You, put down the iPhone. Let’s reminisce on the sheer excitement of a camera that you could actually see your photos by counting to 60, and then peeling back a sheet of emulsion? Look how excited people are in that left side ad to see “instant” photos.

This Polaroid Land Camera, the Automatic 210 belonged to my grandmother. I’m not quite remembering her pulling it out, but that she likely got it for her travels. All I know is that after she passed away, I got the camera. Or maybe she gave it before, knowing my interest in photography (this photo I took of her with a borrowed Pentax for my first film photo class in 1986).

I did read that this camera came out in 1967:

Introduced in 1967, the Polaroid Land Camera “Automatic 210” is affectionately referred to as the “’67 Plastic Fantastic” by FPP founder Michael Raso because this model Polaroid was one of the first Land Cameras to be sold in the millions at a very affordable price – therefore making it ultra-affordable for every family on the block

Hah! Plastic Fantastic. Funny that in 1967 the movie The Graduate came out, the one where Dustin Hoffman’s character Ben Braddock gets the speech about “plastics”

The ads for the 210 emphasize the 60-second excitement, that period of anticipation waiting for the photo to do its magic, and then peeling off the cover to see the moment that just happened recorded in a photo you can hold in your hand. Check out this 1967 ad, notice how you see people’s reaction to the photos, but never see a photo til the end.

For the most part, I have just had the Polaroid camera as a Cool Thing to Have on the Shelf. Back in 2011 I got curious again, got some film, but shot all black blanks…

Of course, a month later it dawned in me the 4.5V battery was dead.

I had read some things on the internet that I could cut the battery and replace it with a pair of AAs. I hacked my camera (not much, just cut the battery, and the electrical taped in the AA battery holder. And I got some photos out of it!

The black and whites have a real sense of long ago time to them, eh?

The funny thing was recently, that an Ellen Jo Roberts sent a few comments on the March 2011 photo where she suggested the battery was a problem.

ellen jo

I started thinking I had made a math error- the original battery was 4.5V, yet I had put in only 3V of battery with the AA’s of course that’s the problem. So I found a new 4.5V battery on Amazon, and re-rigged it in.

Of course, if I checked my flickr trail more carefully, I would have seen that the March 2011 photos were before I swapped out the battery pack, and the later photos did show it was working with 3V of juice.

But now I have a full battery in it, and took my first round of photos today. What’s new, that was not there in 2011 (I am guessing) is the Fuji FP-100c film, newly made film that is color (all my previous tries were black and white).

and I took it outback, and got a successful photo.

So what’s the point? Is it just hipster retro to carry around a bulky old camera and take analog photos with film that ends up costing $1.10 per print? Is there something to that 60-seconds of anticipatory excitement (actually mine today were 120-seconds) that we forget in the instant gratification of digital photos? Is it the memory of my grandmother?

Who knows? What I do know is I have 7 photos left to take. And I am trying to think what could be interesting to do with this old photo format.

Plastic Fantastic indeed.

Top / Featured Image Credits: Left side image is a flickr photo by classic_film shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license; the one on the right is from an ebay ad. 1 outta 2 ain’t bad?

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Very cool! And Polaroids have a certain look to them that is retro. I suggest taking photos with a nostalgic theme.
    I think I mentioned the Koloid app to you last time you danced with the charms of delayed photo gratification.
    It is a black and white photo app. You click the photo, and then you can either “develop” it then or later. When you “develop” the image, a pool of developer chemicals appears and you can tip and tilt it around the image, dodging and burning it. The results are uber retro kinda cool– like this :

    1. Thanks for reminding me of that app, it is a cool idea and the effects are really different and unique. The idea of developing later is nifty.

      I am not as much interested in replicating the Polaroid look as much as in figuring out a way to use an affordance of the the original camera and print. I am thinking of doing some portrait photos of people, and then maybe doing a digital photo of them holding up the print made with the camera. Maybe I could run that through the Koloid app. Hmmmmm. Buying an app…. Hmmm….

  2. There is something entrancing about a device that can take a photo and print it almost immediately. My son got a Fujifilm Instax mini 8 for Christmas and almost immediately blew through 2 boxes of film. He’s played with digital cameras before, but having an image he could hold in his hand was obviously its own excitement.

    Also fun – listening to his slightly older cousin explain that it’s “like a camera that comes with its own printer!”

  3. Awesome story! Excited I was part of it.
    I didn’t realize the special history of the camera. How cool.
    Unfortunately, Fuji announced in February they are ceasing production of the FP-100C , so that’s a bummer. My favorite film used in my favorite cameras.
    (You can still find it online at seriously inflated prices, so photos are now like $3-4 each)

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