Monday, September 25, 2017

Part two… or Every dog has its day

The death of Sammy, our dog of 12 years, was a significant moment in the lives of my wife and I. Significant for me, as it was the hardest, saddest, and loneliest thing I have ever experienced in one massive dose.

We cried a lot, Ann felt a great deal of anger over it, and we both missed him terribly. A month later, when it was a bit easier to put together a thought, Ann told me she was doing a timeline. She looked up the gestation period for dogs, the weaning age for puppies, added them together and started the clock on the day of Sammy's death. She marked the calendar as the right day to find Sammy reincarnated! I did not know how I felt about this- I still don't. 

About a month before the date she had marked, I had a wonderful dream. It was crisp and clear- beautiful in every way. In it, Sammy was bounding and playing around me and I was hugging him repeatedly every time he approached. There was no sadness. In fact, my heart was bursting with joy! It was a truly wonderful dream, and probably just what I needed. The end of the dream took a strange turn, though. I was hugging him again, and right in front of me his fur changed color. I stared at his orange brindle coat as it changed into a black short haired curly or wavy look. For the first time in the dream I was troubled, but then a disembodied voice said “ It's OK, it is still Sammy.”

I woke with a start- not knowing what to make of the very first “prophetic” feeling dream of my life! I told Ann and she got excited. Her day for finding the reincarnated Sammy was just a month away. We would look for a black puppy. I figured it wouldn't hurt to entertain this line of thought, though I had and still have my doubts.

A week before school started, with the stress of my teaching assignments in the future and the emptiness of the house after the summer visit was over with the grandchildren, I decided to give myself a break and go thrift shopping in Columbus. Ann was eager to join. Our shopping would take us up the southern part of town into the western part of town. While driving in South Columbus, Ann suggested I should look for the no-kill shelter that helped us when we found an abandoned puppy years ago. She showed me her calendar, with the date circled. Today was the day to find Sammy reincarnated! The roads we travel would take us by a hundred streets that look like the street that shelter was on(as I recall, the shelter was a nondescript house in the middle of other houses with little signage). We never did find the shelter. Ten minutes into south Columbus, we made what was to be our first and only stop of the day at a Goodwill in a desolate looking neighborhood. The occasional grocery bag took the place of the tumbleweed.

As I got out of the car, I noticed a female dog. Heavy with milk and emaciated, she poked around the asphalt for garbage. I pointed her out to Ann, who immediately went about following her. Without thinking, I whistled at the dog. We got her full attention. She and a neighboring dog started barking at us as she changed direction and headed into a dirt yard with the other dog.

This environment was less than welcoming. Aside from the barking dogs, we only shared this moment with empty space and oppressive heat. The single patch of shade was reserved for the barking dog on a chain. The row of apartments the female dog gravitated towards were boarded up and in such a state of disrepair that even I, a transplant Appalachian of low standards, found them wanting. 

Ann was undeterred. Nothing scares her. She followed the dog to the sidewalk and inquired of a neighbor the owner of the female. Armed with this information, she proceeded to step up to a door of an apartment with a four foot high wall of garbage bags and windows that were cardboarded over. I stood at a distance, only driven to approach by fear for Ann's safety. 

The door opened a crack and the female dog, followed closely by a little black puppy, raced in. My heart jumped at that. A 20 something young man with a shaved head, arms full of tatoos, and eyes squinting against the sun met her at the door. Ann broached the topic of a puppy. At first he denied having a puppy, acting deeply suspicious. He wanted to know who told her that he had puppies! She again indicated her enthusiasm for a puppy. Finally he relented and told us that he passed them to a friend to be sold at the flea market. Then he told us of one runt that he was holding on to because it looked like the mother. 

I knew then that we would be leaving with that puppy. Ann set into negotiation mode, and wore him down! He brought out this incredibly tiny and skinny puppy- head all in black and body black with wavy brown stripes. 

