Polaroid 600 Camera: An Iconic Piece of Photography History

In the annals of photography, the name ‘Polaroid’ often conjures up images of a bygone era, seemingly irrelevant in the face of relentless digital evolution. To some, the devices are mere novelties, kitschy tokens of nostalgia embraced by retro-chic aficionados and global hipsters alike.

But for a dedicated group of photography enthusiasts, Polaroid represents far more than outdated technology or whimsical affectation. It represents a paradigm, a mindset rooted in the physicality and immediacy of image-making. Within this rich tapestry of photographic heritage, certain Polaroid models have achieved cult status, with the Polaroid 600 camera reigning supreme.

Few instruments in the history of photography can claim to be as iconic as the Polaroid 600. Launched in the bustling creative hub of the 1980s, the camera quickly gained acclaim as an ingenious conduit for instant memory capture. Its groundbreaking ability to produce instant physical prints redefined the communal experience of photography, transforming it from a passive viewing activity into an interactive social exchange. Today, the Polaroid 600 stands as a tangible tribute to the visionary brilliance of Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid Corporation, and embodies a powerful legacy of innovation that continues to resonate with today’s audiences.

History of the Polaroid 600 Camera

Unravel the thread that connects a Harvard dropout, Pop Art maestro Andy Warhol and the Muppets’ love of puppetry, and you’ll discover a common thread – the ubiquitous Polaroid camera.

The story of the Polaroid 600 is intricately intertwined with the ingenious vision of Edwin Land, a Harvard University dropout who pioneered the miracle of instant photography. His groundbreaking invention in 1943 rewrote the rules of the photographic medium and made Polaroid an endearing household name among camera enthusiasts worldwide.

The Polaroid 600’s fame wasn’t limited to the masses; it was embraced by influential artists and celebrities who were captivated by its unique appeal. Among them was the legendary Andy Warhol, who used both the Polaroid 600 and the Polaroid SX-70 camera to immortalise snapshots of his famous peers – from rock icon Mick Jagger to neo-expressionist painter Jean Michel Basquiat.

Polaroid Mosaic

In a captivating turn of events, the Muppets took to the stage in the late 80s to endorse this delightful device, etching the Polaroid 600 indelibly into the canvas of pop culture. More than just a mechanical device, this camera was a conduit for turning everyday moments into vibrant, saturated memories, effortlessly blending amusement and awe.

With its distinctive boxy design, the Polaroid 600 has a timeless appeal that has survived countless design iterations, including the curvy Spice Cam, the playful Legoland and the retro Cool Cam Neo. Despite these visually pleasing variations, the original style remains emblematic of the Polaroid brand and continues to captivate collectors and enthusiasts alike with its instantly recognisable aesthetic and user-friendly design.

The camera’s lightweight construction belies its robust functionality, fitting snugly in the hand without the bulk typical of vintage equipment. This portability often leads critics to overlook the plastic body, which is often compared to disposable cameras.

What sets the Polaroid 600 apart is its fully automated system that streamlines the process of capturing the perfect shot. Its ingenious built-in flash automatically adjusts to lighting conditions for well-exposed photos indoors or out. The flash ingeniously doubles as a lens cover, protecting the lens during storage and transport – a thoughtful design touch that has endeared the Polaroid 600 to its legion of loyal users.

With a blend of nostalgic charm and innovative functionality, the Polaroid 600 camera beckons all photography enthusiasts. The camera’s clever flash override button makes it an indispensable companion when you’re trying to capture that perfect shot through a glass without unwanted flash bounce.

Advanced users can enjoy the Polaroid 600’s bonus features on certain models, such as the brighten and darken control button. This adjustable exposure control allows the user to manipulate the image according to their artistic vision, providing a seamless blend of versatility and appeal for both novice and experienced photographers.

Mastering the Polaroid 600 Camera

The art of using a Polaroid 600 camera is delightfully simple, making it a welcome addition to any photographer’s toolbox. To begin, load the camera with Polaroid 600 film. Simply slide the latch forward and load the film, and your camera is ready to go. Then push the latch back and voila! You are ready to turn moments into instant prints.

