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?”
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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I love using my Polaroid Land Cameras. Instant photography is the drug that brought me to shooting film. As much as I enjoy it, there are two problems when shooting peel-apart 100-series Fujifilm (FP-100C Color or FB-3000B Black & White). The first issue is dust and debris that can stick to a freshly peeled image. The micro particles don’t appear on the slightly wet print, but will appear when the image is scanned. The solution is to place the print in an environment so it can dry, dust and hair-free. The second issue with peel-apart film is what to do with the print. When I’m shooting, I’m always looking for a way to keep my photos from being damaged; folded, wrinkled, or sticking to other prints.
The Step5 Polaroid Print Holder is a 3D printed film holder that can store ten Fujifilm instant photos securely. Inside the holder are small groves that allow each print to slide inside. The spacing of the groves prevents prints from touching each other during storage. The print holder is small enough to fit anywhere in a camera bag. And it’s strong enough so prints won’t be crushed or folded.
Pros: The Step5 Print Holder keeps prints protected. Photos are evenly spaced and don’t come in contact with each other. The print holder is 3D printed at high density making the plastic strong and crush-proof. As a bonus, the gray coloring of the holder matches vintage Polaroid accessories. I’m not sure if this was done on purpose, but it works.
Cons: Because the holder is 3D printed, the open end of the holder is rough plastic. I found that I couldn’t insert my prints into the holder smoothly. To resolve this, I took some fine grain sandpaper and inserted it into each grove and that was enough to remove some of the plastic burs. This wouldn’t be an issue if the holder was created using plastic injected molding.
The Step5 Polaroid Print Holder is now available for $30.00 (USD) plus $6 for shipping ($15 international) from PhotOle Photography. They also have a new negative holder for photographers like me that keep our peel-apart negatives for bleaching (color) and scanning. The larger groves provide additional space to keep negatives from sticking to each other. It’s now available for $40.00 (USD) plus $6 for shipping ($15 international).
One of my favorite cameras is also the first instant film camera I purchased in October 2013. The Polaroid Land Camera 250, manufactured from 1967 – 1969, is a high-end model with a Zeiss Ikon rangefinder focus. The focus is projected in a single viewfinder window unlike other models made during the time. The camera itself has an all metal body, a tripod mount, and contains a 3-element glass lens (114mm f/8.8).
During the three year production, Polaroid made some slight changes to the model 250. Early version have a much larger viewfinder/focus window. Many collectors and photographers prefer this version because of the viewfinder. Another noticeable difference in the early version is the classic Polaroid logo. It features the name Polaroid on the front cover with the original crossing polarizer lens logo on the top. In later versions, the viewfinder/focus window was reduced in size, though it was functionally identical. The polarizer logo was removed and the name Polaroid was moved on the cover and the camera model was added. From this point forward, this was the standard location for the name and model. I currently own the later version of the 250. Last year I purchased a box of mystery cameras from an auction house in San Diego, California. One of the cameras in the box was an early version of the 250. I cleaned it up, lubricated the moving parts, and converted the batteries. It wasn’t difficult to find a buyer.
Since 2014, I’ve collected seven other Polaroid Land Cameras that use the 100-Serial Type Pack Film. Each camera has been cleaned and had the batteries converted to standard AA’s or AAA’s depending on the model. I’ve even purchased a few duplicates and given them away to friends. In November 2013, Rich Legg and I were messing around with our instant cameras at his studio in Draper, Utah. Rich wired an old flash cable so we could connect our Land Camera’s to Pocket Wizards. This allowed us to use our instant cameras with his giant octobox and studio strobes. It was cool to mix a 45-year old camera with modern wireless triggers and studio lighting.
Under the Redondo Beach Pier, Redondo Beach, California
Fisherman on the Pier, Redondo Beach, California
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