1973 Polaroid SX-70

1973 Polaroid SX-70
September 14, 1973
single-lens reflex
SX-70 (ISO 100 original / ISO 160 modern)
116mm ƒ/8
1/175 – 22s
inside film cartridge
$180 (equal to $1110 in 2021)
5F (received) / 4E (current)

This is my favorite Polaroid and one of my all time favorite cameras. In general I enjoy products which were designed and not just engineered. Many products, especially now, seem to have little attention paid to their design. Perhaps it’s because Soviet style utilitarianism lessens people’s enjoyment in the product and makes it psychologically easier to replace and perpetuate the consumer cycle, or maybe it’s just cheaper. Regardless, that problem does not beset this camera. The SX-70 is uniquely stylish, and also enjoyable to use.

Having been released in 1972 it is technically outside the mid-century modern period, yet it has a mid-century modern look to it. The tan leather on silver body along with the clean lines give it a classy, streamlined appearance. The near symmetry of the face combined with the equal spacing of the hash marks around the lens complete the look. This particular variation is, from a non-electronics perspective, the pinnacle of the SX-70 series. It has the split prism focusing aid that was missing from the initial release, but none of the exterior modifications that detract from the clean styling. I appreciate Edwin Land’s drive for an unobtrusive viewfinder, but I have an SX-70 Sonar which lacks the split prism and it is somewhat harder to precisely nail focus.

From an electronics perspective, this is clearly an early iteration. It lacks some of the enhanced functionality of the later models. Then again, it also doesn’t suffer from the drawbacks of intermediate models. This version doesn’t fire the flash unless it is needed, so there is no option for fill flash. However, if the flash is inserted but not ready to fire, such as when there are no unused bulbs left in the bar, the camera won’t prevent the shutter from being released. But, it will attempt to expose the scene with ambient light rather than simply assuming the flash fired and producing a black image. It also exposes for the flash without attempting to balance the lighting in the scene, so flash photos tend to have very dark backgrounds.

According to a contemporary advertisement

Polaroid invents The SX-70

It can reveal the world to you as you have never seen it before.

Forget everything you’ve ever known about photography, instant or otherwise.

The SX-70 Land camera is here.

Slim, graceful, balancing lightly in your hand, this package of more than 200 transistors, elegantly wrapped in top-grain leather, scarcely hints at the wonders it can perform.

One motion and it’s open, ready at a finger’s touch to propel into your hands picture after picture of a world you will feel you have only half-seen, half-felt until now.

As you read on, remember this: Remarkable as the SX-70 is, what is important is not what it can do, but what it enables you to do.

Because now you can almost wish the picture and have it, because the photographs are of such piercing beauty they seem more real than life, the SX-70 can sharpen your senses and set your imagination free.

Photos from this SX-70

Sounds from this SX-70

Shutter release

External Resources