Some time ago, my parents-in-law gave me an old Polaroid camera that they used during my wife’s childhood. After some investigation, I found out that Polaroid had stopped making instant film. But the factory in Enschedé, the Netherlands had been taken over by The Impossible Project, so I bought a package of fresh film and gave it a try!
My Polaroid Land camera is a basic, non-foldable consumer model: the Polaroid 1000, also known as the OneStep in the USA. There seems to be two versions, either with a red or green button. This camera uses the SX-70 type of film packages that cost around €20 for a package of eight photos. This makes it considerably more expensive than the Fuji Instax film but the iconic square size of the Polaroid pictures is much larger, too, about 8×8 cm (excluding the white frame).
After loading the film package into the Polaroid 1000, the camera made some noise and spit out the darkslide, which covers the light sensitive photo paper in the cartridge. These darkslides have various pictures printed in white on black on them, and therefore have some collectors’ value.
The first photo taken at the back garden of my parents-in-law was somewhat of a disappointment. After almost an hour of development, it turned out to be not very sharp and either overexposed or underdeveloped. As it was rather cold I expected it to be related to the temperature, which was below the advised minimum of 13°C.
The next attempt was on a sunny day during a walk in the woods. After development in my inside coat pocket (you have to hide the photo from light during development), this picture of my two daughters turned out reasonably sharp but still too light.
Some time later I took two pictures rather quickly after each other, so the first one was not developed yet when I made the second. Both turned out to be overexposed, as the temperature outside was pretty comfortable and could not be blamed for insufficient development.
So I guessed I had to adjust the exposure time to get properly exposed photos, and for this the Polaroid 1000 has a wheel around the exposure eye to darken or lighten the exposure by adjusting the shutter speed. I found out that the aperture is fixed at f14.6 – this also allows for a fixed focus distance.
I adjusted the wheel to darken the photo as much as possible. The next pictures turned out reasonably well-exposed, but the sharpness of the portrait of my wife and youngest daughter is a little shaky (and yes, there’s a dog in the lower right corner!). The photo of my Minolta camera collection turned out okay.
For the last photos I kept the exposure wheel on the darkest setting, and this resulted in more or less properly exposed photos. However, the seventh photo was taken at the end of the day, when the light was getting dimmer already. This resulted in a longer exposure time and therefore an un-sharp photo.
The last photo was taken on a sunny day, and I was finally satisfied with the result. I figured out the three important rules for taking nice Polaroid photos: shoot and let them develop at a reasonable temperature, set the exposure wheel at the darkest setting, and shoot in good light.
I enjoyed experimenting with this old camera and the Impossible film, but with a price of €2,50 per photo, it can become an expensive hobby. This might be the reason why Impossible users seem to be found mostly within artistic circles, while the more casual instant shooters use the cheaper and more developed Fuji Instax film and cameras like the Lomo’Instant. Lately, The Impossible Project has introduced a new enhanced version of their film, so I will be continuing my experiments with this old Polaroid camera!