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If you have a SX70 neck strap (rather than using a generic camera neck strap), you may have noticed that the end of the clip has a curve to it. The factory design clip is a squeeze type that isn’t a straight clasp.
You can clip onto the camera with the clasp curve either way. If you think about it, you could reason that one way might force the camera away from the body, while the other way may allow the camera to hang straight. Is there actually a ‘correct’ way?
Yes, Polaroid does specifically call out on their packaging one way is correct, the other isn’t.
Holding the camera by the bottom, the clap connects from the bottom up, rather than clipping downward. The science behind that? I have yet to find that, but will let you know when I do.
The Polaroid camera says to the photographer, “It’s not me, it is you”.
This article is about being successful at taking instant print photos with a Polaroid 600 OneStep that are in focus. This is the same for all auto eject cartridge Polaroids with the exception of Sonar focus SX70 and 660, manual focus models SX70 and Pronto RF and the SLR680/690 models.
Polaroid put all of the technology in the 600 models around the flash. The flash is electronically controlled based on the light in the area and the light from the flash bouncing back to the camera sensor. Polaroids will automatically adjust the strength and length of the flash.
For focusing, the 600 is built to take photos of things just over 4 feet away to infinity, thus is called a “Fixed Focus”. I get a lot of folks dropping by with cameras they have bought online, at yard sales, from the manufacture and rebuilders. They ask me to adjust the focusing of the camera as they are getting prints that are out of focus. There must be something wrong with the focusing!
First, there has to be an appreciation of how a 600 model produces a print. There is a plastic lens that can be seen on the front of the camera. Behind the lens is a shutter arm that allows light (the image) to enter the camera. The light is reflected off of a mirror and down onto the print film. That is it. There is no moving parts for the focusing… other than the photographer. So, it is important to know the limitations of the camera and adjust to live within those. As the title of this article says, if you can touch the object your taking a photo of, your too close.
How far is ‘further than 4 feet away’ Try standing with your toes against a wall. Leave one foot against the wall and place the other foot toes to the heal of the foot against the wall. Take the foot that is against the wall and put it’s toes behind the foot that is behind… basically your going to back up toe to heal, five times. As long as you have average size adult feet, the distance you are away from the wall after doing the toe to heal 5 times is how far away from something to have it be in focus on the print. You have to actually be more than 4 feet away, since with the camera in front of your face it will be another 6 inches plus closer to the object being photographed.
“This wasn’t a limitation in the old days”. I had a manual focus SX70 and a early 600 in those ‘old days’. As well, I buy a lot of Polaroid prints from estate sales as reference. When film was all there was, people had learned the limits of their film cameras and adjusted their expectations. We are all so used to digital photography and near limitless software tuning our images, it is easy to forget the things we did without thinking about it because that is what we had to do.
Almost all of the latest 600 OneStep Polaroids do have a slide over ‘Close Up’ lens. Don’t forget you have that for those times you find you need to take a picture of things closer than 4 feet. I find the solution works nicely for things 3 feet to just over 4 feet away, even though most literature claims you can get as close as 2 feet from your subject.
One last item to consider when needing to photograph a item in low light that appears to be ‘out of focus’ in the print, it may actually be that those parts are over exposed. If your in a very low light area, the camera sees that and adjusts the flash to fill as much as it can. If you have a single individual’s face around 5 to 6 feet away, the flash may wash their face out due to the light attempting to fill in the dark areas. You are then getting a heavy light reflection off the face. You may try having the person turn there head slightly or add more light to the area so the Polaroid doesn’t do a maximum flash.
I am challenged with where the point is that is just over 4 feet away. So, I purchased a small laser range finder for around $45 US. There are many options on the market. Or, a small tape measure is less tech but can be really small to carry.
The obvious beauty with using a SX70 Sonar is it is simple to use. You can actually focus on things near or far away for nice depth photos. The autofocus is fast and you can see through the viewfinder what you will get. Not general information like with the 660 Sonar Autofocus or 600 Autofocus, cameras that have a viewfinder separate from the photography lens’s view.
The less obvious, but equal effect for tuning photos is using a flash. I use a Mint Electronic Flash (available direct or through The Impossible Project) when using a older Polaroid Box camera or the SX70 (Alpha and Sonar). The Mint Flash has a 1/2 power and full power setting. Most people use the default of Full Power for SX70 film and 1/2 Power for 600 film. Included with the flash is a couple color gel defusers.
