dwin Herbert Land (May 7, 1909 – March 1, 1991) was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut to Harry and Helen Land. His father owned a scrap metal yard. He attended the Norwich Free Academy at Norwich, Connecticut, a semi-private high school, and graduated in the class of 1927. The library there was posthumously named for him, having been funded by grants from his family. He studied chemistry at Harvard. Since the biginning, he was interessed into the study of polarzed light. Much of the light around us is polarized, but our eyes are not sensitive to this quality and can detect it only with the aid of a special filter, such as tourmaline. Thus made visible, polarized light has many uses. Tourmaline, however, is an uncooperative mineral. It is found in nature, but only in small pieces. Edwin Land dreamed of large polarizing sheets, the size of a window, which would open up dozens of new uses. But how could he make such a giant filter? Inspiration came from an old book about the kaleidoscope, that charming toy which looks like a telescope and produces changing colored patterns. In early kaleidoscopes, the patterns were generated by chips of colored glass. Later, Sir David Brewster suggested making the colors by “optical interference” using polarized light. As Edwin Land described it: The kaleidoscope was the television of the 1850s and no respectable home would be without a kaleidoscope in the middle of the library. Brewster, who invented the kaleidoscope, wrote a book about it, and in that book he mentioned that he would like to use the herapathite crystals for the eyepiece. When I was reading this book, back in 1926 and 1927, I came across his reference to these remarkable crystals, and that started my interest in herapathite. Just what is herapathite? It is a crystalline form of iodoquinine sulfate, which, Land explains, was discovered by William Bird Herapath, a physician in Bristol, England, whose pupil, a Mr. Phelps, had found that when he dropped iodine into the urine of a dog that had been fed quinine, little scintillating green crystals formed in the reaction liquid. Phelps went to his teacher, and Herapath then did something which I think was curious under the circumstances; he looked at the crystals under a microscope and noticed that in some places they were light where they overlapped and in some places they were dark. He was shrewd enough to recognize that here was a remarkable phenomenon, a new polarizing material. Doctor Herapath spent about ten years trying to grow these green crystals large enough to be useful in covering the eye-piece of a microscope. He did get a few, but they were extremely thin and fragile—for it is very hard to grow them. What good were these crystals if they could not be grown large enough to use? Because the crystals could lie in every direction, they would produce light rays polarized in all directions—a useless jumble of illumination. Land believed he could solve this problem and, in what might be considered a foolish move, took a leave of absence from Harvard so he could devote full attention to his experiments. In New York City, he invented the first inexpensive filters capable of polarizing light, Polaroid film. Because he was not associated with an educational institution, he lacked the tools of a proper laboratory, making this a difficult endeavor. Instead, he would sneak into a laboratory at Columbia University late at night to use their equipment. He also availed himself of the New York City public library to scour the scientific literature for prior work on polarizing substances. Land attacked the problem in a new—seemingly illogical—way: instead of trying to make the herapathite crystals large, he made them far smaller. He knew that, theoretically, thousands of crystals would function as one if they were extremely small and were lined up with each other. He invented a process for precipitating needlelike crystals about 1 mm (millionth of a meter) long and a fraction of a micrometer wide. The minute needles, almost too small to be seen under a microscope, were made into a thick colloidal dispersion. This substance, of syrup consistency, was then squeezed through long narrow slits. The narrow openings forced the needles to orient parallel to one another, and the substance dried to form a solid, plastic sheet. This became the first large polarizing filter.
