Polaroid Camera Shopping: What You Need to Know
By Karen Freer
Polaroid changed consumer photography in the 60s by condensing all of the darkroom processes and chemicals inside the camera itself to create the first "Instant" photography.
Today Polaroid cameras keep things simple and fun. The joy of taking a photo and seeing it being vomited out of the camera and slowly turn into a photo before your eyes in unmatchable.
But which Polaroid camera is right for you? This blog, written with the help of the amazing Ray Liu, will seek to answer that question.
If you are interested in learning more about other kinds of Instant film photography, check out our blogs on Instax film here The Ultimate Instax Camera Guide For Beginners and Everything You Need to Know About Fujifilm Instax Films
For pure simplicity and fuss free introduction to Polaroid photography, the Polaroid Now is the instant camera for simple point and shoot, much like many of the classic boxy Polaroid cameras from the 1980s/1990s, but with a modern twist.
The Now has 2 lens built it, a standard wide lens, at 1.2 metres to infinity and a closer up lens allowing the user to take a picture from 40cm away from the subject. There is no need to select the lens, instead the camera relies on an infra-red beam which locks onto the subject at half a press of the shutter button to select the best focus.
As well as a self timer mode, the Now also has an inbuilt and really simple to use double-exposure mode to allow for extra creativity. Previous older Polaroid cameras had hacks to make double exposures, but Polaroid have made this fun feature accessible at the touch of 2 clicks. Press once for the self timer, and press twice to enable the double exposure mode.
The camera has an inbuilt flash which Polaroid recommend you use on each shot, but there is an override button, if you wish to suppress the flash (i.e. on very bright outdoor scenes)
Who is it for? Those who just want to point and shoot, take Polaroids at parties and events, of friends and family.
(c) Ray Liu, The Thames, Polaroid Now
Just like smartphones that have Pro/Ultra versions next to standard models, the Polaroid Now+ is like the Now but with some special added bonus features which unlocks a whole world of creativity.
The camera itself looks quite similar to the regular Now, but with added Bluetooth allowing the Now+ to pair to an Apple or Android smartphone and with the Polaroid app installed, the creative magic is unlocked. A long press on the + button at the front of the camera, turns the Bluetooth mode on.
There are various modes from the simple, remote trigger and self timer modes (useful for those group shots) to creative teasers such as double exposures, portrait mode and light painting modes all the way to the fully manual mode, which allows for true creative freedom in setting everything on the camera such as the aperture, the shutter, the flash output, and whether the film ejects or not.
The aperture can be set from F11 to F64 whilst the shutter can be set from 1/200 all the way to Bulb mode, allowing you to keep the shutter as long as you want.
Whilst many of these modes require the usage of a tripod or a flat surface, think beyond point and shoot Polaroids, and think long exposures, multiple exposures, light paintings and maybe a mixture of all the above for the truly adventurous.
Think of road light trials, streaming waterfalls, or even starry astrophotography! Obviously as its with film, it does take practice but once you produce with the manual mode, it is so rewarding that it was all done in camera.
The Now+ is by far the most advanced camera that Polaroid makes, after years of honing previous cameras such as the I-1 and the OneStep+, an evolution of analogue magic blended with new technology without adding too many button and distractions onto the camera itself.
Who is it for? Those who want to create more and experiment with Polaroid photography
(c) Ray Liu
Polaroid Now Camera is compatible only with Polaroid 600 or i-Type Film.
In 2020, Polaroid announced the release of its newest camera and format, the Polaroid Go, an incredibly adorable and dinky instant camera which fits in most people’s palms.
The Polaroid Go uses Polaroid’s newest instant film format, just like the original but shrunk down, for easily pocketable and shareable prints. The film comes in packs of 2 consisting of 8 shots each (16 in total) for around the same price as one of the normal size cartridges. The cartridge has no battery in it, and instead, just like the modern Polaroid cameras, requires the camera itself to be recharged.
