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Introduced in 1972 and invented by Edwin Land, the Polaroid SX-70 Land was the first mass market instant camera. It was also the first SLR (Single-Lens Reflex) camera with a folding body. To quote Georg Holderied (a fellow enthusiast) "The SX-70 is one of the most sophisticated consumer articles ever made. It is the down to earth equivalent of the Hubble space telescope."

The first incarnation was chrome-plated plastic with genuine leather trim. It was sleek when folded, a little smaller than a Lean Cuisine frozen lasagna, but when opened resembled a space insect. It had three sections; the top was a holder for the flash bar (like a flash cube but it was bar shaped) and later (1976+) it was where the sonar auto-focus cell was located, the middle held the view-finder and lens, and the bottom was where the picture was spit out moments after you clicked the button. Later designs included the black with the blue button Special Edition, the genuine brown "Porvair (looks like real wood!)" Alpha, and the brown and white plastic Model 2.

SX-70s were a huge success and throughout the 70s were a common sight. Then in 1982 the first Polaroid 600 Series Instant Camera was introduced. It took cartridge style film but its shutter speed was four times faster so the film couldn't go into the SX-70. That, in combination with faster regular film processing times led families everywhere to throw away or sell their old SX-70s. You can still find them at garage sales and flea markets for under ten dollars (US).

The interesting things about this camera are not limited to history and design, but also the very pictures it takes. The photo emulsions in the Polaroid Time Zero film are very soft for a short time after exposure. From the time the photo slides out of the slot there is ten minutes of exposure time - time enough to turn the picture into a work of art. The picture is manipulated using a variety of items including pen caps, popsicle sticks, crochet hooks, clay modeling tools and dental instruments. The pictures turn out to look like a mix between photos and watercolor paintings.

To see a few of these images to learn more about SX-70 image manipulation I recommend The Hacker's Guide to the SX-70 at http://www.chemie.unibas.ch/~holder/SX70.html.

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