With the change of seasons comes a change in cameras. Days shorter, shadows longer makes it even harder to find the right light. The light that is bright enough to bring out the red in the leaves or warm an otherwise chilly sidewalk. I find I put my DSLR camera into hibernation when it comes to shooting for me. Not shooting for a client, I think they might worry a bit if I showed up for a shoot with a bunch of Polaroids strapped around my neck. When its time to play I prefer my Polaroids.  Earlier this week I had a shoot, I had to take head shots for a local company with young staff.  We ventured out to explore the neighborhood in search of ANYTHING colorful with decent light. Just around the corner just as we were wrapping up we discovered this beauty below.  I place a few people in front, snapped couple shots and then grabbed my back up bag and quietly fired a few ‘polas (as some of us Polaroid enthusiasts aka pola nerds like to call them.)

This photo was taken with my new favorite, or favourite as our UK muses say, the Spectra.  I also shot the same mural with my iPhone and a folding box type 600 (click if you want to compare).

I have purchased probably around eight Spectra cameras in my lifetime. None of them really wowed me until I got lucky at Goodwill.com, yes you can shop Goodwill online (its auction style) but be warned you get what you get, no promises and NO REFUNDS. I got lucky and found a Spectra with the original film in it and only 2 shots had ever been fired. It was in pristine condition with a hard case. I think I paid $25 USD.  It clicks and whirls ejecting great photo after photo. I used the Spectra when I shot self portraits for my post, Finding Myself in a Polaroid. It was, and continues, to be one of the most consistent cameras for me.

Above is the first Spectra I owned. One thing I recently learned about this camera is that it is was constructed like the Polaroid 600 cameras, in fact 600 film is exactly the same as Spectra (also known as ‘Image’ or 1200 cameras) down to the ISO speed and development process. Spectras are superior to the 600 thought to have a much higher out put as a result of the combination set of lenses and larger print area, Spectra photos are rectangular, the print area is 3.5 x 2.9 in. (9.0 x 7.3 cm) in a 4.0 x 4.1 in (10.2 x 10.3 cm) frame.  There are quite a few variations but for the most part have a few features that make me happy including:

  • self timer | this feature allows you to take not only a photo of yourself, it also you to create double and triple exposures. Check out Debra’s post Double the Fun on how to and I recommend a tripod when using this feature.
  • sonar autofocus | the camera sends out a sound wave that bounces back from your subject to calculate the precise distance. Distance readings do not work for subjects farther than 20 ft. (6.2m) away.
  • optical photo cell | measures light and combines this information with the sonar reading to blend light from the scene with just enough flash. Digital readings on the view finder will indicate if you are too close, closer than 2 ft (.6m) (red number) and if exposure is optional (green circle in a square).
  • flash override | allows the user to turn off the flash
  • ejection control | *TIP* for you Impossible Project film users did you know that on the Spectra as long as you keep the shutter button depressed the photo will not eject? This is how I shield my Impossible PZ680 from light. I place a bag over the camera and release the button ejecting the photo into a safe dark place.

You can find Spectra and Image film pretty much anywhere on eBay and the price is reasonable. I find that anything older than 2005 is probably not going to yield good photos if anything at all, the battery can be dead on older packs as well. Impossible Project makes film for the Spectra (comparison below). I actually prefer the Impossible PX680 although they are currently out of stock in the color version. I’m guessing that is because the newly reformulated film is about to become available for Spectra.

The Spectra/Image series also has many optional accessories, such as close-up lenses and special effects filters. The filter set is made up of a filter holder than snaps onto the front of the square lens. Each filter slides into the holder, you can double up on filters too. Effects are multi-image three, starburst, multi-image five and red center spot. I found this set on Amazon for $33.00 USD.

Spectra special effects filters

 Multi-image three filter // Impossible Project PX 680 Color Shade Cool

If you are thinking about getting into instant film I would definitely recommend the Spectra. I say this not just because it has so many features, but the price is right. Most auction houses like ebay, or even Goodwill start them as low as $5 USD. Make sure you read the fine print, most of the time you are buying at your own risk. I ALWAYS look for a sellers feedback rating and their return policy. Many eBay sellers who specialize in Polaroid cameras will tell you in the listing if it has been tested, I have purchased my share that promised they worked but were DOA on arrival, thankfully I have always bought from sellers who guarantee them to work or your money back. Of course if you find one that says “New In Box” your chances are better but don’t always assume, I was recently gifted one after she found her dad throwing his Spectra away it was in great shape but I can’t get a film slide to eject out of it yet.

Make sure you read Kirstin’s post on 5 tips for Polaroid beginners and Holly’s journey into Polaroid (newly converted and you won’t believe how good her first shots turned out). Also make sure to visit our Film Friday Flickr Pool we get Polaroid shots from time to time in fact I recently spotted two Spectras from a couple of our regular contributors, thank you ladies.

little buddha by VeronicainMO

little buddha

Spectra Sunset by Celina Wyss

Spectra Sunset

Have a great weekend and good luck finding that illusive late fall/winter light.

Lindsey aka modchik