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, but the first pack film camera to incorporate a transistorized electronic shutter is the Automatic 100 Land Camera in 1963.

All Automatic Land Cameras (100 – 400 series) feature a pull-out, bellows and strut design; unit focus controlled by a sliding arm at the base of the bellows with indicators for close-up, group and landscape; manual shutter cocking lever at the side of the lens assembly and a shutter release on the top of the camera next to the rangefinder/viewfinder; a PC socket for a flashgun that is clipped to the top of the camera, except for the Model 360 which features a proprietary electronic flash unit. The flash which can only be used on the 360 incorporates a shutter system for controlling light output and must be recharged using a custom charger. The bulky flash unit slides into a connector built into the upper left side of the camera. There is no external PC socket, so if the proprietary flash is lost or the rechargeable battery no longer holds a charge, forget about using a flash with this camera. Modifications can be made to the flash unit to utilize conventional batteries. A link to this process can be found under the Polaroid Links section of this page.

Each model also has a plastic cover that protects the front of the camera. Higher end models have a 114mm f/8.8, 3-element, glass lens while budget models feature a plastic lens. Although the plastic lens still produces impressively sharp images. The budget models also have two exposure settings and support 75 ASA or 3000 ASA film, while the higher end models such as the 360 have four exposure settings and support 75, 150, 300 and 3000 ASA film speeds. The 360 also has a fold-up rangefinder assembly manufactured by Zeiss Ikon. It incorporates the common split image focusing and framing marks. The body, rangefinder and lens assembly is all metal; and as with all Automatic Land cameras there is an exposure compensation dial around the lens which ranges from -1 to +2 stops. Finally there is a built-in electric timer on the back of the camera to assist with development timing and a tripod socket. The electronic timer has a green indicator light that illuminates automatically when an exposure is removed from the camera, and a short audible beep occurs after the allotted time has expired. In order to power both the electronic shutter and built-in timer the 360 requires two 3 volt batteries.

One thing I can say about all Polaroid Automatic Land cameras is that they are big! You can’t help but be transported back to another era after pulling out one of these relics and placing it up to your eye. Also the act of pulling the first white tab, then pulling the yellow tab to remove the photo, waiting 30-60 seconds and then pulling apart the photo from the development paper is a rush of nostalgia. Yes film is still produced for these cameras. In fact Fuji is the only company, other than Polaroid to offer the 100/660 peel-apart pack films. The Polaroid 665 film even gives you a quality black and white positive and negative. The Automatic Land cameras were made in the millions and are usually found in thrift stores and garage sales for just a few dollars. The film itself however is close to $1+ per exposure. A ten pack of 667 or 669 could cost up to 10-12 dollars or more. Another great aspect to this film besides the instant gratification is that the 669 color film is ideal for transfers, while this or any of the 660 series films can be used for emulsion transfers. Go to the Instant Photo Gallery for more details on this process. Several accessories are also available for these cameras such as a self-timer, cable shutter release, close-up and portrait kits, skylight filters and more. This camera also requires two 3v batteries (hard to find) which will set you back up to 7-14 dollars. These aren’t the most practical cameras to use but they sure are fun.

Windex will clean the entire camera if necessary, especially if using one of the budget models such as the 104 which has a plastic lens. For the glass lenses I always recommend a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and ammonia. Leather cleaner will shine up the bellows if needed. Remember to always clean the rollers inside the camera after every film pack is used. This can be done with Windex and cotton swabs. Clean rollers will ensure smooth removal of the film after each exposure and reduce any possible anomalies on the image after development. If you pick up a camera that still has the old battery in the compartment removal of the inevitable battery residue will be necessary. Hopefully the wire connections have not been to badly corroded.

Look at the lens. If there is a dark grey plastic ring around the lens, it is a budget model with a plastic lens. The glass lenses all have a silver, dual level ring around the lens which accommodates a variety of filters and specialty lens attachments (see picture above.) These accessories cannot be used on the models with plastic lens. Ideal models are the 100, 250, 350, 360, and the 450. The 360 is a top-of-the-line model ($250 in its day) with flip-up Zeiss Ikon viewfinder, glass lens, metal body and a tripod socket. Stay away from models such as 104, 210, 320, etc., as these are all plastic and do not have the built-in timers or tripod sockets. You can usually find the cameras in good shape and including a case, flashgun, manual, etc. Auction prices for the higher-end models range from 10-50 dollars on average depending on the model. Remember these are neither ‘rare’ nor ‘hard-to-find’ so bid accordingly.

The Land List 
Jim’s Polaroid Camera Collection 
Polaroid Corp. 
Polaroid Pack Film Cameras 
Franz Polaroid Site 
Polaroid Manipulations/Transfers 
Polaroid Rangefinders

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