The release of the Polaroid Spectra System cameras in the late 1980s was the dawning of an era of unparalleled sophistication in Polaroid cameras. Packed with useful features, the Spectra found a following amongst both professional and home photographers. During the period of their manufacture, eight models were produced. However, not all of our favourite features are available in every model.
This list focuses on the features found in the
- Polaroid Spectra AF
- Polaroid Spectra Pro
- Polaroid Spectra System
- Polaroid Spectra Onyx
1. Lens. The Spectra use the Quintic lens system. This is essentially a three lens set-up designed to be compact, but at the same time to provide for a sharper image quality from very small distances to infinity. The actual specification for the lens is f10/125mm with focus range specified at 2 feet to infinity and shutter speed at 1/245th - 2.8 second. Models can vary slightly.
2. Larger Format Images. The film for the Spectra is a larger rectangular image format of 9.2 x 7.3cm rather than the square image most other Polaroids use (which is 7.9 x 7.9cm). Larger format images gives the photographer more flexibility in selecting whether the subject would be better framed in a portrait (vertical) or landscape (horizontal) configuration.
3. Sonar Focusing. The Polaroid Sonar system uses sound waves to calculate the distance to objects. In the Spectra, the distance to subject is digitally displayed in the viewfinder. You can even select whether you want that distance displayed in feet or meters.
4. Flash. The flash can be turned on or off giving the photographer better control over lighting conditions. In conjunction with the sonar focusing system, when the flash is selected, the camera displays a symbol in the viewfinder alerting the photographer if the subject is too close or too far away for effective flash use.
5. Tripod Support. The Spectra has a tripod mounting hole. Unlike other Polaroid cameras, there is no need for brackets or accessories to mount the Spectra onto a tripod.
6. Build Quality. The Spectra feels like a solid camera with a quality build. The SLR SX-70 Land Cameras take a great picture and has a unique look to it due to the intriguing combination of leather and steel. However, you are often worried about puncturing the bellows and hence you often find yourself handling them cautiously. Later models of the Polaroid camera range feel light and cheap. The Spectra looks and feels like a professional camera, which has advantages psychologically.
7. Self-timer. The camera has a 12 second self-timer function. For the first 10 seconds it beeps, then for the remaining time a red light flashes indicating the countdown to the shutter release. The self-timer makes it ideal for staging selfies or getting yourself into a group shot.
8. Remote Shutter support. There is a socket for attaching a remote shutter release cable. This is ideal in situations where the self-timer isn’t going to give you the flexibility, and time you need when arranging your shot. In addition, on eBay you can also purchase wireless remote shutter controls for the Spectra.
9. Double exposure. The self-timer feature also enables the Spectra a usage which was probably not envisaged in the camera’s original design. When the self-timer is used the photo isn’t ejected from the camera. Only when you turn off the self-timer is the film ejected. This means it is possible to take multiple exposures on the film, thus creating visually interesting, fun and artistic images.
The later Spectra Pro model has an inbuilt function that allows the camera to take up to five multiple exposures. The Pro also supports time lapse photography.
10. Accessories. In addition to the after-market wireless remote shutter controls you can still find close up lens attachments and special effect filter kits to further enhance your Polaroid Spectra experience.