I’ve mentioned that recently photography is one of the few things keeping me sane this summer. I’ve owned a Canon 70D for almost two years now and only started really taking pictures with it eight months ago; before that it was just used it as a film camera. what changed was that last Christmas I was gifted an old Polaroid 600 type by my friend, Ryan. The first picture I ever took on the 600 turned out awfully; that is to say, it didn’t turn out at all. The second however was taken by my Dad, who worked out how the flash worked. Hey, I said photography was keeping me sane, I never said I was any good.
This camera sparked my interest in photography. It’s hard to pin down why but an analogue image will always bear some sort of interesting dynamic. Perhaps it’s the expensive nature of the medium; Its a pricy hobby I’ll admit. The upshot is if you take a photo, you’re damn sure about that photo! You’ve thought about the composition, the light and the subject before you even think about pressing the shutter and even if it comes out wrong, that level of preplanning will yield interesting results more often than not.
But what can it do? The controls are basic. You can change the light intake, somewhat like controlling the F-Stop or aperture on a DSLR camera. Light is more of a consideration in a polaroid camera as not enough will leave images looking like this…
The light intake has three settings; light, normal and dark. The switch (Pictured below) will change how much light the chemicals are exposed to. unfortunately there’s no real way of knowing how much light you need or which setting is more appropriate in given surroundings without experience; so really, just practice.
The camera has a flash which you may or may not use given your chosen preference. I tend not as it often gives images a flat, washed out look, instead using the light of the world around me. Lastly there is a limited focal length control. a small lens can be slid across the lens which is more suitable for closer shots up it 2 feet. (Not a macro camera, then)
I imagine Ryan found the 600 on eBay where you can pick one up for anywhere from a tenner to £50. Of course this way means that you’re buying a potentially getting on for 30 year old camera that could have developed faults or sustained damage. Luckily, my camera works perfectly well (and I am NOT carful with it) but there is an alternative. The Impossible Project sells refurbished old cameras. This is of course more expensive with cameras costing around £90 and up. (Yes, you can also get a fuji Instax camera for about £60/70 but my 600 can come up with better images and is a considerably older system)
The Impossible Project are the sole provider of film for Polaroid cameras as they bought the remaining factories and equipment after Polaroid stopped production in 2008. Standard film (8 exposure packs) for the 600 type can be found on their website as well as on Amazon for slightly cheaper. When you get it right these images look fantastic.
And even when it goes wrong they look fantastic. (mostly)
(Shutter on the 600 is bloody massive so its hard not to jolt the camera a bit in the beginning – hence the blur)
600 film also comes in a variety of types, such as monochrome which needs more light to come out well I believe.
Duo-chrome film; I.E. like monochrome but with a specific colour, is possibly my least favourite to use, given its a little limiting. That said, I’ve come up with with some pretty cool pictures.
As I say; Polaroid stopped making film in 2008. You can still find packs of unopened Polaroid film today for varying prices. I found some for about £15 but these packs come with 10 exposures rather than 8 and pricing is more or less luck of the draw. (or eBay bid) I love how these turn out. Soft and sepia. I will say that the exposures pictured below only expired in 2009 which is relatively recently. Buying expired film is a risky business for obvious reasons.
(Right Image credit to Lydia and Robert Byron)
The Polaroid Spectra (or image system outside the US but Spectra sounds cooler) was released in 1986 and was aimed more toward more professional users, I.E. opticians, businessmen, even police for recording evidence and the like. The main difference that sets it apart from the 600 is the build quality which is far superior, resulting in better images and a sturdier camera. My Spectra is a refurbished Full Switch. I’ve had it for about two months and I love it.
Full Switch Spectra‘s come with considerably more controls than it’s 600 counterpart. This includes the light intake setting and flash but also an auto focus system and timer. (The auto focus can be switched off but the camera does not have a manual system. There are SLR Polaroid cameras that provide this but you know… mula)
(The Spectra makes a helpful beeping noise when it finds a focus – the left most switch turns off the beeping for those who do not appreciate it; helpful or otherwise)
As for image quality, my refurbished Spectra is obviously far superior to my 600 which likely spent many years an attic. The only conceivable downside is that the market isn’t as big for Spectra film so The Impossible Project don’t bother making anything beyond colour and monochrome exposures. (Polaroid probably never made the equipment anyway) in any case what we do get is beautiful; observe.
(Expired Spectra film is definitely out there but harder to come by. I’m looking)
This summer has been the longest of my life, thanks to ridiculously short university years (considering what we pay for) and my folks inexplicably deciding that they’d like to live in Somerset. luckily I have something to focus on besides train-spotting (literal or otherwise) Thank you Polaroid, thank you Impossible Project; and thank you Ryan.
See what I mean about the flash…
By the way I have an Instagram for anyone who appreciates polaroid images, as well as my digital photographic musings.