Camera Reviews

Polaroid J66

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.

Polaroid J66

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.

Polaroid J66

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.

Polaroid J66

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.

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39 thoughts on “Polaroid J66

  1. Lone Primate says:

    Well, Jim, you’ve certainly shown me the strangest-looking camera I’ve ever seen. It looks like a camera sticking out of a camera… like that mouth-in-a-mouth setup in Alien or something. :)

    Ninety bucks in ’61 is 700 today? Good grief! O_o

    • It is an odd-looking duck. Check it out when it’s all opened up:

      Polaroid J66

      So complex. Thank goodness Polaroid kept working to simplify instant photography.

  2. I know very little about cameras, but I’m always very excited when any mid-century find (stereo, radio, car) comes with its original owner’s manual. I don’t know why, but it’s just really interesting reading.

    • I agree. I also like seeing how typography was used in those old manuals, plus the styles in any photography in the manual. My J66 came with its user manual plus a really neat 8×10 booklet called “How to make better Polacolor pictures” that is chock full of great photos. I should have photographed them for this post.

  3. For a minute there I thought I had that exact camera, but it turns out I have the 320 which was only out for 2 years (’69-’71). I kind of think it’s pretty. I love anything mid century!

  4. Have you taken any pictures with it yet? I’d love to see what they look like, compared to digital photos. Cool beans, Jim! Hey, and thanks for stopping by my place today. I think you should have cooed a little about your cool new toy! ;)

    • Oh, unfortunately film hasn’t been made for this camera in 20 years. And I buy so many old cameras that it’s a fairly routine occurrence anymore!

  5. I was wondering if you ever got together with him on the camera….that is really cool and BIG!!!! Don’t think I would packing that thing around the hills down here lol !!

    • I did Bernie. Also got a Pentax K1000, a Yashica Lynx 5000, and a box camera from him. This Polaroid is one mighty inconvenient camera!

  6. These old Polaroids seemed like a wonder when I was a little kid back in the 60’s. It is funny to see the sometimes high prices that people ask sometimes for these in the antique shops. Not sure where they get the idea that they are rare or valuable. I too have read of people doing conversions with these, however I agree that it is probably not worth the trouble.

    • Ted, yes, I see these offered at ridiculous prices from time to time too. The J66 was extremely common and therefore is hardly worth anything.

  7. Alex says:

    hello, in Spain use a Polaroid 600, now I live in Indianapolis Indiana, last week cleaning the garage I found two polaroid one is J66 and the other is Polaroid reporte land camera film 107C, i know that J66 uses film 47 is very difficult to find and do not want Converted, you know if there is any current film compatible?

    • There’s no film for the J66, unfortunately! The camera that takes 107C can still be used, though. Fujifilm FP-3000b will work in it.

  8. The J66 came out in 3 different versions though. The 1961 model had a yellow dot on the light/dark ring, close to the red dot. The 62-63 versions had a blue/green dot. I have the 61 version, and i actually still have the original Duracell battery, which is completely corroded. But still a nice piece!

  9. Jorge Moran says:

    Hi people over there…..like a year ago bought me a J66 , just because I like mid-century staffs, but yesterday I got another camara from Kodak instamatic 304…wow. the first one got in a garage sale and the other one in goodwill…and now Im here searching information…greeting to all of you guys.

  10. Jorge Moran says:

    I forgot to say that I like all your posting…..has a lot of information about this topic…thanks again.

  11. john want says:

    Great site. I just now started collecting cameras that i grew up with in the 1960s but of course it is now branching out to other era cameras.

  12. WL says:

    Hello everyone, thank you for sharing your history about J66. My uncle carried this camera around to photograph a lot of interesting locations around the world. He passed away a few years ago which has not published any of his photos. I own two of the Polaroids today with his accessory bag, instructional manual which of course also has the original flash bulb boxes attached 5 pack.

    I display it on my mantel with many other cameras of 40s to today. Sadly, can’t find the film as you mentioned unless modification is possible. It all about history and where the camera been there, done that! Story. Thank you all for sharing it greatly gives me a story to tell my friends and family.

