"What about instant cameras and film made by companies other than Polaroid?"
I'll expand sections of this page at some point in the future, but here's a sort of general information page for now.
While Edwin Land was the inventor behind the first truly workable 'single-step' photographic process, the original Polaroid Model 95 wasn't the first camera to appear on the market that billed itself as an "instant" camera.
These pre-Land "instant" cameras were essentially conventional box cameras with a "built-in darkroom." You exposed a sheet of conventional sensitized material in the usual way, then shifted the film to a water-tight chamber in the camera, into which you would pour in conventional devloper, stop bath, and fixer (sometimes combined into a monobath operation)-- and, of course, empty and rinse the camera after each development step. Needless to say, this was messy and inconvenient, and never caught on with the general public. However, some somewhat more elaborate cameras which utilized a larger version of this concept (sometimes called "street cameras,") were evidently fairly popular in large cities where street photographers would take pictures of passers-by for a small fee. [Some may argue that tintypes were an early sort of 'instant' photography, but I don't consider them as such, since they still required extra equipment outside the camera body.]
An advertisement from 1916 for the "Mandel-ette", a liquid-developer ferrotype camera. [JPEG, 38k]
This all changed with the advent of the Polaroid Model 95, but Polaroid isn't quite the only company that has produced 'single-step' instant cameras and film. Some of these are licensed products made with Polaroid's permission-- some are not. Some are Polaroid "compatible" products-- some are not.
So, let's take a brief look at some of these products which have appeared from time to time. First, I'll break these down into two general categories-- Polaroid "compatible" products and Polaroid "non-compatible" products. After that, entries will be made according to manufacturer.
NOTE! Many of the images on this page were taken from other sources and copyrighted by their respective owners; see individual image credits for details.
One other thing: I'm only including complete cameras (i.e. lens, shutter, body, and film holder all assembled and sold as one unit) designed for general-purpose instant photography here. I'm not going to get into special-purpose cameras (i.e. scientific and passport/ID cameras) or film backs designed to be used with other types of cameras. Not only have there been a lot of manufacturers and models of these sorts of products, but most all of them use Polaroid-sourced film holders and/or other parts anyway.
Most people in the USA probably haven't noticed, but Fuji Photo has actually been producing instant photographic products in some form since at least the early 1980's. Among these products today are some Polaroid "compatible" peel-apart pack films. I'm aware of two of these-- one is a 3200-speed B&W film (equivalent in use to Polaroid Type 667 film), and the other is an 80-speed color film (equivalent in use to Polaroid Type 669 film).
The reason most people in the USA are not aware of these films, however, is that Fuji does not export them to the USA. [Perhaps it's a patent-related issue, I don't know for sure.] ...And, before you ask, yes, I am aware that there are in fact certain camera stores in the USA which do sell/stock this film. However, this film does not seem to appear in any USA-market Fuji catalogs/literature. I've never bought any of the Fuji film, so I can't really comment on quality/color rendition/etc. compared with the Polaroid films.
Fuji also used to market a professional-level Polaroid-compatible packfilm camera called the FP-1 Pro. I don't have any specific information about it, however, but perhaps someone out there has one and can let me know. I don't think it was ever officially exported for the USA market either.
Fuji FP3000B film box [JPEG, 99k]
Yes, the venerable Keystone Camera Corporation (as Berkey Keystone) did in fact produce some Polaroid-compatible instant cameras for a while in the 1970's.
Most of these were non-folding plastic pack cameras of roughly the same size/shape and features as the Polaroid Colorpack II and the like. On the plus side, most of these cameras came equipped with built-in electronic flashes-- a pretty nifty feature indeed for the early/mid 1970's. [Keystone was one of the first companies to offer built-in electronic flashes in low-priced cameras-- I don't know how many "Everflash" 126 cartridge cameras (from the same era) I've seen, but they must have sold a heck of a lot of those things...] Inexplicably, there was a low-end Keystone pack camera (the Rapid-Shot 750) that lacked the built-in electronic flash-- but had a Flashbar socket instead (!). I can't think of any other camera that had a Flashbar socket but didn't use SX-70 film. [The flash arrays used in all those later model Kodak 110 cameras and such were FlipFlashes, not Flashbars.]
