Polaroid SX-70 Cult, Classic and Cool by John Winfield

In 1972 the Polaroid Company released an incredibly innovative, advanced and beautiful camera. The SX-70 was an incredible camera to look at and to shoot with. Polaroid pulled out all the stops when creating this camera; firstly the camera was an innovator, it was the first to use Polaroid’s new integral film that was an automatic instant film, meaning that it self developed without having users to intervene. The SX-70 is also a fully-fledged SLR with manual focus and exposure. The SX-70 was definitely pushing the limits of what was possible at the time, most Polaroid’s that followed tended to have fixed focus and a less premium feel.  Then there is the SX-70’s party piece, this camera folds into a flat package that looks nothing like a camera at all. 


The SX-70 looks like a camera that throws a lot of features and Pazazz but does it back it up by producing good images?  The SX-70 has a 116mm f.8 lens comprised of 4 elements. The lens has a minimum focus of 26cm. The images produced by the SX-70 are truly dependent upon the film used and of the operator. The basic images produced are of a generally low resolution but create a certain artistic and desirable image quality. When an image can be fully developed in your hands a few minutes after you have just taken it then the image quality comes second compared to the technology that got you that image. I am by no means saying that quality photos cannot be made using this camera; just search SX-70 in Flickr and in-between the camera porn pics of the camera you will find quality exciting images made with this camera. 

Film for this camera had stopped being produced in 2005 and by March 2006 all of the stocks were sold out.  Getting original Polaroid film for this camera is pretty much impossible nowadays and so the only way to take photos is using film from the aptly named Impossible Project. This company; which I have mentioned before, has kept alive the idea of instant Polaroid photography. This camera has such a cult following that it is most definitely one of the reasons for why the impossible project started. 

The trickiest thing on the SX-70 is the exposure wheel. This is a little wheel which is half black and half white, indicating whether there is too much light or not enough to allow camera to set the shutter speed. The problem comes when you alter the dial. I don’t know whether its me but the dial seems to be backwards, when there is too much light you turn the knob into the black side in order to ‘Darken’ the image. I feel that the dial should be set as if there is too much light you turn it into the white in order to compensate for the extra light. This however could just be me being an idiot and getting confused. The problem comes however when you do not ‘Darken’ or ‘Lighten’ your images enough, the integral film will continue to develop therefore if you look at an image 10 minutes after its taken it can look different 20 minutes after. In my images this can be seen, most are overly exposed due to not ‘Darkening’ the image enough.

 

The SX-70 is an incredibly fun, interesting and exciting camera to work with. Just picking it up folding and unfolding it a few times you start to see why it is such a cult classic. It emits charm universally, people just look and it and can tell it is something special. The camera is also pretty rare, with Impossible project refurbs going for £300 a piece this is hardly a cheap vintage camera to play around with, but the fact that people pay these prices shows this camera is considered to be a classic that can bring anyone instant hipster credentials.

 

Thanks for reading. 

A Present from Slovenia by John Winfield

Today I got something I had been looking to get for quite some time.  With vintage cameras comes the responsibility of managing exposure correctly; for the most part I have been semi estimating when it came to my exposures, I have an understanding of what is needed but not got it exactly perfect. The thing I needed therefore was a light meter to help me calculate measurements more accurately. I had been looking at professional ones and more basic ones but couldn’t justify spending so much on a professional Sekonic. I also didn’t really want to add too much bulk to my camera bag, so I went to search for a solution on the most helpful of places, The Internet.

I found a Kickstarter for a Slovenian group of photographers who seemed to have the same needs as mine. They had created a product called Lumu, which was a light meter that worked with your smart phone


The only problem that I had was that the Lumu’s Kickstarter had ended and so I had to sign up to their newsletter and wait until retail versions were available. Then last week an email popped in my inbox saying that not only was the Lumu available but I could also get a 1/3 off with a special bonus voucher; I jumped at the chance and ordered straight away, two days later (super quick) I am now the proud owner of a Lumu.

The Lumu comes very well packaged in a square metal box with a plastic insert centering the product itself. It comes with a leather pouch and a necklace so as to not lose the Lumu. It is very well built with an anodized aluminum finish that gives is visually appealing, especially when paired with an iPhone. I haven’t fully tested this yet but from what I have tried against my DSLR light meter it seems very accurate so should work great with my vintage cameras.  I will update you with some results soon

Pentax ME Super by John Winfield

It's been quite a while since I actually wrote about a camera off of my shelf so here it goes. Oh and i also added a little video too. 

This camera was my first vintage camera and for that it will always be pretty cool to me. The Pentax ME Super is a SLR camera made at a time where becoming smaller and more compact was desirable to the consumer. People wanted the extra features and quality of a professional camera without having to deal with the added weight or complexity; much like how mirror-less cameras with large sensors are very popular right now. The ME Super is an aperture priority automatic camera capable of shooting at speeds up to 1/2000th of a second. The ME Super weighs just 440g (without lens) which is light for an all metaled body. 

