Instant Camera

The instant camera is a type of camera which uses self-developing film to create a chemically developed print shortly after taking the picture. Polaroid Corporation pioneered (and patented) consumer friendly instant cameras and film, and were followed by various other manufacturers. The invention of commercially viable instant cameras which were easy to use is generally credited to American scientist Edwin Land, who unveiled the first commercial instant camera, the model 95 Land Camera, in 1948, a year after unveiling instant film in New York City. The earliest instant camera, which consisted of a camera and portable wet darkroom in a single compartment, was invented in 1923 by Samuel Shlafrock. Polaroid cameras can be classified by the type of film they use. The earliest Polaroids (pre-1963) used instant roll film. Roll film came in two rolls (positive/developing agent and negative) which were loaded into the camera and was eventually offered in three sizes (40, 30, and 20 series). The next generation of Polaroid cameras used 100 series “pack film,” where the photographer pulled the film out of the camera, then peeled apart the positive from the negative at the end of the developing process. Pack film initially was offered in a rectangular format (100 series), then in square format (80 series). Third generation Polaroids, like the once popular SX-70, used a square format integral film, in which all components of the film (negative, developer, fixer, etc.) were contained. Each exposure developed automatically once the shot was taken. SX-70 (or Time Zero) film had a strong following with artists who used it for image manipulation.

Polaroid also invented and manufactured an instant movie camera system was called Polavision. The kit included a camera, film, and a movie viewer. When the movie was shot, it would be taken out of the camera and then inserted into the viewer for development, then viewed after development. This format was close to Super 8 mm film. Polavision film was different from normal film in that it was an additive film, mixing the primary colors (red, green, blue) to form the color image. The biggest disadvantage of the Polavision system was the low film speed (ASA 40), which resulted in having to use very bright lights when taking the movie, as well as requiring a special player to view the developed movie. It also lacked audio capability. Because of this, and combined with the advent of VHS video recorders, Polavision had a short history. Pack film cameras were mostly equipped with automatic exposure, but still had to be focused and a flash bulb or cube unit needed to be used with colour film indoors. The development of the film required the photographer pull two tabs, the second tab which pulled the positive/negative “sandwich” from the camera, where it developed outside the camera. If the temperature was below 15°C (60°F), the positive/negative “sandwich” was placed between two aluminum plates and placed either in the user’s pocket or under their arm to keep it warm while developing. After the required development time (15 seconds to 2 minutes), the positive (with the latent image) was peeled apart from the negative.