The Keystone pack cameras are a bit different from their otherwise similar Polaroid bretheren in that (aside from the built-in flash):
As I mentioned, one of these cameras had a Flashbar socket. Well, later Keystone offered another instant camera that also used Flashbars. ...But this camera used SX-70 film.
The Wizard XF-1000 is a non-folding plastic camera that looks much like an overly boxy Polaroid Pronto!. Its basic features and specifications are also similar to those of the Pronto!, and was obviously designed to compete with it.
On the plus side, the Wizard has a built-in tripod socket and even has a surprisingly detailed instructional guide printed on the bottom of the camera. ...On the other hand, this camera is not only rather ugly (in my opinion), but it's not particularly well-made-- for instance, the focus ring on my example is rather tight and actually rubs against the camera's front plate as you near infinity (and from the looks of things, this is how it arrived from the factory). It's also a bit noisy in operation, even compared with the Pronto! cameras. It also happens that both Consumer Reports (Consumer Union) and Consumers' Research magazines tested the Wizard XF-1000; and neither organization seemed especially impressed either (though CR at least found it close enough to the Pronto! that they grouped them in the same rating category of "B"). Also, the original price of this camera wasn't even much lower than than the Pronto!... so I'm not sure what the attraction was supposed to be for this product.
By the way, there was also a 'deluxe' brand-mate for this camera called the XF-1500 (or XF-2000, or both; I'm not sure). This version had a built-in electronic flash similar to that of the pack cameras described above.
So, were the Keystone "Polaroid-compatibles" produced
under license..? Perhaps not. Here's all I know:
McKeown's Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras makes vague reference to a "legal confrontation" caused by the production of the Wizard cameras. The September, 1976 issue of Consumers' Research states that the Keystone Wizard "is manufactured under a license from Polaroid", but then CR retracts that statement in their December 1976 issue, having been notified by Polaroid that "Berkey Photo Inc., manufacturer of the Keystone XF 1000, does not have any license from Polaroid to manufacture the XF 1000 camera or any camera utilizing SX-70 film." A site visitor has suggested that the packfilm 'clones' weren't produced under license either, but Polaroid just sort of tolerated them, since they (theoretically, anyway) helped maintain demand for Polaroid pack films.
If anyone knows for sure what the situation was with these cameras, let me know!
NOTE: During the Wizard's brief life, Keystone also apparently exported them overseas for international markets, re-branded with different names. In Europe, the Wizard XF-1000 was sold as the Porst Magic 500, and the electronic-flash version became known as the Revue Direct. [Interestingly, Photo-Quelle/Revue also sold re-branded Polaroid cameras under the Revue name. (example: Revue Sonar AutoFocus 5005) This suggests that both manufacturers would have, in effect, ended up competing under the same label in the same stores!]
Keystone Rapid-Shot 750 (Flashbar model) [JPEG, 45k]
Keystone Rapid-Shot 750 - shown with Flashbar [JPEG, 42k]
Keystone Everflash 800 (has electronic flash) [JPEG, 34k]
Keystone Everflash 800 - shown with original box and docs [JPEG, 54k]
Keystone Everflash 850(*) (electronic flash and rechargable battery pack) [JPEG, 64k]
Keystone Everflash 850 - shown with original box and docs [JPEG, 80k]
The above trio of Keystone instant cameras together [JPEG, 34k]
Keystone Wizard XF-1000 [JPEG, 22k]
(*)The instruction label on the bottom of this camera further identifies it as a model 851, thus suggesting that there was an earlier version of this camera.
When Polaroid users think of folding pack cameras with professional-grade lenses and shutters, they probably think first of the Polaroid 180/190/195 cameras. ...But well after the 195 was discontiued, there was a new camera which filled this niche for a few years-- the Konica Instant Press.
The Konica Instant Press appears to have been mostly based on the existing classic Konica press camera design, but larger in format to accomodate the full Polaroid pack film image area. Unlike the 180/190/195 cameras, the Instant Press had a full bed folding design (which protects the camera when folded and probably helps maintain proper lens/film plane alignment better than the scissors-struts of the Polaroid pack cameras).
