Once in a while someone finds my blog and my old-camera posts and offers me their old gear. Such was the case with a fellow in Madison, Indiana last year. It turns out he and I have an acquaintance in common, and the next time she made a trip to Indianapolis she brought a big box full of his old cameras. This Polaroid J66 was in the box.
Produced from 1961 to 1963, the J66 was made in large numbers probably because it was less expensive than other Polaroid cameras that used the old instant roll films. That’s not to say it was a low-priced camera – its 1961 $89.50 price tag is equivalent to about $690 in 2013 dollars.
The J66 is enormous. Check out how small a roll of 35 mm film looks next to it.
The J66 takes only Type 47 Polaroid black-and-white roll film, which along with the other 40-series films was discontinued by the early 1990s. If you search around the Internet, you’ll find that several people have converted their J66s to use regular 120 non-instant film. Heaven knows why, as this camera isn’t particularly well specified. It packs an f/19 plastic meniscus lens mated to a pneumatic rotary shutter that operates from 1/15 to 1/1000 sec. It uses a selenium cell to set exposure; there is no manual exposure control.
My J66 came with its instruction manual and a very nice guide to taking beautiful Polaroid photographs. From them I learned that this camera was anything but simple to use. But I suppose that in 1961 it still seemed remarkable that instant photography was possible at all.