Camera Reviews, Photography

Polaroid OneStep 600

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Polaroid introduced its 600 film in 1981 as a higher-speed variation of the original SX 70 film. These are both “integral” films, the kind where the picture shoots out of the camera and develops before your eyes.

The OneStep 600 was the first camera made to use the new film. It comes with a plastic (probably), fixed-focus, single-element lens said to be 116 mm at f/11. The camera couples some sort of light meter to an electronic shutter, which can fire from 1/4 to 1/200 sec. Flash is via a “Flash 600” bar, a strip of ten flash bulbs you plug into the top of the camera. They were designed specially for these cameras, and thus haven’t been made in ages. My camera came with one that has one unused bulb on it.

Polaroid OneStep 600

There’s nothing to using the OneStep 600: frame the shot, press the button, done. While the button slides easily, it is in a somewhat awkward place. Fortunately, the camera is easy to hold steady in your hands while you shoot. And shoot I did with one of the packs of 600 film (expired since 2006) I had left over after using my similarly-named but newer One600 earlier this year.

This is my favorite shot from the pack. I learned while researching this post, after I’d shot the whole pack, that the lens is sharpest at four to five feet. Given that Polaroid cameras were positioned as the ultimate fun camera for taking pictures of friends and family, I guess that makes sense. This traffic barrel of in the middle of my street was right in the lens’s sweet spot.

Cone

Most everything else I shot was much farther out than five feet, which resulted in softer focus. Not that this lens is ever pin sharp.

Polka-dotted chair

These photos don’t look any different to me in terms of color and sharpness than the shots I got from my One600. Photoshop Elements made these scans look way better than the actual photos, in which all colors looked brown. Even though Polaroid integral prints always had muted, off colors, the brownness of these prints (and the black corners where the emulsion has eroded) has got to be because the film is so long expired.

Rail bridge

Polaroid’s integral-film cameras were popular when I was a kid in the 1970s and 1980s and I always wanted one. Even now I’m charmed when this camera shoots out a print which develops before my eyes. But as I look at each of these photos (and all the others in my Polaroid OneStep 600 gallery) I keep thinking that I could have done so much more with these subjects using pretty much any non-Polaroid camera in my collection.


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14 thoughts on “Polaroid OneStep 600

  1. ryoko861 says:

    They’re fun cameras. Always a hoot to get the picture right after you’ve taken it! Just found a Pronto at a garage sale last weekend and bought it for $4 ( I asked if they’d take $3, they had $5 on it). So we added it to the other Polaroids. It even came with the flash bar and manual. They’re all pretty much the same though.

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    • I have a Pronto I haven’t shot yet. And an original SX-70. Both of them take the SX-70 film and I’m going to have to order the expensive stuff from The Impossible Project if I’m ever to shoot those two cameras.

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  2. The imperfections at the corners actually work well in combination with the subject matter in these OneStep shots I think. On the other hand, I can sympathize with your feeling that the subjects might have been explored in more interesting ways with conventional film cameras. I often have the same impression when viewing peoples’ efforts to do pinhole landscape compositions.

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    • I see photos like mine, with eroding corners, soft focus, and wonky colors, that the photographers clearly intend to be art, and it just doesn’t work for me. I follow Paul Giambarba’s blogs — he’s the designer behind Polaroid’s 1970s brand image — and he likes to highlight Polaroid photography he considers to be somehow noteworthy. He’s posted some interesting work that makes the most of the format’s inherent limitations. I’m sure he has to curate from among a metric ton of dreck that these cameras produce.

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  3. One of my earliest memories is of one of my aunts taking pictures with a Polaroid. I think it was around 1960. I can remember being amazed that it only took a minute to get a picture. Still I never really got into Polaroid and I have never used one of the 600 film cameras. I think part of it was that I thought the film cost too much for the results I could get. I wonder if the prices at the Impossible Project will come down over time. The last time I looked it was around $24 for a pack.

    I see what you mean about the photo with the traffic barrel. Looks like at that distance you could get some nice results. I do like the one with the bridge. I think in this instance the film, camera and subject work well together.

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    • I’d never used an integral-film camera until the One600 I reviewed earlier this year. My family didn’t have money for luxuries like that. My grandparents did buy me a packfilm Polaroid for Christmas one year and I used it sometimes, but film and developing for a 12-exposure roll of 127 or a 20-exposure 126 cartridge cost considerably less than one 10-print pack for that Polaroid camera.

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    • Real Polaroid film isn’t made anymore, though you can buy it expired on eBay. That’s what I did. You can buy new film from The Impossible Project.

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  4. Brandon Campbell says:

    My sister had this exact same Polaroid. I got a similar one for Christmas about a year after she got hers, but mine had the electronic flash built in!

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