Up until this moment everything felt weird, like a pre-written story we were just walking through. When I saw the puppy with his brindle (wavy black like the dream) I got chills. At what point do you accept a magical thing if you are a rational person? At that point, evidenced by the powerful prophetic dream and Ann's exact date to find Sammy reincarnated, I felt helpless to be carried forward in the story. There was a sensation like my mind giving in-not accepting but not denying. 

Do I believe in reincarnation? I don't know- I am an agnostic in perpetual search of the answers. Is this Sammy reincarnated, or is this the heavens hearing our great sadness at our loss of a friend echoing into the universe just bumping things along and making things right? All I know is that he shares many of the quirks of our lost loved one, and gains new ones every day. We are grateful. 

Life is a miracle- we don't have to look far to see that. This experience does not provide answers, but presents new questions to me. If anything was learned, it is that I need to open myself to the flow of things, the flow of life. I will love this animal, and accept his love in return. Oh, and I will try to listen to my wife more!

His fur is very black, so this is overexposed a bit to show his features! His blue eyes have since turned to orange/brown.
Here he is standing on Ann's calendar.

Friday, September 22, 2017

"Look, Mom! I put on these glasses and everything around me is in 3-D! " or: An informal review on misusing the Polaroid Miniportrait camera.

I have always had a fascination with 3-D photography. I was so thrilled with Viewmasters- even cartoon images in 3-D! I have never had sympathy or understanding for the naysayers! When ever people complained about eye strain or headaches, I would reply- “But it is like you are really there!” While viewing the movie Avatar with my wife, she said it made her feel sick. My reply was “Yeah, but it is magical!” My attitude is, if you get to walk with the dinosaurs or go to a faraway place without leaving your chair, you can put up with the discomfort(full disclosure, sometimes I experience some eye strain,too).

I was fortunate to take Saturday art classes at the Columbus College of Art and Design when I was a child. One of my favorite projects was 3-D drawing. It was simple, yet fascinating. Draw the image in blue, trace the image, then draw a copy of the image next to the first in red. The wider the images are apart, the closer they appear! My first drawing was called “Barnstorming in a 747” and I was being quite literal. There were flying boards , a decimated barn, and a 747 roaring towards you. I think there was even a cow in the air! Though my memory of it is probably quite superior to the real thing, I was smitten with 3-D.

By now, any readers know I collect Polaroid cameras. My fascination with Polaroid eventually led me to learning more about the company, and by virtue of that, 3-D. I don’t think it is common knowledge that Dr. Land, the founder of Polaroid created the first sheet polarizer which led to a slew of inventions 15 years prior to instant photography fame. One of the big ones was the way we see most 3-D movies today. The greyed out lenses are polarized plastic, one lens tuned to see one image and the other to see the second image. In 1939 the world was given the first taste of this technology at the World’s Fair in New York.

Though not thematically central to my paintings, several of my recent works can be viewed with ChromaDepth glasses in order to unlock the spatial potential of 3-D. These night time landscapes of abandoned homes use the strength of projecting/receding colors to create spaces you can enter visually. Featured on my web site, Old School is probably the best example.
So when I saw Polaroid cameras designed for ID photography- from drivers’ licenses to passports and everything in between- I had to try a stereographic image.

The Polaroid Miniportrait was a goal of mine. I saw online how it worked and i suspected alternate purposes for it. I have some passport cameras in my collection and they are fun at parties, as you can get multiple shots on one piece of film! This one intrigued me because I was thinking right away about 3-d possibilities. I have a stereograph viewer from the 1800s that i got from an antique store, so I took some shots- and it worked!

There are limitations to the method. First off, the lenses are closer together than the average human eyes. This means the illusion only works well with close up subject matter. Second, the camera is auto focus, but only up to about 6 feet(that pairs well with the first issue). The camera was designed for portraiture, so that is why it is dialed in on a fairly shallow depth of focus.