When looking through the viewfinder, there is a small red light on the right that will appear if the camera feels there isn’t enough light without a flash. It is important to know, you can still take a photo. The camera will extend the length of time the shutter is open. If your going to do a lot of low light photography (like night light tracking), mount the SX70 Sonar on a tripod. If your Sonar doesn’t have a tripod mount screw, there are clip on plates available.
This is an example of a pumpkin with a light inside, in a dark area of the house, white background. I didn’t use a tripod on purpose to show that you can get a reasonable shot but the camera has to be really still. Otherwise you get what looks like light it bleeding but really it is the camera catching the movement with the shutter open.
Next, this is 1/2 Power Flash on the Mint Electronic Flash. Normally the setting for 600 Style film (Impossible Project). As you can see, there is a different effect with the contrast/saturation coming through. Something to consider when looking for impact in a lower light subject. Notice though that the outer edges of the print area isn’t able to get the full power of the light.
Finally, the flash on Full Power, as is suggested by Mint. This results in the classic Polaroid Print we are all familiar with. There is more possible for adding punch to your Polaroid Prints by understanding the power in your hands. And this, without even touching the manual light/dark override dial.
There was an option on the Polaroid 600 model that doesn’t have autofocus to have a ‘Close Up’ lens built in. This feature was on the Sun/Spirit as well the OneStep 600 (not the box style Polaroids). You will recognize the cameras by the small plastic slider below and to the side of the main lens, between the lens and bright/dark compensation slider.
Moving the lever towards the lens slides a plastic lens over the front of the main lens as well inside of the viewfinder area. These are not precision ground glass lenses, so the lens and distance between the main lens and the close up lens can vary a bit between cameras.
Since this is a lens over a lens, you aren’t taking a camera that focuses 4 feet to infinity and giving it 2 feet to 4 feet range. There is a sweet spot, or distance, that each camera has. Normally, as I move from one 600 OneStep to the next, I find it difficult to get the exact ‘in focus’ distance when using the close up lens. So, I end up with things at different distances in and out of focus.
Using that ‘issue’ to your advantage, there is a first test you should do when you pick up a Polaroid with a close up lens before going out and using the camera. Place the camera in a spot on a long table or on the floor. Now, take small objects (chess pieces, small stuff animals, dominos… etc…) and place on at foot distances away from the camera. Be sure one does not completely hide the one behind it. If you are using things like chess pieces or dominos, you can place one every half foot to get more precision. Now, snap a photo. The print will show you quickly what the perfect ‘in focus’ distance is for that camera.
While I love to shoot with film and instant print cameras, sharing by design is limited. The fun of the experience is the personalization of taking a single photo and then sharing something I hand to someone.
But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when the draw of sharing digital photos isn’t calling my name. Luckily, the folks with the Impossible Project offer an app for the iPhone to make Polaroid prints into digital images.
The Impossible Project app offers the ability to convert digital photos into Polaroid prints, convert Polaroid prints into digital images, view Polaroid prints shared (you can share your converted prints too) as well, access to their store to buy film for your Polaroid camera.
With the Impossible Project app, you snap a photo of your Polaroid Print. There is an option to choose between the 600/SX70 frames vs the wider Spectra prints. Then, choose the corners of the print and ‘crop’.
The digital image of your print can then be saved to your iPhone and/or shared to the Impossible Project social share service (free).
In high school, I really wanted a Minolta 110 ‘Zoom’ SLR. It had feature like auto focus and manual over-ride, as well a light/dark compensator and a zoom lens. Particularly, I liked the small size (and cool shape). My fellow photographers set me straight about what I needed, being able to print large pictures that required 35MM or 120 films, the 110 was just too small.
Now, I have a Minolta 110 SLR and Pentax Auto110 that I enjoy snapping shots around town. Sure, it won’t allow for unedited large prints to be made. Even the small 110 film size though can create images that are way more than is needed for online usage. The auto focus and zoom of the Minolta, and the manual focus and variety of lenses of the Pentax.
