Design Friday. The Polaroid SX 70.

When I was younger I wanted a Polaroid SX 70. I thought these were the coolest cameras around, and even after I bought my first SLR I still wanted one. There was something about the look of the camera, the quality of the prints, and the fact you could manipulate the image during the development process by pressing and scratching the surface.

As it turned out, I never got one. By the time I actually got around to getting an SX 70 Polaroid had stopped making them, and I didn’t like the model they replaced the SX 70 with. Then the film became harder to get, and I simply moved on. And recently, as you might know Polaroid has gone under, instant film stopped being made, and all things Polaroid seemed to be over.

The good news is, the Impossible project started making Polaroid film, and Mint is now selling completely rebuilt SX 70’s which are available at Photojojo. Both of these things are good news to my ears, because now I can get one of the cameras, and there is film available for it if I do.

The Polaroid SX-70 had many sophisticated design elements for the time. It was a collapsible SLR that had a very complex light path for the view finder. The system required 3 mirrors, one with a Fresnel lens reflector. Each mirror featured unique aspheric shapes which were set at odd angles to needed create an image on both the film and in the viewfinder. The body featured precision parts and a body that was manufactured from glass-filled polysulfone, a rigid plastic which was plated with copper-nickel-chromium. This gave the SX 70 the look and feel of solid metal, but at a lower cost to manufacture. Later, models 2 and 3 switched to ABS plastic which was easier to crack and break. The film featured a flat, 6-volt “PolaPulse” battery to power the camera electronics, drive motor and flash.

The folding body had a ground breaking style that was unlike any other camera on the market at the time. Brushed chrome and genuine leather panels helped to elevate the finish of the camera and market it to high-end consumer market and photography enthusiasts. The camera came with an entire line of accessories including a macro lens with 1:1 resolution and a focus distance of as close as 5 inches, Tripod mount, electronic shutter release, the folded body became its own carrying case, later versions were available with a sonar based autofocus system. The SX 70 simply looked at felt upscale, not like a point and shoot instant camera.

There were a variety of SX 70 models starting with the original in 1972. All SX 70’s shared the same basic collapsible design and aesthetics. The first SX 70 model had a plain focusing screen. This was because Dr. Land wanted photographers to think they were looking at the subject rather than through a view finder, improving the shooting experience. When many users complained that focusing was difficult, especially in dim light, Polaroid introduced a split-image rangefinder prism. This feature became standard on all later manual focus models.The later SLR 680/690 models updated the basic design of the Sonar Onestep to more modern standards by incorporating support for newer 600 cartridges instead of SX-70 cartridges, and a built-in flash instead of the disposable Flashbar.

The original SX 70 film was introduced in 1972, and was a success despite problems Polaroid had early on with the integrated battery packs. Over the course of the next few years Polaroid continued to improve film quality, development speeds, and color quality. By 1980, Polaroid introduced Time-Zero Supercolor in which the layers in the film pack were altered to allow a much faster development time, richer, brighter colors than the original 1972 product. Along with the consumer grade film, Polaroid introduced professional quality film geared directly to the pro market as the SX 70 began to be used to proof studio shots.

The battery that was used in the consumer film was designed with a specific purpose. As long as film was in the camera, the battery would never be exhausted. This insured that the camera motors and exposure control, and other electronics would always work when you were shooting. The “Polapulse” battery was configured as a 6 volt thin flat battery, and used zinc-chloride chemistry to provide for the high pulse demand of the camera motors, and was years ahead of its time.

When you look at the SX 70 today, the design styling still seems fresh. Especially when you compare it to all of the retro-styled digital cameras that are released today. While the build quality might appear cheap in photos, the reality is that the original SX 70 was a solid, well-built camera that used high quality materials, design and manufacturing processes.

With so many iPhone and Android photo applications trying to emulate the look of vintage Polaroid photography, it’s tempting to get the original. This post is for my friend, and photographer David Biegelsen, a guy that appreciates what a good film camera can do.

All photos courtesy of Photojojo

Got my Photojojo Workin’.

First off, Merry Christmas everyone! I don’t want you to think I am not filled with the Christmas spirit, It’s just that I am all amped about this crazy new lens I got for my EP for Christmas. The Lo-fi Micro 4/3 Camera Lens from Photojojo.