Edwin Land returned to Harvard and presented a lecture on this new optical device. The university provided him with a laboratory where he could continue his research. However, he still did not finish his studies or receive a degree. Once Land could see the solution to a problem in his head, he lost all motivation to write it down or prove his vision to others.Often his wife, at the prodding of his instructor, would extract from him the answers to homework problems. She would then write up the homework and hand it in so he could receive credit and not fail the course. Land’s strongest motivation in developing the sheet polarizer was his desire to equip automobiles with glareless headlights. While a freshman in 1926, strolling down Broadway, he was blinded by the headlights of an oncoming automobile; it occurred to him that there must be a way to develop a polarizing sheet that would reduce glare from light to prevent that hazardous situation. He developed a system in which the headlights are covered with polarizing filters turned at a 45° angle. The driver views the road through a filter oriented at the same angle. With both filters at the same angle, the driver can easily see objects illuminated by his own headlights. However, when a car approaches from the other direction, its filters are tilted the opposite way, and the illumination from its headlights is blocked by the nowcrossed filters. This system was thoroughly and successfully tested, but was not adopted by the auto manufacturers. In 1932 he established the Land-Wheelwright Laboratories together with his Harvard physics instructor to commercialize his polarizing technology. The first pair of Polaroid sunglasses was sold in 1935. Wheelwright, his instructor, came from a family of financial means and agreed to fund the company. After a few early successes developing polarizing filters for sunglasses and photographic filters, Land obtained funding from a series of Wall Street investors for further expansion.
The company was renamed the Polaroid Corporation in 1937. Land further developed and produced the sheet polarizers under the Polaroid trademark. Although the initial major application was for sunglasses and scientific work, it quickly found many additional applications: for color animation in the Wurlitzer 850 Peacock jukebox of 1942, for glasses in full-color stereoscopic (3-D) movies, to control brightness of light through a window, a necessary component of all LCDs, and many more. During World War II, he worked on military tasks, which included developing dark-adaptation goggles, target finders, the first passively guided smart bombs, and a special stereoscopic viewing system called the Vectograph which revealed camouflaged enemy positions in aerial photography. World War II brought new uses and challenges for sheet polarizers. In the North Atlantic, the search for German submarines became a matter of life and death. Aboard ships and aircraft, lookouts scanned the sea for periscopes and shadows moving under the waves. But observation was difficult, complicated by a moving craft, a bright sun, and reflections dancing on the water. Sheet polarizers were fitted into glasses, and the reflections disappeared—polarized sunglasses have been with us ever since. However, although the war brought polarizers into wide use, it also threatened their manufacture, due to the shortage of raw material. In Africa and the South Pacific, Allied soldiers were fighting a battle with the tropical disease malaria. When stricken, the soldiers were hospitalized and treated with quinine. The same chemical was needed to make iodoquinine sulfate, the tiny crystals in polarizing filters. With increasing amounts of quinine being used as a drug, the production of polarizers was threatened. Land personally responded to the wartime shortage by inventing a totally new type of polarizer that did not require quinine and was not based on microcrystals. Large sheets of clear plastic (polyvinyl alcohol) were stretched to pull the molecules into alignment and then dyed with iodine. The resulting filters were better than the type based on quinine and are the type used in sunglasses today.
In 1943, with the end of the war in sight, and uncertain about the commercial prospects for the polarizers, Land turned his thoughts to photography as a field ripe for innovation. His invention of instant photography, putting the chemistry of the darkroom between two sheets of film and producing a finished print in 60 seconds, was spurred during a vacation in Santa Fe by a question from his three-year-old elder daughter. Why couldn’t she see right away the picture he had just taken of her? Setting off at once on a walk, “stimulated by the dangerously invigorating plateau air of Santa Fe,” Land visualized the elements of an on-the-spot print system–in an hour. By chance, his patent attorney also was visiting Santa Fe, and Land could begin at once documenting his concept. Later, Land recalled, “You always start with a fantasy. Part of the fantasy technique is to visualize something as perfect. Then with the experiments you work back from the fantasy to reality, hacking away at the components.” On another occasion, he said, “If you sense a deep human need, then you go back to all the basic science. If there is some missing, then you try to do more basic science and applied science until you get it. So you make the system to fulfill that need, rather than starting the other way around, where you have something and wonder what to do with it.” Experiments began at once, by Land and a small group of collaborators. The aim was a system for simultaneous development of the negative and positive. After exposure to light, the unexposed silver halides in the negative that developers had not reduced to metal were transferred to the positive, where special structures allowed the molecules to be anchored and then developed. The highly alkaline chemicals to set the process going were encased in metal-lined “pods,” which were burst by the camera’s rollers, thus spreading the processing fluid between positive and negative when the two were brought together after the exposure. To avoid interference, precise timing of many operations was required to achieve “the careful balancing of the simultaneous growth of the negative and positive.” Equally vital was chemical stability before, during, and after the picture was made and the positive peeled apart from the negative.
