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.