Hands down, the SX-70 is my favourite, and not just because it looks so lovely. Before I understood about these things I thought any old Polaroid would do, but it won’t. The reason? This is an SLR (single lens reflex) camera which means you have manual focus and can get lovely shallow depth-of-field effects (when the object in the foreground is in focus and the background is blurred out? That’s a shallow DOF).
WHAT FILM TO USE?
The SX-70 was originally designed to take SX-70 (Time Zero) film but once that was discontinued Polaroid shooters started using 600 film in their SX-70s. Sadly that film has now also been discontinued so you now have two options:
First, you can still buy actual Polaroid film on eBay (mainly 600), but the prices are extortionate as sellers wise up to how rare the film is. I would strongly advise you NOT to buy film on eBay as it’s overpriced and you have no guarantee that the film has been stored correctly (all film should be kept in a fridge). Plus all original Polaroid film is now long past its expiry date which at best means yellowed film and at worst could mean a dead battery = the film pack won’t work in your camera.
If you do come across a few packs of 600 and want to use them in your SX-70 you’ll need to make a few modifications to your camera for the film to work properly. 600 film is four times more sensitive than SX-70 film, which leaves you with very over exposed photos (pale and washed out). To remedy this you have a few options:
- Remove the ND (neutral density) filter over the electric eye on the front of the camera
- Use a 1-stop ND filter over the lens (tutorial for 1 & 2) or
- Use an ND filter over the film pack
Alternatively you can set the exposure dial all the way to ‘darken’
The modifications sound complicated and put most people off; it did me at first too. I got as far as removing the filter from the electric eye (excellent tutorial in pictures here) and then found I couldn’t replace it with the clear plastic suggested (plastic was just too thick). So I left the filter off and now simply adjust the exposure dial to darken the photo – indoor shots don’t need much but in bright sunlight the dial is turned all the way to darken. I can’t tell you how far you need to turn the exposure dial as it will depend on where you are and how your camera works, so you need to spend some time getting to know your SX-70. Be prepared to ‘waste’ a few packs of film as you experiment. I don’t bother using an ND filter on the film, but you might want to try – just make sure you keep it dust-free otherwise you’ll get marks on your photos.
Getting the 600 film pack inside the camera is another operation, but simplicity itself after you’ve done it once. From the Found Photography tutorial: ‘When you look inside the empty space where the film will go, you will see a piece of square metal sticking up. This spring is what catches on the two center “nubs” of the 600 film cartridge. You can either cut the nubs off, or you can use a card, or old Polaroid picture, to cover the nubs as you slide the film in... [continue reading here and watch a video clip here – she also shows you how to use a ND filter on the film pack]