POLAROID SUN 660 AF

DescriptionPolaroid Sun 660 Auto Focus
ManufacturersThe Polaroid Corporation
Time Period1981-
ComponentsCamera and original box
DetailsAperture f/14.6 – f/45
Sonar Auto Focus
Dimensions
LocationUCL Cabinet of Obsolete Media
Inventory nº

First released in 1981, the Polaroid Sun 660 AF corresponds to one of the first 600 integral film cameras made cheaply available by the Polaroid Corporation. Though it used the same integral film format that the SX-70, the ASA of the 600 box-type camera film was much higher (640) making it better for low light conditions. With a squared black body, a lighten/darken slide, and a foldable integrated flash that could be overridden if preferred, the Sun 660 stands out from other cameras of that time for incorporating the recently released Sonar Auto Focus system (grilled golden circle on the left of the camera), which according to an official Polaroid advertisement, “worked by sending out soundwaves that bounced off the subject and return in a split second; the lens automatically rotates to perfect focus.”

During the 1980s and 1990s the Polaroid Corporation released hundreds of variations of its 600 box-type cameras, many of them featuring brand collaborations (such as the widely known Spice Cam, McDonalds, Looney Tunes, etc.), which later rendered the Corporation to be judged by some as a gadget mass-consumer company, as opposed to the highly technological reputation they enjoyed before. Nonetheless, some of the 660 models contemplated a Pro line that included close-up lens attachments to be used in the dental field, and the highly sought after models 680 and 690, which on top of the sonar autofocus system encompassed a tilting flash, and a foldable body (similar to that of the SX-70).

In addition to the black variant, the Corporation released a golden Sun 660 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Polaroid Corporation (1987) and a transparent one for demonstration purposes. The three of them are available for purchase from second-hand sites, albeit the black version is easier to find. Film for the Sun 660 (and all other types of 600 box-type cameras) is readily available for purchase from Polaroid Originals.

A.L.

Bibliography:

Adam, Rhiannon. Polaroid. The Missing Manual. London: Thames & Hudson, 2017.

POLAROID SX-70 LAND CAMERA

DescriptionPolaroid SX-70 Instant Camera
ManufacturersThe Polaroid Corporation
Time Period1972-
ComponentsFoldable camera and one pack of Polaroid SX-70 instant film
DetailsAperture f/8 to f/90
DimensionsFolded: 17.8 x 10 x 2.7 cm
Unfolded: 17.8 x 14.5 x 10 cm
LocationUCL Cabinet of Obsolete Media
Inventory nº

First introduced in 1947, Polaroid instant photography, and the iconic white frame picture associated with it was the results of the investment of millions of dollars in decades of research and development carried out by the Polaroid Corporation. Though the first cameras worked with roll film cartridges that, once shot, needed to be manually pulled out from the camera and coated to prevent the sepia-toned image from fading, in 1972 everything changed with the arrival of the SX-70.

Arguably one of the most iconic instant Polaroid cameras, the SX-70 is both known by its aesthetics as well as its functionality. Featuring a chrome body with a tan leather cover, it was the first-ever foldable SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera to be released in the market. Its size, though “big” by today standards, was intended to be carried in one’s pocket—a characteristic that Land made sure to emphasize when he first presented the camera to the press by taking it out of his coat pocket and unfolding it in front of the audience. The film, which came after $600 million investment, originally comprised a 17-layer “sheet” that contained all the necessary chemicals to allow the picture to develop. Utilizing Land’s system of chemical opacifiers (light blockers), the chemical reaction was activated by the reagent contained within the chemical “pod”, with the opacifier creating a shield between the light-sensitive emulsion and the outer layer.

In an interview given to Time Magazine in 1972, Edwin Land, the founder and inventor of the Polaroid Corporation, mentioned that this new camera and film, as opposed to previous models, entailed “No garbage, no imbibing time and small-size camera.” With this statement, he intended to address the main “issues” of previous instant film formats, mainly the “peel-apart technology” that required users to peel the positive from the negative (which needed to be disposed), and the amount of time the image required “to set” and dry (which is where the ‘shake’ motion linked to Polaroid comes from).

Still, far from a simple redesign of the previous camera and film models, the SX-70 required $250 millions of investments and decades of development (though some people argue that the investment might have been as high as $1 billion), which is why this particular camera not only epitomises the peak of instant photographic technology but also the ingenious spirit of Edwin Land as head of the Polaroid Corporation.