I haven't seen very many Konica Instant Press cameras on the used market; I don't know if they didn't sell well when they were new, or if nobody who originally bought one wants to sell theirs. :-)
Konica Instant Press [Image credit: Modern Photography, December 1984] [JPEG, 130k]
I don't really know that much about the Minolta Instant Pro, except that:
No matter how maligned old Soviet/Russian cameras are, I suppose you have to give them some credit for the variety of equipment they've continued to produce even after most camera manufacturing has moved to Japan and other Far East nations.
While not exactly known for instant photography, the former Soviet Union did actually produce (and offer for sale, at least in its home market) at least two different cameras compatible with 40-series Polaroid roll film. Of course, Polaroid film wasn't officially available in the USSR, so the Russians offered their own version(s).
The first of these cameras was called the "Moment" (Momexum). It was produced briefly in the 1950's, and was in some respects a 'clone' of the Polaroid Model 95. The lens aperture and shutter are more conventional in design than those of the 95, and the camera is slightly larger when folded than a 95, but the basic body configuration is similar (and even has simulated-leather covering and chrome trim similar to that of the 95). I don't know how many Moments were produced (probably fewer than ten thousand), but I have gotten the general impression that it was really more of a 'proof of concept' piece that wasn't seriously intended for wide distribution (and wasn't exactly priced at a point the average Soviet citizen at the time could afford anyway).
...And, yes, they did make their own film for it. However, if the review Modern Photography published of this camera and film is any indication, the Soviets definitely still had some serious 'bugs' to iron out of their 'clone' film, to say the least.
As a trivia aside, GOMZ (the factory that produced the Moment) was later renamed to LOMO (Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Union). Lubitel owners may recognize this name as being the manufacturer of that long-lived line of low-end TLR cameras.
>> Image credit for all of these GOMZ Moment images: Jeff Wootton (email@example.com) (Thanks!)
GOMZ Moment [JPEG, 47k]
GOMZ Moment - shown with original case [JPEG, 67k]
GOMZ Moment - instruction manual cover [JPEG, 54k]
GOMZ Moment - close-up of lens/shutter [JPEG, 29k]
The Moment wasn't the only instant camera to come from the USSR, however. In the 60's, they came back with the Foton [not to be confused with the short-lived 35mm B&H camera of the same name]. Unlike the Moment, the Foton was an original design and doesn't look much at all like anything that Polaroid ever produced.
The Foton is a very boxy-looking plastic camera that was compatible with 40-series Polaroid films (or the Soviet 'Moment' films). While it uses the same film, the design of the back is very different from that of Polaroid cameras, and actually appears to be more compact (and possibly even slightly more convenient) than the usual Polaroid rollfilm camera back.
There were apparently at least three minor revisions of this camera sold at different times. I have no idea what the differences between these versions might be, however, or if they are identified on the camera nameplate.
As another aside, KMZ was/is also the home of the popular Zenit line of 35mm SLRs as well as the Horizont panoramic camera.
UPDATE: In March, 2004 I was fortunate enough to spot a Foton at a camera show. I didn't end up buying the camera (the price was what I'd consider perfectly reasonable given the unusualness of this camera, but was more than I really wanted to spend), but the dealer was kind enough to let me take some pictures of it for my web site. So, herewith is a more "hands-on" look at the Foton. [Please excuse the mediocre quality of the photographs; I didn't have my 'usual' digital camera with me at the time, and the lighting was not exactly ideal either, but I hope you'll find these images interesting anyway.]
One thing that immediately struck me about the Foton is just how "oversized" it appears. Of course the camera is big in size-- the Polaroid 40-series film format is big! However, the basic shape and style of the camera looks more like that of a typical 1950's/60's-era small plastic box camera (using, say, 127 or 120/620 film). Perhaps it's just me, but somehow this camera looks really strangely proportioned-- it's as if you saw a Brownie Starmite with each dimension magnified to around 3 times its usual size! In retrospect, I should have tried to get a picture of the Foton being held in someone's hands or sitting next to some other objects of known size just so you could see how large this thing actually appears in person.
