Tag 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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Step5 Polaroid Print Holder

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).

 


Polaroid Land Camera 250

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).

Polaroid Land Camera 250
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.

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Polaroid SX-70 Camera & Impossible Film

I admit, this is a camera purchase I put off for a long time, but I’m happy I now own one. Why the hesitation? First, the expense. The original SX-70 has a cult following among instant photographers and has maintained its value. Finding one that functions correctly and looks good comes with a high price tag. You can buy an SX-70 from Impossible or Photojojo  that has been refurbished, but it comes with a steep price tag, usually $300 – $450 (US). When they refurbish the SX-70, they replace the leather, clean, replace parts (motor and flash electronics), and test each camera. One critical component replaced are the rollers. The rollers are essential to any model of Land Camera. The rollers spread the reagent and developing components as the film is ejected from the camera. If the rollers aren’t clean and don’t press firmly on the film, the photo will not develop correctly, or at all. When Polaroid originally manufactured these cameras, the rollers were coated with a Teflon substance. A material that would grip the film coming out of the camera, but would facilitate the rolling movement necessary to spread the chemicals evenly. Over time, this coating on the rollers can break down. If the rollers aren’t cleaned frequently, white pieces of the reagent can remain on the rollers and eventually wear down the coating, or create a rust-colored residue. If you buy any Polaroid Land Camera, make sure it’s been tested with film. I purchased mine on eBay and since I couldn’t test the camera myself, I made sure the buyer had with a fresh pack of Impossible film. If you’re shopping online for a Polaroid camera, you’ll find a large price difference between cameras that have been tested, and those that are sold “as is.” Be cautious buying from sellers that state, “I have no way to test this camera.”

My second hesitation with purchasing this camera were the doubts I have about the reliability of Impossible film. If you check online forums and reviews, there’s no consensus among photographers regarding Impossible’s film. It’s expensive, and based on my own experience with their 600-Series film, it’s not as reliable as the original produced by Polaroid. That’s not to say that in the future it won’t be. And that’s not to say that the results aren’t artistic or enjoyable. There’s a reason why the company is called The Impossible Project. Reverse engineering and recreating Polaroid’s original formula with new chemicals is a massive undertaking. The original SX-70 film contained thirteen layers of chemistry, a thin plastic sheet on top (Mylar), with a black backing. The chemicals had to be self-contained within a pouch on each frame (the larger white film border at the bottom of each photo). If you haven’t seen it, I recommend the documentary Time Zero: The Last year of Polaroid Film. This film explains the final years and months of Polaroid’s warehoused inventory of SX-70 and 600-Series films, the hoarding that started to take place by photographers, and the confidence placed in the hands of Impossible to re-create two of the world’s most notable film formats.


Short History of the Polaroid SX-70 Camera

After Polaroid’s wartime production of bomb sights and goggles, the idea of instant photography was patented by Edwin H. Land in 1943. The story is told that Land’s daughter asked why she couldn’t see a photo taken after it was taken, thus creating the idea for instant photography. The name SX-70 actually means “Special Experiment” used within Polaroid that replaced the name project “Aladdin” in the 1960’s. Seventy was the next numerical number used by the company as it conducted such experiments. The shape and size of the camera was directed by Land himself as he wanted it to be small and no bigger than a paperback book. The design was created by Polaroid’s top engineer, Dick Wareham in 1965. The SX-70 camera and film was introduced to the public in 1972. According to The Land List, three variations of the original SX-70 exist. The first production models from 1972 – 1977 had a plain ground glass focusing screen. This is the model that I own. Later models have a split-image rangefinder circle and much later models have a split-image rangefinder circle and focus scale. The camera attracted serious photographers because it was the first instant SLR camera (Single-Lens Reflex), viewing and focusing was done directly through the lens. As the popularity of the camera grew, so did the technology. One of Polaroid’s bold engineers, Phil Baker, complained that the camera was too difficult to focus. Land threatened to fire him, but agreed to a redesign of the camera. By 1978, Polaroid released the first auto-focus instant camera with the use of sonar. This technology was used to “ping” subjects in front of the camera and the returning signal would allow the camera to focus automatically. While the sonar module added extra size to the camera, it was very accurate and remained part of Polaroid’s camera designs into the 1980’s. Along with auto-focus, other features were added over the years like a tripod socket, fill-flash using Flashbars, along with black and white colored camera bodies.


These are my initial test shots with the SX-70 and Impossible SX-70 Color Film. The camera is fun to use. It is slightly difficult to focus, but at f/8 – f/22, it’s a little forgiving. I actually enjoy the rangefinder focus on the older Land Camera models that use 100-Series film. The camera is unique and attracts attention while using it, making it a fun conversation piece. Between the design, the SLR functions, I can see why it has such a popular history and cult following. I’m still hung up on the focus difficulty. Land claimed that people didn’t understand SLR’s and placed blame on the agency marketing the camera. In 1975 Polaroid had television ads that showed consumers how to focus with the camera. The results with the Impossible color film are about what I expected, but are also what was expected for instant images coming from this camera with original Polaroid film at the time. There’s not a lot of color saturation, in fact the colors seem a bit muted. However, I think it’s subjective and some photographers may desire this look. The documentation that comes with Impossible’s film instructs you to keep the photo out of direct light after it’s been ejected from the camera. I did this while I was out shooting, placing each freshly taken image into my camera bag, only to find out later that some of the white reagent had leaked from one or more photos on to the other images. Not a big deal, but I see this as one of the minor imperfections that Impossible has to overcome. Another being the area of the photo that has dissolved away or appears as an undeveloped patch. This can be seen at the bottom of my photos. Again, this can be subjective to the photographer and many Polaroid fanatics like this look. I see it as a defect in the film itself, but that’s just my own opinion. In the future I will be posting some images and reviews of the Impossible B&W Film for 600, B&W Film for 600 Hard Color Frames, B&W Film for SX-70 and B&W Film for SX-70 Black Frame.