Polaroid Needs To Step Up Their Game
Posted on February 10, 2022
Throughout the pandemic, the one hobby that I’ve gained a huge passion for is film photography. While my first experience with the medium was in 2017 when I was gifted a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 for Christmas, I never really continued to pursue it after I finished the packs of film it came with. I instantly got back into photography in my senior year of high school when I took the photography course my school offered, and have it to thank for my painfully expensive hobby. We learned a lot about instant film photography, and I became obsessed with the idea that it could capture and develop memories directly from the camera.
I really wanted to get back into the art, and Christmas of 2020 was around the corner, which is when I decided to ask for a new instant camera. I spent hours researching all different types, the features they had, how they typically operated, and what type of film they used. I settled on the Polaroid OneStep+ — my thought process having been that if Polaroid invented instant film, their products would surely be the best. However, in the past year that I’ve been using my Polaroid camera, my experience hasn’t been all positive.
Firstly, as the inventor of instant film photography, you’d expect that Polaroid would have their own film chemistry nailed by now — it’s only been about seventy years! On the contrary, with almost every pack of film I have bought, at least two of the shots have been tainted with light streaks, uneven spreading of the film chemistry, or are simply damaged from production. While these problems might just be a coincidence, it becomes frustrating when you think you’ve taken the perfect shot, but you discover the photo is ruined fifteen minutes later after it develops and can’t retake it. Additionally, Polaroid instant cameras have to be maintained by cleaning the film rollers inside the camera in order to spread the chemistry effectively, which is something I try to do meticulously. Even after I’ve followed such obscure instructions with bad results, it makes shooting with Polaroid discouraging when you see other companies producing better film stock.
Aside from problems with the film chemistry, Polaroid film is so much more expensive than other companies. A pack of Fujifilm with ten exposures sells for about $12.00, however, a pack of Polaroid colour film sells for $24.00 and only has eight exposures. Only as I write it out do I realize how much of a sham Polaroid film is, especially when you factor in the faults with the film chemistry. Polaroid’s website says they had to decrease the number of exposures from ten to eight because it wasn’t possible to fit ten sheets of their reinvented film inside the cartridges. But that decision does come as a benefit by having older and still-functioning Polaroid models be compatible with the newer film.
A final criticism of Polaroid I have has to do with the camera’s exposure mechanics. While I only have experience using the OneStep+, I almost always get a photo that’s either underexposed or overexposed. There is a learning curve to Polaroid when assessing the environment and determining which flash and exposure settings you should use, but I haven’t been able to get consistent results after more than a year of shooting with Polaroid. After clicking the shutter button, you really never know what the image is going to look like when it develops, which is something that I’ve just accepted at this point in time.
Regardless of all my critiques of Polaroid, I reluctantly admit that it’s still my first choice of instant film cameras. I’ve basically complained about every conceivable aspect that characterizes Polaroid, but their newer cameras have some positives. The Bluetooth connectivity allows for remote shutter triggering, double exposure, full manual mode, as well as light painting. The mistakes encountered in film photography are unavoidable and should be anticipated, but sometimes they unexpectedly add character to your shots that makes them better. They’re not always the best mistakes, but I have Polaroid to thank for creating some of the best memories with my friends. And that’s an artistic commitment I’m willing to make!