Polaroid Now+ Camera Tip No. 1: To Use the Camera Shutter Button or the App Shutter Button, That is the Question?

To Use the Camera Shutter Button or the App Shutter Button, That is the Question?

Ay, there’s the rub. 

Trying to hold the Polaroid Now+ in one hand and an iPhone with the Polaroid app in the other hand, all while composing a photo through the view finder with one eye and positioning a finger over the app’s shutter release using the other eye…what could possibly go wrong?

But wait! If the app has transferred my aperture and shutter speed choices to the camera, why can’t I use the  shutter release on the camera?

Alas, poor Polaroid!

Take a look at this video and all will be revealed. 

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A Review of Polaroid’s Affordable Now+ With Manual Control: Is It Worth It?

NOTE: You will find the YouTube video version of Using Contrast Filters with Polaroid SX-70 Black and White Film at the end of this post.

Polaroid recently introduced the Now+ camera, a box-style camera based on the original OneStep design but with one unique feature: using the Polaroid app, which can be freely downloaded for both iOS and Android devices, the camera’s shutter speeds and apertures can be manually controlled. As a user of MiNT’s SLR670-S camera, which is the only other Polaroid camera to offer manual controls, I was curious to test out the Now+. In fact, I was more than curious; I was hopeful that the Now+ would offer a feature missing in my MiNT camera: the ability to set shutter speeds and apertures at ½ or ⅓ EV settings.

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Using Contrast Filters with Polaroid SX-70 Black and White Film

NOTE: You will find the YouTube video version of Using Contrast Filters with Polaroid SX-70 Black and White Film at the end of this post.

Polaroid Black and White integral film for SX-70 cameras has become a favourite of mine. I love the deep blacks and crisp whites of this contrasty film yet it still captures a good range of subtle mid-tones. As opposed to colour SX-70 films, which often have pink highlights among other odd tonal shifts, the black and white films have a consistent, reliable tone. Right out of the camera, the images have a neutral tone but, over several hours or days, the tones warm up. Not to an over-the-top sepia tone but a subtle warm quality that adds depth to the picture. Lastly, Polaroid monochrome films develop faster than their colour cousins; images can be evaluated in five minutes compared to fifteen minutes for colour. It just makes the Polaroid workflow that much more enjoyable.

Coming from a black and white film background, I am well-acquainted with the use of black and white filters to enhance the tonal rendition of monochrome negatives and prints. And that technique works equally well with Polaroid black and white integral films.

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Falling Polaroids (2021)

It was late autumn 2020 when I made a set of colour SX-70 Polaroids on the wooded banks of nearby Omand’s Creek in Winnipeg. At the time, the trees were still dressed in majestic fall colour. A few weeks later, I returned to the same location to film my deck of Polaroids being dealt to the forest floor. By this time, now-bare trees had shed their leaves, forming a crunchy brown backdrop to the crisply framed photos that floated down. That brief lo-fi video, titled Falling Polaroids, made an appearance on Instagram and a blog post at WalkClickMake.com. 

And then came winter, spring and summer.

A year has passed. Once again, the green foliage has turned vivid tones of red and yellow before making its way to the ground. And, once again, I returned to last year’s simple film and the stack of Polaroids that inspired the project. Here is the 2021 version of Falling Polaroids.    

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On Location at Camp Morton for a Polaroid Project

My two year—and counting—foray into the wild world of Polaroid SX-70 photography has taken me in various directions. Recently, I have been working with Polaroid Black and White 600 film and this has led to my current project at Camp Morton Provincial Park in Manitoba. 

Established as a Fresh Air Camp in 1921, the site was once an escape for underprivileged children from nearby Winnipeg. Set on the banks of Lake Winnipeg, the eleventh largest fresh water lake on planet Earth, it would have been a happy place to swim, play, breath in fresh country air. The camp ceased operating in 1971 and has since been transformed into a Provincial Park. While many of the unique camp buildings have been retained, they are all in various stages of decay. In particular, lakefront stairs, retaining walls and other structures have been ravaged by the angry lake, which completely freezes over in winter.

It seemed a perfect subject for a black and white photo project.

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Fine Tuning SX-70 Exposures with a Variable Neutral Density Filter

Note: There is a video version of Using the Zone System with Polaroid SX-70 Film, Part 1 at the bottom of this post.

It would be nice to adjust exposures in ½ EV increments with my MiNT SLR670-S camera. Unfortunately, the camera can only make full shutter speed adjustments, one EV at a time; there is no ability to select in-between speeds. While most manually-controlled cameras allow f-stops to be set in half or third stop increments, the original SX-70 cameras that MiNT refurbishes have a ‘fixed’ f/8 aperture. 

