Gear Review: Polaroid Cube
Disclosure: the following product was donated for the purpose of review.
Instant gratification with nostalgic analog results.
I recently took the Polaroid Cube out for a test spin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Specifically, on a peak bagging mission atop Mt. Moriah. Having spent a ridiculous amount of time with the GoPro Hero 3 for Hard Way Home, I was excited to try a new HD action camera.
Basic Specs of the Cube:
- 1.65 ounces
- Starts at $99.99
- 720 or 1080p HD video
- 6MP stills
- 124 degree wide angle lens
- Waterproof case
- Waterproof case and suction mount
- Strap mount
- Helmet mount
- Tripod mount
- Bicycle mount
- Bumper case
As a hiker, the pro’s on the camera are simple. The Cube is incredibly lightweight. The wannabe ultralight hiker in me relishes in it’s 1.65 ounces, where competitor cameras weigh in around 2.6 ounces.
Storage was quick and easy, on my day hike it fit nicely in my pack’s hip pocket. If I were to go on a longer hike, and didn’t feel like purchasing the waterproof case, I’d feel comfortable storing it in a ziplock bag (in true thru-hiker fashion).
It is extremely easy to use. A simple, hold on the top button turns it on, one hold will take a photo, two pushes takes video. A long hold, turns it off. It’s reminiscent of a simpler time, when one click would take the picture on a Polaroid, and some time later, that photo would slide on out and develop in front of your very eyes. Point, click, picture. Repeat.
Unlike the GoPro Hero 3 I had previously used, or a typical smart phone, you can’t see the picture or video you took, or are taking on the Cube. (Unless you have an app and a smart phone, more on this later) For me, this serves as a positive feature. Ever feel like you are so concerned with “capturing the moment” that the moment passes you by? I know upon occasion I am guilty of retaking a photo numerous times; to the point where that candid, feel-good in-the-moment moment, turns into an over-the-top electronic focused indulgence. The cube makes it easy to capture a beautiful vista with a click and a beep. With a 124 degree wide angle lens, as long as you point it in the direction you want, and hold it level, you are pretty much guaranteed a beautiful representation of the present reality.
Cost is low. For an HD action camera, $100 is on the cheaper side, making the Cube competitive in the consumer market.
The mounting options are true creative genius. Everything mounts to the base via magnet. All of the mounts cost extra, of course, but in the end Polaroid’s accessories run cheaper than it’s competitors.
With the ability to record 90 minutes of video, the battery life comes in at about average, the tough piece of that as a hiker is you would need to plug it into a USB to charge, you can’t just pop in another battery. This isn’t necessarily a con, because a quick test with my iPhone’s wall charger revealed that it can be charged in a normal outlet. The difficulty lies in longer hiking times between town stops with available outlets.
The video quality is pretty decent for what the camera does, and if your endgame is to share on social media, or your phone then the quality isn’t too much of a concern. However, with a lower bit rate of 8Mbps there can be some artifacting in the image, creating loss of detail. You also can’t see what you are shooting, granted the website boasts the ability to stream live to your smartphone, making it a mobile monitor – for me, this isn’t ideal when hiking, I don’t want to pull out my smart phone and my camera for one use.
Like most other action camera’s it doesn’t perform well in low light situations.
If you don’t get the waterproof housing, the weatherproofness of the camera could be a concern. As mentioned in the pro section, while storage is easy and a ziplock bag might do the trick, it is still a ziplock bag. I know I will be investing in the waterproof case, seems worth the weight and the cost ($24.99).
It comes down to reasons for use. The Cube is a great action camera for the lightweight hiker, but probably not a surfer. Admittedly, surfer’s are not Polaroid’s target audience. The company seems to be looking for an everyday consumer to utilize the cube. An easy snapshot on the go. Connect your smart phone app and share with your social network. (Unfortunately, I was not able to test the app, or the mounts, I was only testing the camera itself)
The hiker in me is overall happy with the product, it’s weight, ease of use and photo quality. The professional filmmaker in me wants to try out all the mounts and gadgets, but is still a little skeptical about it’s video quality with such a low bit rate.
Looking for an extremely mobile lightweight camera that looks pretty darn cool? Polaroid Cube is the way to capture your every day adventure. If you are on a budget, and are looking to capture life to share with friends and family, this is the right camera. In the digital age we have gotten used to instant gratification, but with the Polaroid brand, and without using the add-on app, there is a nice analog feel to the camera. Point, click, picture – continue enjoying what you are DOING and LOOK at it later. The simplicity of the camera keeps you in the moment, taking photo’s or video’s because it is easy and fun versus adding and subtracting silly filters, ignoring that gorgeous mountain top view you are standing in front of. The process is instant, but the result doesn’t have to be.
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