Over the past five years, digital cameras once the “electronic outcast” of the photographic industry, are now present in the hands of practically everyone who like to take photos both amateur and professional. The ability to take unlimited snapshots without the costliness of 35mm film and developing and the added advantage of printing and adjusting photos in the comfort of your own home have spelled a sudden and completely unexpected end for film cameras.
Digital cameras were not the first cameras to splash onto the consumer market with the ability to make instant, on site prints from photos. Long before the world saw these camera, Polaroid was selling a camera which could do just that. Early polaroids required that the photographer pull the film out of the camera and then separate the positive from the negative. Polaroids remained this way until the 1970’s when Polaroid introduced the then revolutionary SX-70 Land Camera also nicknamed the Time Zero camera because it required almost no time to point, shoot, and develop a photograph.
What made the SX-70 so revolutionary was the film cartridge which could hold twenty shots. Once a subject was framed and the picture taken, a blank snapshot complete with a small white frame around it emerged from a slot in the bottom of the camera right under the lenses. As the film passes through the slot, the cartridge contained developed and fixer chemicals which would bring forth the latent image in about thirty seconds.
The SX-70 was such a huge success that Polaroid spent the next twenty years developing more advanced models and improving on the original concept. Later versions featured a built-in rechargeable flash, a lighter plastic body to the camera rather than the metal of the SX-70, more shots per cartridge, and an auto focus lenses. Although Polaroid camera were an instant big seller, the format never quite had the staying power of 35mm film which, at the time the Land camera were popular, were the only other choice for photographers.
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Sales of Polaroid cameras and film, however, quickly began to level off. As 35mm cameras became better, smaller, and cheaper, many consumers would forego the advantages of having a picture you could see in a few seconds for the almost exhaustive features that were loaded onto 35mm cameras. By the late 1980’s, the Polaroid camera became used more by companies and professionals than by consumers, Because of its ease of use and its ability to produce a picture in a seconds at any location, the Polaroid was used by insurance agents, construction foreman, real estate agents, and filmmakers.
Polaroid tried to revive the format in the early 1990’s with the Polaroid Spectravision. The Spectravision was a much better camera than the previous line of camera with a more ergonomically shaped camera body and a better lenses and flash. However, with digital photography on the horizon the Spectravision’s glamour would be short lived.