All too often, I will take a meter reading only to find that the best exposure lies between two shutter speeds, for example between 1/125s and 1/250s at f/8. Because I can’t change the aperture, I’m forced to choose the lower shutter speed, which will result in a slight over-exposure, or the higher shutter speed, which might be darker than I wanted.

Because I’m shooting Polaroid SX-70 integral film, which has a very limited latitude, especially in the highlights, these seemingly minor compromises in exposure can have a major impact on the quality of the final photograph.

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Using the Zone System with Polaroid SX-70 Film, Part 2

Note: There is a video version of Using the Zone System with Polaroid SX-70 Film, Part 1 at the bottom of this post.

In Part 1, I explained the theory behind the Zone System, how I thought it might benefit today’s serious SX-70 photographer and I painstakingly outlined my process for taking the photos required to make a Zone Ruler. If you haven’t, I recommend you take a look at Part 1 before continuing with Part 2.

In Part 2, I analyze my set of “towel photos” taken with Polaroid Color 600 film, build a Zone Ruler, provide some practical tips for using the Zone Ruler in your own SX-70 photography and show a number of photos I’ve taken over the last six-plus months using my Zone Ruler.

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Using the Zone System with Polaroid SX-70 Film, Part 1

Note: There is a video version of Using the Zone System with Polaroid SX-70 Film, Part 1 at the bottom of this post.

SX-70 film is a remarkable feat of engineering. To think that the entire photographic process—taking a photo, developing the negative, printing the negative, developing the print, framing the print—is all done in one step: take the photo and a finished, framed print is ejected!

That magic comes with a few downsides, the most concerning being the limited latitude or dynamic range of the film. While most camera films might be expected to have a dynamic range of 8-9 f-stops between black and white with an extensive range of grey values in-between, SX-70 film has a much smaller dynamic range. Simply put, SX-70 film is extremely contrasty. The film loves low contrast scenes shot in overcast conditions but good luck capturing a bright sunny scene with deep shadows.

In an effort to gain some level of creative control over the SX-70 film’s limited latitude, it occurred to me that the Zone System might be worth exploring.

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Plane Jane: A Walk to the Airport (the virtual, pandemic version)

It’s a crazy idea, something you’re not supposed to do. But walking to YWG, whether for pleasure or to catch a plane, is entirely possible. Your hosts, Gail Perry and David Firman, have done it for the adventure of exploring places off most pedestrian road maps and, on many occasions, to catch flights to far off places.

Want to try it? Then join us on our virtual tour, a 3 hour, 11.5 km round trip, starting in the Wolseley neighbourhood and winding through residential, commercial and industrial areas on our way to Winnipeg’s new airport. And then return by way of Omand’s Creek as it takes us by strip malls, big box stores—all those place you usually drive to—as well as surprising stretches of restored prairie. 

Along the way, we’ll explore architectural gems, such as St. James Church, find hidden vest-pocket parks, investigate austere industrial parks, reflect on airports lost and new. But, most importantly, we will take ownership of places in our city where no pedestrian was meant to tread. And, who knows, maybe your next trip to Hawaii will start with a walk to the airport.

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The Polaroid Folding SX-70 on Steroids: A Review of MiNT Camera’s SLR670-S

The MiNT SLR670-S (right) and the original Polaroid Alpha 1 (left)

One of the frustrations of working with the Polaroid SX-70 camera is its fully automatic exposure system. As a well-seasoned photographer, I am accustomed to being in full control of setting aperture f-stops and shutter speeds to determine the correct exposure for my pictures. For Polaroid cameras—including the sophisticated folding SX-70 camera of the 1970s and 80s—the sole user control is the uncalibrated exposure compensation dial allowing the exposure to be adjusted lighter or darker by some unknown factor. Getting a good photo on the first try is unlikely and, on occasion, I have used an entire film pack to get one decently exposed image.

There is but one way to gain some semblance of exposure control on an SX-70 camera and that is to buy a specially modified version.

Enter MiNT Camera, a Hong Kong-based company that refurbishes vintage folding SX-70 cameras, installs new electronics and a new electric eye, reclads the camera with black or brown leather and adds a small exposure control module—something they call the Time Machine—that attaches to the camera’s flash socket. MiNT produces three versions of its camera: the SLR670m has the Time Machine, works with SX-70 and 600 films manually and with SX-70 in Auto mode or with the Time Machine detached; the SLR670-S adds an Auto mode for 600 film and the camera natively shoots Polaroid 600 film with the Time Machine detached; the SLR670-X adds external flash sync and metal cladding instead of the regular leather cladding. There is also a SLR670-S Classic model but it appears to use a pre-Alpha 1 version of the SX-70 camera and does not have a tripod socket—which I consider essential—or neck strap loops.

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