Update February 2021: I have a new video up that is an ode and farewell to the format. You can check it out below:
(Update April 2020: Polaroid Originals has rebranded itself as ‘Polaroid,’ and the new website has scrubbed all mention of Spectra system film or cameras. You might be able to find some film floating around on second hand markets, but stock is going to be increasingly limited from here on out. RIP Spectra.)
It seems like the tortured saga of Polaroid Originals’ Spectra film is coming to an end. In an email announcement yesterday, Polaroid Originals announced they were discontinuing production of their Spectra/Image film lines.
The announcement details how Spectra cameras are consistently failing, something my own experience can back up. I have at least 5 different Spectra cameras that all used to work fine with both vintage Polaroid and Impossible Project film give up the ghost in the past year. Only my hardy Spectra AF still works, which is the newest Spectra camera I own. I don’t know if it is just age or something else causing these failures, but fingers crossed it’s not a sign of what’s to come for 600 or SX-70.
Oddly, this comes after Spectra film was reintroduced by Polaroid Originals after being MIA for a year. I recently reviewed the newest (and now last) iteration of the film, and found it pretty much the same as before.
The Spectra line was my favorite affordable way to get into Polaroid photography. Cameras like the Spectra AF and Spectra System had lots of manual controls for flash, focus, and more, while also remaining cheap and plentiful. The larger frame also lent itself well to landscapes and portraits.
If you have a working Spectra camera, you can still buy Polaroid Originals Spectra film. I’d recommend stockpiling it if you’re interested in shooting it in the future. Just make sure you keep you film in a fridge to make it last as long as possible.
The email announcement is copied in full below:
A note from our CEO.
Dear Spectra photographers,
Since 1986, Spectra has played an important part in Polaroid’s film offering and in the world of analog instant photography. With three decades behind them, these wide format cameras are now coming to the end of their useful lives.
Jamming and frequent breakdowns are now affecting the majority of these cameras, and unfortunately, this is not something we can influence with our film.
After extensive testing, we have concluded that we cannot support these cameras any longer. So today, with a heavy heart, we are announcing the end of production for Spectra film.
As we share in the sadness about Spectra with our community, we continue to focus on the future of analog instant photography through enhancing our core range, and through continued work on our film chemistry. We look forward to working with our community to test new products and to keep analog instant photography thriving well into the future.
If you are one of the lucky few with a fully working Spectra camera, you can still purchase the final batch on sale now for the next few months.
Thank you for your continued belief in analog instant photography.
CEO, Polaroid Originals
A note from our factory.
Our manufacturing team led an intensive, 6-month testing and improvement plan on Spectra cameras and our film. We optimized the dimensions and deflection angle of the ejecting film, reduced the pod weight, and lowered the mask friction through different coatings. We also carried out multiple battery tests with different voltages and currents from different suppliers.
This fault is completely random and depends on many variables with each pack of film and the configuration of the camera circuitry.
There is, unfortunately, no simple fix.
Head of Global Manufacturing, Polaroid Originals