Toronto. In the film era you waited days or weeks to see the results of your camera efforts – unless you owned one of the marvellous Polaroid cameras that gave you a picture in a minute! Edwin Land came up with a technology that gave you a black and white – later full colour – positive print either in camera or later in your hand!
To his credit, Land designed a very elegant and complex camera which, like an Apple computer today, just works. The camera he designed had little scope or need for adjustment. Like the big Kodak sellers of the day, the camera was a folding bellows model. For an amateur snap shooter the Polaroid had a couple of serious flaws: it made expensive prints and the prints were one of a kind – no fast reprints unless the shot was taken again and again.
The June 13, 1949 issue of LIFE magazine had the Polaroid ad you see when you click on the above icon. The ad shows a prospective user just how easy it is to use a Polaroid Land camera and see your print in seconds. There is no mention of the cost of the camera or the film and prints … Polaroid went on to make many different camera models and captured enough market share to gain the attention of Kodak who began to compete with its own camera and film. Kodak lost the eventual court battle and were forced to buy back all their Colorburst cameras (or just the name plates) so few are ever seen today with the name plate in place.
And today? Both Kodak and Polaroid mis read the coming digital wave at a terrible corporate cost. And every smartphone has a built-in camera that gives faster and far better prints than you could ever expect from Polaroid (or Kodak), prints ready to be sent to web sites or fellow smartphone users in an instant!