Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Polaroid One600

10

Unwanted cameras sometimes make their way into my hands. Not long ago, a Polaroid One600 became a permanent resident at the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras.

Polaroid introduced 600-series film and cameras in 1981. One of Polaroid’s signature moves was to create a whole line of cameras out of a basic body by varying features – one model might have a close-up lens, another model might have a self-timer, a series of models would have autofocus, several models would have a built-in flash, and so on. Polaroid created five or six basic 600 bodies over a 30-year period. The last basic body was introduced in about 2001 – which was the year Polaroid Corporation went bankrupt. The One600 uses this final body; it might be considered Polaroid’s last gasp.

Polaroid One600

At least the body was cleverly designed. When you press a square button on the back, the camera opens up. The fixed-focus 100 mm lens, which is almost certainly made of plastic, is on the wide side. The built-in flash is common to all cameras with this body.

Polaroid One600

Around back the One600 has a feature not seen before this body: an electronic frame counter. It’s the little LCD window next to the viewfinder. It shows the number of shots left in the film pack.

Polaroid One600

This One600 came with four packs of 600 film. They all expired in 2006, but I was glad to get them. The post-bankruptcy Polaroid Corporation stopped making film in 2008. You can buy expired 600 film on eBay, but it’s not cheap. You can buy new films for 600-series cameras from the Impossible Project, but they too are expensive and are quirky to use.

Each 600 film pack contains a battery that powers the camera, a great Polaroid idea meant to ensure that their cameras never ran out of juice. Of course, Polaroid Corporation didn’t count on going out of business. Unused batteries fade away with time. It won’t be long before all expired Polaroid integral films will be useless, and our only option for shooting these cameras will be to buy from the Impossible Project.

Expired film can yield good images for years if it’s refrigerated. Unfortunately, this expired film was stored in a closet, and it delivered poor results. The colors all tended toward brown, and the photo-sensitive material had pulled away from each print’s upper corners. Fortunately, the software that came with my scanner worked wonders on these images, bringing out truer-to-life colors. It couldn’t do anything about the corners, though. It also couldn’t overcome the softness of the One600′s lens, although I suppose I could improve that a little in Photoshop Elements.

Wall

I was surprised to find that the One600 is cumbersome to use. The viewfinder throws a fisheyed image that left me feeling disoriented. And with the camera at my face the shutter button is right next to my cheek, making it awkward to press and making it necessary to steady the camera entirely with my left hand. So I tended to just get the shooting over with as quickly as possible, leading to a whole bunch of poorly composed photographs. This, sadly, was the best photo of the two packs I shot.

Century 21

But the point of Polaroid cameras is not fine art but fun snapshots. Even with its weird usability, this camera would be fun at a party. I showed it to my sons and they were as wowed in 2012 to see the picture shoot out of the camera and develop before their eyes as I was when Polaroid’s first integral-film cameras came out in the early 1970s. My older son thought it was so cool that he had to try it for himself. I just wish he had chosen something other than a sink full of dishes as a backdrop!

Me in the kitchen

I still have two packs of this expired film left – and I have a much older 600-series camera I haven’t tried yet. So stay tuned!

Do you like old cameras? Then check out my entire collection!

10 thoughts on “Polaroid One600

  1. Lone Primate

    You can feel accomplished that at least your dishes make it to the sink… ;)

    Jim, it’s kind of a non sequitur, but you mentioned Photoshop Elements, and I wondered if you’d heard of Adobe’s new payment paradigm. CS6 is coming out now and as well as letting you buy the whole thing end-to-end for $2600, they ALSO will give you access to the entire suite (Photoshop Extended, Lightroom, etc.), collateral assets, support, immediate upgrades and new features, 20 GB of space to make your projects portable and/or collaborative, etc., for $49.99 a month. You can install the suite on two computers so long as they’re used consecutively and not concurrently, with their example being at home and at work (yay! Photoshop for retouching screen caps at work again!). At that rate you’d be on CS7 before you were done paying the price of CS6. They call the plan Creative Cloud (http://www.adobe.com/products/creativecloud.html), and I think it’s going to be a winner… not everyone’s got $2600 sitting around idle, but most of us can find $50 a month by a little economizing. I’ve decided to go with this myself. Downloads are supposed to become available May 7th.

    Not sure what your needs are but I thought I’d throw that out there. :)

    1. Jim Post author

      I don’t think I’d get enough use from Photoshop even at $50 a month. I’m on PSE 9 (I think, I keep getting nagged about upgrading to the next version) and frankly it does absolutely everything I need. Maybe my needs will grow one day, but until then, I’m set!

  2. Todd Pack

    We have an old Polaroid One Step, but I don’t think anyone’s used it since the Clinton adminstration. Even under the best of conditions, Polaroid pictures were pretty bad.

  3. Ted Kappes

    I like the Century 21 picture sign. I remember when that company first started that the 21st Century seemed a long way off. I never was a big polaroid user, however I think the integral film cameras seem like a good idea for some quick fun pictures. Did you know that there is a revived Polaroid company that now as at least a couple of cameras. One is a digital camera that appears to be able to print out a picture looking much like the integral film cameras.
    http://store.polaroid.com/product/9/356223/Z340/_/Instant_Digital_Camera

    1. Jim Post author

      Ted, I did know about this — I’m curious, but too cheap to try it out! Maybe in 30 years I’ll find one on eBay for $30. That’s how I roll now!

      1. Ted Kappes

        I’m in the same boat regarding this camera. From looking at the number of reviews on Amazon people must be buying it. I guess it might be worth the money if I was inclined to do more of the sort of photography that it seems best suited for.

  4. ryoko861

    It looks so big and bulky compared to todays cameras! It’s shame though, they had a great concept. Kodak sort of took it to the next level with their EasyShare and Camera Dock (They no longer make it-I’m trying to see if I can get it to work with my Canon Power Shot). But it was so cool to take a picture and have it materialize right before your eyes!

    1. Jim Post author

      It’s actually slimmer than its predecessor 600-series cameras! I doubt you’ll make your Canon work with your Kodak dock.

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