By Brady Betzel
There are a lot of options out there for outdoor, extreme sports cameras — GoPro is the first that comes to mind with their Hero line, but even companies like Garmin have their own versions that are gaining traction in the niche action camera market. Polaroid has been trying their hand in lots of product markets lately, from camera sliders to monopods and even video cameras with the Polaroid Cube+.
I’m a big fan of GoPro cameras, but one thing that might keep people away is the price. So what if you want something that will record video and take still pictures at a lower cost? That’s where the Polaroid Cube+ fits in. It’s a cube-shaped HD camera that is not much larger than a few sugar cubes. It can film HD video (technically 720p at 30, 60 or 120 fps; 1080p at 30 or 60fps; or 1440p at 30fps), as well take still images at four megapixels interpolated into eight megapixels.
Right off the bat you’ll read “4MP interpolated into 8MP,” which really means it’s a 4MP camera sensor that uses some sort of algorithm, like bicubic interpolation, to blow up your image with a minimal amount of quality loss. Think of it this way — if you are viewing images on your smartphone, you probably won’t see a lot of problems except for your image being a little soft. Other than that tricky bit of word play (which is not uncommon among camera manufacturers), the Cube+ has a decent retail price at just $150.
In my mind, this is a camera that can be used as an educational tool for young filmmakers or for a filmmaker that wants to get a really sneaky b-roll shot in a tight space without paying a high cost. The sound quality isn’t great, but it’s good for reference when syncing cameras together or in an emergency when there is no other audio recording.
Inside the box you get the Cube+ in black, red or teal; a microUSB cable to charge and connect the Cube + to your computer, a user guide, and an 8GB MicroSD. There is a WiFi button, a power/record button and a back cover. Your MicroSD lives under the back cover, and the connection for the microUSB cable can be found there as well.
The Cube+ has WiFi built in, so you can access the camera on your Android or iPhone, control your camera and settings, or even browse the content of your camera. You must have their app to be able to control the Cube+’s camera settings, otherwise it will default to what you had last. To start filming or taking pictures, you hold the power button for three seconds to turn it on. You click the button on the top twice to start recording video, then click once more to end video recording. You click just once to take a picture.
The Cube+ films with its 124-degree lens that has a fisheye look like many wide-angle action cams. According to Polaroid, the Cube+ has image stabilization built in, but I found the footage to still be shaky. It’s possible that the video could be shakier without it, but I found the footage to need some post production stabilization work.
In my opinion, what really sets this camera apart from other action cameras, besides the price point, is the magnet inside the camera that allows you to stick it to anything magnetic without buying additional accessories. Others should consider adding that to their lineup too.
I took the Cube+ to the Santa Barbara Zoo with one of my sons recently and wasn’t afraid to give it to him to film or take pictures with. Since it is splash proof, it can even get a little wet without ruining it. Again, I really love the ability to mount the Cube+ to almost anything with its magnet on the bottom, which is pretty strong. We were riding the train around the zoo, and I stuck it to the train rail without a worry of it falling off. But I did notice when using it that the magnet did get pretty warm, as in it would border on being too hot to touch. Just something to keep in mind if you let kids use it.
In the end, the Polaroid Cube+ is not on the quality level of the GoPro Hero 5 Session, but it might be good for someone filming for the first time that doesn’t want to spend a lot of money. And at $150, it might be a good b-roll camera when used in conjunction with your phone’s camera.
You can check out more about the Polaroid Cube+ in its user manual.
Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on Life Below Zero and Cutthroat Kitchen. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.