Polaroid SX-70 / by 3.1


I came to acquire a shiny and (new) old Polaroid SX-70 Sonar (or whatever else you want to call it, as Polaroid didn't seem to think consistency in branding/naming a product was all that important). There are loads of these knocking around on eBay, antique shops or jumble sales, but I'd decided to pay the money and get a refurbished model from the people at Impossible, along with some other bits and pieces.


Impossible ship off all of their refurbished SX-70 cameras with a "frog tongue", which you slip in between the rollers and camera housing. Impossible film is not as stable or as consistent in results as original Polaroid film, so it needs to be shielded from light immediately upon ejection.

Back in 2008, I used to have an old, bog-standard Polaroid SX-70, in silver and tan leather:


It was gorgeous – however I sold it after about a year or so (which I thoroughly regret). I loved it, but as is always the case with instant film cameras, it was hideously expensive to run. Not to mention the fact that dedicated SX-70 film was pretty difficult to get in 2008. Polaroid 600 film was still around; you had to faff around and use a darkslide or something similar to get the film into the camera (the casing of 600 film packs was different to SX-70 film) and you had to buy a neutral density filter and tack it onto the front of the camera to avoid the photographs coming out overexposed. Then Polaroid stopped making film and you had to make use of whatever expired 600 film was floating around on eBay, which was hideously overpriced and of varying quality.

Now that Impossible have brought out film especially for SX-70 cameras, one doesn't have to bother with a neutral density filter anymore. You can still use 600 film packs too, as Impossible have developed a neutral density filter film that sits on top of the pack while it's inside the camera.

Anyhow. The new Polaroid SX-70 Sonar that I acquired is meant to be replacing my currently aged SX-70 Model 1:

Part of the reason I sold my original SX-70 was because it didn't have a tripod mount or strap lugs and you'll find with SX-70s that these are useful things to have. The Model 1 did have the latter things I mentioned, and pretty much all the SX-70s after that. As you can see though, my Model 1 is in need of a leather replacement (and it smells too), and the rollers need taking out and fiddling with.

Some shots on Impossible SX-70 colour film, from (maybe?) last year, taken with my SX-70 Model 1:

Meanwhile, I've been (irresponsibly) hoarding film, so I had a good range to play with. There's also the fact it needs using as I've had this supply for a while now, so another excuse to acquire a new SX-70:

The SX-70 Sonar comes with a chunky bit of plastic on the top that's supposed to provide the camera the ability to auto-focus. It also (thankfully) has an override function, so you can go back to basics:

Impossible film has come a long way since the "First Flush" days (which I tested back in 2010). Back then, the prints took something like 30-45 minutes just to develop. The contrast varied and they were more a sepia tone than black and white:

Today's Impossible SX-70 film is a lot more stable, develops within 10 minutes or so in the right sort of temperature and cures within the day if you leave them in a box or a drawer. The results of the first pack (Black Frame Edition) I tested with the SX-70 Sonar are as below (SX-70 film comes in packs of 8 frames):

I loaded up another pack, this time a colour pack (Color Frame Edition). Contrast is low and the colour film takes longer to develop than the black and white, and it's a lot more sensitive to all sorts, especially temperature. It was about 13°C outside when I took the first three shots, but they just wouldn't show any signs of developing until I'd got them back home and indoors. I've not finished the pack yet, but here are the first three shots I took on a walk back home from somewhere (walking past the London Museum of Water and Steam, in Brentford):

Just for comparison, here are some shots that I took on my first SX-70 camera back in 2008. These images were shot on original Polaroid 600 film with a ND filter:

Not sure what else there is to say really. SX-70s are quite unique little boxes of tricks, and I hope to get back into shooting with one again after so long. It's great to be able to use them again now that the Impossible Project really is in fully swing since that first pack I shot back in 2010.