Update April 2020: To keep everyone confused, Polaroid Originals has rebranded itself as Polaroid. I’ve also updated the review to reflect nearly three decades’ worth of use between me and my family.
New February 2018: I now have a complete guide to how to use the Polaroid Impulse AF!
Update September 2017: The Impossible Project has renamed itself ‘Polaroid Originals’ as part of a major rebranding effort. The film itself is still the same, so for our purposes in this article the Impossible Project and Polaroid Originals are the same. To clarify, ‘Polaroid Originals’ are the films and cameras developed by the Impossible Project, while just ‘Polaroid’ refers to the original instant film line that was discontinued in 2008.
The absolute best place to find Polaroid cameras like the Sun 600 for cheap (besides your parents’ attic) is through eBay and Amazon. Please use the following links when purchasing, as it helps me keep writing and costs you nothing. Thanks! Get the Polaroid Impulse AF on Amazon. Find the Polaroid Impulse AF on eBay. Get a refurbished Polaroid Impulse AF directly from Polaroid.
Growing up, like most, my family had a Polaroid camera lying around. I remember spending many days watching jealously as my dad used it to take snapshots of the family and of the house. He would take a photo, hand it to me, and I would watch the gray developer fade into an image. Film was relatively expensive (incredibly cheap by today’s prices though), so my parents always neglected to get any film and certainly wouldn’t let me use it. The Polaroid Impulse AF was that camera.
During my sophomore year of college, as I was teaching myself photography, I decided to dig up our family’s old camera and finally use it for myself. I purchased some expired Polaroid film from the Impossible Project (they hadn’t released any of their own yet) and ever since I’ve been hooked.
So you can say I have bit of a nostalgic connection with this camera. It was the one I grew up with and the first one I used to dive into the analog photography world. But now that we got my own history out of the way, let’s look at the camera itself and see how it stacks up against the other Polaroid cameras of the world.
The Polaroid Impulse AF is a fairly simplistic, rather cheap looking 600 camera. It doesn’t collapse down to a smaller size and it has almost no custom controls. However, it has the best viewfinder I’ve seen on a consumer 600 camera and excellent autofocus capabilities.
Since it is a 600 model camera, it works with expired and new Polaroid 600 film.
This camera features the familiar exposure compensation dial that is an nearly every Polaroid camera ever made. It works fine.
You turn the camera on and off by popping up the flash. There’s no option to turn off the flash, which is par for the course with old Polaroid cameras. The only way to work around the flash is to tape something over it. Use a few note cards or even your hand, but be warned, these flashes fire hot.
This camera has a great fat shutter button on the back. Press down halfway to focus (there’s nothing indicating its doing anything, so you just have to trust the camera), and all the way to take the image. I used to just mash down the button, but I tend to get better results if I press down halfway first. Unlike the Polaroid Spectra System, there is no indicator of focus distance.
The viewfinder is typical of Polaroid 600 cameras. It’s quite a bit off from what you’re actually going to get from the lens in the middle. However, the viewfinder of the Polaroid Impulse AF is actually quite large and bright when compared to other 600 cameras. There are no readouts in the viewfinder, which is expected of consumer level Polaroids.
Lens, Autofocus, and Metering
The lens on this camera is great. The quality of images you can get from the Impulse AF are much closer to an SLR 680 than a fixed-focus cheapie like the OneStep CloseUp.
Autofocus is the same great sonar autofocus system that can be found on the high-end SLRs like the 680 and SX-70 Sonar. This is biggest advantage this particular 600 model has over other 600 cameras, the sonar autofocus system tends to result in much sharper images than the fixed focus models. Be aware that it will focus on whatever is closest to the camera, so it can be tricked by windows and fences in the foreground.
Metering seems fine, but the exposure compensation operates by covering up the meter with different amounts of opaque plastic.
The viewfinder of the Impulse AF is amazing. Compaired to the Polaroid Closeup Onestep it’s like suddenly getting glasses. It’s easy to see, bright, and very large.
Like I said before, this camera had already survived nearly two decades of use before I took it for my own. It doesn’t fold up, but it’s pretty compact as-is. The Impulse AF was the first Polaroid camera I ever used, and I still use it on a regular basis ten years later. It’s fantastic.
The Polaroid Impulse AF is an excellent 600 type camera. If you’re looking to use 600 type films, and can’t afford a Polaroid SLR, this is one of the best cameras out there. It doesn’t look like much, so you should be able to find one for cheap on eBay or in somebody’s basement. I prefer sonar autofocus cameras like this one to fixed focus cameras like the Polaroid OneStep Closeup since I have a better idea of what is going to be sharp. Also, the viewfinder alone is worth seeking this little guy out.
I absolutely love the Polaroid Impulse AF. It’s hands-down the best plastic 600 vintage Polaroid camera out there. I like it better than the new Polaroid OneStep 2, Polaroid Now, and OneStep+. Be careful, as there are non-AF versions of this camera that look very similar. You can tell if it is an AF model by the presence or lack of the copper circle on the front left of the camera.
If you’ve picked up an Impulse AF for yourself, check out my guide to using the camera for more information.
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