The Instant Iceman: Polaroid Photographer Extraordinairre

Instant cameras

Or at least in my own mind. But after acquiring thirteen instant cameras and shooting fairly regularly, I might be a bit of an expert on this thing called instant photography.

I have two pack film cameras: a Polaroid Land Camera 250 and an NPC 195. I have five Polaroid Sx-70 cameras: one refurbished camera by Mint, one refurbished camera by The Impossible Project, one tan leather skinned SX-70 that I bought on eBay, a refurbished Sonar SX-70 from Impossible, and one Mint Sx-70 that was upgraded to a SLR 670m. I have two Polaroid Spectra cameras: one that I found at an antique store and another SE model that I purchased on eBay. I have two Polaroid Sun 660 cameras: one I bought on an impulse at a favorite camera shop and another that I ordered used but in excellent condition online. I also have a Mint Instantflex TL70 that uses Fuji Instax Mini film. I recently acquired an Impossible Project I-1, the first new Polaroid-integral film style camera (notwithstanding Fuji Instax cameras) to be manufactured in almost 20 years.

I’ve been actively using the SX-70s, the Spectras and the 660’s for my Polaroid-a-day 365 project and it’s been fun learning to use each camera while getting used to their quirks and the unpredictability of the film. I’ve also used the pack film cameras for  the project but on a much more limited basis. In my opinion, the pack film cameras produce the sharpest pictures but the nostalgia, build quality and unique rendering of the SX-70s is unmatched for overall artistry. The 660’s are more versatile with autofocus and flash built into the camera but you don’t get a whole lot of creative control over your images. The Spectras are a nice in-between–you get some of the sharpness of pack film with the familiar bordered look of the SX-70s in a wider format with greater depth of field and contrast.  The Fuji is fun and cheaper to shoot in terms of film cost but the small prints don’t quite compare to the traditional Polaroid prints that are now provided by the excellent work of the folks at The Impossible Project. I haven’t had my I-1 for long, but it seems to promise some of the great versatility of a 600 shooter with creative manual controls that go beyond what is possible with an SX-70. With the release of this new camera, I’m really excited about the possibilities and the future of instant film.

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