Possibly the most expensive camera I own simply due to the cost of a photo: ~$3
Meet the SX 70 II. This camera was produced between 1973 and whenever people realized instant film was godawful expensive. In its youth it was $180 new, and a 10-shot cartridge was $6. That’s 1970s money. You could fill your land cruiser’s gas tank cheaper than you could fill your land camera’s insatiable need to produce soft, over/under-exposed bulky single-shot images that couldn’t be duplicated. What a deal! Yet Polaroid somehow managed to keep the momentum going. Today the momentum has shifted to Fuji with their Instax line; Polaroid seems to kinda half-halfheartedly have one camera out there hanging in plastic packaging at your local retail chains. But I digress.
This particular SX 70 came to me, as several of the cameras in my collection have, from my dad’s closet. I think this was my Grandpa Etzel’s camera. I have it on good authority that he became very fond of instant cameras. Regardless of the original owner, this camera had seen better days. The leather/leatherette covering had deteriorated to the consistency of stale chocolate chip cookies, and was crumbling into pieces…on everything. What a mess! I spent nearly two hours carefully removing the remnants of 1970s leather and adhesive.
As it turns out, the SX 70 is a popular camera with the hipster crowd. A refurbished one will set you back a car note nowadays, and film… well I will get to that shortly. Being a popular camera meant new leather in the original color was readily available and inexpensive. for $21 shipped I had brand new clothes for my naked patient.
I re-skinned the beast and ordered some film for it. Being a bit on the conservative side with my money…just kidding, I shoot film so there’s no such thing as “conservative spending” … I only ordered two packs, sixteen shots, for $50. That’s right. $50. Let me math the shit out of this for you. $23.98 per pack + $6.99 shipping = $54.95 / 16 shots = $3.43 per shot. Three Fitty a shot, folks!
Well, you can guess how that turned out. I loaded the color film in it and the first 5 shots: over-exposed. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t nail exposure. So $17.50 worth of shutter presses gained me nothing. After fiddling with the exposure compensation wheel, I discovered the camera can occasionally take a good photo.
So yeah, ouch. One magical shot out of 8. $23.98 + shipping well spent. Not willing to admit defeat, I ejected the spent color cartridge and reloaded with Impossible Project Black and White. By now I simply hoped to get something worth keeping for my investment. I realized that the exposure wheel on the camera is great for compensating when backlighting is harsh. Putting the sun behind Roman and cranking the wheel to 100% dark … the wheel I keep mentioning operates a little ND filter over the light meter which is totally not intuitive, Google it … and I got a shot I felt redeemed my faith in Polaroid and instant film.
Feeling better about my understanding of the camera, I took a few more head shots, only to realize I’m no good at this instant camera thing.
To say it was a disappointment would be an understatement, but I really shouldn’t have had much expectation. Instant cameras were expensive and limited when they were introduced, and they haven’t changed. Even the newest model Fuji camera is going to land you at a couple bucks a shot for something the size of a business card. The upside to modern instant cameras is some offer things like double-exposure, and bulk packs of film. However, this old dog of a camera, new skin and all, is headed for the display shelf. It was fun while it lasted.
Ok, it sucked, but I’m over it now.