Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Caveat Emptor, or, How to Buy a Polaroid Camera

All right. I shoot Polaroid cameras. I use expired film actually produced by Polaroid when I can find it, and I use the new films from the Impossible Project. Also, I collect the cameras. Not excessively (though I don't know if my husband would agree about that!) but I do enjoy having different models, even though many of them do basically the same thing. And so, I scour vintage/thrift shops and scan eBay and Etsy listings.

It's much easier to shop in person when you can look at the items yourself, of course. When you're looking online, you have to rely on the seller's description. And, quite frankly, a lot of sellers either clearly don't know what they're talking about--which is fine, because they usually sell a lot of different stuff and can't be experts on ALL of it--or are outright lying. Yes, lying. I've caught many a seller in a claim that just can't possibly be true.

And that just ticks me off! I mean, at this point, I know enough to catch those lies and avoid those sellers, but I sure didn't back when I started out! So I thought I'd list some of the dishonest claims I've seen in various Polaroid listings and explain just why those claims are ridiculous, in the hopes of educating those of you who might be out there looking for a camera and not sure what to watch out for.

Example 1: An Etsy seller claimed to have film-tested an SX-70 Polaroid camera with both 600 film (an integral film) AND Fuji FP-100 (a pack film). That's patently, blatantly a lie. While it's definitely possible to use 600 film in an SX-70 camera with a few minor modifications, it is NOT even remotely possible to use Fuji FP-100 type films. Those films are designed for an entirely different type of camera and they are NOT interchangable. There definitely are Polaroid cameras that will take Fuji FP-100 film (see the Land List for those models) but there is no camera in existence that takes both integral film AND pack film...though it would be pretty awesome if there was! (Impossible Project, you should get on top of this one! Ha!)

Example 2: An Etsy seller claimed to have tested the battery in an SX-70 camera and gotten it to make the "picture-taking noises," etc, but not to have film tested that camera. Well, that, too, is pretty impossible. Neither the SX-70 cameras nor the 600 cameras HAVE internal batteries. With both of those lines, the batteries are contained in the film packs. Without a film pack, there's no battery and no way to induce the "picture-taking noise."

Now, it IS possible to take an empty film pack and insert it into the camera to test the internal mechanisms, but you still won't be 100% certain that you'll get the sort of image you expect. I use this method myself when I go out to the thrift shops, however, and I have yet to buy a camera that responded to the batteries in an empty film pack but wouldn't produce a good it's a pretty safe bet, all things considered. But if someone tells you they tested the batteries IN THE CAMERA, they're lying!

Example 3: Related to example 2. An eBay seller claimed to have no film with which to test the camera, but to have taken an empty 600 cartridge, MODIFIED the cartridge to take AAA batteries, and gotten the shutter of an SX-70 to fire and the motor to whir. Okay, so, as discussed above, the batteries are always in the film pack. They're designed that way. Why in the Sam-Hell would you need to modify those existing batteries to get the film pack to work? You wouldn't, that's why. There is no good reason to even think about altering the batteries in a film pack.

That about covers the more egregious examples of dishonest sellers I've seen lately. I'll be keeping an eye on the listings as usual, however, so this might turn into a repeating feature depending on how many more liars I run across! Ha! I hope this helped!

1 comment:

  1. I have a polaroid SX-70 from ebay...luckily it worked. I bought film from ebay, expired, still sealed - two packs, for about $40...and all of it was completely spoiled! So these tips are really helped. I've never tried Etsy, and I haven't tried the Impossible Project though I keep meaning to. I've noticed a clear difference in the work of my fav. photographer - between expired and Impossible Project film. I prefer the expired.