The barrier of entry for amateur photography has never been lower. The camera built into your smartphone rivals the professional DSLRs from just a decade ago, and anyone can slap a filter onto their Instagram photos to add an artsy vibe. With such an amazing camera in your pocket or purse at all times, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would even bother with a dedicated camera these days. Then, you see a device like the PolaPi-Zero with its built-in thermal printer, and it all makes sense.
Pierre Muth built PolaPi-Zero with a lot of obvious inspiration from the Polaroid instant cameras of yore. While nostalgia is a questionable motivator — no one can deny that technology is better now — it’s also a strong one. Most adults have fond memories of Polaroid cameras and the instant gratification they provided, and PolaPi-Zero recreates that feeling in a new way. Like a Polaroid, it pops out photos as soon as you take them. But, instead of exposing instant photo paper, PolaPi-Zero prints the pictures onto receipt-style thermal paper.
Inside the PolaPi-Zero’s 3D-printed case is a Raspberry Pi Zero W, a Pi Camera Module, a Sharp LCD, and an Adafruit Nano Thermal Receipt Printer. After the Pi boots up, the user can push a button to snap a photo. The photo is then processed to make it suitable for black-and-white printing, and the user can view it on the LCD to verify that it looks good. If so, another button starts the printing process and the PolaPi-Zero pops out a fresh picture still warm from the thermal printer. Sure, the photo quality leaves a lot to be desired, but PolaPi-Zero is a fun trip down nostalgia lane.