Unlike traditional film-based cameras, both Polaroid instant cameras and digital cameras are able to produce instant results, making photography quick and easy. However, the two formats have many important differences. As digital photography continues to increase in popularity, Polaroid instant cameras are becoming a rare sight.
In terms of image quality, most consumer-level digital cameras surpassed the clarity and color reproduction of Polaroid instant cameras sometime in the early 2000s. While the earliest digital cameras produced low-quality images, the continued advancement of the design of image sensors had led to ever-increasing megapixel resolutions. Digital cameras also allow users to perform a number of adjustments, unlike the simple controls on a Polaroid instant camera. Digital photos can be further enhanced by using image-editing software.
Even the most basic digital cameras are likely to cost more than a Polaroid instant camera, though digital camera costs are frequently being lowered as new models are made available for sale. Another key difference between the formats is the need to constantly reload film in a Polaroid camera, whereas a digital camera with even a modestly sized memory card is capable of storing dozens of images. The cost of film may make a Polaroid instant camera more expensive to use than a digital camera over long periods of time, even if you turn digital images into high-quality prints.
Perhaps the biggest difference between Polaroid instant cameras and digital cameras today is the availability of media. Polaroid instant film is no longer manufactured by Polaroid itself, and finding it can be a difficult and expensive proposition. Meanwhile, the price of SD memory cards has plummeted in recent years, making digital photography more affordable than ever. New printers and digital display solutions make digital photography an even more appealing replacement to Polaroid.
Use By Artists
The availability of professional digital camera models has led many art photographers to make the transition from film to digital, though few of these artists would have used Polaroid instant cameras in the first place due to their low level of image quality and the lack of a photographic negative for making multiple prints. Some artists today use Polaroid instant film as a reference to amateur, low-fidelity technology that is already somewhat archaic or nostalgic. One advantage Polaroid still holds is the archival quality of its instant prints, which may last far longer than even good-quality digital prints before colors begin to fade or the paper deteriorates.
The limited availability of Polaroid instant film makes digital photography a far more convenient, inexpensive solution to picture taking for the vast majority of photographers. Polaroid photography has developed a dedicated Internet following, producing numerous petitions aimed at getting Polaroid to reinstate its instant film production. Meanwhile, third-party manufacturers have made plans to produce the film but none have done so on a mass scale able to supply photographers sufficiently. New digital cameras with instant printing capability, including one from Polaroid itself, may be the near-future replacement that sees digital photography take on yet another new task.