So what it boils down to is that it is perfect for portraits of people and puppies(and cats). I did a bunch of shots and the ones that are close up really work. All you have to do is take the shot at 6 feet or so, and mount the picture to a piece of cardstock(or you can use Polaroid print mounts that you can still find on ebay-that's what I do). Next just clip the image into your stereograph viewer!
Did I mention that this camera gives you full manual control? You can choose between two speeds and several apertures! The flash is also directional! If you are one of the people who get headaches from looking at 3-d, don't worry. You can always just use it to take portraits-or you can embrace the pain!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Fuji Instax Square- new badging on an old idea , or lying as a marketing tool.

Now more than ever, it seems that people are too comfortable lying and misrepresenting. From the president on down, lying is seen as a convenient tool to re-write history. Marketers have always done it, but it seems that the claims are becoming more outlandish. Enter Fuji and their new product.
Many- I dare say- most articles reviewing the Fuji Instax Square camera bill it as the first hybrid digital and analog camera in one. Those of us who have instant film in our blood know this to be at best misleading, and at worst an intentional deception. The earliest version of this hybrid technology I am aware of was made by Olympus in collaboration with Polaroid in the year 2000. It does almost exactly the same thing as this new Fuji Square , and in many ways was a superior product! Fuji is good at appealing to popular market and perfecting existing products-, but they are not an innovator in instant photography.
The Olympus c-211 had a resolution of 2.1mp- surprisingly high resolution for a consumer grade camera in 2000, while 17 years later the Instax Square has a resolution of 3.7mp- worse than many smart phones. The Olympus shot through some good glass with 3x actual zoom, while the Fuji is limited to digital zoom. Also, and I thought this was a great innovation that would be just as relevant today, the olympus let in sunlight behind the screen to make it easier to see the screen outside!
While arguably not the same thing, there have been countless digital to analog printers that use analog film, several made by Polaroid (like the Colorshot and the P-500) and a few by Fuji. The idea has also been explored with cameras that use Zink technology, and they have better cameras attached. The z340 was released 6 years ago and featured a 14 mp camera.
I know that Fuji is not the only company to misrepresent their product, but I don't think my silence does any service to those who don't know the facts. Lying has just become too pervasive. There is nothing new about trying to wed analog and digital- every analog film company has given it a try!

Having your cake and eating it, too: Fuji Instax Square, Mini, and Wide all in one camera!!

Fuji has just introduced a new camera and film format. It is Fujifilm Instax Square. I wrote a blog in October of 2016 (Fuji Instax Wide and Mini, dual film camera- how to hack the Instax Wide)about modifying an Instax Wide 210 to shoot both Instax Wide and Instax Mini, and I gave a nod to the Instax Square which was to be released in the spring. It ended up released in May, and I ordered a pack, even though they made it sound like it was specifically designed for the Instax Square camera.
Now, with the announcement that Lomography has a kickstarter out for their new analog square format camera(check it out- it is nice!), I am motivated to the challenge of a THREE format Instax camera (why, o why didn't I do this months ago??)! No surprise, it worked fine down to the last image in the pack! I can now shoot with Instax Square also!!!
Check my old blog for the specifics of how to do the original mod but suffice it to say the only change for adding the square film is to shrink the left (as viewed from the back) tensioners by ½ inch. Once that is done, you are ready to shoot!
Two future mods worth exploring are 1. making the tensioner new from a 3-d printer instead of cutting your own, and 2. making a slightly higher tension spring. Though I have had zero issues with jamming of the tensioner, I could definitely see it happening at some point.
One caveat- getting your subject centered is even harder now!You could put tape on the right side of your viewfinder as seen from the back, adjusting for the square or mini. Personally, I have always found Instax viewfinders to be awful, so struggling with centering already feels natural with this camera!
So there you have it- A Fuji Instax camera that shoots all three formats of film!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Phantom Dog Syndrome, a Eulogy