    • What a great camera to display. Sadly, the J66’s picture-taking days are over, at least as an instant camera. If you search around the Internet, you’ll find people who have converted their J66s to take 120 rollfilm, which must be processed.

  13. Wow, great info people. Just picked up my J66 at a garage sale for 1 dollar U.S. along with a Model 320, also for 1 dollar. I’m dissapointed to learn i wont be able to find film for this puppy as i really wanted to test it out. I dudnt think it was that old only because of that little panel thats next to the shutter which looked like a solar power panel and since it didnt come with the correct manual (it came with a manual for a model 95B) i ‘m not sure what it’s for. Thank for the info

  14. Shy-Ann says:

    I just bought one of these at a yard sale, I only paid $5 for it and I want to know more about it. I don’t know if I should keep it or try to sell it, I don’t even know what’s it’s worth. And help would be awesome. :D

    • I’m sure it’s not worth much more than what you paid for it, but the best way to know for sure is to go to eBay, type “Polaroid J66” in the search box, and on the page that results find and check the “Sold Listings” box. You’ll see how much these sold for recently.

    • The value lies in it’s condition and whether it has been modified for 120 Roll film. Unmodified, it is worthless as a camera, but in mint condition looks good on a shelf in the livingroom. To coin a phrase from the various reality TV shows depicting collectors and dealers, “if you find the right buyer” it may fetch 20 bucks. Sadly, most old cameras that were mass produced are worth very little.

  15. Aiza Mahmood says:

    Hi, I just bought J66 and I have no clue how to use it, as I cant find the film for it so is there an alternate fuji instant film that can be used? and Idont understand the battery either. It would be great If you could guide me a little because I am a starter and I am excited for it to work.

    • I bear bad news: film hasn’t been made for the J66 in many years. Some people have adapted the J66 to take 120 roll film; there are instructions on YouTube. But it seems like more work than it’s worth.

  16. Mary Wood says:

    I much are the cameras worth today and we’re can I find a buyer for mine please check back with me xxx-xxx-xxxx

    • Mary, your best bet is eBay. Type the name of your camera in the search box. In the results, look for a checkbox on the left that says “sold listings.” Check it. You’ll see cameras like yours that sold recently, and the prices they went for. That should give you an idea. eBay is your best bet for selling any camera you no longer want.

  17. Pingback: Father’s Day 2019: Homage to My Father’s J33 Land Camera | myvintagecamerasblog

  18. A Poloroid J66 focused message for a dear friend who’s lovely Mother died this month:

    Konbanwa [ ],

    As you know I’d make some fundamental changes to some of the framework we live our short lives within if I could, a toss of the dice though it might be. I’m just not a fan of mortality and never have been – even as a very young child the conceptual notion of a time boundary for life seemed entirely stupid to me. (And in that time of naivete I was baffled and frustrated by the fact that nobody had corrected such a serious problem yet. “Hey everyone, why aren’t you paying attention? This is a huge problem!!! You can’t just let this go on – you have to fix this!!!”)

    When i was 10 my dear Mother, who struggled valiantly to find happiness all her life, with only brief periods of success, yet never relinquished her pristine ethics or values, purchased a Polaroid Land camera for me for Christmas. It was a stunning moment in my life…

    I admired them – they were a technology breakthrough and marvels of the era, but much too expensive for common people like my family, so I was content to simply revel in their existence. I revealed my admiration but it never occurred to me to suggest our family could have one – the notion never entered my conceptual sphere of possibilities.

    But the following Christmas as we all unwrapped our presents, most of which were very nice, thoughtful, and genuinely appreciated, but necessarily humble, I was suddenly thrust into a glorious version of the Twilight Zone when removal of the gift wrap revealed a brand new Model J66 Polaroid Land camera. I couldn’t believe it – it was surreal. Yet there it was in my hands – mine – a gleaming new world class marvel of pinnacle technology. Push the button and about two minutes later a high fidelity black and white picture of family, friends, special times, outdoor beauty – whatever you wanted to capture – rested in your hands like pure magic.

