The Polaroid Corporation was founded in 1937 by Edwin H. Land. It is most famous for its instant film cameras, which reached the market in 1948, and continued to be the company's flagship product line. The company's original dominant market was in polarized sunglasses, an outgrowth of Land's self-guided research in polarization after leaving Harvard University at the age of 17 (he later returned to Harvard to continue his research). After Polaroid defeated Kodak in a patent battle, Kodak left the instant camera business on January 9, 1986.
Early instant camera were often referred to and titled as "Land Cameras," named after the inventor of the dry instant film process, Dr. Land. Instant cameras have been produced to use three main categories of film: rollfilm, packfilm, and integral film. All of these films can be expensive, usually costing about $1 per shot, or print. Through its history, Polaroid has been known as a company that builds quirky cameras cheaply that work quite well. Most Polaroid cameras have fully automatic exposure systems, with an electronic eye to determine correct exposure. Quality can range from extremely good, as in the Pathfinder or SX -70 cameras, to extremely poor, as in the Joycam. Despite its history of innovation, the company entered the digital photography market very late in the game, and as a result has neither a significant market share nor significant innovation in this area.
Professional applications of the Polaroid instant film and cameras were as screen-shot cameras for scientific instruments, passport / identity photos, or large format cameras of other manufacturers equipped with Polaroid sheet film holders or pack film backs. Polaroid shots were often used to test studio lighting setups before use of other types of film or camera, before the instant playback of digital cameras became available.
The company filed for federal bankruptcy protection in October 11, 2001, and most of the business was thereafter carried on by the Holding Company (PHC), managed by Bank One. Significant criticism surrounded this takeover because the process left executives of the company with large bonuses, while stockholders, as well as current and retired employees, were left with nothing. Polaroid's bankruptcy was widely believed to be the result of the failure of its senior management to see the effect of digital cameras on its film business, a fate that also befell its primary rival, Kodak. Since the bankruptcy Polaroid branded LCD and Plasma televisions and portable DVD players have appeared on the market.
On April 27, 2005, Petters Group Worldwide announced its acquisition of PHC. Petters has in the past bought up failed companies with well-known names for the value of those names. The same year, Flextronics purchased Polaroid's manufacturing operations and the decision was made to send most of the manufacturing to China. In January 2009 Polaroid introduced the digital instant camera PoGo TWO, a variant of Polaroid's innovative portable PoGo photo printer with built-in digicam. The very compact PoGo printers use special Zink paper for ink-free printing.
In March 2009, following bankruptcy proceedings, the Polaroid brandname was sold once more. At the time of writing, no film is being manufactured under the famous name, but various projects are being undertaken by people wishing to revive the Polaroid format, such as the Impossible Project who currently produce SX70, Spectra, 600 and 8x10 film.
Types of Polaroid Instant Cameras
Type 40 rollfilm
- Polaroid Land Model 95 (1948)
- Polaroid Speedliner (Model 95A of 1954 and 95B of 1957)
- Polaroid Model 100 (1954)
- Polaroid Pathfinder (Model 110 of 1952, 110A of 1957 and 110B of 1960)
- Polaroid Model 700 (1955)
- Polaroid Model 800 (1957)
- Polaroid Model 150 (1957)
- Polaroid Model 900 (1960)
- Polaroid Model 120 (1961)
- Polaroid Model 850 (1961)
- Polaroid Model 160 (1962)
- Polaroid Model J66 (1961)
Type 30 rollfilm
- Polaroid Highlanders (Model 80 of 1954, 80A of 1957 and 80B of 1959)
- Polaroid Model J33 (1961)
Type 20 rollfim
- Polaroid Swinger Model 20 (1965)
- Polaroid M15 Swinger Sentinel (aka Swinger II)
Polaroid produced various model lines of cameras to use the peel-apart 80 or 100 series packfilm. These types of film are no longer manufactured by Polaroid, but Fuji makes FP-100 instant film for the latter size.
Folding Cameras - Series 1 (Mid 60's - Mid 70's)
'Bellows'-type models which fold down into a solid body, with a flip-up cover to fold over the lens assembly. All these models feature rangefinders style focus mechanisms, and some of the more expensive models include Zesis film-produced rangefinders. The shutter must be manually cocked after every release of the shutter before another photograph can be taken. All cameras in this series use 100 series film.
- Polaroid 100-400 series
- Polaroid Land Model 100
- Polaroid Land Model 103
- Polaroid Land Model 104
- Polaroid Land Model 220
- Polaroid Land Model 250
- Polaroid Land Model 340
- Polaroid Land Model 350
- Polaroid Land Model 430
Folding Cameras - Series 2 (Late 70's - Early 00's)
Rigid, self erecting bellows-type cameras where the base of the bellows structure becomes the cover for the camera when folded. These models do not feature rangefinders at all, instead they all rely on distance scale focusing by turning the front lens element. These cameras can all take either 100 or 80 series film; the fixed viewfinders feature guides for each format.
