, adding features would likely overcomplicate it and jeopardize the simplicity and spirit characterizing the original Polaroid devices.
The OneStep 2 is a device that is in line with the Polaroid tradition. It is intended to be fun and hassle-free. Personally, I think Polaroid missed an opportunity to include a more efficient focusing system on this model. The sonar autofocus system used on the Polaroid 640, 660 and SX-70 Sonar OneStep, among others, would have been a good idea to ensure sharper images… but the price would have probably been affected. At 120€, the OneStep 2 allows Polaroid Originals to compete with Fujifilm’s Instax devices. An advanced device at a higher price point may follow later… who knows?
While the old Polaroid cameras were powered by a battery contained in the compartment as the film cartridge, the OneStep 2 takes up a concept already introduced on the previous Impossible Project camera, the I-1, a much more complex and unpopular model, by the way. The device contains a non-detachable battery, like many other electronic devices nowadays, and is charged via USB. Like the One Step 2, the I-1 uses the same I-type films. But it also accepts 600 films, those intended to be used on old Polaroid cameras.

The OneStep 2 works with I-Type films and with classic 600 films.

The OneStep 2 works with I-Type films and with classic 600 films.

A new generation of Polaroid Originals films

After announcing its name change, Polaroid Originals uses the opportunity to introduce a new generation of instant films. After several versions under the Impossible Project, the 600, SX-70 and I-1 films continue their never ending quest for improved performance.
Polaroid Originals has not only redesigned the packaging of its films, which looks better than ever, but has also revised their chemistry.

Color films

The new color films develop faster than the previous ones. However, Polaroid Originals recommends protecting them from light as soon as they leave the device. Personally, I think the pictures developed by these films seem to be better defined, sharper, and more capable of rendering finer details. Nevertheless, they still aren’t at the same quality level of films produced 10 years ago by Polaroid. They remain subject, like previous Impossible Project films, to spots, irregularities, and other annoying flaws. The question of their stability and performance over time also remains.

Black and white films

Black and white films seem very similar or identical to those of the previous generation. It is not certain that their chemistry has been revised. The first tests produced beautifully contrasted images, and in some cases, nasty spots randomly appeared on the surface.
The new films, costing about €16, are available at a slightly lower price point than the last films issued by the Impossible Project, which were closer to €20. This is an appreciated cost reduction. The Polaroid format however remains less advantageous than the Instax format, make no mistake about it.

The new films have a rather fine rendering of details, but some pictures sometimes suffer from small unpleasant defects.

The new films have a rather fine rendering of details, but some pictures sometimes suffer from small unpleasant defects.

Verdict

Polaroid Originals goes back to the basics with the OneStep 2, a model directly inspired by the old Polaroid cameras. All those who witnessed the successful years of Polaroid will be able to return to the instant picture experience thanks to the One Step 2. The younger photographers will also be seduced by the larger square body of this camera, which produces images with a more authentic analog rendering than Fujifilm’s Instax Square format.
Photographers who haven’t abandoned their still functioning old or slightly more recent Polaroid models (such as the most successful models of the 600 and SX-70 series) have a solid reason not to be convinced.
The One Step 2 is an efficient Polaroid camera which relies on a revised and corrected generation of films, which can certainly still be improved but allows you to play around with the original instant picture format in good conditions.

Advantages and disadvantages of the OneStep 2

We like

  • A device that is very faithful to the original Polaroid spiritd
  • The much-needed addition of the flash (missing on the original version)
  • The self-timer
  • The slight price decrease of the new Polaroid Originals films is appreciated

We like less

  • Clear and spacious viewfinder, but not very precise
  • No focusing system
  • One or two additional or innovative functions would have been appreciated