As I had surmised earlier, the back of this camera is in fact more compact than the backs of the Polaroid cameras using the same film. I'm not sure if it's really more convenient, but it is certainly different. As you already know (if you've got a Polaroid rollfilm camera or have dug around this site a bit), the Polaroid rollfilm backs unfold into two hinged parts-- an "inner" hinged section (which includes the pressure plate and one of the development rollers) and an "outer" hinged section (which includes the print door and the other development roller). As you'll see in the images, however, the Foton back unfolds into three hinged sections. There is no "print door" on the Foton-- the outer back is the print door. This is made possible by the third, intermediate, section that covers the development rollers and keeps the inner part of the camera back light-tight. Also, whereas the cutter bar is attached to the outer back of a Polaroid camera, it is instead attached to the inner back of the Foton (though, of course, still outside the camera). This makes sense due to the design of the Foton's back.
As with the unusual back, the rest of the camera too is an odd mix of design qualities. First, the good things: The lens mount is collapsible on a spring-loaded tube, and is easily lockable in both the retracted and extended positions. When the lens is retracted, the shutter is locked so you won't accidently operate the shutter. Unlike most 'cheap' cameras with collapsible lenses, the Foton has unit focus (rather than front-cell focusing), and focuses fairly smoothly (down to 1 meter) at that. There's a coupled rangefinder, and it's a single-window design combined with the viewfinder. The aperture is set by a sliding lever located on the camera body within easy reach of your left index finger when holding the camera, and there's even an indicator in the viewfinder to display the current aperture setting. The shutter must be manually cocked, but the manner in which you do so is bit unusual-- to tension the shutter, you grip the front of the lens ring, rotate it until it stops, then let the ring return to its original position.
Unfortunately, not everything is grand in the Foton universe. The shutter is a conventional leaf shutter, but has only two measly speeds-- 1/125 and 1/30, plus Bulb. Even the weird rotary-leaf shutter of the regular Polaroid models in this format managed to offer 4 speeds plus Bulb. (I suppose one should be happy that at least the two speeds are more than one stop apart from each other, exposure-wise.) The shutter limitation seems all the more odd when you consider the surprisingly fast lens on the camera (f/4.8, 120mm). Yes, the aperture setting is visible in the finder, but the finder indicator was partially defective in this particular sample, and the aperture setting mechanism in general was quite stiff and jerky in operation. Also, while I've owned (or at least handled) a fair variety of Russian cameras before, this camera surprised me with its overall "cheap" feel. Almost everything in this camera is plastic except the lens tube, the shutter surround, and the development rollers-- and most of it is pretty flimsy plastic at that. The choice of materials didn't seem to match well with the purpose of the parts-- several parts that would appear to be likely to receive high pressure/forces (such as the outer camera back, the viewfinder top, and the aperture control slider) were made out of lightweight plastic. To its credit, the outer camera back does have a metal plate attached to the side which faces the film, but even that is rather tinny. Perhaps the folks at KMZ that designed the Zenit (before it became more plastic-y in the late 1980's or so) should have had more of a hand in this camera. [Older Zenits may feel a bit 'rough' and clunky, but at least they usually feel sturdy-- I betcha I could pound tent pegs with my Zenit E..! ]
I don't know how many Fotons were made, but probably only a few thousand. The camera you see pictured here has a lens serial number of 345 (I don't recall seeing a S/N on the camera body itself, so I'm guessing this is the camera's S/N as well).
KMZ Foton (lens extended, infinity focus) [JPEG, 36k]
KMZ Foton - shown with lens extended and at closest focus [JPEG, 36k]
KMZ Foton - front view (image taken with flash) [JPEG, 35k]
KMZ Foton - back view (note the recessed rounded bar with the ribbed texture at the left-hand side; that's the film release 'button.') [JPEG, 21k]
KMZ Foton - outer back open; this part also serves as the picture door. The grey 'blotch' is where the paint has worn from the thin metal plate fastened to the inside surface of the door. The film cutter bar is partially visible folded against the right side of the camera. [JPEG, 26k]
KMZ Foton - detail of intermediate back with development rollers visible [JPEG, 29k]
KMZ Foton - shown with all three sections of the back open [JPEG, 44k]
KMZ Foton - illustration from instruction manual [JPEG, 51k]
Okay, here's the product line discussed on this page which is probably going to be the most familiar to visitors here.
