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. Please use the following link when purchasing, it helps me keep writing and costs you nothing. Thanks!
The Polaroid One600 of the last 600 type cameras Polaroid ever made before the company decided to abandon their flagship product. As a result, you still have a pretty good chance at running into one of these in the wild at a garage sale or attic. Since they’re so new, if you find any film left in a used one, it’s probably still in good shape after a quick transfer. I was lucky enough to find three packs of unsed film with mine.
Unfortunately, being one of the newest Polaroid cameras out there doesn’t necessarily make it the best. While the design and durability of the body is top notch and reminiscent of my favorite Spectra System camera, it is the only Polaroid camera I’ve ever run into that doesn’t have an exposure compensation switch. If you’re planning on using Impossible Project films, this can be a much bigger deal now than it was back in 2002, as many IP films require different exposure settings.
Like nearly every other consumer 600 camera, the One600 has no control over turning the flash on or off. However, since the flash is slightly recessed, it’s easy to tape over it and still close the camera. Simple gaffer’s tape did the trick for me, although don’t leave it on for too long or you’ll leave behind tape glue.
Unique to this line of cameras, there is a red eye option that I haven’t tested much, as well as a timer. Turning either of these on produces a corresponding icon on the little LCD screen, which is a nice touch. The LCD screen also has an icon for the flash, which makes me wonder if other variations of the one600 have controls to turn it off. The LCD clearly displays how much film is left and is far, far easier to read than the absurdly tiny displays of most Polaroid cameras.
Side note: Remember to subtract two from the photos left meter if you’re using Impossible Project film, which only comes with 8 exposures rather than the traditional 10. This often gets confusing in the middle of a shoot, where you think you have a lot more film left than you really do. 2 means zero with IP.
As I mentioned above, this camera is one of the first Polaroid cameras I’ve ever encountered that doesn’t have exposure compensation. I assume that Polaroid felt pretty confident in its meters by the 2000s and didn’t think it was necessary for their hardy 600 film. However, Impossible Project films often require some compensation to get the best results, so this alone can be a dealbreaker.
Which is a shame, because the One600 is one of the best built 600 type cameras out there. The design takes after the Spectra/Image lines, with a durable fold-up design. This protects the lens from scratches and makes the camera much smaller when transporting.
Unlike some of the 90’s era cameras I’ve come across with giant plastic handles, the One600 has the best hand strap I’ve seen on a Polaroid camera. The handle is made up of stretchy fabric that comfortably fits any size hand along with a large rubber grip to hold it in place. Best of all, the handle takes up nearly no room when not in use.
This camera does have one worrying quirk that one should watch out for when shooting. When open, there is a little flap that runs along the front of the camera just below the lens with a tab marked ‘film’. I’m not sure what it’s there for (perhaps one of you know?), but with a little pressure it easily opens. I think when this tab opens light reaches the unexposed film and blows out the image on the top. I’m not 100% certain because I don’t want to ruin more film replicating the results, but beware!
Lens, Autofocus, and Metering
Gone are the terrible plastic ‘closeup focus’ adapters of older cameras, as this lens claims that it can focus up to 1.5 feet away all on its own. I haven’t tested this extensively, but overall performance seems about on par with everything else I’ve seen, if not a hair sharper.
I’ve had no problem with autofocus missing my subject. I suspect that a strong foreground element will always take precedent over anything farther away, so be careful if you have anything distracting near you. There’s no readout to let you know what the camera has decided to focus on, so be careful and try to read its little mind when you can.
Metering tended to underexpose slightly, which normally isn’t a problem, but with this camera there is no way to compensate. I haven’t used it with expired 600 Polaroid film, which I imagine is what it’s optimized for.
If the One600 had an exposure compensation lever, this would without a doubt be my favorite 600 camera short of one of the professional SLR models. The build quality is fantastic, it’s comfortable to use, and has the most legible remaining exposure counter I’ve encountered yet. If you can get your hands on one for cheap, I highly recommend it. However, if this is going to be your only 600 camera, I recommend getting something else.
However, it’s always a good idea to have multiple cameras if you’re working with consumer grade 600 type Polaroid cameras. The rollers gum up quickly, and many just call it quits. The OneStep Closeup was my replacement for my parents’ Polaroid Impulse AF that had a bad roller, and my OneStep Express is now my new backup camera. These cameras are so cheap and plentiful these days that you should be able to grab at least four or for the price of a single pack of Impossible Project film on eBay or at a garage sale.
As always, make sure you attach either a frog tongue adapter or a dark slide to the front of your camera when using Impossible Project film! If the photo is exposed to light in the first few seconds of development it will be blown out and you’ll lose your image.
Good luck and happy shooting!