On February 21, 1947, Edwin Land demonstrated an instant camera and associated film. Called the Land Camera (patent #2,543,181), it was in commercial sale less than two years later. Polaroid originally manufactured sixty units of this first camera. Fifty-seven were put up for sale at Boston’s Jordan Marsh department store before the 1948 Christmas holiday. Polaroid marketers incorrectly guessed that the camera and film would remain in stock long enough to manufacture a second run based on customer demand. All fifty-seven cameras and all of the film were sold on the first day of demonstrations. The first film produced sepia images, but in 1950 Polaroid began selling a black-and-white restatement of the technologies. A fading problem forced prompt redesign, including the use of a plastic coating, invented by Howard Haas, that had not been required with sepia. During the 1950s, Land and such collaborators as Meroë Morse developed faster versions of black-and-white films, positive-negative and high-contrast films for professional use, and transparencies. During his time at Polaroid, Land was notorious for his marathon research sessions. When Land conceived of an idea, he would experiment and brainstorm until the problem was solved with no breaks of any kind. He needed to have food brought to him and to be reminded to eat.He once wore the same clothes for eighteen days straight while solving problems with the commercial production of polarizing film.As the Polaroid company grew, Land had teams of assistants working in shifts at his side. As one team wore out, the next team was brought in to continue the work. In the 1950s, Edwin Land and his team helped design the optics of the revolutionary Lockheed U-2 spy plane. Also in this decade, Land first discovered a two-color system for projecting the entire spectrum of hues with only two colors of projecting light (he later found more specifically that one could achieve the same effect using very narrow bands of 500 nm and 557 nm light). Some of this work was later incorporated in his Retinex theory of color vision. In 1957, Harvard University awarded him an honorary doctorate, and Edwin H. Land Blvd., a street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was later named in his memory. The street forms the beginning of Memorial Drive, where the Polaroid company building was located. Meanwhile, Land’s co-worker Howard Rogers, began fifteen years’ research on color instant pictures. Rogers’s key invention was a molecule of dye for each of three colors–yellow, magenta, and cyan–linked to developer. The dye developers could be distributed in separate layers that adjoined silver halide layers sensitive to blue, green, or red. Just before the color film went on sale in 1963, Land led a crash effort to avoid a coating step, by creating a self-washing system. This involved a spacer and a layer of acid polymer that would trap alkali processing molecules and release water. As with sepia and black-and-white, Eastman Kodak produced the color negative, while Polaroid made the innovative positive and assembled the film.In the 1960s, sales of instant color cameras and film soared even more steeply than the larger Eastman Kodak color business, which was driven chiefly by small Instamatics. Competition from Kodak seemed ever more likely. The mounting Polaroid sales around the world allowed the company to retain more and more earnings to finance the next stage of instant photography, including taking over the manufacture of negative. For this multi-hundred-million dollar effort, costing a large fraction of one year’s sales, Land mobilized a larger array of research teams than before and made arrangements with a web of outside suppliers. He regarded the new system as removing many years of compromises with his goal of a highly immediate, intuitive mass photography. He said that “one of my main purposes was to have a camera that’s part of you, that’s always with you.” He wanted most amateurs “to get as good as professionals because it would enlarge their horizons.” Doing this, millions of photographers would gain “a feeling of personal identification with the world in the way that photography has always hoped to do.”
