Polamatic, fake Poloarid SX-70 for iPhone

Version reviewed; 2
Price: $0.99

Rating 3 1/2 stars. A good app. I like it.

Polamatic, fake Polaroid for iPhoneBottom Line: I like it. Great looking fauxlaroids, but some may be put off by this version medium resolution. Text feature is a little buggy.

I don’t know much the Polaroid Company is earning by licensing the name and shapes of their iconic films, but it must be worth their while, given the number of authorized Polaroid photo apps available in the App Store.

Polamatic™ is one of the more recent ones. The version 2 update was just released. It has a number of great features that I really like, but still has enough problems to keep me from giving it an enthusiastic recommendation.

I like fauxlaroid apps. For instant photography, the Polaroid instant cameras are the very analog predecessors of today’s Instagrams and digital photo sharing. If you ever used a Polaroid and had the satisfaction of not having to wait days to share your prints, the fauxlaroid apps make a strong emotional connection, touching upon those memories. Shooting Polaroids was fun and the fauxlaroid photo apps attempt to recapture that spark.

Polamatic brings back the instant nostalgia of Polaroid pictures to your iPhone or iPod Touch. It is one of the more authentic-looking digital recreations of an old, square Polaroid SX-70 print. The app’s developer, Appadana, did an excellent job of including a dozen original frames in various states of wear. The frames look excellent, like they are photographs of Polaroid frames, not illustrated or photoshopped recreations. The frames are perfectly named with descriptions like New, Almost New, Crumpled, Tape, Wrinkled and others. Each frame is appropriately detailed with just the right amount of dirt and wear. The vignette at the edge of the frame is perfectly subtle but adds just the right amount of depth to the image. They got the look and shape of the frames right — important in a Polaroid app. The SX-70 frame and aspect ratio is so iconic, it’s trademarked.

Polamatic also comes with 12 different retro film effects. Color and toal qualities of the effects are good and look like retro films. None of them are named for Polaroid films, although a few of the looks come close. Most of them are other classic analog retro styles, including a sepia, various LOMO-styled looks and a couple of monochromes.

One of the things I love about Polamatic is its ability to “write” on the iconic chemistry tab of the frame, much like the classic, now-broken Polarize app was able to. It comes standard with a dozen fonts, including one of the best handwritten typefaces on the planet, the excellent Hand of Sean font. It’s the only font you’ll need for “handwritten” notes. This is a great feature for “writing” short notes on the image, just like we would do on an old Polaroid.

With this update, I like where Polamatic is headed, but I have a few issues with the app. You can type a lot of characters on the image. On screen in the text editor and in the image preview, the type simply keeps getting smaller to fit. I like that it automatically adjusts to fit. Unfortunately, when you share or save the image, the type reverts to its original size, cuts off extra characters and adds an ellipses. See the sample image above. I had to go back and manually adjust longer areas of type until it fit. Frustrating and buggy.

UPDATE 01: I just received a tweet from @PolamaticApp: “Resolved the text issue and are completing a new feature. Hoping to to have the update out within a week.” I’ve upgraded my review half a star for this.

The app’s built in camera shows an accurate square frame preview, but there’s no option to save your original full-size image. That’s an important feature for an app that changes so many aspects of your original photo. Not a huge problem for me, as I always shoot with Camera, ProCamera or 645PRO. Because Polamatic’s built-in camera has a good crop preview, this would be a good feature to add soon.

My biggest problem with the previous version of Polamatic was its very horribly super low output resolution — less than the iPhone’s screen resolution. This has been addressed in this update. Resolution has been improved to medium (not high as in the App Store description) to 1050×1275 px. Many iPhoneographers may have a problem with the lower resolution. Surprisingly, I’m going to give the app a pass for this.

Analog SX-70 prints are 3.5″ x 4.25″. Printing at pressready print quality at 300 dpi, you can make sharp, excellent-looking Polamatic prints that are the same size. You can easily make good enlargements of up to 7″ x 8.5″ or more at lower resolutions. It’s a usable resolution for making smaller sized prints and plenty big for online photo sharing.

Would I like for this app to have higher resolution? Of course. It’s always better to have more pixels and not need them than it is to have fewer and get jaggies. To me, fauxlaroid prints don’t look right visually at huge sizes. I think they look best at size or a little larger. Poster size fauxlaroids lose the charm and nostalgia of the smaller, analog instant prints. I think they need a lo-fi quality to look “right.”

This version of Polamatic comes nicely stocked with 12 each of film looks, Polaroid frames and fonts. There are also four in-app purchase add-ons where you can buy more frames, film looks and fonts. Of the four, the only one I found useful was the additional films looks, which add another 12 retro-style films to the app’s collection. You don’t really need any of them beyond the standard set to get the most from this app.

Polamatic 2 is a great update for this app. It’s one of the most authentic-looking recreations of the classic SX-70 look in the App Store. It’s got a couple of bugs and the app’s resolution may put some users off. But its collection of well-rendered film styles and the great selection of standard frames make this app worth a look for faux-Polaroid lovers. If you remember the classic app Polarize, Polamatic is a worthy, more full-featured replacement.

Polamatic is $0.99. Requirements: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.Requires iOS 5.0 or later.

Polamatic™ - Appadana