Thursday, September 27, 2012

My SX-70 Land Camera + 1972 Eames Ad = Nostalgia

My favorite piece in my small but well-loved Eames collection was not actually made directly by the Eames' at all:

It is a Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera.  Mine is an Alpha 1 series produced around 1977 that retailed at the time for about $233.00. It is finished in leather and chrome, has an attached leather strap, and a screw mount to allow attachment to a tripod.  It's in excellent physical condition, although you can see that it does have a little scratch on the front.

It came with an original leather Polaroid case, with suede interior, and an instruction card demonstrating how to pack the case, but unfortunately I do not have an instruction booklet:

This was a super-popular camera in the 1970s despite the high-end price tag, as the SX-70 camera was a significant technological achievement in internal and external design:

It was also the very first camera to use Polaroid's integral film, or film that developed on its own, without help from the photographer to time the development or peel the negative apart from the positive.

I bought this camera in 2005.  Unfortunately I had very little time to play with it before Polaroid phased out the Time Zero film that it requires to work (phased out in December 2005, sold out everywhere in March 2006).  I had hoped to try doing some Polaroid manipulation (watch this cool video if you want to know more about it), but as it turned out, this camera needs some internal work as some of my photos would develop properly, and others had a shadow across the final developed image. So sad!

Then I found out that the Impossible Project actually purchased a Polaroid film manufacturing plant and in 2008 began producing PX 70 Color Shade film that will work with my camera, but at only eight exposures for $23.00(!) I haven't been too keen to purchase such a high-priced film knowing that my camera needs a little restoration work. 

So where do the Eames' fit into this story?  In 1972, Charles and Ray Eames produced a wonderfully nostalgic ten minute film to advertise the camera, and includes a fascinating section about how the camera and film actually work. The ad has the Eames' stamp all over it:  the work is unhurried, whimsical, multicultural, and fun.  I enjoy watching this short film/ad just for the pleasure of enjoying Ray Eames' set design.

The film starts off a little slow, so if you'd like skip the first boring minute or so about Alfred Stieglitz and Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid and maker of the Land camera (hence the name!) and jump in at about 1 minute 9 seconds to see the action of the camera:

The camera has a cult following today, and people are still manipulating their Polaroid photos.  If you'd like to see more, follow this link to the Polaroid SX-70 Manipulation group at Flickr.

What do you think, dear readers?  Is the SX-70 still cool 40 years later?


  1. Oh this stellar camera makes my photographer's heart happy as a clam! It's such a 1970s gem, and I can definitely see why it's so near and dear to your heart. My parents had a Polaroid camera in the 80s (it was red plastic, as I recall), but it wasn't anywhere near cool looking as this one.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Oh thanks so much sweetie! It really is near and dear to my heart. I also have one of the plastic Polaroid cameras as well. I've promised myself to get it restored one day!

  2. You really awoke memories with this camera. Have not seen one in this condition is so long. What a shame you cannot get what is needed to make it work again.

    1. So glad to have walked down memory lane with you LV! I do hope to get the camera restored to working order one day; I miss playing with it.


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