The Polaroid 600’s versatility is enhanced by the ability to load both colour and black and white film. The rainbow of frame colours available – from bold reds, golds, silvers and blacks to softer pastels and classic whites – paves the way for creativity and colour play.

In pursuit of the perfect photo with the Polaroid 600, lift the flash to activate it and close it after taking the picture to protect the lens. The built-in flash adjusts exposure perfectly in most lighting conditions, eliminating the need for additional adjustments. There is also a handy flash override button for those tricky shots where you need to avoid flash bounce, such as when shooting through glass.

The Polaroid 600 film, once discontinued in 2008 due to the bankruptcy of the original Polaroid company, found an unlikely saviour in a group of avid fans called the Impossible Project (now rebranded as SUPERSENSE). This band of enthusiasts breathed new life into the Polaroid legacy by refurbishing old cameras and producing new Polaroid 600 instant film cartridges.

polaroids © Ace Armstrong
polaroids © Ace Armstrong

Of the many Polaroid 600 films produced by Impossible, the round frame model launched last year has quickly become a favourite with portrait photographers. In a matter of minutes, a precious, colourful medallion comes to life in your hand, capturing the faces of loved ones, new friends from travels or charming spontaneous encounters.

How to bag a Polaroid 600 camera in 2023

In a digital age, finding a Polaroid 600 instant camera might require a bit of treasure hunting. No longer in production, these gems can still be found in various corners of the world. Online platforms such as eBay and Etsy offer a wide range of new and used Polaroid 600 cameras. Vintage stores, antique shops and flea markets are also reliable hunting grounds for these iconic cameras.

The Impossible Project online store is a haven for refurbished cameras. They also maintain an extensive database of stores that sell the Polaroid 600 worldwide, from Andorra to the United States. If you find yourself in Vienna, Austria, stop by the recently opened Supersense – part coffee bar, part vintage shop, part music studio – to pick up a Polaroid 600 and stock up on film.

Navigating the price point of instant photography

In terms of price, well-functioning Polaroid 600 cameras range from $50 to $150 on Etsy and eBay, making them an affordable indulgence for most. However, the continual purchase of consumables, particularly Color 600 film, can add up over time. At around $20-$25 per 8-film cartridge, or $3 per photo, these cameras may not be for everyone, especially your toddler nephew.

polaroids © hedvigs
polaroids © hedvigs

For professional photographers or those with a keen eye for composition, the unparalleled joy of instant photography may outweigh the cost. However, when buying a second-hand Polaroid 600, it’s important to check its condition. One effective way to do this is to have a Polaroid 600 film cartridge on hand.

Unlike most cameras, Polaroid cameras do not have a built-in battery – the film itself contains the battery. Therefore, the only sure way to ensure that a Polaroid camera is working is to insert a film cartridge. When testing with used film, for best results use fresh Polaroid 600 film cartridges to avoid problems with expired film.

Polaroid 600 films: Your canvas for colourful memories

Polaroid 600 cameras require the use of special film cartridges, known as Polaroid 600 films, to produce instant prints. Although the original Polaroid company ceased production in 2008, the legacy has been carried on by the fan-driven Impossible Project (now SUPERSENSE).

Polaroid 600 Colour Round Frames film has found a soft spot among enthusiasts. Available in a spectrum of colours, it adds a unique and playful touch to any photo and encourages artistic expression. The film produces vibrant and rich colours that truly capture the essence of each moment.

Finding Polaroid 600 film can be a challenge, but dedicated online and speciality stores have risen to the occasion. The website SUPERSENSE is a reliable source for purchasing Polaroid 600 film, ensuring that your Polaroid 600 camera continues to create timeless memories. If not, Etsy offers a wide range of sellers who sell the film. There are also Polaroid 600 camera and film packs available for those who want to get into the world of instant photography.

Is a Polaroid 600 worth it these days?

With the rise of digital photography and the convenience of smartphone cameras, the relevance of the Polaroid 600 camera in 2023 may seem questionable. However, for those looking for a unique and tactile experience, the Polaroid 600 camera holds a special appeal.