Was it the babysitter's husband, or was it some random neighbor? I don't remember who it was- I was five years old and memories get jumbled. All I remember was that a person my father's age was choking back sobs with his whole body shaking. He was inconsolable, though the small group of adults in his midst tried everything. I was helpless to watch this, feeling that it was something I should not witness. Slowly the story revealed itself- his dog was hit by a car and killed.
I have always been a cat person. Their aloof nature and their detachment combined with just the right amount of attention makes them the ideal pet. They can be silly, sweet, and affectionate and they could be pissy when angered. They can be consoling when they sensed your sadness. Fiercely independent, you know that when they give you their time it is out of want and not need. In so many ways they are the perfect pet.
My life changed 12 years ago when my wife showed me a rescue puppy. It was a little runt. I have seen many puppies in my days, but something that day made me say “ Is that our dog?” He was tiny so right away he shared our bed with us. In time, this became a challenge, as he grew to be a rather large dog. Our night-time routine was that he hopped on to the bed, licked Ann's face ( he loved the smell of her lip balm), licked my face, then plopped heavily on Ann's legs. She chided him for pulling away the covers, so he got up, turned around once or twice, and thumped down on my legs. This was our routine, and it had us laughing and wiping at our faces when he licked us, and though I was his second choice- I was happy to have him draped on my legs. We half-heartedly spoke of making a bed for him on the floor someday, but that someday never happened. As he grew older, he would whine by the bedside until I got up and lifted him on the bed(he was 75lbs). Somehow the act of lifting him made him more grateful and he would immediately go about trying to lick Ann's face.
He was an omnipresent dog. When we watched TV, he would drape his long body across both of our laps. When we discouraged this behavior, he would sit by the couch until we were both distracted and sneak up onto our laps a paw at a time. If you were in the house, he was with you. Not in an annoying way, mind you- he was not an under-your-feet dog. If you were in the back yard, he was with you, period. His perpetual hope was that the back yard signaled dog fetch time. He only weighed 75 pounds, but his presence was huge.
Just two days ago this hour, We found ourselves digging his grave by flashlight. The long ride home from the emergency clinic, my whole body was racked with sobs , my face streaming tears. Ann kept asking me if I was ok to drive, even though the front of my tee shirt was still wet with her tears. Sami was bundled in the back seat for his final ride- we couldn't bear to put him in the trunk. The necessity of burial was a welcome short-lived relief. The sweat and toil of moving mounds of earth didn't last long enough. I dug with vigor, hoping to postpone the grief even another moment. Ann said it was deep enough, but I kept digging. When I scooped up his still warm body to carry him to the grave, I hugged him close. I still think about that hug and wish I would have done it a bit longer. When he was covered, I didn't sense the finality. I still don't. I wish I would.
So now I am afflicted with phantom dog sensation. It is kind of like I imagine phantom limb sensation is- separated, but still very much there. He is everywhere, trotting through the halls of the art building, laying with us in bed, lounging under the easels in my studio, and in the back yard- especially the back yard. This should fill me with joy, but I know he is just a phantom. I can tell by the big hole he left in my body and the rock in my throat. I suffer the phantom dog now, but I can't bear to have a single memory fade.
Now I really understand dog people.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

My Polaroid Obsession Part Twelve, Non Polaroid instants: Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it will get you sued.