The look of the Me Super is something that you would say is stereotypical of vintage cameras; the silver top and bottom coupled with the pentaprism sticking out from the top is almost Iconic. I love the look of this camera and I am not alone the Pentax ME Super Flickr group has over 21000 images.

I have the Pentax 50mm f1.7 and 28mm f2.8, which are very nice and sharp lenses. These lenses are all you really need with this camera, it’s the kind of camera you could easily take anywhere and is very well suited as a street shooter. Getting vintage camera’s can sometimes be a bit of a gamble; with my ME Super the light meter is gone and the shutter speed is maxed out at 1/125. This camera has helped teach me how to create a better photo because of its limitations. Shooting onto film makes you learn and think before you take a photo. Instead of just shooting over and over until you get it right; not knowing what you will get out at the end makes you try harder when taking the shot

The Pentax ME Super is a brilliant camera as an introduction to photography, it is a great tool for learning and I would recommend it to anyone thinking about a cheap vintage camera that looks cool and also takes great photos. 

Birmingham Nature Centre by John Winfield


About a month ago I started thinking about places to take some new photos. I have always enjoyed zoo’s and thought that it would be a great place to take some photos.  I was in London and had my camera so thought, hey lets go to the zoo and take some photographs. The problem that faced me however is that going to a zoo in February means that all the animals preferred sitting indoors under the heaters than getting in front my camera. 

So after not really getting many good shots at London Zoo I started to look for places that were a bit nearer so when it was a nice enough day I could go with little trouble. Having searched Zoo’s in the midlands I came across a place I hadn’t heard nor been to before, Birmingham Nature Centre. The Centre is not as big of an establishment as London Zoo or anything but I looked at their list of animals and thought I would give it a go. 


The Zoo is just down the road from Edgbaston Cricket Ground at the corner of Cannon Hill Park. It being at the edge of the park its close to a main road, this makes it quite surreal seeing the ostrich like Greater Rhea poking its head over a wall looking at traffic. The zoo is going through lots of upgrades and new exhibits ready for the busy summer it will likely have.  Having never heard anything about this place I was thinking it was going to be a kind of glorified petting zoo but the range of animals was very good especially for a quarter of the price of London zoo. 

I managed to take quite a few great shots here, I have even added a new gallery to my website dedicated to nature and animals; found here. The Birmingham Nature Centre was quite a find in my opinion and I will more than likely go again when it warms up even more. If you get the chance to go, take it.

 

And just another note, I have also added a shop to my website where I have a selection of prints in stock. If you want any other picture on my website they are also available from the shop here

Photography Show 2014 by John Winfield

Yesterday I went to Photography Show at the NEC in Birmingham. As you can expect from a big show like this all the big names in photography were there; Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Panasonic, Samsung and even Hasselblad were there, all showing off their latest offerings.

Some of the cool things companies had on show were breakdowns of what goes into the camera. Canon had examples of how their different technologies worked. 

The show is also a place for smaller companies to show their innovations and latest offerings too. The Swedish bag company Thule were showing off their latest camera bags which looked very cool. The team at Three Legged Thing were incredibly friendly and helpful. They provide some of the most innovative and versatile tripods around; also any product called Brian gets thumbs up from me. The Disabled Photography Society had a lot of vintage lenses and cameras for sale, which if you have read this blog before, you will know took my interest

Around the show there was lots of things going on for you to point your camera at. The show offered several talks for an extra price including talks by Rankin, John McMurtrie and Joe McNally. The show also had lots of shows and presentations taking place around the show. There was a garden set up with lots of different plants and flowers for people to take photos of. There was also a live stage set up where photographers were giving talks on how to improve; when I went past had an interesting set of models. Canon had a slow-mo booth where they were doing very silly stuff in front of their latest cine-cameras.

These large shows tend to be places where freebies come as second nature. Smaller vendors tended to give more things out, although little packs of sweets were a big thing. Best freebie though is probably the Sd Card holder from Panasonic 

The Photography show was a very good event, it’s a place where you can see everything that is coming out in the next year and you can get a bevy of information about how to improve and evolve as a photographer. As this is the first Photography Show, the event can only get bigger and better next year.

Ilford Lab Direct by John Winfield


Hey just a short post today

Getting your photos processed is quite an exciting thing to do; you wonder whether you caught the moment, caught the light or hit that sweet spot. Getting your prints is something that I really enjoy. I think it may be something that Ilford Print Labs has picked up on. Usually when you get your prints they come in a cheap paper sleeve with the negatives stuck in a little pouch in the front. Now don’t get me wrong getting photos like this is still as exciting but Ilford has taken it to the next level. 