Film photography means that some forethought is required. There is no way to see what was just captured till the film is developed and printed. Also, there is no instant digital ‘filters’ and editors for film. But, that is a big part of the fun using film cameras.
While the Minolta 110 SLR had all the great features (here is a PDF of the camera’s manual), there were many more 110 film cameras that did little more than a pinhole camera does. Film can be advanced and a shutter activated to expose that film. The lower tech options where popular as advertising devices. If you carry a camera to all of the family get togethers that was acquired for free from a company, the logo on the camera is seen by everyone… marketing.
Kodak made a line of 110 film cameras that had a few more options than the freebies, but no where near that of the Minolta 110 SLR. Actually, there was another very memorable more powerful 110, the Rollei A110. The camera took years from concept to actually be manufactured. It is very small, made of metal and Delrin, as well carried the cool spy camera feature of advancing the film when the camera is opened/closed.
The Rollei even has viewfinder viewable info to help set the camera to best photograph different opportunities.
The first Polaroid SX7o had a dial for a user to estimate the distance to their subject as a method to tell the camera what was in focus. After a short time, a split circle Range Finder focus solution was added to remove the guess work for focusing. Then, the ‘AutoFocus Sonar’ was added. It is recognizable by the large gold grill circle on the front of the camera. The Sonar focus system works by sending out a sound pulse then measuring how long it takes to get back to the camera to know the distance to focus to.
The 600 Series Polaroid have a variety of versions.
The basic 600 has no special focus, it is set to photograph things 4 feet and further away.
An updated 600 came with a Close Up lens (normally called the 636) which is manually slid over in front of the camera lens to better focus on item 2 feet to 4 feet away.
The ‘Pro’ version of the 600 (normally called the 660) had the large Sonar focus gold grid that automates pin point focusing.
A less known 600 is the AutoFocus that does not have Sonar. It uses, though not mentioned anywhere in it’s literature, the ‘Wink’ focus method.
I spent a period of time trying to figure out how the auto focusing on this 600 worked. Pulling the cameras apart, searching my repair manuals. Finally, by shear luck, I came across the patent for the technology. I say shear luck since Polaroid has a LOT of patents. In it, the system is highly detailed in tech and lawyer speak, it is a patent after all.
The Wink technology is an adjustment to the sensor that tells the camera if the flash is needed and how strong to flash the strobe. Rather than just watching for light bouncing, part of the sensor has a filter over it that restricts the light down to InfraRed which isn’t visible light. The problem with just using the light bouncing off an object is that it can be confused by colors, like a dark blue shirt vs a white sweater will be seen differently yet the two people are the same distance away. The IR sensor doesn’t see colors so it isn’t confused, rather it sees light not visible to the human eye so it can be used to calculate distance based on how long it takes the bounced light to return.
While a Polaroid camera appear outwardly as a simple camera, actually the strength and timing of the flash as well the time the shutter is open is all closely controlled. When you push the shutter, an internal timer starts for when the camera lens shutter will actually open. The flash starts to pulse, and the sensor starts watching the light coming back. If the light comes back really quickly, the flash lessens it’s brightness and the shutter fires quicker. If the sensor says it is dark, the time for the light takes a long time to come back, the flash goes long and the lens stays open longer. Sounds simple, but all of this is happening in hundred of milliseconds (the shutter fires automatically if it isn’t told differently at 124 ms, and the whole process won’t exceed 396 ms… wow!).
Since I doubt you will ever pull your Polaroid 600 apart, here is a couple photos you might find interesting. The first is the inside of a version of the camera that has the manual close up lens. The lens is part of the cover that is removed. What you can see here is in the center, just below the lens is a mechanical arm that is connected to the switch on the front of the camera which allows for the adjustment of light/dark backgrounds. On the right, you can see the filtering geared circle that controls the amount of light that reaches the sensor to vary how the camera take the picture. This is seen through a square on the front of the camera just below the viewfinder lens.
In the case of the (non-Sonar) AutoFocus Polaroid 600… oh, look at the electronics. The camera has moved away from the user actually manually adjusting things. Instead, when the light/dark slider on the front is moved, it is actually a three position switch that is moved. The white switch can be seen below and to the right of the lens. Moving the arm doesn’t move a filter, instead in this case it just tells the program that calculations need to be done to compensate for over light/dark backgrounds.