My acquisition of non-Polaroid instants has been accidental and secondary. I never really intended to get a collection of these, but I am glad I have. They provide a strong counterpoint to Polaroid and help further tell the Polaroid story.
Since Dr. Land invented instant photography, and held more patents than anyone in the world( excepting Thomas Edison) all instant photography attempts outside of Polaroid were on shaky ground legally.
The examples I have of non-Polaroid cameras are the Berkeys and the Kodaks, with the contemporary addition of Lomographic Society’s Lomo Instant, Fuji Mini and Fuji Wide, Fuji Mr. Handy, and holgaroid. Berkey’s cameras were obviously copies of Polaroid, and when threatened with a lawsuit over their sx-70 copy , they discontinued production.
While Kodak instant cameras definitely looked different (they were twice the size and really ugly) they used stolen technology from Polaroid, and were sued for patent infringement. To this day, this was the single biggest corporate lawsuit. Kodak was found guilty, and paid a major settlement. They also had to stop all production of the cameras and the film, and initiated a major recall and refund program. I find Kodak’s instant cameras ugly in a funky way, so I snagged them here and there for a couple of bucks.
These cameras highlight the unique challenge instant cameras pose. To this day, I hear photography equipment reviews lambasting instant cameras for traits that are impossible to avoid for this medium. Often they will comment on the size of the camera, faulting the companies for the bulky shape. Kodak’s cameras were huge because, like Polaroid cameras, they contained an entire darkroom! Doctor Land’s SX-70, the sleekest and sexiest SLR ever, was a miracle of design and engineering he had been working on his entire life. It was the exception , not the rule.
Another challenge was getting a large format focal length out of a camera that takes up as little space as possible. Polaroid used mirrors to achieve this, and Kodak didn’t for most of theirs. This also explains the rather large size.
Going from camera to print meant that the hardware had to perform much more consistently than regular film cameras, as there was no darkroom post processing for over and under exposure.
My experience with this small collection taught me something else about Polaroid. Their quality control was excellent. I have worked on pretty much every Polaroid camera there is, and it is relatively easy to get them to work again, even if they are 50 years old or older. The same can not be said about the Kodaks and Berkeys. About ninety percent of the Kodaks I have are non- functioning. More than ninety percent of Polaroids I get are functioning. The Berkey Sx-70s all require attention, though their packfilm varieties are stout and full featured compared to Polaroid's plastic packfilm cameras.
Fuji, though inextricably intertwined with the history of both Polaroid and Kodak instants, has come into its own in the U.S. since the demise of Polaroid. Their quality control easily rivaled Polaroid, and their film can even be said to exceed Polaroid in some categories. This may seem a bit of a miracle since we only see Fuji instants as a recent thing, but their history with instant stretches back quite a while. In the 1980s they made a Fotorama series of cameras that took from the camera design and film design of the Kodak line. Polaroid agreed to allow Fuji only to maintain the foreign markets in exchange for access to Fuji's R&D on magnetic tapes. Later, in the 90s, Fuji introduced the Cheki and the Mio, which are what we think of as Instax Mini cameras. The Mio was branded as a Polaroid and included in their line.
Fuji also made some amazing peel apart film starting in 1984, with no issues of patent infringement because by then Polaroid's patents on packfilm had expired.
I have several Fuji Wide and Mini cameras. Since the market is currently flooded with these, it was not hard to acquire them cheaply. Though they are fun at parties, they are significantly more fragile than Polaroids were. My dog's whipping tail knocked my Wide off a table and it crashed into many pieces from a 32 inch fall!
None of my non -Polaroid instants are what I would call professional grade- which is disappointing, because Fuji Instax film is a great integral film. The closest to a professional , creative tool is my Lomography Instant which offers some extra features like add on lenses, bulb, and multiple exposure. It shoots Instax Mini. New to the instant market, the Lomography Instant has low build quality. I have hopes for their new instant offerings.
The Holgaroid is just that- a cheap chinese Holga with a Polaroid back- gotta love it for fun instant shots with the character of a cheap plastic lens camera!
OK, so I am supposed to be collecting Polaroids! What happened? Instant photography is an addiction, and apparently Polaroid cameras are a gateway drug. My Polaroid collection has not only re-invigorated my interest in photography after a ho-hum relationship with digital, but it is directly responsible for my new darkroom experiments! I blame my latest acquisition, a 350 pound copy camera, squarely on my drug of choice.
This Berkey instant packfilm camera featured an electric flash, something Polaroid never got around to adding to their plastic packfilm cameras.

