Update Summer 2021: I have a new video guide that goes along with this text guide!
The Impulse AF was my first Polaroid camera, and even after all these years, it’s still one of my favorites. It’s a durable, sharp, no-nonsense 600 type camera that is delightfully simple to use. Once you know the controls, you’ll have no problem producing great pictures.
What Film Does the Impulse AF Use?
Before we get started, we need to make sure you have the film you’ll need for the camera. The Polaroid Impulse AF uses 600 type Polaroid film, which was the newer version of the classic ‘square’ Polaroid frame.
Polaroid discontinued 600 type film way back in 2008, but a company called the Impossible Project rose up and started making new film for the camera. In 2017, the Impossible Project renamed itself ‘Polaroid Originals,’ and continues making new film for vintage Polaroid cameras.
New Polaroid film for 600 cameras is what you’ll need to run the camera. The Polaroid Impulse AF is powered by a small battery in the film cartridge itself, so it won’t even turn on until you load a new pack of film. I’ll go over how to load the camera below, but before we get started, make sure you have a fresh pack of film in hand.
You can order new film directly from Polaroid.
Fuji Instax film, and Polaroid Originals film for iType, SX-70, and Spectra will not work with this camera. Also, old packs of vintage Polaroid film will likely have a dead battery. The film is still good, but you’ll need to do a battery transfer, and are still going to need a fresh pack of film to do so.
Turning the Camera On
The flash unit in the top of the camera acts as the on/off switch. When it’s pressed down and flush with the top, the camera is off. To turn it on, push down on it and the flash unit will pop up.
If the camera is loaded with film, the LED light will glow, showing the status of the flash unit. If the camera is not loaded with film, or the battery in the film cartridge is dead, the LED will not light up.
This camera requires that the flash be on in order to work, which we’ll get into further below.
Identifying Parts of the Camera
This picture identifies all of the primary buttons this camera has. There’s not many to worry about, as this camera is delightfully simple to use.
The shutter is the large button on the back of the camera, which you press to take a picture. Also not visible in the above picture is the slider on the side of the camera, which opens the film compartment.
To load film into the Impulse AF, pull back on the slider on the side of the camera to open the film compartment.
Remove the old pack of film (if there is one) by pulling it out by the tab attached to the cartridge.
Insert a new pack of film by pushing it in through the same slot. The ‘wide’ end with the plastic lip should face out, with the darkslide facing up and the metal contacts facing down.
Once the film is fully inserted, you’ll be able to shut the film compartment. As soon as it locks into place, the camera should eject a darkslide out the front. This lets you know that the film pack works, and the Impulse AF is ready to go.
Taking a Picture
After you turn the camera on, simply wait for the LED to turn green to signify that the flash is charged and ready to use. Look through the viewfinder to compose, and hit the shutter button to take a picture.
The image will be ejected through the slot on the front of the camera. For best contrast, make sure the image is hidden away from sunlight as it develops. The image is most sensitive to light when it initially pops out of the camera, so putting it inside a pocket or just flipping it upside down always helps.
Temperature also affects Polaroid film, so if you’re shooting in cold weather, it often helps to put a developing image in a warm pocket.
Using the Impulse AF Timer
One of the unique features of this camera is a timer button. This allows for the camera to take selfies while on a tripod or flat surface. Simply hit the timer button, and the LED light will ‘count down’ before it takes a picture. There’s no easy way to tell if you’re framed up correctly or not, so it’s a bit of a hit-or-miss setup.
Turning the Flash Off
If you want to use the Impulse AF without flash, there is no button to do so. Instead, you will need to cover up the flash. I often tape a piece of white printer paper over the flash, which still allows it to throw a little light, but doesn’t overwhelm my subject.
Be sure to remove anything covering the flash before turning the camera off by pressing the flash back into the body of the camera.
It’s almost always best to simply let the flash fire. Unless you have powerful studio lights, the flash is almost always needed. Also, if you’re out in bright daylight where there’s enough light, the flash will often help fill in shadows.
That’s it! You got a picture. After it finishes developing, which takes anywhere between five and thirty minutes, depending on the film, you can display or scan it.
Good luck and happy shooting!
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