A day at the Las Vegas Neon Boneyard with the Polaroid Snap camera

As a child of the '80s many of my memories were made with polaroid pictures — lots of instant family photos, huge grids of them pinned to the wall of my dorm room. The Polaroid of my youth stopped making film in 2008, though by then I had largely moved on to digital and medium format film photography. There are many twists and turns to the Polaroid story between then and now, but the device securely has a place in my heart. So while The Verge was in Vegas for CES I jumped at the chance to try it out, and I knew the perfect test shoot location.

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The Neon Museum is a nonprofit in Las Vegas committed to preserving neon signs, either at its Las Vegas Boulevard North location or making sure the bright lights stay where they are — around the city as public art projects. The path, in front of the museum, meanders through stacked neon signs in varying states of decay — some could very nearly still grace the entrance to a hotel or casino, while others are rusty, their bulbs missing. The combination is a wonderful layering of texture and color.

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Composition of four Snap images straight out of the camera

For an hour I was mostly alone to explore the Neon Boneyard, a lot adjacent to the museum filled with the monuments of Las Vegas past. The Neon Museum was founded in 1996 and the Neon Boneyard was opened in 2014. There are 200 signs in the total collection ranging from the 1930s to today. The museum is also dedicated to preserving the art history of sign making and craftsmanship of using neon as a medium.

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The cute, coat pocket-sized Snap was introduced in September of 2015. It's a 10-megapixel point-and-shoot that also produces 2-by-3 sticker / print images. Each shot takes about 40 seconds to print out using a non-ink technology called Zink printing where "dye crystals" are embedded in layers within the paper itself and are activated by the printing mechanism. This means no replacing ink cartridges, but you do occasionally get those familiar lines in the prints. Because the viewfinder isn’t exact you have to get used to changing your composition so you don’t crop out something important. The Snap doesn’t have a flash, but includes a self-timer, and a screw-mount for a little tripod. The camera has a micro USB port for cards up to 32 gigabytes and comes in four colors. It will set you back $99 for the camera, $14.99 per 30 sheets of paper / stickers. There is no control over exposure but the three color settings — color, black and white, and sepia — are fun to play with. It also has the best magnetic lens cap I have ever seen.

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Prototype of the Polaroid Snap+ is due out late 2016.

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I started shooting at 4PM when the light was turning a soft blue, a challenging situation for a point and shoot. The Snap did well in this light though, but the images came out a little dark compared to the naked eye. The above shot was taken on a Canon 5D Mark II.

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The neon sign of the La Concha Hotel (top right) welcomes you into the Neon Boneyard.

Built in 1961, the LaConcha’s lobby was reclaimed by the museum and repurposed as its visitors center and gift shop in 2012. The structure was designed by notable architect Paul Revere Williams who was responsible for an estimated 2,500 residential and commercial projects, including the Crescent Wing and the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. In 1923, Williams became the first African American member of the American Institute of Architects.

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Diptych of Snap images straight out of the camera

Before they close their doors, Vegas businesses will approach the museum to offer their signage. Other times, the organization will make efforts to salvage a beloved landmark. "As long as signs are coming down, we want to do what we can to ensure they are saved for future generations" writes PR director, Dawn Merritt in an email.

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A restored mid-1960s sign from the still-existing Jerry’s Nugget Casino. Image taken on a Canon 5D Mark II

About 45 minutes into the shoot, the Snap’s battery died, which was disappointing — and surprising, because it seemed to have a full charge when I first set out. The light was getting really good so I took the remainder of the images on my Canon 5D Mark II.

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The sign from the Stardust Hotel and Casino, which opened its doors in 1958 and was torn down in 2007. It lives on in film as the inspiration for the movie Casino. (The incredible typeface used for the sign was later named "Electra Jag.") Image taken on a Canon 5D Mark II.

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One of the paths through the Neon Boneyard at the Neon Museum. Image taken on a Canon 5D Mark II.

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