Yes, I'm referring to the (in)famous Kodak Instant Camera line which Polaroid promptly sued over in a high-profile (at least in the USA) landmark patent infringement case.
First, a few Frequently Asked Questions:
One interesting thing about the Kodak Instant system is that the film was exposed from the rear of the picture assembly rather than through the front. All Polaroid integral films (the self-developing non-peel-apart films such as SX-70, 600, Spectra, 500, etc.) expose through the front, which is why all Polaroid integral film cameras must have a mirror in the optical path. Without the mirror, pictures taken with Polaroid integral films would appear reversed left-to-right. While the Kodak Instant cameras didn't need a mirror, some models (like the original EK6 and EK4) used two mirrors to 'fold' the light path to make the cameras appear more compact. Also, since a mirror wasn't required with the Kodak system, this made the format more attractive than SX-70 to manufacturers of special-purpose cameras and camera backs. Related hobbyist tip: old unwanted/discarded plastic Polaroid cameras using SX-70 or 600 film (i.e. OneStep or Pronto! models) can prove to be a very inexpensive source of front-surface mirrors for optical projects... :-)
As a curious footnote, since light is not transmitted through the front of the film while in the camera, Kodak apparently thought it would be worthwhile to take advantage of this fact by applying a matte (diffuse textured) coating to the front of the film. I guess the logic was that Kodak could differenciate their product by advertising their film's "Satinluxe" finish compared with the glossy finish of the Polaroid prints. [Back in the 1970's, matte-finish prints were still in fashion, and were a typical default for 'drugstore' prints. Even in the mid-80's, I remember having to to specifically indicate that I wanted glossy prints (and sometimes pay an additional charge!) from some film processing companies.]
Kodak instant film was offered in two different speeds. The original film was designated PR-10 (later renamed PR-144-10) and had an ASA of 150. Later, Kodak made a faster film, HS-144-10, which was ASA 300 in speed. Kodak Instant cameras marked with the "Kodamatic" name/logo were designed for the HS film, whereas the earlier models were for the PR film. Both films were the same format and used the same type of cartridge, and it was possible to make good use of the 'wrong' film simply by adjusting the Lighten/Darken control on the camera.
In later years, I believe both films were available with the "Trimprint" feature, though I recall that the advertising at the time implied that you needed a "Trimprint"-marked Kodamatic camera to use that film. ["Trimprint" film allowed you to peel the front picture surface of the film away from the negative backing and the development pod. This resulted in a print that could be made to fit in a conventional photo album or cut ('trimmed') for various craft-like projects.]
At some point, I'll try to add a comprehensive list of Kodak Instant cameras in much the same format as the Polaroid camera information pages. [Ed note: I've now started on this; dunno when I'll finish it. --MK] Personally, though, I'm not really that crazy about Kodak Instant cameras; but, hey, someone may want to know about these things someday, and they are certainly part of instant photography history.
Kodak EK6 [JPEG, 41k]
Kodak EK6 - shown with box [JPEG, 39k]
Kodak Kodamatic 970L - shown (folded) in box [JPEG, 49k]
Kodak Kodamatic 980L (as far as I know, the only autofocus Kodak Instant camera)[JPEG, 33k]
Not only does Fuji make Polaroid-compatible pack film (as mentioned earlier), but they also make an integral film as well. ...and a camera to go with it. Neither, however, are Polaroid-compatible.
Actually, there have been two formats of Fuji integral instant film. The first one was announced in the early 80's, and was compatible with Kodak Instant cameras. Fuji also announced at least two cameras of their own design to go with it (one was a simple rigid plastic camera sort of like a Kodak Kodamatic 940, the other was a scale-focusing folding camera styled sort of like a Kodamatic 960. These are the two cameras shown in the picture linked from this entry heading. While the film actually did hit the market, I don't know if either of these two cameras were ever actually produced (they were never available in the USA, as far as I know). I have, however, received a sighting in Korea of a Fuji "Mr. Handy" instant camera, so it's certain Fuji did made some cameras of this type.
In any case, a few years ago, Fuji resurrected the process (sort of).