The compact, motorized, electronically controlled, single-lens reflex SX-70 camera and its new film were introduced in 1972 and nationally marketed a year and a half later. For the camera, numerous inventions were made on demand, such as a compact, four-element lens designed by James Baker, a viewing light path involving several aspheric surfaces designed by William Plummer and colleagues, and a flat four-cell LeClanché battery concealed at the bottom of each 10-picture film pack. The “integral” film of SX-70 posed new stabilization problems because it permanently held both positive and negative. Lloyd Taylor developed temperature-independent timing layers for the negative and polymeric interlayers for the positive. Land had specified a camera that could be carried in a pocket. Hence, the thin mylar-encased film units could not be processed inside the camera. The mechanized rollers ejected each picture into orders of magnitude more light than had been used to expose it. The required opacification system, developed under the leadership of Land’s co-worker Stanley Bloom, combined a pair of phenolphthaleine dyes found by Myron Simon’s team with titanium dioxide particles, which formed much of the mass of the SX-70 processing fluid. The dyes were required to be completely opaque in the highly alkaline conditions of the first few seconds of processing and then to decolorize promptly to allow the photographer to judge the SX-70 image against the white backdrop of titania which sealed off the negative. The metallized-dye image, approximately 3 inches by 3 inches, “emerged” over several minutes, and a new acid polymer system regulated development and maintained stability thereafter. Making the negative called for a large new factory, which drew on a new specialty chemical plant. Yet another new factory assembled the black-backed negative, the transparent positive, and pod of processing chemicals into integral film units, which were placed in 10-picture black plastic “packs.” Now controlling all the key parts of film manufacture, Polaroid could and did introduce running changes, such as more brilliant colors, an anti-glare coating, and faster processing times. The films adapted easily to smaller and cheaper cameras. Under Land’s continuing control, the SX-70 dyes were retrofitted to peel-apart color films, such as those used to make full-scale replicas of paintings with the help of yet another Baker lens.
Although he led the Polaroid Corporation as a chief executive, Land was a scientist first and foremost, and as such made sure that he performed “an experiment each day”. Despite the fact that he held no formal degree, employees, friends, and the press respected his scientific accomplishments by calling him Dr. Land. The only exception was the Wall Street Journal, which refused to use that honorific title throughout his lifetime. Land often made technical and management decisions based on what he felt was right as both a scientist and a humanist, much to the chagrin of Wall Street and his investors. From the beginning of his professional career, he hired women and trained them to be research scientists. Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, he led Polaroid to the forefront of the affirmative action movement. In his laboratory he built giant studio cameras the size of bedroom closets that produced large format (20 x 24 inch) prints. He gave photographers free access to these cameras in return for some of the prints they produced. This practise was continued by the company; the result was the Polaroid Collection. Compiled since the seventies, the collection grew to between 16,000 and 24,000 photos shot by some of the world’s greatest artists and photographers, including Ansel Adams, Chuck Close, Robert Frank and Andy Warhol. The collection, an asset of the Polaroid Corporation, remained intact till 2010 when in controversial circumstances was broken up and put up for sale in lots.
In 1977 Polaroid developed an instant movie system, Polavision, based on the Dufaycolor process. Minute stripes of color were deposited on one side of the film, which was kept within a cassette. A very thin black-and-white negative was exposed to light in a camera similar to many used for home movies. As the exposed film was rewound for viewing on a television-like player, processing fluid covered the film to develop it, and bring metallic silver over into a positive layer. Instantly projected, the silver images were viewed through the color stripes. Due to the light-loss caused by the filtering layer (only one of red, green or blue was let through for a given portion of film), the resulting film had relatively low light sensitivity (40 ASA) and the resulting footage was much denser than with other processes. As a result, Polaroid designed a standalone table-top projector/viewer, which was intended to reduce the problems inherent in projecting such dense film. The viewer used a translucent screen, projecting the image from behind, but critics from publications like Consumer Reports called the images “murky and dark.” Despite this, the format was used by artists, including Charles Eames, Ray Eames, and Andy Warhol. In addition to the density problems, the process was late to market and had to compete with upcoming videocassette-based systems like Betamax and VHS. Unlike videotape, Polavision films, once developed, could not be reused nor played on a television, nor did it have sound.