Although incredibly small, the camera packs just as many features as its bigger brother, the Now. Retaining the ability to bypass the flash, it still has a self timer mode, and the creative built in double exposure mode. The front of the lens also doubles as a mirror for those looking to re-enact that infamous selfie moment from Thelma and Louise.
And that’s exactly who this camera is aimed at, the people who want small prints to put in their wallets or in the back of a clear phone case, or just to share and stick on walls/surfaces. The camera itself and the film size both lend it to be that daily carry about camera you can just put in your jacket pocket or in your bag, for those special fun moments where nothing but a tangible print will do.
Who is it for? Because it is so small, the Go is a fantastic camera for those who want to carry a small camera with them at all times, to capture every moment. The prints are cheaper, so its also a great way to share tangible prints too.
Polaroid Go Camera is compatible only with Polaroid Go Film.
As we live in the age of smartphone photography, we have hundreds if not thousands of photos on our devices. But for most of the time, they stay on the phone, or in the cloud, never printed and shared. Part of the magic of Polaroids are the tangible physical print, and the Polaroid Lab allows anyone to make prints from their smartphones.
The idea is simple, project the image from your smartphone’s screen onto the Polaroid Lab using the Polaroid app and after some adjustments to make the image square, press the print button on the Lab and at the end of it, a Polaroid print of your digital photo.
Obviously that is its intended use, but for many, the Polaroid Lab is an invaluable tool into making diptychs, triptychs and collages of Polaroids, great for hanging as art.
Who is it for? For those who want to turn their smartphone photos into tangible prints that you can hold, and to share. Also great for making collages of all sizes as art pieces.
Analogue Wonderland does not currently stock this item.
(c) Ray Liu, Polaroid Lab triptych from a smartphone image taken in Iceland, 2014
All Polaroid cartridges come with 8 sheets of film, and are available in colour and black & white film with various special editions and colour frames.
Polaroid also make limited runs of duochrome film too, replacing the white in B&W film with a colour such as yellow and black, blue and black and most recently, green and black.
Unlike old Polaroid cartridges of yesteryear, all the current range of new Polaroid cameras use battery-less cartridges. Polaroid designed their new cameras with these new battery-less cartridges in mind, mainly for more sustainable and environmental production but also to reduce the cost of the new film type by about 10-15% compared to the cartridges with batteries in them (which power the vintage Polaroid cameras). Instead all of the new Polaroid cameras are charged via a supplied Micro-USB cable and keep the cameras ready to shoot through multiple packs of film before another recharge is required.
All cartridges come with 8 sheets of film, and are available in colour and black and white with various special edition colour frames (such as black or mutli-coloured frames).
The first integral film that Polaroid made back in the 1970s for the legendary classic folding SX-70 cameras, is still in production today. Rated at ISO 160, it is a slow film which requires good light to get the best out of it. Find the light and the SX-70 rewards with some truly amazing popping colours. Bear in mind that this film can only be used in SX-70 cameras and NOT in 600 or the newer I-Type Polaroid camera (from 2016 to present).
600 film is the most popular of the Polaroid films. Rated at ISO 640, it has an inbuilt battery, and is a good all rounder that suits a broad range of lighting conditions. 600 films can be used in either vintage Polaroid cameras, most associated with the boxy cameras of the 1990s as well as the SLR680, but they can also be used in the current range of Polaroid cameras too.
About the author, Ray Liu
Having grown up as a child of the 80s and having hundreds of Polaroids taken by his father through the decades, Ray Liu's interest in Polaroid re-emerged after Polaroid close their last film factory in 2008.
A strong supporter of The Impossible Project (helmed by Florian Kaps) who made it their mission to save Polaroid film, Ray has been a keen Polaroid photographer since 2012, advocating the format, working to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with the medium and why it still matters.
To make your life easier we have bundled up some of our Polaroid Cameras with packs of film. This also adds a little saving for you. Check out the bundles here.
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