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.