Polaroid shooting Tips ‘n Tricks Part One: Choosing camera + film

Hey, y’all, and how’s it going?
As I promised earlier, here’s a series full of tips for getting the most out of your Polaroid camera! Part one is about choosing the right camera and film for yourself to use.

Part Two: Capturing the moment
Part Three: Preserving the moment

Choosing the right camera

As you might already know, there are four kinds of classic Polaroid cameras distinguished mainly by the film they work with: SX-70, 600, Image/Spectra and 8×10. As selecting the camera is a very important task, I have compiled a list of scenarios and a corresponding camera recommendation for you:

  • You are an amateur / new to the world of Polaroid photography
    Your best choice: a 600 box-type camera. Any model in good condition will do, but cameras with CL (close lens) or AF (autofocus) features can take sharper images.
  • You have some experience with Polaroid cameras and photography
    It might be time to upgrade to a more professional camera. If you don’t already have one, you should now get a CL or AF-equipped camera. For even better image quality, consider getting an SX-70 camera. The film speed is slower on those but also shows more detail than 600 and Image/Spectra images. If you’re looking for one of the most iconic Polaroid cameras, have a look at the SX-70 Sonar Land Camera (not at the price tag tho…).If you’re looking to change things up a bit, why not try an Image / Spectra camera? The images are slightly wider than normal Polaroids and share film characteristics with the 600 film (see below).
  • You’re an experienced Polaroid photographer looking for the ultimate shooting experience
    8×10 cameras / film are the perfect fit for you. This format allows for advanced shooting techniques and uses some of the best cameras.

What camera I use, you ask? I am using a Polaroid Autofocus 660 camera because it’s robust and produces very sharp images – even sharper than my previous camera, the 600 CL.

Choosing the right film (for the right task)

After choosing your camera, the range of suitable films will be limited to the type of camera: SX-70, 600, Image/Spectra or 8×10 film.

  • SX-70 film has a film speed of ASA/ISO 150. This gives for a big amount of detail while reducing the chance of overexposed images e. g. when shooting outside as the film is generally less sensitive to light than 600 or Image / Spectra film. This, however, is also a downside of SX-70 film, as slower film speeds require longer shutter speeds in order to achieve bright images. If you’re feeling very adventurous, you can try using an Neutral Density filter plus 600 film in your SX-70 camera.
    Tldr; hold your camera steady and you can get impressive results!
  • 600 film: Images taken with this film (ASA/ISO 640) boast bright and vivid images even at low light at the cost of image quality compared to SX-70 film. The chance of blurred images is reduced thanks to faster shutter speeds. 600 cameras are also newer than SX-70 cameras and their mechanics and automatic exposure can be more reliable. (Why is the image quality worse? You could say that the resolution of the image is lower because the chemical “pixels” are bigger. This allows them to capture more light in the same amount of time.)
    Image/Spectra film is chemically identical to 600 and therefore shares characteristics and film speed. The image area is slightly wider on this film, producing wide-format rectangular results. Great for capturing a landscape in a single shot.
  • 8×10 Film is the only choice if you’re using an 8×10 camera.
    The film speed is about 600 ASA/ISO.

Color or Black-and-White?

In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult pre-shooting decisions.
It depends on the motif you’re planning on shooting. If you’re going to take pictures of very structural subjects like buildings and abstractly looking scenery, black and white film can help to direct the viewer’s attention to shapes instead of colors. B&W images can also have a darker atmosphere and tend to look more old-fashioned than colored ones. On the other hand, taking a picture of the colorful flowers in your garden doesn’t necessarily make sense on b&w film. You get the idea.

That’s it for part one of this series of Polaroid shooting Tips and Tricks. Check out the other posts in this series: part two “Capturing the moment” (pre-shooting and mid-shooting techniques) as well as part three “Preserving the moment” (post-shooting tips including development, modification and storage of the images).
Got tips to share with everyone? Feel free to do so in the comment section below!

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