Category Archives: Polaroid

Come On Barbie, Let’s Go Party

My 13-year old loves to tease me about using the Barbie camera. When I pull it out of my camera bag, his reaction is a combination of silliness and flamboyance, “Are you shooting with your [high pitched voice] Barbie camera today?”

Barbie Instant Camera (1998)
The Barbie Instant Camera was made in the United Kingdom by Polaroid in 1998. Next to the Tasmanian Devil and Spice Girls camera, it’s one of the more collectible Polaroid cameras made in the 1990’s. Originally, the Barbie Instant Camera came packaged with flower stickers so you could decorate the camera, or your photos. The camera features a pink, purple and lime green plastic body and uses Polaroid (Impossible Project) 600 film. At the time of the release, Polaroid manufactured a matching Barbie-framed instant film. The film matched the flowers on the camera and could be drawn on with a purple magic marker. The plastic lens is 116mm, f/11 single element. The camera also has a close-up lens for shots .6 – 1.2m (2 – 4 feet) that slides out in front the main lens and viewfinder. Exposure is automatic and the shutter speed is about ¼ – 1/200 of a second. Like other plastic body instant cameras made by Polaroid during this period, it has a built-in electronic flash than you can override with the shutter button.

A more difficult camera to write a serious review about than to actually use. Compared to some of the other Polaroid 600 Instant Film cameras I own, the Barbie camera works the best. Probably because it was manufactured more recently. To test the camera, I shot with Impossible Project Black & White, Black Framed, 600 Instant Film. This is some of IP’s first generation film, and had expired two years ago. Even though the film was refrigerated, this is what I expected from gen-1 film. Will I use this camera again? Of course, because it gives me an opportunity to embarrass my son in a crowd of people! When I open the camera, people can’t help but smile and laugh because it’s not often you see a 45-year old man packing around a pink and green Barbie camera.

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Polaroid OneStep & Impossible B&W Film

Sometimes you just want to take photos of your cameras. This is the current hipster camera, a classic rainbow Polaroid OneStep with Impossible SX-70 black and white film (black frame edition). I rescued this Land Camera from a local thrift store for $2.00. With the current price of Impossible Project film, that brings the cost of ownership to  $3.38 per image for the first pack of film. Insane, right? There are many reasons to enjoy the 100-Series film from FujiFilm, $2.50 per image, and it’s far more predictable to use than Impossible.


Polaroid Big Swinger Model 3000 Land Camera

After buying a box of old cameras at an auction for $13, I found that I had two original Polaroid Swinger Model 20 cameras. Doing some research and learning about them, it peaked my interest in these boxy-rigid-plastic-sixties-throwback cameras. I found someone local selling a Big Swinger Model 3000 and took the bait. Why? The original Swinger takes Type 20 roll film that hasn’t been produced since 1970. However, the Big Swinger Model 3000 takes 100-type pack film. The same Fujifilm as the other Land Cameras in my collection. The Big Swinger has a plastic lens, plastic body, creates black and white prints, so I was already hooked on this camera before the first shot.

Made by Polaroid from 1968 to 1970, the Big Swinger Model 3000 is the younger and slightly bigger sibling to the original Swinger Model 20. The Big Swinger Model 3000 has a 114mm single –element fixed-focus plastic lens. It takes 2 AA batteries, uses AG-1 flash bulbs, and only accepts 300 ASA (100-Serial Type) black and white film. The original price was $24.95, and you can still find many of them on eBay or in thrift stores for $5 to $30 depending on condition. The Big Swinger has some unique features like many of the similar models produced at the time like the Zip and Square Shooter. Many of the features seem to be Polaroid’s attempt to cut costs and make a more affordable instant camera. For example, instead of using metal rollers to apply the reagent (developing elements) to the film, the Big Swinger uses metal spreading bars to evenly spread the reagent. To take a photo, point the camera at the subject and then squeeze the red knob (that surrounds the white shutter release) and twist to set the exposure lighter or darker. In the bottom of the viewfinder is a small red window. In that window is a red checkerboard pattern. While slowly twisting, eventually the word “YES” appears clearly. This means that the correct exposure has been achieved. While twisting the knob to adjust the exposure, the camera opens or closes the aperture blades behind the lens, letting in more or less light to the film. The aperture on this model works like a pair of scissors opening and closing. It’s that simple, and it works. This must have been another way for Polaroid to cut costs. If a flash bulb is used in the camera, the exposure is set the same, however the twist dial is set for the distance from the camera to the subject. Polaroid has attempted to simplify this. For the most part, the output from the flash bulb is generally consistent, but the light reflecting back into the camera is going to change based on a number of things. The distance being the greatest challenge. For example, a close subject with flash might reflect much more light back, so a bigger aperture (smaller opening) is used. If the subject is further away, much more reflected light is needed to come back to the camera, so a smaller aperture (larger opening) is used.

My wife thinks this camera is really dumb looking, and she has a point, it’s kind of goofy. After a few test shots, it’s easy to get the hang of the exposure control. I even popped a few flash bulbs in it to test. Seeing the wisp of smoke and the smell of the flash brought back a few childhood memories. Along with testing out a vintage camera, I decided to scan both the negatives and the photos. Scanning the negative black and white Fujifilm FP-3000b gives a very dramatic and aged look to the photos. I’m really happy with the results.

Lost Art Tattoo on 25th Street, Ogden, UT
Polaroid Big Swinger Model 3000 – Fujifilm FP-3000b

Old Ovid Meetinghouse in Ovid, ID
Polaroid Big Swinger Model 3000 – Fujifilm FP-3000b


Abandoned Farmhouse in Bancroft, ID
Polaroid Big Swinger Model 3000 – Fujifilm FP-3000b