The Polaroid iM1836 Android Camera is one of those cameras that has seemingly popped out of nowhere. Another compact system camera from an unexpected manufacturer, so surely cause for excitement? Yes. But if the form that the pre-release versions of the Polaroid iM1836 we saw at the Consumer Electronics Show are any indication of its future functionality and performance, then there's as much, if not more, cause for concern.
The Polaroid Android Camera does things a bit differently. It looks a little like a Nikon 1 J-series, largely on account of its first interchangeable lens being a "10-30mm" zoom. But wait, that's no ordinary lens, as, according to Polaroid, it also houses the sensor inside as a single unit. Just like the Ricoh GXR system.
READ: Nikon 1 J2 review
There are no technical details about the sensor as yet, only that it is "smaller than Micro Four Thirds" and, therefore, we suspect it's a 1-inch sensor size (again, like the Nikon 1). If so, the 2.7x (approx) crop factor would make the 10-30mm lens a 27-80mm equivalent or thereabouts. Adaptors are available to use Micro Four Thirds lenses, but the Polaroid mount is the company's own proprietary system.
Polaroid's argument for such design is that the sensor won't be exposed to dust and grime. True though this is, the cost implication for buying separate sensors per lens is potentially insane. Although, currently, there aren't any more lenses. So why not buy a compact instead?
Of course there's the Android angle to this device. And as the Android Camera runs version 4.1 it's right up to date. Problem is, it's not at all stable yet. Apps wouldn't load, so all we could really test out was test the swipe touchscreen for the time being.
The Android implementation has bags of potential, as Samsung has already shown with the Galaxy Camera. Polaroid needs to invest more heavily to tie the Android aspect of the camera into the photography side of things because, for the moment, the iM1836 feels too much like "Android on the rear, camera on the front" - a game of two halves.
Also the Polaroid camera's response is sluggish. It's not particularly fast to autofocus at all.
But it is a budget snapper, with an apparent price tag of $350-400 earmarked. There's a lot to iron out right now before it would be worth considering parting with any cash, but Polaroid has the building blocks here, it just needs to assemble them into something far more developed before there's true potential.