In a not so distant past, Polaroid was but a memory of a nostalgic past made up of fading quirky little square photos of 50s kids playing in the yard and 70s cars and family pictures in front of the Christmas tree. And no wonder since the fabulous company, created by a guy with a vision to revolutionize photography forever, went bust in 2001 and filed for bankruptcy.
Polaroid was founded by Edwin H. Land in 1937. He got the idea for the instant camera from his daughter who wondered why she could not see the image he had taken with his Rolleiflex immediately. In 1947 the first prototype Polaroid instant camera was officially demonstrated. And then fast forward through decades of innovative success and camera models, came digital photography along with it’s instant digital photos, and Polaroid was no more.
But wait, Polaroid exists today and sell Polaroid cameras and film? Yes, true enough, but that is a new story about another guy named Florian Kaps, who started The Impossible Project in order to save the wonderful world of instant photography. In short, he got to take over the last Polaroid factory in the world and re-started the manufacturing of instant film. After a few years of doing this under the aptly named The Impossible Project, he actually managed to buy out the name Polaroid and voilà, Polaroid is back in business.
Polaroid 600 today
Today Polaroid sell a range of instant cameras and film. This includes the classic Polaroid 600 camera and film that first saw the commercial light of day in 1981. The Polaroid 600 series include a wide range of cameras that very often is very similar in function. The reason it is called 600 is that the film is called 600 so the Polaroid 600 cameras all use that film except for two completely different cameras that are called Polaroid 600 and polaroid 600SE just to make it really confusing.
Polaroid 600 cameras
Anyhow, the cameras in the 600 series are usually very easy to operate and they all use the same film pack that you just insert in the camera and when you push the exposure button it spits out the photo. Some of these cameras have a little more features than that, there are close-up versions where you have to slide in a close-up lens in front of the lens and you can also choose to darken or lighten the picture, but mostly it is just point and shoot with these cameras. And is that not the beauty of it?
The Polaroid 600 camera is not in production today but there are millions of them out there on ebay and in camera stores, a lot of them refurbished so it is easy to find one. And remember, the camera is really cheap, the film is not. I remember buying my first Polaroid 636 CloseUp back in the early 90s for about $30 and I still have it and it works perfectly, however, every picture costs me about $2:50.
More on different Polaroid 600 cameras later on in the article.
The Polaroid 600 film
There are a few different options out there. First of all, you can go on ebay and buy expired film in order to get it cheaper or in order to get some film that is not currently in production. But please remember that Polaroid film, like all film has a best before date. You can use the film after that date but the result can vary quite a bit since the chemicals in the photo is old. Another thing that gets old in polaroid film is the battery, yes you heard right, the cameras have no battery, instead the battery to power the camera is included in the film pack.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to buying expired film is therefor how has it been stored since it was new. The best way to store all photographic film is in the refrigerator, sealed in a plastic bag so you do not get too much moisture in the film. Then you bring it out in room temperature a couple of hours before you shoot it. If the film has been stored in a refrigerator since new, you can shoot it with good results many years after the best before date.
Then there is the new film
Polaroid manufactures these films for the Polaroid 600 cameras today:
Polaroid B&W 600 film
This is the black & white, square Polaroid film manufactured in the Netherlands. It fits all vintage Polaroid 600 cameras. Each film pack contains 8 pictures.
Polaroid 600 color film
This is the color, square Polaroid film manufactured in the Netherlands. It fits all vintage Polaroid 600 cameras. Each film pack contains 8 pictures.
Polaroid Color 600 Film, Color frame edition
This is the color film but with different colors on the frames instead of the classic white frame, square Polaroid film manufactured in the Netherlands. It fits all vintage Polaroid 600 cameras. Each film pack contains 8 pictures.
Polaroid Color 600 Film, Round frame edition
This is the color film but with round frames instead of the classic square frame, square Polaroid film manufactured in the Netherlands. It fits all vintage Polaroid 600 cameras. Each film pack contains 8 pictures.
Impossible Project and Polaroid have in the past released different limited edition films and we hope they will again soon.
Vintage Polaroid 600 cameras
Polaroid released a wide variety of cameras in the 600 series and it is hard to say which one to choose since there is not much more than cosmetics that differ. However, there are a few things that makes a few of them better than others.
Polaroid 600 Sun660 autofocus – This is a good camera with the Sonar autofocus feature. It also has a built in flash. So as an all-round camera this is a good option. Very easy to handle. Production started in 1981.
Polaroid Supercolor 670AF – Very similar features as the Sun660 above, but made much later.
Polaroid OneStep CloseUp – A very good fully automatic camera that has built in flash. Started production in the 90s.
Then there are several funny/querky cameras as well:
Polaroid Barbie – Just a fun Barbie themed camera.
Spice Cam – A Spice Girls themed camera produced in 1998.
OneStep Talking Camera – This is a real odd camera. It features a sound record/playback system so you can record something funny that it says when you are to snap the picture and make the subject laugh.
Polaroid produced a great many limited edition / Special order cameras to different industries and companies, so there are many cool cameras out there for the collector.
How to buy a Polaroid 600 camera today
You can always go looking at yard sales, ebay and camera shops, there are still plenty of old cameras out there and chances are they will work fine. At yard sales you can get them really cheap but you can also choose to buy a refurbished camera. The price will be much higher but on the plus side, it will work better. Some camera shops carry them since Polaroid themselves have refurbished old Polaroid cameras and then there are some special online shops like Retrospekt.com. They sell refurbished Polaroid cameras and also some custom made cameras based on vintage Polaroid cameras such as this fabulous Malibu Barbie camera.
Here are just a few examples of vintage Polaroid 600 cameras from Franks Garage archives: