My search for a classic Polaroid SX-70 camera took a few weeks because I wanted to find an SX-70 camera that was relatively cheap.
I felt inspired to look around for a Polaroid SX-70 camera after reading a post about Polaroid SX-70 photos in Athens on George’s website, Letters to Barbara.
George’s polaroid diaries made the Polaroid SX-70 camera seem like it would be fun to play around with, so I had to buy one, even though I knew SX-70 film wasn’t cheap to use.
Think of it this way. You could buy a cup of coffee for each SX-70 polaroid taken. That’s pretty expensive.
Nonetheless, the day I came into possession of a great-looking SX-70 camera, I was extremely pleased. Of course, I also had a kind of you’ve got to be crazy feeling inside of me, but the pleasure of owning an SX-70 felt greater.
After buying my retro SX-70 camera, all I needed were some cool photo ideas and the (not so cheap) SX-70 instant film.
I never would have predicted that by finding an SX-70 camera it would eventually lead me to the most powerful figure in the State, but that’s what happened. I’ll tell you about it shortly.
Searching for sellers of Polaroid SX-70 Cameras
Purchasing an SX-70 wasn’t smooth sailing, though. The first Polaroid SX-70 camera I was close to buying was an SX-70 Alpha 1 model. It had been advertised on the Internet for $225. However, the camera shop hadn’t tested it.
Most other people and businesses in Australia advertised the Polaroid SX-70 camera for between $300 and $400. I saw one SX-70 camera for sale at $550 that looked great. Another shop had mint condition SX-70 cameras advertised for $689.95. So Polaroid SX-70 cameras prices varied widely, as you can see.
I contacted the SX-70 Alpha 1 model seller and asked if they could test the SX-70 camera for me. I told them I was willing to pay for the film. They agreed and a week later told me that it worked. In their opinion, the Polaroid SX-70 camera was an 8.5 out of 10. Still, I could only go by a few photos shown on the Internet. If I purchased it, I also had to pay a relatively small postage fee to have it delivered.
I was slightly hesitant to buy it, mainly because it was the Alpha 1 model and not the original, so I asked a few more questions. No one replied, and a few days later, I received an email informing me that they had sold the camera. I had seen it on the Internet being advertised for $285 straight after sending my extra questions, so I knew something was up. That was $60 more than the price it had originally been advertised for. Looking back, it was probably a missed opportunity on my part.
A few weeks later, I saw another SX-70 camera being advertised on the Internet. This time it seemed as if the Universe had aligned with my desire to purchase an original SX-70 camera.
Because it was advertised for the same price of $225 (which seemed incredible), and it was the original SX-70 land camera, not an updated later model.
The beauty about it was that the second-hand store was only an hour away from my place.
I drove to the second-hand store first thing the next morning and bought it for $200 after offering $200 for the camera.
It seemed like an absolute bargain, but it wasn’t tested, though the business did have a 90-day return policy if it didn’t work. Nevertheless, it seemed like a win.
Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera
The SX-70 land camera is foldable, as you can see in the pic below. It is often considered the best and most stylish Polaroid camera ever made.
The most famous person known to have used the Polaroid SX-70 camera for artistic work would have to be the American artist Andy Warhol. Apparently, he took over 20,000 Polaroid photos which seems totally crazy.
It also surprised me to learn that the actor Billy Zane also used the SX-70 camera. I never knew this, but Billy Zane is not just an actor. He’s an artist, painter, and photographer. Probably a few more things as well.
If the SX-70 camera is cool enough for Billy Zane, you know how cool the camera must be.
This camera was like the iPhone in the 1970s though fewer people could afford to own one back then.
I really looked forward to using the Polaroid SX-70 camera for the first time.
The only other experience I’ve had with polaroids was using a cheap Polaroid camera as a kid.
The memory I have as a kid is of wasting (not so cheap) Polaroid film and being told off for doing so. Taking photos of grass and other mundane things.
This time around, I would focus the Polaroid camera on important things.
Polaroid SX-70 Camera Photo 1 – Apollo
I couldn’t wait to take some photos with my new secondhand SX-70 camera after purchasing a packet of (not so cheap) SX-70 film for $39.95.
You only get a measly 8 shots from a packet of SX-70 film, so that worked out to be $5 a photo in Australia (which was about €3.10, £2.60, or US$3.70 at the time).
So these instant photos weren’t going to be cheap, that’s for sure.
This first packet of film would also be a test to see if my SX-70 camera worked or not. If it didn’t work, I would have wasted $40 right from the start.
I could get a refund on the Polaroid SX-70 camera because it had a 90-day return policy, but I’d be out of pocket for the film.
For the first SX-70 photo, I planned on taking a pic of Eros, the God of love.
But that meant I’d have to drive to Eros, and I really couldn’t resist waiting any longer to see if my newly purchased SX-70 camera functioned properly once I had the film.
So I ended up changing my mind in my backyard after I had the packet of (not so cheap) SX-70 film.
All it took was seeing some pink flowers lying on the ground beneath a tree. It gave me an idea.
Using the Polaroid SX-70 Camera for the first time
When using the Polaroid SX-70 camera for the first time, I would take a pic of Apollo, the God of light. Photography and light go together like light and day, so it made good sense to me.
Apollo would appear in front of this pink-flowered tree. So I grabbed Apollo from inside my dining room and placed the Greek God in front of the tree, which had the flowers lying on the ground.
He looked a bit lonely, so I grabbed my Buddha statue, which was already outside, and positioned him next to Apollo. Buddha kept my gas panel door closed ever since the locking mechanism broke, and after I finally got sick of the door swinging open on extremely gusty days.
If the door blew open during strong winds, it would bang away and make a thunderous racket, sometimes in the middle of the night, but Buddha kept the gas meter door firmly closed since he weighed a lot.
I couldn’t leave out my Leprechaun friend in this very first Polaroid SX-70 pic, so I moved him into position as well. All of the paint had peeled off the little guy since he had been in the backyard forever, even before I moved in.
Here’s my very first photo using the SX-70 camera. It’s a blur! It was something, but it didn’t fill me with confidence.
I should have read up more on the Polaroid SX-70 camera operation before using it, but at the time, all I wanted to see was a photo eject from the camera. Then I’d know that my camera worked, well that was my thinking at the time.
It was my very first photo, so I wasn’t too fussed about it. But, at least the camera worked, which looked like a good sign.
Never would I have predicted at the time that it would turn out to be an SX-70 odyssey like no other, with its ups and downs, that would eventually lead me to the most powerful person in the State of South Australia.
Polaroid SX-70 Photo 2 – My Finger
The plan for my next photo was to take a photo of Eros, the God of love. I really hoped that a photo of Eros would turn out better than the very first SX-70 photo of Apollo and friends.
By that time, I had read more on how to focus the Polaroid SX-70 camera.
A cross-hair in the viewfinder needed to align to a vertical line in something in the pic to focus the image.
I’d try my best to focus the camera properly before taking the next photo. The last thing I wanted to see was a blurry image of Eros.
When I pressed the red camera button as I was standing in front of Eros, I heard some noise, but nothing came out of my SX-70 camera. What the f**k?
Pressed the button, again and again, this time no noise, nothing. I kept pressing it a few more times, nothing. My camera seemed broken!
I pressed the button every few seconds and thought the camera was definitely busted, after nearly 30-60 seconds of nothing.
But then I was surprised to hear some noise, and incredibly a photo actually popped out.
I wasn’t sure what the photo would look like since I had pressed the button numerous times with the camera pointing in a variety of different directions.
Looking at it now, it seems to be a picture of my own finger. The camera is most probably pointing toward the sky. It was another wasted photo.
Remember, the cost of a packet of SX-70 film was pretty costly at $40 for only 8 shots. That averages out to $5 per photo in Australia, which isn’t cheap.
So far, I had a blurry photo of Apollo, and now one of my own finger (I assume), so it meant that I had already blown $10 on Polaroid instant film.
Polaroid SX-70 Photo 3 – Sky
This made me desperate to get a photo of Eros. So I hoped that whatever happened before wouldn’t happen again.
I pressed the red button to fire the shot, and again it did the same thing. This time I kept the camera pointed towards Eros, trying very hard not to move the camera, waiting in the hope that a photo would come out, but nothing did.
It must have been about a minute later when I gave up. I started pressing the button over and over again just like before, and then it happened again, a photo popped out.
This photo seems to be a picture purely of the sky. I’m not sure if that’s a cloud in the bottom right corner or what.
I think the blue sky looks good. However, it was another $5 down the tubes. I wasn’t sure what to do at this point.
I actually thought that it could all be due to Eros. Eros may have found out that I placed him second to Apollo. As a result, the Greek God may have jinxed my Polaroid SX-70 camera.
The SX-70 camera worked for Apollo, so why didn’t it work for Eros? Even a blurry image of Eros would have been better than my second and third SX-70 photos.
So far, I had wasted $15, and I still didn’t know whether my SX-70 camera worked or not.
It made me give up on Eros because I only had five photos left. If I kept trying to take a photo of Eros, it could have chewed up all of my (not cheap) SX-70 film.
That’s when I decided to visit Pan, the goat god from Greek mythology.
When I made it to Pan and looked through the camera viewfinder, I noticed something strange. I couldn’t see anything through the camera viewfinder because it was dark.
And the other problem I experienced was that I wasn’t able to close the foldable camera properly. It would close sometimes, but it had to be forced, though I couldn’t do it all the time.
I thought my SX-70 camera was definitely broken by that time, so I gave up for the day.
Polaroid SX-70 Photo 4 – White Blank
My SX-70 camera had a 90-day warranty return period, so I could still take it back to the second-hand store for a full refund. That seemed like the best option since it had to be broken. It had to be!
Later that night, I had a good idea. What if I took the film cartridge out of the camera and placed it back in. Maybe that would help reset the Polaroid SX-70 camera.
So that’s what I did. I accepted that I’d lose one photo as a result because that’s what the SX-70 camera does.
When you first place a new film cartridge into the camera, it spits out a black sheet, protecting the top film from being exposed.
But that black sheet had already been ejected when I first placed the SX-70 film cartridge into the camera. So I assumed it would do the same thing. However, I assumed this time around it would do the same thing with one of the photos. This is precisely what happened.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I could have manually reasserted the black card into the film cartridge and saved a photo (or even used an existing photo), but I only found out about that later.
The photo that came out of the camera when I reinserted the film cartridge turned out pure white. It was another wasted photo. That was $20 worth of SX-70 film down the drain and counting.
Polaroid SX-70 Photo 5 – The Dream
A few days later, I decided to test the SX-70 camera once again. I really wanted to take a photo of Eros, but I didn’t want to risk taking a pic of the Greek God, so I decided to go to the beach.
There was a sculpture and seat combo at Henley Beach called “Dream.” The sculpture consists of a seat and a wave structure about 2.5m wide x 3m long and 2.2m high.
After pressing the red button in front of Dream, the same symptom occurred. This time I gave up almost immediately.
I walked back to my car and sat at the driver’s seat, pondering what to do next. I could almost swear that I didn’t touch any button on the camera while inside the car, but that didn’t seem to matter because out popped a picture.
I’m not sure what this is supposed to be, though it looks as if it could be a picture of the Automatic transmission gear shifter. I was pointing at it around the time when the picture popped out.
That top blank white rectangular section on top of the photo got exposed when I was playing around with the film previously when the pure white photo (SX-70 photo number 4) came out.
This is one weird instant Polaroid photo.
Polaroid SX-70 Photos (Number 6 and 7) – Wasted
Frustrated, as a result, I decided to focus on Eros. I wanted all of my last shots to be dedicated to Eros, even if I wasted every single photo in that SX-70 film cartridge.
Photos 6 and 7 ended up being wasted in strange ways while trying to take a photo of Eros.
At that stage, I was even playing around with these photos back in my car by sticking them back into the SX-70 cartridge to help protect the photo underneath from being exposed.
However, what happened was that two photos in the film cartridge ejected simultaneously after I reasserted the film. One of the photos even turned from black into mostly white.
So two more photos ended up being wasted. That meant I only had one photo left, so I had to make it count.
Polaroid SX-70 Photo 8 – Eros
For the final shot, I held my breath and hoped for the best when I pressed that red SX-70 button in front of Eros.
This was the very last photo in the SX-70 film cartridge, and so far, nothing good had come out of it.
It made me wonder whether I should have taken a photo of Eros right from the start.
Amazingly, the camera seemed to do its magic, and eventually, I had a photo of Eros!
My last photo turned out ok, and I was more than happy with the result.
I had started placing photos that came out of the SX-70 camera into a dark container right after each photo had ejected from the camera so that the film could process better. Apparently, the colors turn out better that way.
However, I didn’t do it on this occasion because I really didn’t think my camera would work.
One slightly disappointing thing about this photo of Eros (Cupid) is that the sky was blue, but that didn’t show up in the instant photo. I guess that could be an SX-70 thing concerning the film or my particular camera.