    I learned something about my Mother that day, though really I always knew it. Among all her other superb qualities she was immensely generous of heart. And insightful – she knew that I knew such a treasure was beyond our means, so it never occurred to me to even hint that our family should ever consider trying to acquire one, much less that I could personally own one, so she knew she had a chance, big sacrifice though it required, to leverage the magic of Christmas to the hilt. So when I unwrapped it the gleeful surprise, which is such a huge part of the enchantment of Christmas morning, was absolutely off the charts!

    And that was hardly her only act of love – that was her nature all the time. Including many episodes of material sacrifice. That camera was bloody expensive in its day, so its purchase meant that other material needs for our humble lives had to be substantially deferred or abandoned. I remember the fridge, though still working, was in rough condition, the clothes washer often required finesse to urge it into operation, and many other important necessities seemed to teeter on the edge of functionality.

    That camera and I spent a lifetime together. And though only a tender ten years of age, I treated it like gold and protected it like the treasure it truly was. It remained in pristine condition with not even a hint of a scratch or bruise anywhere for 59 years. And it captured a great many special moments in my life, including several of that Christmas morning of course. (Which fortunately remain safe in Miyazaki.)

    My deeply beloved Polaroid J66 was nestled carefully in my 727 cabin two years ago along with all my other precious personal treasures when the vandals and crooks violently broke into my home, ransacked and trashed it, packed all my treasures and many other belongings (including your vehicle jump starter and tire pump) into my own storage containers and boxes, extended my air stairs, and like house movers carried container after container of my treasures, including my deeply beloved Polaroid J66, out of my home, loaded them into their vehicle, and took them away to their lair evidently nearby, never to be found again. They robbed me of all of my most precious material heritage, scattering precious greeting card memories in the outdoor mud as they went.

    The pain haunts me every day and night – it’s like a dagger in my heart, penetrating, powerful, and wholly unrelenting. It will never let go until I die.

    But I achieved a tiny bit of symbolic healing yesterday when a remarkably well preserved J66 Polaroid Land camera appeared in my freight box from an eBay seller. Like mine, it’s in superb showroom condition, and the carrying case is remarkably in even better condition than mine. It isn’t equipped with an internal polarizing filter, an accessory the Polaroid company distributed for free to all J66 owners after it was found to improve image quality substantially when reflected sunlight was involved [as best I recall], but no significant matter – it’s a true gem. And cheap – $26 total – a mammoth bargain to me.

    It’s not quite the same of course – it’s not the one my Mother gave me. But it does partially fill the chasm. But of course it’s just one of numerous immensely precious items stolen – the dagger remains very painfully imbedded in my heart and the overall chasm remains vast and deeply felt.

    But this is all just background to the bigger problem. There’s no connection like parents. And when they die there’s no pain quite like it. There’s a Universe of things we still need to say, mistakes we still need to atone for, and respect we still need to bestow. And more will arise as age imparts new wisdom and through that reveals other mistakes we also need to atone. But mortality renders us utterly helpless and leaves no opportunity for sharing the many things we need to convey, including of course our foundational gratitude for those who gave so generously and deeply to provide life and love for us.

    We differ of course in that you believe you’ll have your chance to reconnect later. That can’t comfort me, alas. But my experience has been that faith, though it provides hope, can only mitigate the pain. The immediate chasm remains, and it’s an awful feeling in its depth and helplessness.

    Nobody can vanquish my losses (though capture and conviction of the immensely horrible people who wounded me so deeply would certainly help). And though I surely wish I could, I can’t vanquish yours. All we can do is share our mutual stories to try to insure that we know we’re not alone during times of great sorrow, nor later as it lingers permanently like a dark cloud in skies which should be entirely sunny.

    I never met [ ]-san directly of course, my loss, but in our detached encounter she seemed wonderful, like so very many Nihon-jin, and then some. I had only a tiny glimpse of the depth of treasure she was, but the rest doesn’t escape my general grasp. Because just as my Mother created magic beyond measure in my life, I feel certain [ ]-san did for you as well. And I feel the pain too [ ]…

    I can’t fix it – I wish I could but I can’t. And knowing you’re not alone in this doesn’t fix it either. But it’s the very best I can do. So I hope it helps a little…

    Kanashii…

    O genki de ite kudasai, Bruce

    Bruce Campbell

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