As a result, Polavision proved to be an expensive failure, and most of the manufactured equipment was sold off in 1979 as a job lot at a loss of $68.5 million, even if its underlying technology was later improved for use in the Polachrome instant slide film system. In the wake of those losses, Polaroid chairman and founder Edwin H. Land resigned the chief executive position in 1980 and left the company two years later. In his retirement years, he founded the Rowland Institute for Science. Land died on March 1, 1991 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the age of 81. Upon his death, his personal assistant shredded his personal papers and notes. He has been called “The Last of the great geniuses,” having received more than 500 patents for his innovations in light and plastics. After Land retired, Polaroid continued to develop new products for professional, technical, and consumer markets. These included cameras, high-speed film, floppy disks, medical equipment, colour-transparency films, transparent cameras, and identity verification equipment for security systems. In 1986 Polaroid won a $925-million judgment from the Eastman Kodak Company for patent infringement. In the 1990s Polaroid delivered more firsts to the industry, including cameras with picture-storage compartments, and introduced several products that were worldwide best sellers, such as the redesigned Polaroid OneStep camera. In 1996 the corporation was one of the early manufacturers of digital cameras, with the PDC-2000; however, they failed to capture a large market share in that segment. In October 2001 Polaroid filed for federal bankruptcy protection, the result of what many believed was the failure of its senior management to see the effect of digital cameras on its film business, a fate that also befell its primary rival, Kodak. In less than a year, most of the corporation’s assets and those of its subsidiaries had been sold to OEP Imaging Corporation, creating a new company, Primary PDC, Inc., which continued to operate as Polaroid Corporation; OEP Imaging Corporation subsequently became Polaroid Holding Company (PHC). Significant criticism surrounded this takeover because the process left executives of the company with large bonuses, while stockholders, as well as current and retired employees, were left with nothing. Since the bankruptcy Polaroid branded LCD and Plasma televisions and portable DVD players have appeared on the market. On April 27, 2005, PHC was purchased by Petters Group Worldwide, who has in the past bought up failed companies with well-known names for the value of the brand. Polaroid remained under bankruptcy protection until 2006. Although it had no employees or business operations during that time, the brand name continued to be used to license and market various foreign-made electronics. By 2007, however, the company had stopped making cameras altogether. In 2008 Polaroid announced that it would permanently cease production of instant film by early 2009.
This, however, led to the born of Impossible Project, founded by Florian Kaps (CMO), André Bosman (COO) and Marwan Saba (CFO), with the aim to invent and produce new instant film materials for Vintage Polaroid cameras. Impossible saved the last Polaroid production plant in Enschede (NL), acquired the machinery from Polaroid, signed a lease contract with the new owner of the site for Building North (14,000 m²) for a duration of 10 years and engaged the most experienced team of Integral Film experts worldwide. Impossible‘s team had to find new solutions for replacing and upgrading problematic or unavailable components. In March 2010 Impossible introduced its first, brand new analog Instant Film materials – the PX 100 and PX 600 Silver Shade for Polaroid 600 and SX 70 cameras. In July 2010, a Silver Shade version of the larger, integral film format for Image, 1200 & Spectra Cameras was introduced, as well as the First Flush Edition of PX 70 Color Shade – the first generation of Impossibles upcoming color film materials. In 2008, Polaroid’s parent company, Petters Group, had filed for bankruptcy protection, though Polaroid continued to manufacture and market new products, and the Polaroid brandname was sold once more to PLR IP Holdings, LLC. On January 7, 2010, at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), they announced new plans and products for the Polaroid Company: the launch, in partnership with ZINK Imaging, of a suite of new digital printing products leveraging ZINK Imaging’s ZINK® Zero Ink® Printing Technology. ZINK Imaging’s platform produces full-color images without ink cartridges, ribbons, or toner using ZINK Paper®, an advanced composite material with embedded dye crystals. This ink-free printing means to recreat the Polaroid instant photo experience from digital cameras or mobile devices using in-camera or outboard printers. Poladoid PoGo instant camera, a variant with built-in digicam of portable stand-alone PoGo photo printer, sports a five-megapixel image sensor and a basic lens of fixed focal length, meaning there’s no optical zoom. Its pictures lack the analog warmth that standard film delivers, but they’re reasonably clear and crisp.
But most of all Polaroid also promised a completely redesigned, modern version of the Polaroid OneStep camera, the PIC 1000, supported by a strategic relationship with Summit Global Group, a longtime Polaroid partner, and The Impossible Project, the manufacturer of classic film for Polaroid film cameras. The PIC 1000 will use classic Polaroid Color 600 Instant Film to produce the brand’s classic white border instant pictures. The Polaroid Color 600 Instant Film will work with both classic and new Polaroid cameras and will be offered in packs of 10 pictures. Meanwhile, probably just to warm up the market waiting for their promises to come true (just like the announcement of the appointment of Lady Gaga as creative director for a specialty line of Polaroid imaging products sonds like a way to revitalize the brand image among the younger generations), they launced on April the PIC 300 camera, based on Fujifilm tecnology, that takes photos smaller than the traditional Polaroid format, more or less the size of a business card.
