I’ve always had a huge soft spot for instant film. From back when you could buy Polaroid in twin packs from Asda for under £20, to the discovery in more recent years of Fuji’s peel apart version for Polaroid 100 series folders. There’s a little bit of a magical feel to it all, and that childlike wonder has never really gone away for me.
It was my birthday recently, and J bought me a camera I’ve lusted after for some time, but never actually used: an SX-70 folding SLR.
Here she is closed flat for storage.
Bear in mind that this is an SLR camera; there’s a full mirror in that folding package, alongside a focussing mechanism, and good quality lens.
Onto the film. Of course, Polaroid closed shop a few years ago now, so any original film is both pricy, and at least 5 years out of date, so no guarantees even if you do get hold of some.
Happily, The Impossible Project took on the task of reproducing instant film for the SX-70, 600 and Spectra series of cameras a few years back, and are coming along in leaps and bounds.
After a shaky beginning, with unstable emulsion issues, the latest batches (the colour protect versions) seem to be very close to the quality and behaviour of the original films. The issue being, of course, that when Polaroid folded, (pun unintentional), a great deal of the equipment and information was destroyed. This has meant Impossible recreating the emulsions from near scratch, with trial and error. No mean feat, but they’ve done pretty impressively in my opinion.
The first thing I noticed about the SX-70 shots, compared with the 600 I’ve used, is that the image quality appears to be vastly better. I’m assuming that it’s largely due to a combination of much lower ISO sensitivity, flash type, and a better quality lens/camera (my 600 is one of the 90s style rounded box shapes, with the half clamshell front, and even in the early 00s when I bought it new, only cost in the region of £30, with a box of film included). But even the colour cast seems punchier and clearer than the 600, which with flash can lack tonal clarity.
Both those were shot with an original flash bar, the disposable magnesium sort, and you can see that the skin tones are very close to natural, with a lovely soft glow.
I’ve yet to shoot in daylight, flashless, but I think it’s safe to say I’ve got a new favourite camera.