My first Polaroid SX-70, the Alpha SE, came from a happenstance last minute run through an estate sale in my local neighborhood. Two of the cameras which had been for sale had still not been sold: a beat up old Minolta which I passed on, as well as a Polaroid SX-70, Alpha SE with the folding everready case, manual, etc. They were asking only $5 for the whole thing, so I figured it was worth the risk to give it a try! The leathers on the camera were all cracked and/or missing, so I knew I would have some restoration work, should the camera otherwise prove functional.
As SX-70 film has been discontinued for 15 years or so, my only real option for using the camera is SX-70 film from the Impossible Project. Its rather pricey, about $24 for 8 frames, thus $4/shot. I tried one pack of black and white IP film, and the camera sprung to life! Alas, every single frame came out overexposed. An expensive test, and no tweaking of the exposure settings seemed to have any positive effect. I’ve subsequently learned that this setting resets every time the camera is opened and closed, so perhaps there are opportunities for further tweaking. I did use the Impossible Project’s “Frog Tongue” addition, but this also had no obvious benefit. It is possible the problem is the film pack, operator error, or maybe even the camera itself.
I did end up changing out the leathers. I find black on black kind of boring, and went for dark red laser-cut pebbled leather. It was messy getting the old leather off, and for those attempting this for the first time, please be careful and lookup one of the excellent guides online before attempting. I am quite pleased with the ultimate results!
The SX-70 is really an outstanding piece of engineering. Check out the Eames video, which while dated, describes the working of this camera beautifully. Only the earlier metal bodied version of this camera feels more elegant. The Alpha SE version differs in that it is mostly made of plastic and has a blue shutter release button. Other more significant additions include integral lugs for a shoulder strap, a tripod mount on the bottom, and distance markings on the recessed lens. From everything I’ve read the optics are exactly the same.
What’s So Special?
What’s special about this particular item
- Amazing engineering: smallest integral pack instant camera ever made for this size of print
- Elegant design and wonderful to the touch. The SX-70 finds a spot in most modern art collections
- Because the battery is part of the film pack, these models have held up well for the past 40 years
- Finding reasonably priced film! Impossible project film runs about $4/frame
- Does not work well in low light conditions without tripod use
- Refurbished models are extremely expensive
- Manufacturer: Polaroid
- Made in: USA
- Introduced: 1977
- Camera Type: folding SLR
- Lens: 4-element 116mm f/8 glass lens
- Film: SX-70 film discontinued, 600 film discontinued, Impossible SX-70 film (color and B&W)
- Battery: integral to film pack
- Dimensions (cm):
- Strap: yes
- Suggested Flashes: 10 use flash bar, Impossible Project markets an electronic flash
- Other: Telephoto lens, Close-Up kit – Self-timer – External flash
- Polaroid Alpha 1 on Butkus
- Polaroid SX-70 camera guide
- Wonderful documentary produced by Eames, more info here and here
- Wikipedia: Polaroid, SX-70
- How to start a vintage Polaroid Collection
- Sample Images
- Wikia article on SX-70