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When this box came wrapped up through my door I didn’t really know what it was, I was expecting some photo’s but didn’t think they would come in such a well presented box.

The photos come in a hard cardboard case with sections for photos negatives and cd. It also has a section on its spine where you can write the contents. This packaging is something special, it makes whatever is inside feel of some worth. The quality of the photos inside is outstanding; I have had some medium format photos from Ilford before. They are an amazing black and white development lab. I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to get some black and white prints done. I have used the UK print lab but for anyone in the US they also have a lab in California, which can be found here http://www.ilfordlab-us.com/

 

Polaroid 'The Button' - A Charming Little Box by John Winfield

Delving through cupboards can lead to some rather interesting discoveries. Delving into someone else’s cupboards can lead to some incredible and shocking discoveries. Although I found no secret treasure maps, proof of alien life or evidence hinting towards an illicit affair with a Spanish prince; I did find a few vintage cameras in my late Nan’s cupboards. One of the finds was a 1980’s Polaroid ‘The Button’.

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Polaroid’s ‘The Button’ was the cheap alternative to the popular Sx-70. It is made of plastic, auto exposure and a fixed focus plastic lens. They made several versions of this Polaroid box camera in all different colours, the most famous of which being the inspiration for the Instagram logo.  This is quite a charming camera; its boxy shape has something quite child like and fun about it. Looking at his face on you can see this is a camera that is meant to be fun; although the grey colour scheme doesn’t really shout fun, you know this camera is the kind of camera to be taken to the beach or to a party to instantly record memories. 

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The camera is pretty limited on features; where the Sx-70 has manual adjustable focus, the ‘button’ has a plastic lens and a viewfinder that is offset meaning that what you see there is not what you get on the picture. This however can be expected when you see that when the Sx-70 launched in 1973 it cost $180 ($960 in todays money) the ‘button’ however cost $30 in 1981 ($75 in todays money) This cheap cost makes it feel fun, you don’t really worry about something on It going wrong because there are so few things that can. Although it is cheap it still seems more than sturdy, it could survive a few bumps and drops without anything going wrong with it. This makes it a fun camera to just throw in your bag and not worry about.

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  On a day in-between the crazy winds and torrential rain of February in England there was a rare occurrence, a sunny day. I thought I would go take ‘The Button’ for a walk.

 The beauty of instant photography is in the name; I can instantly see how good of a picture I have taken, it rewards you instantly for doing well and thus punishes you if you haven’t done well. Here is my selection of photos taken with ‘The Button’

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With an aperture of f14.6 the biggest thing that this camera needs is light. One of the biggest problems this means however is that if there is not a lot of light or conditions are not ideal then the electronic shutter stays open for longer; this means that the shots are susceptible to camera shake, which leads to blurring. 

When you do get the light right though the images you get are charming; they produce a lo-fi individual and personal image. They are very rewarding when you get the picture right, which in turn makes you think more about your image because you want that shot to come out right.  This camera is essentially a bit of fun; when you play with it right it lets you have lots of fun but even when your not so perfect with it, it can still leave a smile on your face. 

I would also like to note that the Polaroid scans were done on the new Impossible Film app. It works incredibly well and also has a social aspect for you to share your pics with other Polaroid users, check it out.

 

Impossible by John Winfield

Vintage cameras come with their good points and they come with their bad points. One of the bonuses is that the cameras themselves can be found pretty cheap compared to their digital counterparts; £50 for a camera that shoots full-frame 35mm shots compared to £1100 for a Canon 6D digital. The downside of this however is Film itself. Film costs to buy it, costs to develop it and then costs to print it. Where you could store 100 pictures on an SD card it would be at least 3 rolls of film that you wouldn’t be able to see the results of before developing them. The type of camera can also be a factor; good examples are Polaroid cameras. The instant camera was a brilliant idea, take a picture its there for you right there. The costs of Polaroid film and several poor business decisions, caused them to stop production on its instant film and effectively make millions of cameras useless. It seemed impossible to get these cameras to work. 

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In 2008 The Impossible Project was born.  Although Polaroid had stopped production of its films didn’t mean that it wasn’t still very popular. Polaroid was going under a restructuring program, it was effectively trying to get out of being an analogue company and move into a more digital company. They were selling off their analogue production sites; this is where The Impossible Project Started. Florian 'Doc' Kaps and André Bosman bought the Polaroid manufacturing plant in Enschede, Netherlands. They brought back instant photography for the millions of Polaroid cameras around the world. 

Impossible Project is a company that know their market. They create unique specialised products that give a certain level of nostalgia whilst being modern and cutting edge at the same time. I recently bought the SX-70 special edition bundle, which I am very pleased with. As you can see above the special editions replace the iconic Polaroid white square border with gold, silver and colourful versions of it. I have a couple of Polaroids that this film will fit and I will be writing about them in the coming weeks.