I have yet to find a Berkey SX_70 that works.

Mr Handy is a Fuji instant that never made it across the ocean. Love the name!

The Kodak instants are so ugly they are strangely appealing, Don't ask me to explain this.

The Coca Cola Happy Times is the only company branded Kodak that I am aware of. Polaroid did tons of company branding.

Again with the ugly duckling! I love the funky look of this one!

You could fit four SX-70s into the body of this Kodak Party Star folding instant camera, the SX-70 was an SLR, and the photos that came out of each were relatively similar in size. The Polaroid SX-70 was truly an engineering feat!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Ice cream to an Eskimo

I am perhaps the worst used car salesman, as I believe in complete honesty. Paradoxically, this honesty sold my car through Craigslist in less than a day!
Now someone else has my unfinished DIY project.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Polaroid Packfilm Bellows transplant-one may die so that another may live

This is a very easy swap that I have performed many times. Over times the bellows(accordion-like leather or leatherette) can sag or get damaged. Sometimes the bellows can form pinhole light leaks, sometimes get caved in by a careless hand.
The Polaroid Automatic Land Cameras, despite being built very well, were susceptible to damage. One saving grace was a strong, light leak resistant, double layer bellows made of leatherette and fabric. Though I love the look of a leather bellows, the leatherette allows these bellows to survive the test of time. Mold is easily wiped off with these bellows, where leather bellows can be eaten and stained by mold and fungus. In fact, if you can mod them to fit, I suggest replacing any worn out mid format camera with these bellows(I may do that to my 2x3 Speed Graphic- the bellows is crusty leather with lots of light leaks).
These bellows, whether on the metal packfilm cameras or the plastic packfilm cameras, are easy to remove.
When I am doing this, I am always sacrificing the bellows from a plastic packfilm camera for a metal packfilm camera. If for some reason you are doing metal to plastic, there may be some extra steps involved in reattaching the bellows to the front standard.
The first thing to do is decide whether you want to preserve the tabs that hold the shutter cable and the automatic exposure wire. The camera will survive without these, but it is a good idea to rescue them as they help the camera fold up easily without kinks in the line or cable. There are two ways of rescuing them. One is to carefully pry them free of the old bellows, leaving them threaded on the cable and line. When you put the new bellows on, just glue them back on to the bellows. The second way is more involved. Unhook the cable from the front standard by LOOSENING the three screws. Unhook the line by clipping it in the battery compartment and remove a little staple holding the line in. Upon installing the new bellows, thread the cable and line back through. This method is waaaay more involved- I suggest you just glue the old ones.
Next remove the screws that hold the bellows on to the front standard. If you are sacrificing a plastic packfilm camera, there will be plastic posts with friction washers instead of screws. Just grip the friction washer holding the front standard and snap it off.
These next steps could scratch the black paint on the inside of your metal camera's enclosure. I will assume that you will take measures to avoid this(or don't care, as it is cosmetic). Any area you pry can be protected by masking tape or a well positioned piece of cloth.
Pry the tabs connecting the bellows to the camera. Use a small screwdriver or knife for this. Be careful not to puncture the bellows at this stage. Pry the tabs straight up, not prying them back any more than necessary. Pry only three out of four sides, and leave the 4th side untouched. Remove the bellows. If you are re-using this bellows, see to it that you save the little foam gasket that is under the bellows. If it is too far gone, you can use thin felt, black silicone, or just about anything black to help avoid light leaks there. Or you can go without. I have not had an issue with leaving this part out.
The replacement is pretty much the reverse of the removal. Slip the new bellows in with the tabs that are not pried back. Bend the tabs back in place starting with the ones opposite the ones that were not bent. Pinch the tabs down tight using needle-nose pliers. Make sure you are just pinching the metal flange and not the cloth of the bellows.
Now screw the front standard connection back on. Thread or glue the tabs back in place. It is that easy!
Remove these screws to detach from the front standard.

