long before digital we had Polaroid!

SX-70 Polaroid Photo c1997

Toronto. George Dunbar sent me a few old photography ads including this July 1950 Popular Photography Polaroid ad. The Polaroid ad brought to mind many old memories.

As a kid in Allandale, I had my first camera – an old Kodak box camera. After I used up the roll of film with about 8 to 12 shots, I ambled down to the local drugstore. My exposed roll was sent off to Chas Abel in Toronto for processing and printing.

Developing the roll cost a dime while any frames worth printing added a few cents per print. A week or so later, my film would come back processed and – hopefully – printed.

Before Polaroid, finding out if your shots were good took days to weeks depending on how fast you finished the roll and where you took it for processing. All this changed in the late 1940s with Polaroid’s revolutionary “picture in a minute” process. But there was a big problem with Polaroid’s very complex and well built cameras and process: cost. The camera and film (and subsequent print) were far more expensive than a Kodak box camera, traditional film, and processing. Which is why so many Polaroid cameras were used briefly then set aside on the shelf.

To determine if the camera setting was right, you took a shot. Need to make a change? Take another shot. Want a copy? Taken another shot. Great for those for whom cost is no object but terrible for the average amateur snap-shooter. Much too expensive.

When I made the image you see above, I had a used Polaroid SX-70 camera. Each shot was about $1 whether to check the settings or make a print. And the resolution was rather low. I had intended to scan the prints to use in a newsletter but what I gained in timeliness I lost in quality. And the half tone printing process degraded the resolution even further.

The early Polaroid cameras produced only Black and White photos. Later on Polaroid backs and specialized films found a purpose with professionals. The costly set up for a professional photo shoot made the Polaroids relatively economical and practical.


This entry was posted in processes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.