Cameras I Have Known: The Polaroid SX-70

I am seriously committed to the process of reducing the number of cameras in my collection to only the ones I love and use regularly. There's nothing worse than a mechanical camera sitting on a shelf. Like a BMW, these old machines need to be driven. I've been true to my commitment so far this year, selling off at least a dozen to date, along with related accessories. The PayPal balance is in nice shape.

One camera I can't seem to get myself to put on the block is my SX-70. I bought it because I wanted to try this legendary camera and was curious about shooting instant film. When I got it, The Impossible Project had just released early batches of their instant film. Even though you had to take out a mortgage to shoot 8 instant photos with this film, I was anxious to try Ed Land's masterpiece.

Early batches of SX-70 film from The Impossible Project

Early batches of SX-70 film from The Impossible Project

Polaroid cameras were all around me growing up, but I never used one during the days when the company was still making film for them. I have childhood memories of one of my relatives taking black and white shots at Christmas using one of the old Land cameras that took peel apart film. After you took a shot and ripped the film from the camera, you had to coat it with this icky smelling goo.

The SX-70 was different though. Integral film packs with a built-in battery and a little pod that contained all of the chemicals for development and fixation. Frame, focus, shoot! The SX-70 whirred and spit out a little framed marvel. In 90 seconds or so, a beautiful color image appeared.

The Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera

The Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera

I found my SX-70 on eBay. I seem to recall that the seller was a pawn shop somewhere. The camera in the photos looked nice and it came with the original box. The seller said it was film tested, something that today I realize means absolutely nothing.

My SX-70 was on the doorstep a day or so after a shipment of Impossible Project film arrived from B&H Photo. I was anxious to try this camera. I have to say, that first photo ejecting from the front of the camera was quite exciting! The SX-70 was truly a marvel. Polaroid's SX-70 film developed in front of your eyes pretty quickly and that was part of the magic. Impossible's film took longer and they recommend turning the photo upside down top shield it from light during the process.

I took a few photos around the house and placed them on my chopping block. I used my iPhone to take a picture of the picture.

An old flash cube/flash bar was included in the box with the camera, but none of the flash pictures I took with the SX-70 came out right. I put the SX-70 on the shelf after the first two packages of film and the camera mostly sits there. Once a year or so, I get the itch to shoot instant and out comes the SX-70 again for a pack or two. The camera is especially fun when Baby Boomer friends come over--everyone in our age group fondly remembers Polaroids. Once, I even brought it to the office where it amazed the Millennials when a finished print popped out of the front of the camera.

I'm thinking that my SX-70 needs a CLA and there are a few companies out there that will bring these back to factory specs. And Impossible's film is getting better and better.

Sell it or keep it? 

I'm on the fence.