The Polaroid SX-70 Sonar OneStep AutoFocus and why you need one!!

So you’re just starting out in the Polaroid game, or maybe you have been in it for a while and looking to move onto a better camera – well then, boy have I got great news for you! Check out this funky looking line of cameras!

When Polaroid first brought out their range of foldable SX-70 cameras, it revolutionised the way instant photos were taken. Folding into a collapsible rectangle box (They say it could fit into your pocket, but seriously! Who has a pocket big enough to fit this beast?! And the weight would just pull your pants down!), featuring a manual focus glass lens, a glass split prism viewfinder and the quick ejection of your instant photos!

But! Then later on in the production the company decided to add sonar AutoFocus! A what?! Ok – picture this! (No pun intended). You’re at a party and have decided to get out your retro SX-70 camera after having a few tequila shots (The photos will make you forget about that burning throat!), but the problem is it’s so dark and you’re a little wobbly and having trouble focusing on your mates playing goon-of-fortune! And you wanna wake up with some nice, well exposed, well-focused photos to ease that hangover! Well this is where the sonar autofocus is gonna save your drunk butt! It uses high frequency sound waves to detect where your subject is, those waves bounce off the subject back to the camera – the camera then cleverly determines how far the waves have travelled back and forth, resulting in a perfect focusing system! This is actually a pretty similar system that bats use to catch their prey! Sonar AF is perfect for low light situations, or even pitch black for you to get some rad snaps! When in the dark, just remember to have a flash attached to your camera though!

On your standard plastic 600 camera, it only has a cheap fixed focus plastic lens (And maybe a cheap plastic close up lens, if you have the right model) which is okay to get the hang of Polaroid, but after a while you get sick of the rather soft images it can produce. But the SX-70 premium glass lens, oh mannnn, the quality! It uses an f/8 – f/22 aperture (Not the widest you can get, but when hooked up with a flash it doesn’t matter that much), a programmed electronic shutter from 1/175th – 10 seconds, and a minimum focusing of 26 cm (A lot of modern digital lenses don’t even go that close!) Time to see some photos sharper than razor wire! Your drunk mate puking out the back has never been so clear!

The plastic 600 models have a viewfinder that is next to the lens, meaning what you focus on, might not come out the same way in your photo! Parallax error as it’s known! And it gets worse the closer you get to your subject! The SX-70 fixes this problem by a long shot! Using the split-prism viewfinder (Okay, you got me on what that actually is, but it’s a better viewfinder, trust me!) means that what you want to focus on, is gonna come out in your photo perfectly! It is very bright, making it easy to see what you’re taking a photo of! The way it is designed though, gives everything a slight bulging look – your photos will be fine though! (Unless you want the bulging fisheye look! In which case you can buy this close up kit ) If you wanna switch to manual focus, it also makes it a helluva lot easier to frame your photo!

So this is the big part of the camera model, the one that makes or breaks your once in a life time photo! All you have to do is press the shutter button halfway and it’ll automatically focus the lens for you! And this thing focuses fast; it’s like Usain Bolt on speed! Your digital camera has what? 10 focus points, this camera has 124 focus points! Perfect for the quick snap that’s gonna capture the defining photo of your year! Of course though, if you wanna focus the lens manually – all you have to do is switch the button down next to the sonar, and turn the focus dial, just above the shutter button! Nothing better than having options right?!

Exposure and film
Ya know what also sucks about 600 cameras! You can’t use SX-70 film in them if you’ve accidentally brought the wrong pack with you! Wait, there’s a difference between 600 and SX-70 film?! Okay heres how it works! Different films have different sensitivity to light (Known as the ISO or ASA). Lower number ISO’s are less sensitive, perfect for bright sunny days! And higher numbers are more sensitive to light, perfect for low light situations! So SX-70 film = less sensitive & 600 = more sensitive So you were pre-drinking before the big party, and without thinking you grabbed a pack of old 600 film to take with your SX-70 camera. Oh shit! Now what?! Captain ND filter is here to save the day! A Neutral Density filter is what is used to block out some of the light to your film! It is a bit of thin, grey, see-through plastic that attaches onto the top of your pack of film, effectively reducing the ISO of your 600 film! Meaning that you won’t get over-exposed photos with lost details! Imagine your mates being a pale Michael Jackson shade of white, not a great look hey? So basically: Sx-70 film + 600 camera ≠ awesome photos! 600 film + sx-70 camera + ND filter = awesome photos! SX-70 film + sx-70 camera = awesome photos! 600 film + 600 camera = awesome photos! Follow that guide, and you should be sah-weeeet! And even better! 600 film has more range of choices! Colour, Black and white, Cyanograph, different colour frames – gold, silver, white, black, and rainbow! Rad hey?!

Build Quality & design
Now Sx-70 cameras are built tough! If you were to drop it (God forbid, I hope you don’t though!), it would still be able to stay strong and keep making you the life of the party! Before the sonar AF was attached to the SX-70, it still featured its collapsible design. With the sonar AF, this great ergonomic design still exists – albeit a little chunky, even more so if you attach a flash bar or mint flash bar II. But that doesn’t matter so much really, it still looks sleek and sexy! Enough to turn heads everywhere you use it! Loading the cartridge of film is easy too! On the side if the camera there is a yellow switch, with an arrow facing down – all you have to do is press down and boom! The front of the camera swings down and all you have to do is slide your pack of film in! Like putting on a glove! When you first load the film, a black card will eject – if you are planning to use the camera on a bright sunny day, attach the black card to the front of the camera using tape! What?! Why?! Well the problem is, when Impossible Project started making Polaroid film they had to do their own research into the chemicals used to develop your photos. As a result, it is very sensitive to UV rays from the sun within the first few seconds your photo ejects from the camera. So if you have the black card attached, when your photo ejects from the camera, you snap the two together covering the photo with the card! This prevents the suns evil rays from destroying your awesome images!  The other option is to buy a frog tongue (Not the sort you had to cut up in high school biology) a piece of black plastic which folds out when your camera ejects the photo.

There is a couple of accessories you can also buy for this camera! A camera strap to hold onto (Just in case you do have a habit of dropping things), flash bars (Either disposable ones or a reusable mint flash bar II), and a close up lens kit! (Remember the bulging fisheye look?). You can’t use these awesome items with your 600 camera! 

Overall this is a great camera to use, and we have a heap in the store at the moment, all with different colours, skins and prices! A way better option if you’re looking for a high quality, compared to a cheap plastic 600 camera. Drop by our shop at 367 Mile Lane, Parkville, Melbourne and come check out what we have! Hope to see you soon!

Sebastian Young 07/05/14


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