The SX-70 camera in the wake of Polaroid

I have a Polaroid SX-70 Land camera at last. I don’t know how long I will have it for. It works, but it is cantankerous. It’s been equal parts fun and frustration wrestling with it.

Polaroid brought this camera to the market in 1972, and I think mine would have been released quite early in the piece. It is not chrome, so it was not one of the first batch, but look at the worn leather in the scan above. It has seen some life, this camera.

Polaroid genius Edward Land wanted a camera that would fit in a suit pocket and would use fully self-contained film. The SX-70 film therefore developed in full sunlight just as well as in the dark, and ingeniously folded. Have a look. It’s a beautiful thing:

Polaroid SX-70 unfolded

Polaroid SX-70 folded

Polaroid SX-70 camera compared to a cat

The SX-70 was originally chrome and leather. Then plastic and leather. Then in the 80s became a fully-plastic, fixed-focus, rainbow-striped, solid-bodied thing. Iconic in its way, but not as stylish or sophisticated as its parent. The SX-70 is actually capable of very good images, being a proper SLR with manual focus (later models had sonar autofocus) with a beautiful split-image focusing circle. Have a look at what Richard Ton, sx70manipulator on Flickr, comes up with:

Do click on one of these images and visit Richard’s stream.

Polaroid, especially in its later incarnations, was the epitomy of fun – the instant, portable camera. These days, it has become something different. Polaroid film is long gone, thanks to digital, and now we have its boutique successor,  impossible project film . This is wonderful stuff, but is as delicate and fickle as the Polaroid film was robust and regular. (And I do mean that in a good way, if you’re reading, Impossible. I still want you to send me free film to review!)
If you are more like me than like Richard, you might get something like the following:

(a couple of things to note: the spots all over the second photo are because the kids were scanning flowers and leaves, and Photoshop did a lot of work on the levels)

This is NOT like the old Polaroid. And I’m glad.

The first image sure is kooky. Probably this is a result of the camera misfiring. The old thing has a loose connection somewhere, and requires a bit of wrestling to get it to fire. Hence my quandary as to whether to keep this beautiful weathered slab or re-ebay and try again.

The second image is kooky too – but in a good way. There’s a beautiful organic texture to it and otherworldly color washes, but detail too. Here’s a closer look at those kids playing on the beach.

On the beach, detail.

Next on my agenda is to get hold of an earlier Land camera, as, with modification, you can fit the instant film made by Fuji in to it.  But that’s another story.


About postdigitalblog

Lecturer in Multimedia at CQUni Wrangler of young kids @ home in Yeppoon Otherwise, photographer and digital media type.
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5 Responses to The SX-70 camera in the wake of Polaroid

  1. ceciliag says:

    I adore polaroids and we were still using them in the film industry until just recently. I quite like the images this old one is producing! cool.. c

  2. I just got in too this a little too late. I’ve never used real polaroid film, not counting when I was a kid. I probably never will!

  3. eremophila says:

    This brought back memories! Not that I ever used one, but knew a couple who were experimenting with these in the early 70’s – very progressive for little old Adelaide….too much so, their work didn’t get the recognition they were hoping for.
    I have to say, I disagree with your title – “Polaroid SX-70 camera compared to a cat” –
    That’s not a cat, that’s a magnificent feline and accomplished Zen Master!

  4. Check out my blog at for an entry detailing how I “reskinned” my Alpha 1 with new leather.

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