Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Choose a Polaroid Camera

How to Choose a Polaroid Camera

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.

Project 365
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.

Project 365
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.)

Flatiron Building, NYC Statue of Liberty San Juan Polaroid
Riverside Church Polaroid Polaroid Times Square Polaroid

♥2. For the camera enthusiast just looking to have a bit of fun:

Try a cheap(er) and easy-to-find Polaroid camera.

Polaroid Polaroid
These are my two favorite non-professional plastic cameras, the Polaroid Spirit and the Polaroid One Step Land Camera in the rainbow edition. These cameras are great for taking photos when I do not care about having as much control over the photo. They are really great for outdoor shots and longer focal distances. I've found that while the Polaroid Land Camera and the Spirit take different film, they don't behave that differently as a camera. (I've also used a few of the cameras in the link above, like the very common Polaroid OneStep 600 and the Polaroid OneStep AF, and they all feel similar to me. You have the ability to adjust the lighten-darken wheel and there is a flash on some of the cameras, but other than that, the photo really depends on the film.

Polaroid "Spirit" Camera Photos:
Franklin, Indiana Polaroid Ferris Wheel Princeton Polaroid
DePauw The Artcraft Polaroid Carousel

Polaroid OneStep Land Camera Photos:
Fountain Square Road Signs, Indianapolis Polaroid Fountain Square, Indianapolis Polaroid

♥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.

Polaroid 103 Land Camera Photos:
img004 Scan 102880004_2
Roy O. West Library, DePauw University Hollandsburg, IN

"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 cameras
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.

Morphed Polaroid, Self-Portrait
Polaroid self-portrait with some expired film.

Good luck!

Again, if anyone has another question that they can't figure out, just leave it below. I just have to say-- there is nothing quite like the mechanical and magical feeling that comes with taking a Polaroid. The colors, the smells-- it's a photo experience like no other. :)

29 comments: said...

Wow, so helpful! I hadn't really thought about taking up Polaroid photography since I had heard the film is getting so expensive, but maybe I'll try to find one that takes the Fujifilm pack film that you suggested. Even if you don't use them all, the vintage cameras make for such a cute collection!

kat said...

Thank you so much for this post! I really want my next "big" buy to be a polaroid camera and I want to make sure its the right one. This is going to help me so much. ^_^

CouldBeKim said...

mmhmm, because i really needed another collection... ;o) just kidding of course, thanks for the tips! Once I get some other hobbies under control I may venture into polaroid photography as well!


Mandy Bryant said...

Central Indiana? What?! Me, too! And I've totally scoured the antique malls around here and found some ahhh-mazing deals. Thanks for the great tips! ♥

KAT said...

This may be a dumb question, but what I learned in my high school photo class was "There's no such thing as a dumb question, only dumb people." Haha... anyway. I have a Square Shooter 2, is it strictly 88 type film, or can it use the Fujifilm pack film? Thanks!

Stacie Grissom said...

@KAT Not a dumb question at all! Unfortunately the 88 film is a square and not a rectangle like the Fujifilm. I don't think there is a way to make the Squareshooter take Fujifilm without some SERIOUS camera surgery. :/

KAT said...

Lol, after I posted my comment I saw the link for and began to use my noodle to read. Big 'doh for me! (that's what happens with lack of sleep I suppose.) So here's my real question. Can the Fujifilm 100 be used with say a series 200 or 300?

Stacie Grissom said...

Hahahaha. ;) (InstantOptions is AWESOME.) The Fujifilm can definitely be used with a 200 or 300 series. :) You just have to do the battery modification.

ric.weltretter said...

I got my Polaroid 600 for 1,50€ from ebay four years ago.
and it's still working fine!

KAT said...

Thanks for your help Stacie! :)

behindcloseddrawers said...

So cool! I found this article via Pinterest and had to read because I saw "my" camera on it. I have the One Step and was lucky enough to be gifted it as a hand-me-down from my in-laws. I have yet to use it. (Still saving up for film.) It appears to be in great condition, though. Thanks for the tips!

Hana-Jane mickley said...

Hi, thank you so much for the post, I'm a Polaroid enthusiast also and finding fresh info on Polaroids is always hard! I just bought another one step with film in it which has I obviously expired and the battery has gone dead, do you know if there is a way to still use this film?
ThAnks so much

Stacie Grissom said...

Hey Hana-Jane!

I actually do know how to still use film if the battery is expired. If the film has not dried up, you can take an empty film pack with a still working battery and put the film in it. The trick is to do it in TOTAL darkness. Whenever I do something like this I take a towel and put it against the base of the bathroom door to create a darkroom. Then just switch it! :)

A̘͔̳ͩͭ́͑̽ͪ̉ǹ̖̪̩̯̲̋̽̾ͅo͔̯̙͆ͅń͕͎̫͙̆͂̈͗̽i̪̦̣̞̮̥̹ͦ͐ͪ̚m͚̙̤̝̞̥̌̌̃͌õ̜̜̤̣͊u͊͐ͬ̏͛̀s͍ͬ͛ͤ͒ said...

my 2 cent

Polaroid Sun660
or a Spectra/Image

Matthew said...

You're facts are really bad.
Read a few more articles.
Get informed.

StacieGrissom said...

Thanks for the input! :) All of my advice comes from personal experience-- if you think I've said something wrong, just let me know what! I'm not too proud to correct it. :)

Eric Anderson said...

Actually, I don't have any knowledge regarding polaroid camera as I haven't seen this traditional camera. I have only seen modern cameras only. But one thing I know about it is it's picture quality is awesome.

camera accessories
| camera support

Lina said...

Your* grammar is really bad.

jjm said...

Great article, love it! Made my decission about gettng me a real polaroid straight away!

Katie said...

Hi, I'm trying to find your etsy shop. Could you give me a link?

Maia Roe said...

Hi, I've heard somewhere that polaroids can take semi-decent pictures of stars. If this were true i'd be willing to invest in getting one, but i'm not sure if they can without testing the theory.

Kayla said...

Have you tried the new polariod that they came out with! They are back and making new ones!

Anai�� said...

That's totally true I just bought a used polaroid
one step camera for 2 dollars and 74 ce
nts at the thrift store

Crispin Tan said...

hi! thanks for the amazing review above! i just wanted to ask. how much would you value the polaroid land camera 103?

StacieStacieStacie said...

Are you looking on Ebay? I'd pay up to $30-40 for one! They're not that expensive!

Kiki said...

Thanks for this...I've actually been eyeballing one (103) on etsy for $80. Comes with flash and flash bulbs and the portrait kit and has converted battery. What say you?

Kiki said...

And thing is alot of the ones coming up for a good price on ebay and co. are not tested and 'Sold as is'.

StacieStacieStacie said...

It's a bit expensive but totally worth it so you don't have to go through all the hassle! :)

Chris Langham said...

I love your page. Where do you buy your film? I have an old 1970s or so Polaroid and the film, just for a 10 pack is upwards of $50 - $60. Any suggestions where it can be bought for cheaper?

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