The Kodak Printomatic continues the naming convention of some of Kodak’s most iconic cameras: the Instamatic, the Pocket Instamatic, and now, the Printomatic. But the Printomatic shares other things with it’s older brothers: very low quality images and wildly unpredictable results.

An objectively weak camera

Today’s Kodak released the Printomatic as their re-entry into the instant camera market after their first attempt tanked. However, this camera is hardly meant to rival Fuji’s Instax dynasty. You see, the Printomatic is only an instant camera in the loosest sense of the word.

Yes, you take a picture and it prints automatically. But the Printomatic isn’t even a film camera. Here we actually have a digital camera with built in Zink printer. It relies on a completely unreliable optical viewfinder with frame lines that are mostly suggestions and features no screen to preview your shots. The shutter release is way too sensitive, and often goes off by just looking at it. To top it all off, Polaroid has an identical camera that fixes all of these problems.

The Printomatic thought this scene needed a little more blue, I guess.

The images produced by the Printomatic are less than stellar. The 2×3 inch prints are washed out and milky, and the digital images saved to the inserted microSD are only marginally better than the prints. Funny enough, the digital images aren’t cropped to the same aspect ratio as the prints.

Combined with the 10 megapixel, 8mm f/2 lens, this leaves the quality of the images taken with the Printomatic worse than even the most basic smartphones of today. So why do I love this camera?

It’s got that -matic magic.

The thing about the Kodak “-matics” of the past is that they were never meant to be the best available camera on the market. They were meant for mass production and ease of use. When you look at the Printomatic through that lens rather than a replacement for your trusty Polaroid, you can see how the Printomatic might fit in to your life.

I bought a Printomatic for my fiancee’s birthday last December. I wanted to get her an instant camera, but my wallet is skinny and I didn’t think she would enjoy carrying around a brick in her purse.

Picture of two people in a hammock taken with the Kodak Printomatic

Enter the Printomatic. At $70, the Printomatic is the most affordable instant camera out there, and it’s slim, retro-cool design make it reasonably portable. While it doesn’t have the bells, whistles, or objective quality that other options have, I don’t think that’s what would make the Printomatic appealing.

The Printomatic offers a lot of challenges in order to create a great image. While it’s dead simple to use, it is a little more challenging to use well. You never know how the print will actually be framed, and you can take a smoke break in the time it takes for the image to print. But this holds the same charm that Kodak’s 110 and 126 cameras have for me.