By Patricia Daukantas
My first camera was a Polaroid—back when the “colorpack” film had the peel-off chemical paper. I think it was a Model 320; it had bellows. The camera was the best Christmas present I got when I was 12 years old, and I immediately started taking pictures of my parents and grandmother. Letting the print-negative sandwich dangle from my fingers for exactly 60 seconds, then peeling the thing apart and setting the print to dry without getting chemicals on my skin, became a test of my ability to handle grown-up technology.
Of course, a year or two later, Polaroid Corp. came out with the first SX-70, and people didn’t have to fiddle with timers and smelly trash anymore. But those cameras were expensive, so I labored with my older Polaroid for a few more years until I got a hand-me-down Kodak camera from my father. Finally, I took up 35-mm photography in college.
Now comes word that Polaroid—or what’s left of the company after a bankruptcy several years ago—is discontinuing its remaining instant-film products. The company is willing to license its technology to other companies who might want to supply the ever-shrinking niche market for the instant-developing film. However, if no firms come forward, the remaining Polaroid devotees will be out of luck.
As the New York Times recounts, the self-developing Polaroid prints seemed like a wonder back in the days of film photography. And instant photography has a major connection to OSA history: As noted in the February 2007 issue of OPN, Polaroid founder Edwin H. Land chose the 1947 OSA annual meeting to demonstrate the technology for the first time. He was the hit of the OSA banquet, which took place the same month that his JOSA article was published explaining the process.
Legend has it that Land was inspired to develop instant photography when his daughter asked him why she couldn’t see the pictures he took immediately. Today’s children, surrounded by digital cameras, will never think to ask that question.
Polaroid Land Camera 360
2008-02 February, Optics and pop culture, Optics history, Photography