For a few years, I have had in my possession an old Polaroid camera (the Sun 600 LMS model) which was given to me by a family member. I’ve been waiting to test it out for just as long, not knowing if the camera even worked as it collected dust on a bookcase.
The problem was that when I received the camera, the only way to get film for it was through the Impossible Project – and it was not cheap at all. It was also massively unpredictable. I basically didn’t want to spend £30 to find out that either the camera didn’t work, or the camera did but the film was awful – so I held off from the purchase.
Flash forward to last year, and Impossible Project joins with Polaroid and rebrands itself as Polaroid Originals. This new company has access to facilities which allowed the large-scale production of a more reliable film at a much cheaper price. They also now sell refurbished vintage cameras, new cameras, and a wide range of accessories which aren’t vital at all to the experience. Although the film was cheaper, you’d still be paying £16-18 for 8 shots. To put that in perspective, you can buy a roll of pro-grade 35mm film for £8, with development, scans, and prints for the same price. There was (and still is) a premium on this brand of instant photography.
Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I found a pack of expired Polaroid Originals film on eBay for £8.* As I said, in any one pack of the newer film, you only get 8 shots – so in this case, £1 per shot was a bargain. I bought the pack (no way is the price ever going to be this for a new one!) and it arrived about a week later.
I loaded it into the camera (very likely older than myself), and saw that everything worked as it was meant to! It’s so fun to use! In other Camera Chats you will eventually find out about why I prefer using 35mm film cameras over digital ones, but instant photography is entirely new to me. Line up your composition, press the shutter button, and quickly hide the ejected photo in a dark space for 10 minutes. The film is still light sensitive when it is ejected (unlike Instax film), so Polaroid Originals advise that you keep the photo in a dark place for a while until it is developed enough for normal light to not affect it too much. No shaking here! You end up with a slightly unpredictable shot (or maybe it’s just my camera needs a clean and the film was a big buggered), but you do end up with a physical product there and then. My first shot (of my Labrador, Boris) didn’t turn out so well – it could be due to the expired film being used, or the camera internal’s being a bit dirty, or simply being too close to properly focus. It isn’t a great photo. But it is a memento, a physical object I can display or hide away without having to go to a print shop to ask for a digital file to be printed. I have 7 shots left of the 8 as of writing this post, and I hope to work out the kinks and grab some decent mementoes for the future.
As fun as this is so far, the question is still: will I be buying more film? Not at the current price – which is a shame, but I can’t justify over £2 on a single Polaroid. I might, however, buy another similar camera which takes the much cheaper Instax film (at most £1 per shot). The downside to this is that Instax photos are all smaller (even the largest format), and have less detail as a result of this. Not a cheap hobby, but I think the price is worth it for special occasions. Polaroid Originals definitely have their place and I would certainly stick with this format if I could afford to be spending on £2 on a photo which may or may not come out too well.** If there is a sale on in the future then I will reconsider this, but until then I will have to be careful with my remaining shots.
*Analogue film formats have an expiry date: the last date for which the manufacturer guarantees reliable and consistently high-quality photos. In other words, after the expiry date, the colours might change or not show up at all. There is a whole subsection of photography called Lomography which focuses on this.
**For those wondering, you can quite easily justify the price of having to buy a new Instax camera if you plan on shooting 80 photos.