Pry back these tabs with a thin screwdriver or knife.

Notice the tab connecting the bellows to the shutter release cable.

If you choose to disconnect the shutter cable, just back out the three screws(do not remove them as they are very difficult to put back).

Camera with bellows removed.

Hook the new bellows on by bending the tabs back on.
Put some cloth or tape on the areas that are at risk of being scratched.
Use needle-nose pliers to tighten down firmly.

Here tabs are bent back in place tightly.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

My Polaroid Obsession Part Eleven, Polaroid in Name Only.

After a Polaroid bankruptcy in the early part of the 20th century, Polaroid changed- and not for the better. They went from a company of innovators to a company of lawyers and shareholders. Looking down the aisles of a Walmart, you will still see Polaroid on a lot of products. That is because all they do currently is sell their brand name to various products with no connection to creating the products. They do not have a manufacturing arm.
The cameras I am presenting here are Polaroid in Name Only. First on that list is the silver Mio from 2001. This was a slightly redesigned Fuji Mini Checki that used Polaroid 300 film which was Fuji Instax Mini film re-branded. Around 2009, they started generating a lot of fuss over a revolutionary new instant camera, showing prototypes paired with ideas. Instead, they just branded Fuji Instax Mini cameras in all colors and called them Polaroid!
The five other cameras, however, have a closer tie to Polaroid. Though it is believed that the digital camera killed Polaroid instant( I happen to believe it is shortsightedness and mismanagement ), Their powerful research arm(the legacy of Dr. Land) were pioneers in digital and digital imaging. Zink (zero ink) imaging material was born in Polaroid labs and perfected by Polaroid ex- employees. Using a very sophisticated color crystal layering system, they created a paper that when heated certain ways, produces much of the visible spectrum. The Zink based cameras print using a thermal head that functions similar to what old fax machines and receipt printers use. This allows the image to be collected digitally and printed digitally.
I have experimented with flame and with soldering irons, and some have even managed a crude form of emulsion lift with this paper. Though it is not an analog photography based paper, there are a lot of creative possibilities with it. Some have even had success printing on the old thermal receipts with it( I can't wait to try this!).
As you can see by my collection, they have come in all shapes and sizes. One of these is a Zink printer- you take a picture with your phone and push it via Bluetooth to the device. The two Z2300 cameras are camera and printer in one. You take pictures and choose which ones you want to print. They print on tiny 2x3 sticker Zink paper. The big, flat, square one is the Socialmatic. It is designed to look like the Instamatic logo( which interestingly enough was designed to look like a Polaroid camera). It is automatically tethered to the web, and can not only print out 2x3 images, but upload directly to your social network of choice.
This particular camera has been plagued with software and hardware problems. It remains one of my few “for display only” cameras, as it has an integral battery that failed( I got it really cheap!). It has a touch screen back with an OS that looks like Android and the front shows emoticons based on your mood. As the current trend on everything seems to be, these cameras get terrible customer support. People drop about 3-400 dollars on these Socialmatics and their complaints fall on deaf ears.
Despite all of this negativity, however- I do have a favorite! The Z340, a 2010 model, fits in your hand like a spectra, has a flip up LED, 14 mp, lots of fun capture options, creative filters, and most importantly- prints 3x4(much closer to original Polaroids). You can choose to print with the iconic white borders, but I have yet to do this successfully. The full bleed mode works best for me. This camera still feels like a camera in your hands. The only real improvement I can imagine, is they could pair it with a better lens/ sensor to go with it's great size and looks. It is quite clear that they just grafted on a cell phone camera, so the same limitations apply.
My collection of these is not comprehensive- there were some grey line stand alone printers that printed 3x4, and there are two new Polaroid Snap cameras out now, available in Walmart right next to the re-branded Fuji cameras.