Polaroid SX-70

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The SX-70 was a folding single lens reflex Land Camera produced by the Polaroid Corporation in the 1970s. It was the first instant SLR in history, and the first camera to use Polaroid's new integral print film, which developed automatically without the need for intervention from the photographer - this was a revolution at the time, and a precursor to today's 600 and Spectra films.

The SX-70 utilized a folding body design, a 4-element 116mm F/8 glass lens, and an automatic exposure system. The lens could close focus to a distance of 10.4 inches, and had shutter speeds ranging from 1/175 to more than 10 seconds. There were a variety of models beginning in 1972 with the original SX-70, though all shared the same basic design. Later models were often equipped with a sonar autofocus system, and the Model 3 departed from the other models as it was not an SLR, instead using a viewfinder cut into the mirror hood - though all other mechanics were identical.

All models feature an electronically controlled 'flash-bar' socket across the top of the camera, for insertion of a 10-use set of flashbulbs. Polaroid - and other companies - also made external flash units that plugged into this socket.

As well as the folding SLR model, a variety of non-folding, 'consumer'-type models were released that also used to SX-70 integral film.

Accessories and Add-Ons

Though expensive, the SX-70 was popular in the 1970s and retains a cult following today. As such, many unique accessories were produced for the SX-70 including:

  • Telephoto lens - A teleconverter (pictured below) which gave an effective 1.5x conversion (to 174mm)
  • Close-Up kit - a set of macro-photography lenses coupled with flash adaptors/diffusers
  • Self-timer - a clockwork timer that clips onto the side of the unit, covering the shutter release button
  • External flash - Several models were made, including several by third parties.
  • Tripod Adaptor - Many earlier models of the SX-70 did not have tripod mounts built-in.

Image manipulation

One feature of the SX-70's integral print film is its ability to be manipulated while still developing. Because it is an instant film and develops over a period of several minutes, artists are able to "push" the emulsion material around the photograph to produce effects somewhat like impressionist paintings.

Film issues

Polaroid's original SX-70 "Time-Zero" film was phased out of production in late 2005 to early 2006 (differing according to regional markets). However, SX-70 users are left with two options for using new film in their cameras:

Polaroid SX-70 Blend Film

In October 2006, a brand new SX-70 film was introduced. According to its producer, it uses an internal neutral-density filter and modified chemistry to yield vibrant colors, strong contrast, and high resolution. This professional-grade film is made by Polaroid in the Netherlands. As the cartridge is made to its original specifications and the ND filter is placed over the film and not the lens, it allows for full and normal use of all the camera's functions.

The following are sample images shot with Polaroid SX-70 Blend film. They are courtesy of Lord of the Lens, the North American distributor for SX-70 Blend.


Polaroid 600 Film

Some SX-70 owners modify their cameras to use Polaroid's more recent 600 film, which is readily available at retail photo shops. SX-70 and 600 film are not exactly the same shape however, the 600 having a some extra little 'nubs', so photographers must either use a playing card or dark slide from a used Polaroid film case to help slide the 600 film into the camera or slice the nubs off of the cartridge.

The problem with using common 600 film is that it is significantly faster than SX-70 film, causing overexposure. To address this issue, some photographers simply set the exposure dial all the way to "darken" and replace the small Neutral Density filter over the electronic eye with a similar clear filter. Polaroid itself recommends placing a 1-stop ND filter over the lens, and replacing the small ND filter over the electronic eye with a clear piece of plastic (as from a CD case). Even with these modifications, SX-70 users may find they need to set the exposure controls fully to "darken." Perhaps the most effective, yet difficult, modification is to modify the SX-70's exposure electronics to accept the film's higher speed.

External links