Non-Folding Consumer Models (Late 60's - Mid 70's)
Fixed plastic body cameras, most have front lens element distance scale focusing, though some are fixed focus. Most models use 100 series packfilm, a few use 80 series, and some are able to use both. Many models exist in this series; often they are very similar and were simply renamed for different markets. Model names include Colorpack, Minute Maker, Square Shooter, Swinger.
Non-Folding Professional models(Late 70's - 90's) Professional, metal-bodied cameras with very high build quality and excellent optics, and passport cameras. Camera examples:
There are several exchangeable backs for 35mm, medium and large format film cameras that utilise peel-apart packfilm as well. Not many of these were made by Polaroid themselves. They are often used to take 'preview' shots on photo shoots, though Polaroid fans can use them as high-quality manually set Polaroid cameras with interchangeable optics.
Instant Integral film
There were three main types of integral film produced by Polaroid: SX-70, 600 and Spectra film. All follow the same basic design: the film packs contain batteries which power the camera's exposure meter and automatically eject the pictures on shutter release.
SX-70 (aka Time Zero) and 600 film are identical in size - both produce square prints of 79mm x 79mm with the familiar 'Polaroid border' around the image. Many users of cameras designed for SX-70 film today use 600 film instead as SX-70 film is no longer available. Certain measures must be taken to prevent overexposure if 600 film is used in SX-70 cameras as 600 film has a speed equal to ISO 600; SX-70 develops at ISO 150.
Spectra film is slightly larger and rectangular in format: the image produced is 92mm x 73mm. Like 600 film, Spectra has a speed of ISO 640. Spectra is known as Imagefilm in some markets. Examples:
- Polaroid Onestep
- Polaroid Time Zero Onestep
- Polaroid Pronto! RF
- Polaroid Supercolor 1000 Deluxe
- Polaroid SX-70
- Polaroid SX-70 Model 3
A multitude of Polaroid cameras were designed to take 600 Integral film. Mostly they were low-specification plastic models designed for one-touch snapshots at parties (e.g. Impulse, 636, P 600) but there were a few SLR models aimed at professional photographers.
- Polaroid Integral 600 Series (consumer models)
- Polaroid One Step close-up
- Polaroid One Step AF Autofocus Digital Exposure System
- Polaroid P
- Polaroid Sun 600 LMS Light Management System
- Polaroid 600 Autofocus 660
- Polaroid SLR 680 (professional)
- Polaroid SLR 690 (professional)
- Polaroid Spectra (aka Image) Series.
Polaroid offered a giant variety of sheet film for its daylight loading sheet film holders Polaroid 545 and Polaroid 545i. The Polaroid company no longer produces film in the 4x5" large format enveloped sheet film, but Fujifilm produces it as part of its FP range.
Other types of instant film
Polaroid has produced several different types of smaller format film over the years, as well as experimenting with various types of disposal, toy and miniature camera formats.
The films include:
- Captiva (also known as 500) film - 73 x 54mm image size, ISO 600, 10 pictures to a filmpack
- Pocket film - 36 x 24mm image, ISO 640, 12 images to a pack. Available in a sticky-backed version.
- Mio film - 62 x 45mm (Uses technology licensed from Fuji. Although Polaroid issued its own Mio film, the cameras also use Instax Mini film.)
- Polaroid Captiva/Vision SLR
- Polaroid I-Zone
- Polaroid izone200
- Polaroid mio (see Fujifilm Instax Mini)
- Polaroid JoyCam
- Polaroid Pop Shots
Digital color Zink paper
- Polaroid PoGo TWO
- Polaroid page at Collection G. Even's site
- The Land List: a nearly complete list of every Polaroid camera ever made
- Polaroid site community, news, encyclopedia, photo gallery...
- Polaroid patents
- The New Polaroid Cube (official site)
- Various Polaroid Cameras and user manuals at Sylvain Halgand's collection
- Comprehensive collection of Polaroid Picture Roll cameras and accessories - some interactivity
- Picture Gallery using Polaroid Cameras www.picturenoise.com
- Polaroid Cameras Price Guide collectiblend.com
- Comprehensive list of instant films on Wikipedia.
- Polaroid historical timeline compiled for Jim's Polaroid collection.
- Various gallery images from polaroid 600 and E33
- Polaroid support <3
- News about Polaroids rebranding