Flash of inspiration,
all that should be necessary to get a good picture is to take a good picture, and our task is to make that possible.”
Subsequent Polaroid cameras, after the Model 95, were easier to use and faster, allowing the photographer to shoot in low-light situations and to stop action in sports. A nifty invention for viewcamera users was Type 55 film, which produced not only a Polaroid print but also a negative from which you could make enlargements. And in 1963, after about 15 years of research and an investment of about $15 million, there was a peel-apart color film.
Maybe the cream of the Polaroid crop was the SX-70 system introduced in 1972. “Land wanted film where you’re not littering the landscape with negatives and also a simpler, more efficient, motorized camera,” McElheny said. “You had a negative of 17 or so layers, and you actually exposed the film through a transparent positive. It was unbelievable.
“The SX-70 was a huge investment, and Polaroid took the negative manufacturing inside the company. There was a very complicated dance of suspicion all through the ’60s between Polaroid and Kodak. Polaroid was fed up with Kodak’s lack of inventiveness regarding the negative, and Kodak was getting ready to do its own instant-picture system. It was a gigantic struggle with blood all over the floor. The SX-70 camera was very hard to make, but it was a beautiful, beautiful thing.”
The company followed it with what McElheny described as “a number of clunky but workable successors” until the company faced a new rival in the digital camera. Now the user could see, on the camera back, the image just captured and could quickly produce prints at home rather than having to take the film to a lab.
Polaroid stopped making instant-film cameras a few years ago to focus on its own digital line. Today it offers the PoGo, an instant digital camera, as well as sunglasses and LCD televisions. And in 2010, Polaroid introduced a new “Classic Instant” model, the little Pic-300 that produces pictures about the size of a business card. It’s the latest iteration of a wonderful invention that was dreamed up nearly 70 years ago in Santa Fe.
“That’s where the idea occurred,” McElheny said, “in that ‘dangerous mountain air of Santa Fe. Land talks about that. There was an inch of snow on the ground, but you didn’t need a coat, and he refers to the kind of ‘ dangerous mountain air of Santa Fe.’ Dangerously inspiring, I would call it.”
Article from Popular Science, 1947