The Polaroid Originals OneStep+ ($159.99) looks a lot like the OneStep 2 released last year. But it has some features its lower-priced sibling doesn’t, including close focus for portraits and Bluetooth control via a phone app. It’s more expensive than the $100 OneStep 2, but when you consider how much more creative control it delivers, you’ll find it worth it. We continue to recommend cameras that use the more affordable Fujifilm Instax format for most photographers, but if you prefer the larger, more impactful Polaroid film—and are willing to pay more for it—the OneStep+ could be the right fit for your instant photography.
Old Meets New
Polaroid Originals went back to a classic 1970s look for the OneStep 2, and has continued with that look for the OneStep+. The camera is black plastic, with a rainbow design beneath the lens. It’s almost physically identical to the OneStep 2, measuring 4.3 by 3.7 by 5.9 inches (HWD) and tipping the scales at about a pound when loaded and ready to shoot.
You frame shots with an optical viewfinder. It’s offset from the lens, but I didn’t find parallax to be a big concern, even when using the camera’s new portrait lens. Other controls up front include EV compensation, with adjustment in one stop in the plus or minus direction, and a plus button that activates the Bluetooth system and glows solid blue when properly connected to a phone.
The shutter release sits under the flash. It’s a big red button, hard to miss, and is comfortably triggered with your index finger. There’s a button on the rear, in line with the shutter, that suppresses the flash when held down. The micro USB charging port and bright red On/Off switch are above it.
On the top you’ll see the lever to change between the two focus modes. It has two settings, distant and close. The former is identified with icons showing a tree and two figures, while the latter shows a single figure. You’ll want to use the distant setting for most shots, but when leaning in toward a subject you’ll want to use the single-person setting.
Film loads in the front. You get eight shots per pack with modern materials—a corresponding group of eight orange LED lights on the top show you how many shots are left in the pack. The OneStep+ can use Polaroid 600 film or I-Type film, but even if you opt for the pricier 600 stock (which costs more because it has a battery in the film pack that powers vintage Polaroid cameras), you’ll still need to charge the internal battery to make the OneStep+ work.
You should make sure to top off the OneStep’s battery before an outing, especially if it’s sat dormant for a bit. Thankfully you can supply power to its internal, rechargeable battery using a USB power bank or any micro USB phone charger. It has an estimated 60 days of storage life before the battery depletes, and you can check the charge level via the app. If you’re not connected to the app, the indicator light next to the charging port will blink rapidly to let you know it’s time to plug it in.
Polaroid Originals App
The Polaroid Originals app, available as a free download for Android and iOS, is required to take advantage of additional camera functions. Pairing is very simple—as long as your phone’s Bluetooth is on, you just have to press the Plus button on the camera’s front and launch the app on your phone—there’s no need for pin numbers or passwords.
There are a number of special shooting modes available in the app. There’s a simple one-button remote control—for those times when you want to be in the photo—and a self-timer so you can hide your phone away when posing for a group shot.
The app also supports double exposures, and long exposures with a narrow f-stop for light painting. There’s a Noise Trigger function, which is like a virtual Clapper for your camera—just make a loud noise to trigger the shutter. Finally, there’s a full manual exposure mode, with control over shutter speed, aperture, and flash power.
In addition to camera control, the app shows you battery life, the number of shots left in your film pack, and tells you if the lens is set to distant or close focus. The app also includes tools to digitize shots using your phone’s camera, and includes a social discovery function so you can see what others are doing with their OneSteps.
Film and Image Quality
Aside from the close-up capability, the OneStep+ delivers image quality that’s on par with the more affordable OneStep 2. But the flexibility to lean in and snap tighter shots is a boon. The OneStep 2 supports focus to about two feet, but you can get closer with the OneStep+. You won’t have to stretch your arms as far for selfies, and you can get in a little closer when making portraits.
Film is expensive. Polaroid Originals sells packs for $15.99. Each includes eight shots, which brings the price of each photo to about $2. That’s actually not too much more than the going rate for Fujifilm Instax Square, a smaller square format film used by cameras like the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square, which ranges in price from $1 to $1.50 per image depending on the quantity and border color.
While Fujifilm sells black-and-white film in its Mini and Wide formats, it doesn’t sell its square film in monochrome. That makes Polaroid Originals your only choice for square format, black-and-white instant film, as you cannot use Instax film in a Polaroid Originals camera—both film formats are square, but they’re not the same. The Polaroid image area is 3.1 inches on each side, while Instax Square is 2.4 by 2.4 inches.
In the past, Polaroid Originals has offered limited edition film packs under the Impossible Project banner, but it doesn’t currently have any available. I’d love to see some more limited edition stocks, like the yellow-and-black Third Man Records film, based on the current generation black-and-white film.
But at press time, aside from different colored borders, the gamut of available stock is limited to color or black-and-white. The color film is a bit cumbersome to work with. Polaroid Originals has gone a long way to make it better than early generations, but you still need to block it from light as it develops, and take care not to use it in cold temperatures. When shot below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the film shows a green color shift. The black-and-white film is a lot better. It develops quickly, and you don’t have to block it from light during the process.
An Improved Modern Polaroid
The OneStep+ owes something to the discontinued Impossible I-1, an ambitious offering that was hampered by noisy operation and a battery that had a hard time holding a charge. The OneStep+ has most of the functionality of the I-1, including Bluetooth remote control and a lens that can focus close, but keeps things quieter by using a mechanical lever to adjust focus, and can maintain a charge when stored for a period of months, rather than days with the I-1.
It’s also about half the cost—the I-1 went on sale at $300, and the OneStep’s $160 price tag is a lot more reasonable. That, coupled with some improvements in film quality and reduction in cost—prices used to be closer to $3 per image, rather than $2—make it an easier camera to recommend, especially for artistic photographers who strive for a larger image area and quality black-and-white materials. But color film is still difficult to work with.
I think that fine art photographers and others who value the larger image size will appreciate what Polaroid Originals has to offer, and be willing to spend a bit more, especially for the excellent black-and-white film. But casual snappers should look to an instant film format that’s less expensive and easier to work with.
Fujifilm’s Instax format fits that bill. If you’ve got to have square images, we like the Lomography Lomo’Instant Square and the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6 for pure analog goodness, and the SQ10 if you want to print more selectively—it’s a digital camera that can make instant prints on demand.
If you’re not sold on the square look, don’t count out Instax Wide if you’re after a larger (3.6-by-2.4-inch) image. Our favorite enthusiast model is the Lomography Lomo’Instant Wide. There’s also the 1.8-by-2.4-inch Instax Mini format, which is available in smaller, lower-cost cameras, like the entry-level Fujifilm Instax Mini 9. Both Mini and Wide format film is available in color or monochrome.