Going beyond nostalgia, the Polaroid 600 encourages creativity and spontaneity. With no immediate preview of the image, each shot is an exciting surprise, encouraging photographers to compose their shots thoughtfully and savour the moment. This unpredictability, combined with a limited number of shots (typically 8 per pack), forces photographers to slow down, adding a deliberate approach to their craft.

In addition, the vintage aesthetic of Polaroid 600 photographs, such as unique colours, soft focus and occasional light leaks, is highly sought after in the digital age. These distinctive characteristics, often unattainable digitally, inspire many photographers and artists to use the Polaroid 600 as a creative tool.

While the cost of film and limited availability of Polaroid 600 cameras can be seen as drawbacks, the joy of holding a physical, unique print often outweighs these concerns for enthusiasts. Furthermore, the growing interest in analogue photography has led to a resurgence in the availability of Polaroid film and refurbished cameras, making it easier for everyone to indulge in this tactile experience.

While the Polaroid 600 may not be the most practical choice for everyday photography in the digital age, its value lies in its ability to evoke nostalgia, inspire creativity and provide a unique, tangible photographic experience. For those who yearn to escape the instant gratification of digital photography and embrace the magic of instant film, the Polaroid 600 remains a charming and valuable option.

Can the Polaroid 600 Retain Its Value Over Time?

In the volatile world of financial investment, the ups and downs in the value of vintage cameras like the Polaroid 600 and SX-70 depend on a kaleidoscope of variables, including demand, condition, rarity and market trends. The resurgence of interest in analogue photography and nostalgia over the past decade has boosted the prices of some Polaroid 600 models. However, investors should proceed with caution as there is no concrete guarantee that this trend will continue indefinitely. If your aim is to buy a Polaroid 600 purely for financial gain and a quick return, it’s wise to be aware of the risks involved.

On the other hand, if you’re an enthusiast fascinated by the idiosyncrasies of photography and the unparalleled sensation of instant film, owning a Polaroid 600 will be a deeply rewarding experience. This camera brings a tangible dose of nostalgia and creativity, producing unique physical prints that digital photography simply can’t replicate.

For many, vintage cameras like the Polaroid 600 are not just tools, but memorabilia or works of art with sentimental value. If you’re like that, a Polaroid 600 could become a treasured addition to your collection.

Prospective buyers of a Polaroid 600 are advised to do their research. Assess current market prices, understand the condition and functionality of the camera, and examine your own interests and motivations. A Polaroid 600 may not be a ‘wise investment’ in the classic sense, but it could be a valuable and satisfying addition to your photographic journey or collection.

Conclusion: Keeping the Magic of Instant Photography Alive

Finally, let’s revel in the magic of instant photography. In a world obsessed with digital images and instant sharing, the instant camera remains a stalwart of a bygone era. Its ability to capture and develop prints instantly, coupled with its easy-to-use features and unique aesthetics, make it a beloved tool for photography enthusiasts around the world.

The Polaroid 600 camera is an enticing proposition for photography enthusiasts who crave the immediacy of viewing a photo, but prefer the magic of analogue photography to the sometimes monotonous convenience of endless digital shooting.

Whether you’re an experienced photographer or a newcomer to the world of analogue photography, the Polaroid 600 camera offers an exciting and immersive journey. From immortalising everyday moments to creating artistic masterpieces, the Polaroid 600 camera lets you stop time and create lasting memories.

So if you’re longing for a taste of nostalgia and a break from the digital world, consider the magic of the Polaroid 600 camera. It’s an enduring piece of photographic history that continues to fascinate and captivate, one instant photo at a time.

For those truly in love with the medium, Christopher Bonanos’ ‘Instant: The Story of Polaroid’ is a must-read. Andy Warhol’s album is a treasure trove of Polaroid snapshots, and for those passionate about the intersection of fashion and photography, Helmut Newton’s Polaroids offer a glimpse of the camera’s potential and will undoubtedly find a deserving place on your bookshelf.