Thanks to my new pals at the Film Photography Podcast, I now have a clean, tested Polaroid 420 Land Camera. If you have not heard of FPP, you should check them out. They do a twice-monthly podcast dedicated to film photography and they run the Film Photography Store. I could have easily picked this camera up cheaper on Ebay, but I wouldn’t have known if it had been tested and sometimes that can be a hassle. I just wanted a Polaroid folding camera that was clean and reliable. The FPP guys get that. They acquire used cameras, then clean and test them to resell in their store for just a bit more than a pristine model would run you on Ebay. I had actually watched a YouTube clip where FPP guy Michael Raso tested this camera model (maybe this exact camera!).
Michael lives in Jersey, so the camera made it here across the Hudson River in no time. When I opened the box, I was so surprised with the love and care that he took in preparing the package. Not only was there a DVD with a “How to Use the 420 Land Camera” video included, there was a FPP post card featuring Michael, Duane, and Mat, a print out with tips on film selection and use, and the kicker – an actual photograph produced with this camera during testing. The photo was labeled and dated on the back and signed by Michael.
According to the Land List (what would we do without all of these carefully researched websites?) The Polaroid 420 Land Camera was manufactured from 1971 to 1977. That makes this camera anywhere from 33-40 years old. I’m a huge sucker for anything from the 1970s, so this camera is right up my alley. I was an original Polaroid user from way back and I’ve always loved the idea of instant photography. That’s not to be confused with digital photography where you don’t actually end up with anything except a series of ones and zeros filling an LCD screen. When I use the term “instant photography,” I mean having an actual picture spit out almost immediately, you have it – a picture – in your hand. That is awesome.
And I like the warm, slightly fuzzy look that a Polaroid camera gives you. With a plastic lens (other Land Cameras even have glass lenses), you’re not expecting perfection and sharpness. You expect some ambiguity. There’s a lot to like in ambiguity sometimes. If I want perfection and sharpness, I’ll use my Hasselblad or FM2n and a low grain film. The 420 does have rangefinder focus that’s crisp and easy to use.
I took a handful of shots with it today using Fuji FP100C instant color pack film. To my knowledge, Fuji has never stopped making instant film. They have a 100 ISO color version and both a 100 and 3000 ISO B&W version. The Fuji film doesn’t spit out like the old Polaroid camera that I used as a kid. Rather you pull a tab that sticks out and then pull another tab that has the exposure in a little “film sandwich.” You wait anywhere from 60-120 seconds, depending on the temperature, and then peel the photo from the sticky emulsion-coated paper. Voila, instant photography!
Since I’m a camera user, not a camera collector, I’ve stuck with my policy of not having too many on my shelf. I had to get rid of a camera that I don’t use as often to make room for this Polaroid. I chose to donate my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s rangefinder to the Film Photography Store. They will either sell it or give it away in one of the many FPP listener giveaway contests on the podcasts. Either way, I know that the Minolta rangefinder will find a good home.