The new Fuji integral films appear to be based on the old Kodak instant process, but they are a different format and have cartridge designs different from that used in old Kodak Instant cameras (one visitor here has opined that this may have been a deliberate decision to avoid contention with Polaroid, but I don't know one way or the other). The cameras currently being sold for these films (Instax / Instax Mini) are rather basic in performance features, and appear to have been designed to compete with the Polaroid OneStep camera line.
If you'd like to learn more about the Instax cameras (the Instax), check out Fuji's Instax page at http://home.fujifilm.com/products/instax/shocked/index.html (pointed out to me by John Grieve, a Land List visitor)
These cameras are not available in the USA. ...Or at least not under the Fuji name. You see, the recently introduced Polaroid mio camera appears to be essentially a re-badged Fuji Instax Mini (model 10 or 20). The mio film is made in Japan, and may also be made by Fuji.
Fuji F-50S and F-10 cameras [ Image credit: Popular Photography, December 1981 ] [JPEG, 69k]
Unlike Polaroid, Kodak has generally been quite content to license their film formats and some technologies to other camera companies. [For example, witness the scads of cameras that were made for Kodak's 126 and 110 cartridges, as well as the shorter-lived Disc format.] Perhaps, then, on the surface, it might seem surprising that no other companies licensed the Kodak Instant system to make cameras for the USA mass-market.
But wait! It appears there was at least one after all! Thanks to Dan Rippere, a visitor to this site, for sending in these interesting photos.
Yes, this camera looks almost-but-not-quite like a Kodak Colorburst 250, but was made by Continental Camera Corporation. [You may remember Continental as a producer of numerous cheap 110 and 35mm cameras in and around the 1980's] I don't know any details about this product aside from what appears on the box, but I have received a quick email from someone who worked at Continental at that time, and he indicated that this was in fact their only instant camera model.
Actually, I suspect that not many camera licencees would have been found for the Kodak Instant format, since those cameras (especially the low-end models) were often sold as loss-leaders in order to sell film. Since Kodak was the only supplier of film in that format, there just wasn't a lot of opportunity for profit in making mass-market Kodak Instant -compatible cameras. [For that matter, at that time, Polaroid followed suit by lowering the price of their low-end cameras, with the intention of making the money back on film.]
>> Image credit for all of these Colorshot 2000 images: Daniel Rippere (Thanks!)
Continental Colorshot 2000 [JPEG, 57k]
Continental Colorshot 2000 - front of box [JPEG, 60k]
Continental Colorshot 2000 - back of box [JPEG, 72k]
Here's an odd little camera from the 1960's which tried to compete with (of all things) the Polaroid Swinger 20-- and failed.
The Chrislin Insta-Camera wasn't based on any particular Polaroid design. The photographic process was based in part on expired Agfa patents, and the camera was an almost too-uninspired simple plastic (abiet two-tone blue and aqua colored!) box-shaped affair.
The film was available only in B&W and packaged in L-shaped plastic cartridges. The fact that it was cartridge-loading was touted as a major convenience feature (Polaroid pack film had been available for a few years, though), but the development process of the Chrislin film was anything but convenient. The basic process of pulling a tab, waiting for the indicated development time, and peeling away a print wasn't so different from the Swinger, but while the Swinger produced a more-or-less dry print, the Chrislin's prints came from the camera coated with a caustic black goo which required immediate removal with cold water. No water handy? No problem (?!)-- the film came packaged with some pre-moistened towelettes for just this purpose. Either way, though, it was a messy process that left you with some potentially hazardous chemical goo to dispose of-- and perhaps also on your hands as well. By comparison, the process of coating the Swinger's prints was the last word in convenience.
Even if you could see around the Chrislin's inconvenient development process, and even if the film was comparable to Polaroid's B&W film, you'd still probably have had more trouble getting a decent photo out of the Chrislin than the Swinger. At least the Swinger had some sort of exposure metering aid-- the Chrislin merely provided you with a simple sunny/cloudy sort of exposure calculator. ...And evidently the quality of the film itself wasn't exactly up to the level of the Polaroid product either. Consumer Reports rated the Chrislin "Unacceptable" for a combination of all these reasons and more.
Image credit: Consumer Reports, August 1967
Crislin Insta-Camera [ Image credit: Consumer Reports, August 1967 ] [JPEG, 24k]
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