Following the release of the SX-70, a few years later Polaroid introduced some variations. The Alpha-1 included a tripod socket, neck-straps, and a split-focus viewfinder. In 1978, Polaroid released an SX-70 camera with the newly Sonar autofocus system.

Though hard to find at some point, today SX-70s compatible film is readily available from Polaroid Originals. Battery operated flash bars can be purchased from Mint, a Hong-Kong based company that manufactures a line of products compatible with Polaroid SX-70.

A.L.

Bibliography:

Adam, Rhiannon. Polaroid. The Missing Manual. London: Thames & Hudson, 2017.

Bonanos, Christopher. Instant. The Story of Polaroid. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2012.

Life, “Dr. Land’s Latest bit of Magic”, Life Magazine, October 1972.

POLAROID IMAGE (SPECTRA) 1200

DescriptionPolaroid Image (Spectra) 1200 instant camera
ManufacturersThe Polaroid Corporation
Time Period2004 –
ComponentsCamera
DetailsAperture f/10 – f/45
Autofocus
LCD Screen
Dimensions
LocationUCL Cabinet of Obsolete Media
Inventory nº

Spectra cameras, known as “Image” outside of the U.S., were first introduced to the market in 1986 at a time when the Polaroid Corporation struggled to release new products. Following the retirement of Edwin Land as head of the Corporation, and with “Mac” Booth in his place, the decision to manufacture Polaroid Spectra answered to 35 mm film format, hence its 3½x2¾ format.  

Many models of the Spectra camera were released during 1986 and 2004, albeit most of them followed the original one, maintaining a similar style and features, mainly its dark grey or black colour, the collapsible body, autofocus system, flash, light and dark slide, though some of the models presented slight variations. For example, the Spectra Pro Cam, released in 1996, unfolded from the side as opposed to the front, and allowed the date/time to be engraved in the image; or the 1200FF model (2001), distinguishable from all the others due to its vertical opening. The Image 1200 was the last Spectra model released by the Polaroid Corporation and stands out from the other models due to its LCD digital display that enables the photographer to compose the image before shooting it. 

Though the Spectra camera was never as big as its integral counterparts in popularity, today it is still used by many, especially to those who appreciate the wide format and the main feature offered by all Spectra models (with the exception of the 1200FF), that is, the possibility to easily produce “double exposures.” The double exposures are possible by taking a picture and keeping the shutter button pressed, while collapsing the camera with the other hand, successfully interrupting auto-eject function and reinitiating the circuit.

A.L.

Bibliography:

Adam, Rhiannon. Polaroid. The Missing Manual. London: Thames & Hudson, 2017.

Bonanos, Christopher. Instant. The Story of Polaroid. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2012.

POLAROID SWINGER

DescriptionPolaroid Swinger (Model 20)
ManufacturersThe Polaroid Corporation
Time Period1965-1970
ComponentsCamera, original camera box, and film
DetailsAperture: f/17 – f/100
Flash
Dimensions
LocationUCL Cabinet of Obsolete Media
Inventory nº

Released in 1965 “the Swinger” was the first of Polaroid’s camera to cater specifically to the youth market. Designed by the American design pioneer Henry Dreyfuss, the Swinger featured a white plastic body with black, red, and silver accents, and included a viewfinder that lit up with the word “yes” when the light was correct for the exposure. Though it only took 2×3 black and white images, at just under $20, the price of the camera made it easily accessible to the mass market, with an estimated 7 million units sold over the years. The Swinger used Polaroid Type 20 model film (panchromatic black and white), though different from preceding models it developed outside the camera. With a higher ASA of 3000, the Swinger promised easily made snapshots that young people could take while on their outings. This notion was reinforced by a TV commercial advertising the camera which depicted a young couple having fun on a day out at the beach while the catchy jingle, “meet the Swinger”, played in the background.

Its name, “the Swinger,” came after a Polaroid employee saw the movement the camera made while being attached to Land’s wrist, and it aimed to connote youthfulness and liveliness, though it has been said that its name also hinted the amateur erotic photographic practices that gathered around Polaroid.

Albeit the Swinger proved to be an extremely successful camera, after a few years, and as it usually happens with young people, the sales in film started to decline, still, Christopher Bonanos noted, “the baby-boomers’ kids [were] hooked” (and potentially ready to jump into other Polaroid products).

Though the Swinger is easily available for purchase in second-hand markets, currently there is no film available.

A.L.

Bibliography

Bonanos, Christopher. Instant. The Story of Polaroid. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2012.