If you have been following my recent SX-70 posts, you will know that I have a fanatical desire to reign in the capricious behaviour of SX-70 cameras and films, all in an attempt to maximize the quality of the ejected photos. This has included a deep-dive into the Zone System, using a calibrated variable neutral density (VND) filter to gain more exact exposure control and using black and white filters to enhance Polaroid black and white photos.
All these techniques require a manually controlled camera which, until recently, was limited to the rather pricey MiNT SLR670-S, my camera of choice. With Polaroid’s release of the Now+ comes an affordable means to manually control shutter speed and aperture settings using the Polaroid app . What’s missing is some way to attach a VND. And, although the Now+ comes with light yellow, light orange and light blue slip-on filters, which can be used with Polaroid’s black and white films, it would be nice to attach darker versions as well, such as red and green black and white filters in front of the Now+ lens.
Fortunately, there is an easy hack that costs nothing. Polaroid kindly includes a rubbery slip-on lens cap with the camera. The front of the cap has a slightly recessed area stamped with the Polaroid logo. By carefully cutting out this recessed panel, it turns out that the opening is just the right size to friction-fit 40.5mm filters. Simply slide the modified lens cap over the lens and twist-in whatever 40.5mm filter you wish to use.
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.
It’s fair to say my technical approach to photography has shifted. Gone are the days of lugging eight pounds of Nikon bodies and lenses across Europe. Or backpacks loaded down with Cirkut panoramic cameras. Or car trunks filled with 4×5 view cameras, massive tripods and film holders.
No, my gear kit is decidedly minimal these days. With my new emphasis on photographing my walking experiences—let’s call it street photography with velocity—too much equipment simply gets in the way. And it kills my back. Continue reading →