Harvard graduate Edwin Land began producing polarization material used in sunglasses, photo filters, airplane windows, even desk lamps when the Polaroid Company became a reality in September of 1937. But it wasn’t until 1944 when asked by his daughter why she has to wait until it is developed (several days) to see the picture he just took of her, that Edwin Land would conceptualize the One-Step photographic process. Apparently it only took him about an hour to formulate a majority of the process and he would soon be working to produce this landmark technology. Three years later he and the brilliant minds at Polaroid would change the face of photography. The Polaroid Model 95 instant film camera was introduced to the general public on November 26 th, 1948 and sales for the first fiscal year exceed five million dollars. Many camera models followed, including the Automatic 100 Land Camera in 1963, the first pack film camera to incorporate a transistorized electronic shutter. But the SX-70 introduced in 1972 became an instant classic.

The SX-70 was the first motorized Polaroid camera, and the first to use a non-peel apart, self-developing film.  In fact the current Time-Zero film that is used with the SX-70 is popular due to it ability to be manipulated long after the exposure.  See the Instant Gallery to see examples and get more information regarding SX-70 Time-Zero manipulation.  The original fully manual, folding design of this unique SLR instant camera was revolutionary.  It can focus up to 10.5 inches to infinity, allows for a +2/-2 exposure compensation and newer models such as the Sonar have fully automatic focusing and metering.  Although the first SX-70 also had automatic metering but not TTL.

It is a shame that Polaroid discontinued the SX-70 design in lieu of cheaper, budget cameras.  600 integral film is so similar to the original SX-70 and current Time-Zero films in regards to size and design, producing an SX-70 that accepted this newer film should have been a no-brainer.  Maybe production cost were too high to even maintain the original SX-70 but I believe this design was so well made it could have continued to be popular long after its discontinuation in the early 80’s.  However during is short life the SX-70 did have several revisions.  The Sonar OneStep was one of the last and most expensive.  It included the amazing Sonar auto focus system designed by Polaroid using sound waves to determine camera-subject distance.  There is a manual override available to bypass the auto focus due to some limitations of this system such as photographing through a window, mirror, etc.  The large bright viewfinder makes focusing easy.  There is even a low light indicator in the viewfinder.  A distance scale is also provided around the 4-element glass lens.

Windex will clean the entire camera if necessary. For the glass lenses I always recommend a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. Leather cleaner will shine up the bellows and exterior leatherette if needed. The battery is contained in the film pack which powers the camera so there is no worry of battery compartment corrosion. Sometimes with the Sonar version of the SX-70 the auto focus mechanism is broken or may not work accurately. If this occurs, it has an override switch so focus can be controlled manually.

The SX-70 had several different models during its production run. Although all utilize the same basic body style, features such as leatherette colors, viewfinder screens, and focus systems varied. Most SX-70 models were higher end cameras and commanded prices around $150-$280. The Model 3 was not an SLR and had a simple viewfinder in place of the standard mirror system, so it does not command high prices. Even the Sonar can be found for around twenty dollars in working condition on EBay. The original SX-70 auctions range from about twenty to seventy dollars depending on condition. Primarily because of nostalgia and not necessarily functionality, as later versions offer more features. Auction prices for these cameras vary greatly so patience, as always, will result in the best price.

Polaroid Corp.
Polaroid Manipulations/Transfers
Michael Goings SX-70 Gallery
Polaroid SX-70
SX-70 vs Captiva
Blue Planet Polaroid Galleries
SX-70 Serial Number Calendar
SX-70 Land Camera


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