When I asked my grandchild, Avery, what she wanted as a gift she quickly replied, “An instant camera.”I thought to myself, “Wow, are they still around?” Sure, enough they are. Cameras we generically called Polaroids are as popular today as they were years ago. One reason is that they appeal to a younger generation’s obsession with selfies. Shoot a selfie and moments later you are holding a hard copy in your hand. There is something captivating about watching your image magically appear in front of your eyes; even more satisfying than capturing a digital image with your smartphone. Below is a brief history of the Polaroid camera and information about self-developing cameras available today.
Edwin H. Land, a founder of Polaroid, began his scientific career in 1926concentrating on the study of polarizing light filters. During the early days, he and associates at Land-Wheelwright Laboratories in Boston conducted research into possible applications of polarizers in sunglasses, filters and auto headlights. As a result, they produced glasses, 3-D glasses, and dark-adapter goggles for the Army and Navy. The instant camera was conceived by Mr. Land in 1943 after Land’s 3-year-old daughter asked why she couldn’t see a photo that was just taken of her. This started Land on a journey to invent the first instant camera. By 1947 the concept was turned into reality when Land announced the world’s first one-step photo process that produced finished photographs within one minute. On November 26, 1948, the first Land camera was sold for $89.95 at the Jordan Marsh department store in Boston, Massachusetts. That was the model 95 Land camera, prototype for all Polaroid Land cameras over the next 15 years. Since then millions of Land cameras were sold and other manufacturers copied the concept and began selling their own brand of instant cameras.
After a short hiatus from production, today Polaroid offers several different instant cameras ranging in price from about $99.00 to $199.00 depending on features. They have been redesigned in colorful plastics and are smaller than earlier models. That is, all except one model. The “New Polaroid OneStep 2” was inspired by the original OneStep, “but updated to work right out of the box.” The OneStep 2 retails for $99.99 and uses a new version of instant film called i-Type film. i-Type film is optimized for i-Type cameras and provides crisp, clear, and colorful photos. i-Type film does not work in vintage Polaroids. However, with the revival of consumer interest in instant cameras, Polaroid reintroduced film for their old Polaroids knowing that millions of them are tucked away in closets and attics just waiting for revival. Film for the vintage cameras costs about $20 a pack for 8 in black & white, or color. Although that is a bit expensive when you consider the per shot cost, it does let you bring your vintage camera back to life. Polaroid’s website is us.polaroidoriginals.com. Amazon also offers instant cameras and film, and during a recent visit to Best Buy and Walmart I found several makes and models, film, and fun accessories, like camera bags for specific models, photo books, hanging clips with string, and creative frames.
Polaroid is not the only company manufacturing instant cameras today. In fact, a leader in the field, especially with young consumers, is Fujifilm with their popular line of “instax” cameras. Like the new Polaroids, Fuji’s instax cameras use the new i-Type film in color or black & white, and have a selfie mirror built in with a close-up lens specifically designed for selfies. Fuji instax cameras retail for $59.00 to about $200. Film for the cameras costs $18.95 per pack which includes 20 prints. That equates to an average of 94 cents per photo. I’d say that isn’t too bad considering all factors. fujifilmusa.com/products/instax/index.html.
It looks to me like instant cameras are back in a big way and we can expect to see new models appear on store shelves in 2018. If you missed out on the fun the first time around, now is your chance to make up for lost time. And, if you forgot how to use one, rest assured, there are plenty of YouTube instructional videos to get you back in the game.