During the 1980s and 1990s, Polaroid cranked out all kinds of cheap plastic box-type 600 cameras. They came in a wide variety of names and colors, but the fundamental camera underneath was almost exactly the same. The Polaroid OneStep flash is a classic example of this, as it is almost exactly the same camera as the Polaroid JobPro, Sun 600, and countless others, just with some ever-so-slight cosmetic changes.
That’s not to say it’s a bad camera though. There’s a reason why Polaroid was able to churn out and sell so many of these things. They’re also the most affordable Polaroid cameras out there, and are considerably more robust than their plastic SX-70 cousins. So let’s take a deeper look at this ubiquitous camera to see if it has a place in your instant film bag.
Lens and Meter
The Polaroid OneStep Flash has a fixed focus lens, which means that there is no need for sonar autofocus. While a fixed focus lens will generally work well enough, you’ll get slightly sharper results with a Polaroid camera like the Polaroid Impulse AF, which is equipped with an autofocus lens and sonar sensor.
Completely ignore the 2-4ft closeup setting. All it does it throw a foggy piece of plastic in front of your lens, guaranteeing that everything will be blurry. Just assume that you cannot shoot any closer than 4ft/1.2m with this camera and you’ll be safe.
The meter works fine. Exposure compensation is achieved by an opaque piece of plastic that changes depending on how you switch the slider beneath the lens, which is standard for Polaroid cameras. It’s better than not having it at all.
To turn the camera on, all you have to do is flip the flashbar up. When you’re done, put it back down. On my particular OneStep Flash, the flashbar is a bit difficult to collapse due to a wonky catch, but all my other box type 600 cameras have been fine, which makes me think this is an anomaly.
The shutter is the switch on the side of the camera. Press down the red portion of it, and you’ll take a picture. You may notice a little sub-shutter switch behind the main one, which is used in case you want to take a picture without engaging the flash. In my experience, these cameras tend to freak out if you try to use this switch, so you can safely ignore it. If you would like to ‘turn off’ flash, the best way is to simply tape a square of paper over the flash window.
Speaking of flash, like most cheap Polaroid cameras, there is no switch to turn it off. Instead, you get an exposure compensation below the lens and that’s pretty much it. Polaroid designed these things to be simple, and they are certainly that, almost to a fault. However, after using the operational nightmare that can be a modern Fuji instant camera for a while, it makes me really appreciate the simplicity Polaroid brought to their cameras.
The viewfinder is minuscule, which is about standard for the cheapest of the 600 type cameras. Some higher-end Polaroid 600 cameras, as well as the 1200 type cameras have nice, wide viewfinders that are much more pleasant to use. Keep in mind that you are not looking through the lens like in an SLR camera, instead you’re looking through a viewfinder just next to it. This means it’s impossible to frame your shot exactly, so leave yourself some room on the edges when framing something.
Like all box 600 type plastic Polaroid cameras, the OneStep Flash is a survivor. There is very little here that can break down, as even the battery is contained in the film cartridges themselves. The lens is protected by the flashbar, which comes down when the camera is not in use. The lens is fixed focus, and there are no fragile collapsible parts like in a folding type SLR Polaroid camera. I have to hand it to Polaroid, even their cheap cameras have been made to last far, far longer than any of the technology that we use today. This Polaroid OneStep Flash will be able to make pictures long after my iPhone 6 has been sent to the recycling bin of history.
The OneStep Flash is an unexciting, dependable type 600 camera. If you don’t have a simple box 600 type camera, I highly recommend picking up one. You can often pick one up for less than the price of a single pack of film, and it’ll be there for you when a fancy SX-70 Sonar decides that it’s going to take the day off.
If you’re going to be shooting the Polaroid OneStep Flash, you will need to purchase film for 600 type cameras from the Impossible Project. You can find all their current 600 type films at this link.
Good luck and happy shooting!