Polaroid’s SX-70 instant camera turns 50

Fast Company recently put out an excellent and detailed history of the Polaroid SX-70 in celebration of the instant camera’s 50th birthday. The piece tells the tale of a unique product whose recent bounceback has less to do with nostalgia and more to do with the social aspect of using the instant camera. The experience is almost the inverse of taking a digital photo on your phone in which you usually take many iterations of the same picture to get just the right one and then later share the picture to social media with a network of people who weren’t there to experience the moment captured. Instead, with the instant camera, the socializing part takes place in the process of actually taking the photo (and deciding who gets to keep it, possibly taking a pen and writing a date on the back or bottom of the print). The reliving of the memory is a more private, personal affair that only you get to be reminded of when you stop to look at the picture that’s stuck to your fridge with a magnet, or pull it out of your wallet by accident, or sort through your special box to find that old copy of your birth certificate.

How big a business is instant photography now, compared to its decades-old heyday? Back in the pre-digital age, the peak year for instant camera sales may have been 1978, when Polaroid and Kodak reportedly sold a total of just under 14 million units. (Kodak was forced out of the instant photography market eight years later by a Polaroid patent infringement suit, which—even though the company won $925 million in damages—seems in retrospect like an unfortunate distraction from the business of making ever-better products.)

Fast-forward four decades, and FujiFilm alone sold 10 million Instax cameras in its 2019 fiscal year, the most recent one for which a figure is available. The company has said that the pandemic hurt sales in 2020, but they bounced back in 2021. Add in Polaroid’s camera sales and those of niche players Lomography and Mint, and the total figure grows, though probably not to rival 1978’s figure.

Read more.

via slashdot


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