Polaroid 55 film? what cheapish, obtainable camera for a novice?
May 12, 2015 10:44 AM   Subscribe

I want to try messing around with large format Polaroids if this is at possible in 2015. I like the image quality, depth of field, and cool edges, but don't want to try and fake the funk with photoshop filters. Is the Impossible Project or anyone else doing 55 film? What's a good camera for cheap (ish) that will work for this? Do I need a darkroom or any sort of setup for this? Would love your experience and advice.
posted by tremspeed to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Looks like there's New55 film, at about $50 for 5 shots. If it's anything like the Impossible Project stuff I've used for regular Polaroid cameras it will definitely be some trial and error. I've seen some 4x5 cameras on ebay, but not sure what to avoid or what is reasonable to pay for one or what I need (for example, some of these cameras dont have lenses but do have polaroid backs, does that mean I don't need a lens?? probably a dumb question).
posted by tremspeed at 10:59 AM on May 12, 2015

Do you really need the negative from 55 film? I've had plenty of fun with a Holgaroid and a Kodak folder, and Fuji still makes color and B&W for those.
posted by rhizome at 11:17 AM on May 12, 2015

you need a camera with a lens. i would purchase the camera, then buy a polaroid back for it. they are pretty easy to find separately.
it will be easier if you have some experience with large format film first. that will teach you the ins and outs of the medium - polaroid is just a special case of it. the issue being that even though large format film is expensive, polaroid is even more so, so you don't want to screw up your shots.
posted by decathexis at 1:34 PM on May 12, 2015

Best answer: No, you will definitely need a lens. It's common to sell 4x5 cameras without lenses, because they're expensive and people have different desires when it comes to lenses. There's not really such a thing as a zoom lens for 4x5s so you'll end up with a collection of primes. Finding lenses that are good quality and will work with your camera may take a bit of education. 4x5 lenses also have built in shutters (the shutter is not part of the camera for most 4x5s) and have to be mounted in a "lens board" that fits the front of the 4x5.

How much to pay and what to get is a really deep question for 4x5s. It depends on what you want and what you want to do with them. They're fairly cheap these days, though, because of the decline in film use. The good news is that a decent modular 4x5 can't really be "broken" the way an SLR can be, because they're just mechanical objects.

I like the Calumet Cambo series of 4x5s. They're sort of "student model" type cameras - simple, not the most elegant, but modular, easy to find parts and accessories for them, easy to operate. I have one myself.

I can't really comment on polaroid film, which I gather is the main thrust of your question. Polaroid used to be very common but most of it is now discontinued especially in large format sizes.

Note also that there are 2 types of polaroid film holders for 4x5. One is the polaroid land holder,
like this
(holy shit $16! I paid like $150 for mine 15 years ago!)
These take individual polaroid sheets

ANd there's these:

These take "film packs"

I don't remember which type 55 is, but make sure you know what you need.

I sold off both of my backs. I recall the pack film was the hardest to get though, and I sold off some pack film for *ridiculous* prices. It came with the camera I bought on ebay and selling the film more than paid for the camera itself.
posted by RustyBrooks at 1:38 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Somewhat related: there was a Polaroid stock that made both a negative and a positive print...you peeled one off the other. We'd use them a lot on catalog shoots so you could start doing layout, manually, on the spot. If you can find that stuff, it is way awesome.
posted by sexyrobot at 5:42 PM on May 12, 2015

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