And it wasn’t at Photokina this year. Nor will it be there in two years’ time. Because it is long gone – gone to that bourne from which there is no return…the ghostly bankrupt halls of Polaroid Corporation.
What? Aren’t they still going? Yes, but not going as well as they did in 1965 – the year I discovered the Crown Graphic camera with the 135mm Optar lens and the sheet-film Polaroid back.
The single-use paper packet Polaroid sheet film was designed to go into a dedicated holder that replaced regular double dark slides in press and view cameras. The double dark it replaced was nominally 4 x 5 size but the final Polaroid print was a little smaller than this. It had all the sticky mess of Polaroid chemistry at the time and you had to make sure that you got the rubbish safely into the garbage bin without touching the caustic developing fluid. But “Oh” what a result!
You see the film was 3000 ASA at a time when Plus X for 35mm camera was 125 ASA and considered fast. While we did have press 25 bulbs for the Crown, there were any number of times when we could make a good reproducible black and white photo for the school yearbook or the town newspaper with available lighting. That stuff was bright, sharp, grain-free, and forgiving. And you knew what you had in 15 seconds and could hightail it out of the basketball game or conference hall back to the editor just as fast as it was dry.
Nowadays we have Nikon D5 cameras that take a zillion and a half ISO on an f:1.2 lens and every lighting condition is possible. We have instant transmission back to the editor via various electric tricks. We can see an instant replay of what we shot and then fiddle it into life if need be – but there is nothing surprising about it – not like the fabulous surprise of the Polaroid 3000.
Note: When a kid took a picture of a group of blasé academics and stuffy town officials with a 35mm camera they paid him no respect. When he hit them with a full-size Crown Graphic and a Press 25 they sat up straight and paid attention to directions. It was good to call out ” Attention! Look Here! ” when you were 18 and have them obey.