It’s Roid Week 2013! No, we’re not talking about the type of stuff that athletes use–instead Roid is short for Polaroid. Flickr did an awesome roundup earlier this week and today we’re counting down some of the most memorable Instant film cameras made. We talked amongst ourselves and also seeked the guidance of David Brommer–legendary Event Space Director at B&H Photo Video Pro Audio to round out some of the most famous all time favorites.
So which one is for you?
What would any Polaroid list be without this camera? The SX-70 had a collapsible design to it with manual focusing and that shot pretty large positive images. It is often cited as the most iconic Polaroid camera made–and shoots are still done with it to this day for creative reasons. Indeed, it’s not just for hipsters!
Today, the camera can be had on eBay but they are also serviced and refurbished by the Impossible Project. At the moment, they’re also the only ones still making the film for the camera after reverse engineering Polaroid’s process.
If you’re looking to pick one up, we’d recommend checking the bellows very carefully. By that, we mean the area that collapses up and down–the reason for this is because if it has holes or is falling apart, then light can leak into the camera and throw your entire exposure off.
Also be sure to look through the viewfinder and ensure that the camera opens and closes with ease. Sometimes you may need to oil the hinges, but if you’re finding that it is way too problematic to deploy the camera for use, forget about it.
While eBay can be a great option, your best bets are actually thrift stores.
If you were looking for a professional Polaroid camera and didn’t want to go into the large format territory, the Polaroid 195 was the creme of the crop. With full manual shutter speeds and aperture, flash sync to 1/500th, and a Zeiss rangefinder, you really couldn’t go wrong with this camera.
The Polaroid 195 shoots 4×3 instant film–and the only ones really making it these days are Fujifilm. However, if you can get your hands on a rare pack of Polaroid film, then pray to Andy Warhol that it won’t be super expired.
Fujifilm currently makes the film at ISO 100 (in color) and ISO 3000 (in black and white.) The camera has no built in meter or electronics, so you’ll need to use a hand-held meter instead.
If you’re looking to get really serious about your Polaroid work, consider hooking this bad boy up with Pocket Wizards. They can attach to the camera using the built-in PC sync port.
Setting it up is a very simple process and there are even numbers along in the right areas to guide you on what to do.
Polaroid Type 100
The Polaroid Type 100 Land Camera was the first collapsible rangefinder type that shot 3×4 instant film–and it did it all with a fully automatic exposure control as well. Think of this as the junior version of its bigger brother the 195. This camera had full ISO settings and also required a battery to power the light meter and the shutter.
If you find one at a thrift shop and the owners tell you that it doesn’t need a battery take a look at the back. You’ll see two different doors: one is for the film and the other is for batteries. The batteries aren’t widely made or manufactured anymore, but you can snag some at the Impossible Project.
Be warned though, many of these were sold with the batteries still in them, and the batteries may have died over the years. In the process, they might have leaked corrosive acid all over the inside–therefore killing the shutter. The repair really won’t be worth the money in the end.
In the event that you find a perfectly working version of the camera, you’ll be very happy and easily rewarded with some wonderful images.
Polaroid 600 SE
This camera was basically their own version of the Mamiya Press Camera. That camera was designed to use its own system of lenses along with 4×3 instant film–the latter is still made by Fujifilm!
It had a very interesting design with the grip being on the left side instead of the right–which makes this camera perhaps better suited for a left-handed photographer.
The 600 SE also had a built in rangefinder for accurate focusing. It can be considered the company’s flagship for professional cameras and can shoot at up to 1/500th with full flash sync due to the leaf shutter design incorporated into the lenses.
Plus it’s made of aluminum–and is really, really sturdy. Of any camera on this list, it may also be the most rugged, but it is also without a doubt the largest.
If you’re getting this camera, chances are that you’ll get it with the Mamiya 127mm f4.7 lens. Trust us, f4.7 is super shallow when you get up to this format.
Any Medium Format Camera with a Polaroid Back
If you have some sort of medium format camera, then there is an extremely strong chance that it shoots polaroid images if you can get a Polaroid back for your specific camera brand and model.
Many years ago, photographers used Polaroid backs to get a previous of what they were shooting–it was mostly used in studios for example with lighting. This way, they wouldn’t waste their negative film.
Then there are cameras that are designed and hacked to work with a Polaroid back. For example, the Holgaroid has become ever so popular as of recent. It is a fun hack involving a Polaroid back and a Holga camera–as well as the plastic lens in front of it.
But besides the Holgaroid, you can turn any Bronica, Mamiya, Pentax or Hasselblad medium format camera into your own instant film shooter–so that way you can get even more out of the camera you already own.
And when you’re all done, just switch the film back to your negative film back, and you’re all set.
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