Every week I get a few people asking about Polaroid cameras through my Etsy store or via email. While I love talking shop about the Polaroids, I've come to the conclusion that it might be a little bit more helpful to have a detailed post about my Polaroid camera experiences and any advice I have for Polaroid newbies. :)
While I am not a certified expert on the Polaroid subject by any means, I've had quite a bit of experience working with the cameras over the past few years. I went to the Impossible Project's grand announcement that they were restarting the production of film, I've done some camera surgery, I've read Edwin Land's biography(the inventer and founder of Polaroid), and I've sold dozens of cameras in my Etsy store. Oh-- and of course I love love love shooting the film. :)
Here are the FAQ's I receive often-- if you have a more specific question, leave it below and I can try to answer in a comment back. Plus, it might help others to read through the comments as well to answer anything I've missed in the post. :) I've linked to one of the best and most inclusive Polaroid resource lists on the web for more information about the specific cameras.
Some of my favorite Polaroids.
"Do you have any advice on buying a Polaroid camera? And where do I buy film?"
I think one of the coolest things about Polaroid cameras is the fact that the camera body itself is a really simple piece of machinery. Essentially, most Polaroid cameras are hunks of plastic that shoot light on the right spots of the film. The film is where all the magic is.
You can find film over at The Impossible Project-- they make it pretty easy to navigate their site and find the film that fits your camera. For a while you could still find film on Ebay, but I think the eBay films are such a gamble that it isn't worth it. I've bought Impossible Project films often, and while some of the "First Flush" films are temperamental and really frustrating, sometimes you get a mind-blowing shot. **Make sure you follow the film manual. This is SO important.
There is no cheap way to find film, unfortunately. Because Polaroid stopped producing their film in 2008, Polaroid photography has evolved from a form of expression where you could buy your supplies in Walmart to more of an art form with art prices. *le sigh. That being said, the Impossible Project's films keep getting better and better and hopefully as more people buy up their stock, their prices will drop.
Some Impossible Project films, some found photos.
"What camera should I choose?"
♥1. For the serious photographer willing to drop a little extra $$$:Try the folding SX-70's or the professional SLR Polaroids.
This is my favorite and treasured Polaroid SX-70. This camera usually goes for $80-$300, but I was SUPER lucky because my grandpa actually gave me his old camera. The thing that I love about this camera, besides the fact that it is an incredibly beautiful piece of design, leather, and metal, is that this camera has an SLR lens which allows me to change the focus of the lens and the depth of field.
Some of the photos I've taken with this camera: (Click on the image to go to the original post.)
♥2. For the camera enthusiast just looking to have a bit of fun:Try a cheap(er) and easy-to-find Polaroid camera.
Polaroid "Spirit" Camera Photos:
Polaroid OneStep Land Camera Photos:
♥3. For the handy camera lover who's not afraid to do some camera surgery:Try a packfilm camera that needs a tweak of electric work-- these cameras use easy-to-find and CHEAP film.
I say this about all of my Polaroids, but I really love this Polaroid 103 Land Camera as well. It takes Fujifilm pack film which is easy-to-find and readily available on Amazon-- the only thing you need to do is modify the battery to take modern AAA batteries. (You can find black and white film or color.) My dad helped me do this, but after I saw him do it, I am pretty sure anyone can do it if you follow the directions and use the correct tools. Here is the tutorial I used.
The packfilm cameras are a bit older than the cameras I mentioned before this, and the packfilm cameras have more things that can go wrong inside the camera... but I bought my camera online for $7 and it works wonderfully. (I love the smell of these films-- it really adds to the tangible sensory experience of using instant films.) These are the types of cameras where you take the photo, pull out the photo, wait a minute, and then peel apart the film and the chemicals. It's awesome. :)
Here is a list of the packfilm cameras that can be converted and what they need.
"Where do I find a Polaroid camera?"
I am lucky to live in a small town where Polaroid cameras aren't really in high demand, so for me it is a bit easier to find incredible cameras for good prices in the thrift stores and local antique stores. If you are on the prowl for the perfect camera, I recommend visiting your local secondhand shops as often as you can to snatch a camera before anyone else does.
My collection a couple years ago.
One thing I have noticed lately is that the cameras are growing more and more scarce-- I don't know it is due to the fact that the hipsters are taking over the world or if I've bought up all of the cameras around Central Indiana... I do know that I haven't found a camera in a couple months. (And before anyone tells me in a comment below that I'm the pot calling the kettle black in terms of "hipsters taking over the world"-- I realize that I am writing an enormous post about kitschy film cameras.) :)
If you have an antique mall around you, definitely check it out and don't be afraid to dig. I can almost guarantee that there will be at least one camera in an enormous antique mall.
And of course, you can always find Polaroid cameras online. I've sold quite a few in my Etsy store, but if you check out Ebay and read the descriptions really well, I'm sure you can find an awesome camera that is perfect for you. Just make sure the camera looks intact and the rollers seem clean. Like I said in the intro, most Polaroid cameras are essentially big boxy hunks of plastic that reflect the light on just the right places, (exceptions are the brown SX-70 and the professional Polaroids.) The finicky and temperamental aspects of the Polaroids rest with the film.
"What is a good price for a Polaroid camera?"
One thing that I hate is when people charge insane prices for the Polaroid cameras and fool people into thinking they are more valuable than they actually are. (People have even messaged me in my Etsy store asking why my prices are so low-- they wonder if the cameras are broken or something. They're not. :)) Sure, the brown SX-70 is a rare and valuable camera, and so are a few other models, but for the most part, Polaroid cameras are everywhere if you are willing to look. Don't get duped into paying $80 for a Polaroid OneStep 600 that is actually worth $25.
Polaroid self-portrait with some expired film.