I haven’t quite figured it out yet, although there really isn’t much to figure out, so I guess I should just say I’m experimenting at this point. The lens is a 25mm f1.4 lens that is 100% manual. It has razor thin depth of field and produces some crazy vignetting at the edges as you mess with the aperture. The depth of field can be so shallow, in the shots of the Christmas tree, the distance between the out of focus ornament, and the in focus elements is less than an inch. I have a feeling this is going to be fun.

5 or 6 Items from my Photojojo Wish List.

While the masses hit the stores for Black Friday bargains, I decided to start putting together a Christmas wish list from the comfort of my home. Why go to the store, when the store can come to you I say.

One of the things I want for Christmas this year is the Olympus EP3. Since I already have an older EP, and a variety of lenses and accessories, I want to upgrade to the EP3 so I can take advantage of faster auto focus, better image stabilization, more art filters, and cool retro styling. So far I have only seen the EP3 sold with a lens kit. I just want the camera body so that is a second part to this wish list item.

Since I am asking Santa for a new Olympus camera, I figured I should head over to the photojojo website and look for some additional items to use with my micro 4/3 Olympus gear. It only makes sense to buy a really solid digital camera, and then get some accessories to degrade my images with a distinct lo-fi flare. The wish list below fulfills just that and has a couple of useful items too.

First up the “Lo-fi Micro 4/3 camera lens“. For $90.00 this lens will give me manual focus, vignetting, a tilt shift look, soft bokeh, vignetting, lens flares, low contrast, and crazy shallow depth of field.

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Since I am going for the lo-fi look this holiday season, why not take it one step further and add the 4/3 pinhole lens to my arsenal of analog looks. The “Pinwide Micro 4/3 Pinhole Lens” With this lens I’ll get shots where everything from a blade of grass in the foreground to the trees in the distance are in focus. This lens will give me natural vignetting, grainy film-like images, and amazing lens flares.

Now that I’ll be shooting with these lo-fi lenses I better think about some things to help me keep my camera level, safe, and steady. Things like the “Level Camera Cube” a $15.00 3 way level that mounts on the camera hot shoe. I know that I can turn a grid on in my digital viewfinder but since I am shooting with lo-fi analog looking lenses, I might as well go old school on keeping my camera level and straight.

One of the things that I love about the EP series is the size. I get DSLR quality shots, interchangeable lenses, and a camera body that is small and compact. With that I don’t always like the idea of using a full size camera strap. In fact I really like the idea of having a short strap that keeps my camera safe and doesn’t get in the way. That is where the “Handy Dandy Hand Strap” comes in. This $40.00 bit of leather mounts to your camera body and then adds a full tripod mount connector to the bottom of your camera for those moment you need to quickly lock the camera down on a set of 3 stable legs.

Speaking of locking your camera down, nothing says old school like a wooden tripod. Now I personally wouldn’t want to haul this thing around. I’d take a nice aluminum, or carbon fiber tripod any day of the week, but since I am talking it up about making my digital camera gear all retro and lo-fi, I have to mention the “Expedition Wooden Tripod“. At $290.00 this is not for faint of heart. This is the tripod for the photographer that needs to make a bold statement. It does look gorgeous though, and if I had a need to display a camera on a finely crafted piece of hardware this would be my choice.

So Santa, this is my first wish list. If yo bring me this wonderful stuff from photojojo, I’ll snap a few pics of you and your reindeer for your 2011 Christmas scrapbook.

You Got Photojojo?

For Christmas I received the wonderful Union Street camera bag made by Ona, and I have to say I love it. The thing looks great and doesn’t feel like a camera bag as much as it feels like a messenger bag designed for photography. Today while bouncing around the internet I found the Photojojo Leather camera bag, and I have to admit, it looks pretty stunning.

The Folks at Photojojo offer up some relief to a world of drab black ballistic nylon camera bags with this Classic Leather Camera Satchel. The bag has an all leather exterior that holds a padded interior fitted for your camera and lenses, and like the Union Street Bag it has a laptop sleeve that holds up to a 13 inch computer. The Photojojo bag has two front pockets and a zippered rear pocket to keep your accessories  organized while you shoot away like Richard Avedon on location.The whole thing could be yours for $190.00, about the same price as the Ona Bag.

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•    Material: Leather, easy to clean nylon lining.
•    Weight:  2 lbs
•    Dimensions: 14” x 5” x 10″