The title of this article may lead you to think that I don’t like Polaroid SX-70 instant film… but that’s not true. I love SX-70. SX-70 Polaroid film is what created the iconic square that we know and love, and vintage Time Zero contains some of the most beautiful chemistry ‘defects’ I’ve ever seen. SX-70 cameras like the folding Land camera and the iconic plastic rainbow are stunning. But still. If you’re thinking about it…
Don’t shoot SX-70.
If you’re serious about photography, or you’re just starting out and having fun, Polaroid SX-70 is going to make your life hell. You’ll have a much better time using SX-70’s newer, more modern sibling 600. 600 type film uses newer cameras from the late ’80s and ’90s that are less prone to failure (and that almost always include a flash).
Also, 600 is also far, far easier to shoot because it is more sensitive to light. 600 type has a far higher sensitivity, jumping from somewhere around 100-160 ISO/ASA for SX-70 to 640 ISO/ASA for type 600. 600 type Polaroid is exactly the same shape and kind of frame, making it indistinguishable from SX-70 after it has been shot, it’s just going to make the photographer’s job much easier.
The only reason to shoot SX-70 is if you A) shoot exclusively outdoors in the brightest light conditions imaginable, B) have one of those amazing modified Mint SX-70 cameras with a flashbar added, or C) love the pain and agony of your camera dying.
But! The title of this article says that you shouldn’t shoot SX-70. I didn’t say you shouldn’t get an SX-70 camera. Because if you want to put a camera on display on a shelf or are collecting camera bodies, SX-70 designs are some of the most stunning that Polaroid ever produced. The original folding Land camera is a marvel, and the first plastic box-types are as iconic as an original iPod.
Should nobody ever shoot SX-70? Should Polaroid stop manufacturing it like they did with Spectra? No, absolutely not. I love that it’s around, and I want people to keep shooting it. But only the crazy ones, the ultra-determined, the tinkerers and the advanced should wade into the waters of SX-70. I warn people because I want as many people to enjoy instant film photography as possible, and there’s nothing that’s going to kill someone’s enthusiasm for analog photography than blowing an entire cartridge without getting a single usable shot (a not uncommon experience with an SX-70 camera!)
If you are determined to shoot SX-70 despite my warnings, great! If you can, learn how to take apart and repair whatever SX-70 camera you decide to use, because it will (not if, will) die on you sooner rather than later. Also, invest in a flash bar, because even outside the camera desperately needs light to function. The old GE flash bars are a ton of fun, but they’re increasingly hard to find and a bit on the wasteful side – they have 5 bulbs on each side that literally pop with each photo, you have to turn it around to the other side when you finish one.
When it comes to a shoot where I want my photos to come out, I always reach for my 600 cameras like the Polaroid SLR 680 or the Impulse AF. Heck, even cheapies like the OneStep CloseUp will work great. You can also jump to a brand new ‘I-Type’ Polaroid camera, which is essentially the same as 600 but without a battery included in the cartridge (required for vintage pre-2010s Polaroid cameras to work). I have a whole guide on where to start if you’re interested in jumping into the world of Polaroid, whether that be as a collector or shooter.