I had the light/dark meter dial set to 2/3 dark and 1/3 light for this photo. It probably would have turned out better if it was set even darker. There’s a very slight hint of blue at the very top, so maybe it would have been visible using a darker setting.
If you’re curious, you can see how the Eros mural looks in Wonderwalls Port Adelaide. This is another post that shows you Eros and many more amazing murals in Port Adelaide that are close by.
Part of the triangle roof visible at the top of the building also seems to appear in the SX-70 photo that shows my finger (the second SX-70 photo taken).
The beauty about my last SX-70 photo is that you can tell it is Eros (or Cupid if you prefer). Actually, it could even pass as Apollo, but it is supposed to be Eros.
At least it turned out to be better than the first photo.
Illuminate Adelaide – Art, Light, and Technology
Using the Polaroid SX-70 camera on this particular day did one amazing thing. In the evening, I decided to go to Illuminate Adelaide, a free light show in town with lighting displays on a few of Adelaide’s main city streets.
I had seen a commercial, and it made me think about Apollo, the God of light.
My very first photo was of Apollo, so this would be a great way to wrap up a future post (this post). An image from the lighting event seemed perfect as a featured image.
When browsing the Internet, I saw statues of three people looking at their mobile phones while sitting on a park bench. I thought it would make a great feature image for this post, so I planned to sit between them, holding my SX-70 camera looking like the black sheep.
This was on a Thursday night, and not that many people were around for some reason. However, it was only 8 pm, so I expected to see heaps more people.
I had brought along my tripod to take a photo of myself sitting between the illuminated sculptures. Instead, I asked an event official standing beside the artwork to take a few pictures of me.
After placing the strap of my Olympus camera around his neck, I proceeded to get my SX-70 camera out of my bag.
That’s when I heard him call out “Marshall.” I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I thought he was calling out to someone who was a COVID Marshal, which is what they’re referred to in Australia.
Adelaide had just come out of a week-long shutdown due to a Coronavirus outbreak. It only ended on Tuesday night at midnight. This was Thursday, so it was only a couple of days later.
Then I heard him call out, “Mr. Marshall!” I still didn’t understand who he was talking to as I stood up, though I had suspicions.
The most powerful person in the State
That’s when I saw him, the Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall. He was only a couple of meters away from both of us.
I had crossed paths with the most powerful political person in the state as a direct result of using my Polaroid SX-70 camera.
There was no way I would have attended the light show that night, but because I had taken a picture of Eros, it made me want to go out and take a photo for the top of this post on the same day.
Marshall looked at both of us, but he seemed confused, probably because the event official wore my Olympus camera. The event guy may have seemed like an onlooker to him.
The official kept calling out his name underneath his face mask. Then you had me in black clothing staring at him, so it was no wonder that he quickly moved on with his small entourage without saying a single word.
The Greek Gods of SX-70
As I departed, I walked past Venus, surrounded by some pretty lights wrapped around trees. It seemed like a fitting end.
My SX-70 odyssey had started with Apollo, the God of light. It then focussed on Eros, the God of love. Then I visited an event known as Illuminate Adelaide, which is all about light.
So it was like completing some strange Greek odyssey cycle. And what about Marshall, what was he doing there? Only the Greek Gods could have set that up.
Conclusion – 8 shots of (not so cheap) SX-70 film
Here are all of the SX-70 photos so you can see what they look like all together. The photo was taken next to a window, so there’s a bit of reflection on the photos.
You can even see the black slide, which is the first thing that automatically pops out of the camera when you insert a new packet of SX-70 film into the camera.
My Beginner Polaroid SX-70 Camera Experience
All up, it was an interesting experience using the Polaroid SX-70 camera. This was my very first attempt at using SX-70 film, so I’ll have to give it another go.
Hopefully, the SX-70 camera I’m using isn’t busted, but who knows? I’ve decided to keep it anyway.
The problems could have occurred due to a bad batch of sticky film, which seems to be a real issue. Polaroid even recognizes bad batches of sticky film as being a problem on occasion.
The first and last photo worked out in a way, so I’m hoping it was all due to the film and not Eros!
The only way I’m going to know for sure is to buy another packet of (not so cheap) SX-70 film so that I can test my SX-70 camera once again.
At least it gave me one good photo of Eros. The camera looks like it’s in great condition, so I’m hoping for the best. Let’s see what happens next time.
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