Polaroid Spectra and Instax Mini shots on a nice day in Boston.
Relevant cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya" :)
Instant film has captured my attention since the first Polaroid iZone camera my brother had when we were kids. Watching the image develop before my eyes was an unforgettable experience, even though the pictures were tiny and really poor quality.
After getting into analog photography, I would inevitably make a tangent into the instant film world. I got a Polaroid OneStep at a flea market for a few dollars during my senior year of high school. The Impossible Project was expensive, but I shot 3 packs of 600 film with that camera before the roller deteriorated and image quality became unpredictable. I eventually donated the camera to the photography club at school.
During my freshman year of college, I bought a Polaroid Land 450 on a whim off of eBay. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into—I just knew that peel film was cheap (at the time), and there was a near cult following of the Land series cameras. When I received it, I was appalled at how massive and brick-like the thing was, but then I shot with it. The images were unique. Sharp and soft at the same time. There was a distinct quality to the FP-100c that I couldn’t quite capture, but I loved peel film. I loved peel film so much that it was all I shot for a while. Despite the size and weight of the Land, I carried it with me daily. People would stare at me on the street, but it didn’t matter. The camera was magic. I even tried to design one.
As time went on, I wanted to try other pack film cameras. I obtained a Polaroid EE100 Special, which was a lot like the Land but built from plastic and much lighter. This used a zone focusing system instead of the Land rangefinder, so the photos came out a bit blurrier, usually. It was still an incredible camera.
In 2016, FP-100c was officially discontinued by Fujifilm. I was indescribably sad. I sold my cameras, sold my film, and didn’t take photos for a very long time. I thought about stocking up on FP-100c and continuing my use of the wonderful film, but it seemed to be holding on too hard to something that I could see the bitter end of. I couldn’t do it.
I bought a Fuji Instax Mini camera to tinker with—the colors of Fuji Instax are vivid and beautiful, but it’s a modern type of aesthetic. It’s fun, it’s cheap, and I enjoy shooting with it, but something was missing.
While on vacation in Vancouver, BC last year, my aunt handed me a “surprise”. It was a brand new Polaroid Spectra, in box with original receipt. It was purchased while on vacation in Japan in the 90’s, and never used. I was dumbfounded. And then excited. Spectra cameras are known for their level of control, and the wide frames were suitable for my landscape vision.
When I was purchasing a system, I opted for the Land cameras over the Spectra due to the cost of film, but I am now embracing the Spectra with Impossible film. It’s expensive ,yes, but I have fewer options now. The Spectra is light, fun to shoot with, capable of multiple exposures, and the color of IP film is quite interesting. There’s black and white and color options.
I’ve looked at Mint cameras, SX-70’s, and Lomography options, but I’ve decided to stick with the Spectra. It came from the family, and there’s something very bonding about that. Maybe it’s the sense of nostalgia or irreplaceability. It's also a spectacular (ha) camera.
This is where I stand now in my journey through instant photography, but I’m looking forward to where my curiosities will take me (and my wallet, potentially…) next.