Polaroid may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of adventure-friendly video cams — Contour and GoPro own that space, with Sony now making a heavy push of its own — but the insta-film maker turned camera manufacturer now has a rugged lineup of its own. First off the assembly line is the XS7, a $69 cam that packs a waterproof housing (rated to 10 meters), 720p video capture and a 2-inch touchscreen. This model is as entry level as they come, and Polaroid reps said to expect to see it in stores like Toys ‘R’ Us. If you’re slightly more serious about image quality, you might opt for the XS20, which packs a “professional” CMOS sensor, 720p shooting, a waterproof housing (20 meters) and a battery that’s rated for up to 3 hours of use. It also includes a fixed lens with a 120-degree viewing angle that’s surrounded by eight LCDs, for shooting in the dark. Finally, The XS100 is what you might consider to be Polaroid’s flagship, with support for 1080p video, an adjustable frame rate, a 170-degree lens, an orientation sensor for auto rotation and a $200 price tag. All three cameras use microSD cards, but the XS100 also includes 32MB of internal storage, letting you store a small collection of 5-megapixel stills.
The sports-shooting trio may not blow you away spec-wise, and we also weren’t floored by the design, but they weren’t created to lead the market from a performance perspective — Polaroid is playing up the cost angle here, and we don’t blame them. Based on our quick test of the XS7, image quality was passable, but you’re not going to want to use it for close-up shots as we did here. Even with the underwater housing removed, frames were either under or overexposed, generally unsharp and audio wasn’t terribly clear. It’s worth noting that we played with a pre-production sample, that’ll run you just shy of $70 when it does hit stores. That said, if quality is key and you don’t mind dropping a few hundred bucks, you’ll probably be happier with a more established model. Because we’re at a photo show and Polaroid was generous enough to let us take the XS7 for a spin, we figured there’s no better way to demonstrate this camera’s capabilities by using it to film our hands-on — you’ll find that video tour just past the break.