Polaroid SX-70

The original magic camera

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Polaroid SX-70

At the Polaroid company meeting in 1972, Edwin Land stepped onto the stage, pulled a camera out of his jacket pocket, and took five instant photos in just ten seconds. That camera was the Polaroid SX-70, and it was the camera that made truly instant photography possible for the first time ever.

The Polaroid SX-70 is one of the most famous instant cameras in the world. It was the first instant SLR camera ever made, and the first to use Polaroid’s now-iconic instant film which brought photos to life the moment they left the camera. Its manual controls have made it the go-to camera for artists and dreamers alike, and its fold-down design means you can take it with you, wherever you go.

SX-70 Film history

Polaroid SX-70 film was introduced in 1972, and was a market success despite some problems with the batteries on early film packs. The original SX-70 film was improved once in the mid-1970s (New Improved Faster Developing!) and replaced in 1980 by the further advanced "SX-70 Time-Zero Supercolor" product, in which the layers in the film card were altered to allow a much faster development time (hence the "time zero"). It also had richer, brighter colors than the original 1972 product. There were also professional market varieties of the SX-70 film including 778 (Time Zero equivalent) and the similar 708, Time Zero film without a battery, intended for use in applications such as the "Face Place" photo booth and professional or laboratory film-backs, where a battery is not needed. Time Zero was the film manufactured up until 2005, though overseas-market and some last run film packs were marked only as SX-70.

A feature of the SX-70 film packs was a built-in battery to power the camera motors and exposure control, ensuring that a charged battery would always be available as long as film was in the camera. The "Polapulse" battery was configured as a 6 volt thin flat battery, and used zinc chloride chemistry to provide for the high pulse demand of the camera motors.[9] Polaroid later released development kits to allow the Polapulse battery to be used in non-photographic applications. In the 1980s, the company even produced small "600" AM/FM radios that would run on film packs in which the film cards had been exhausted, but the battery still had enough power to be reused.

After Polaroid ceased manufacturing instant film in 2008, the Impossible Project (now Polaroid Originals) began formulating replacements using equipment acquired when the original manufacturing facilities closed.

One feature of SX-70 integral print film is its ability to be manipulated while developing, and for some days after. Because the emulsion is gelatin-based, and the Mylar covering does not allow water vapor to readily pass, the emulsion stays soft for several days, allowing people to press and manipulate the emulsion to produce effects somewhat like impressionist paintings. An example of this technique was used on the cover of Peter Gabriel's third album, Peter Gabriel. Another example of emulsion manipulation was the cover of Loverboy's debut album, Loverboy.

The 500, 600, and Spectra/Image materials do not use a gelatin-based emulsion, and cannot be manipulated this way.

Manipulation of the photograph is best done about two minutes after the picture has fully developed. It will stay soft and workable for about 5–15 minutes. Some colors will be more difficult to work on (dark green), whereas others are workable for a long time (red). If the photograph is on a warm surface or slightly warmed in an oven, image manipulation is made easier.