Below, a syntetic timeline of the brand till now:
1929 Edwin LandEdwin Land decides to make his name by solving one of science’s long-standing “unsolvable” problems – polarizing light without needing a large crystal of an esoteric mineral. He creates the first synthetic sheet polarizer in 1929 and later files his first patent. Problem solved.
1932 Land announces synthetic polarizing material.
1933 Land-Wheelwright Laboratories incorporated.
1934 Kodak purchases polarizing material for camera filters. Polaroid Day glasses introduced.
1937 Polaroid Corporation founded.
1939 Polaroid stereoscopic (3D) motion pictures shown for the first time at World’s Fair.
1941 Sales reach $1 million.
1942 Various wartime instruments are invented and manufactured by Polaroid including the first guided missile system, a sighting mechanism for tank gunners and polarized goggles for airmen. Land appointed to the president’s Science Advisory panel, a position he held until the Nixon administration.
1944 Jennifer Land asks her Dad “Why can’t I see them now?” setting into motion the SX-70 project, which was Land’s original title for research into instant film – not the camera system that would come later.
1945 Sales increase to $16 million as the war ends.
1947 Instant photography introduced with a dramatic presentation to The Optical Society in New York City on February 21st.
The Roll Film Years
1948 Polaroid 95Instant photography goes on sale to the public for the first time with the Polaroid Model 95 camera and Type 40 film. The camera is so named due to its $95 suggested price. This is just over $850 today. After selling out quickly, the Boston store that launched the first cameras begins taking backorders for up to $150, or about $1350!
1949 Ansel Adams hired as a consultant.
1950 1 millionth roll of film produced. Type 41 film introduced.
1951 Instant x-ray film (Type 1001) introduced. Print coater introduced in a panic to counteract fading prints.
1952 The Model 110 “Pathfinder” camera is introduced.
1954 The Model 80 “Highlander”, Model 95A “Speedliner” (also sometimes called “The Woodpecker”) and Model 100 (roll film) are introduced along with Type 31 film.
1955 The Model 700 camera introduced. Panchromatic film introduced – Types 32, 42, 43.
1956 1 millionth camera produced and Type 44 film introduced.
1957 Many new and/or updated camera models go on sale – 80A, 95B, 110A, 150, 800 and two new film types as well – 46, 46-L. Polaroid stock listed on the NYSE.
1958 The first 4×5 film holder introduced along with Type 52, 53 4×5 sheet film.
1959 Polaroid expands to Canada and Europe. The Model 80B camera and Types 37 and 47 film are introduced, as well as the Winklight 250 and 252.
1960 First automatic exposure camera – the Model 900 – goes on sale. The venerable and still very sought-after Model 110B is introduced. Polaroid expands to Japan.
1961 Camera Models 120, 850, J33, J66 and film Types 55 and 57 enter the market.
1962 The 4 millionth camera is produced. The Model 160 and MP-3 copy stand/enlarger are introduced.
Leader of the Pack (film)
1963 Paul Giambarba’s Polaroid packaging. The 5 millionth camera is produced. The first color Polaroid film comes out of the lab and into stores. The extremely successful and still, to this day, very usable Automatic 100 pack film camera is introduced along with Type 107 black and white and Type 108 color pack film. In addition, Types 38, 48 and 58 color roll film are introduced.
1964 Follow-ups to the Automatic 100 – the 101 and 102 are introduced. The CU-5 Close-up camera debuts forming a long-standing bond with forensic and medical professionals. Types 510 and 413 film introduced.
1965 More and more Automatic 100-series cameras – the 103, 104, 125, 135, 415, M15 and the professional-level 180 are introduced. The Swinger debuts along with its Type 20 film and becomes one of the fastest selling cameras ever – selling 4 million units in 2 years. The first Instant portrait (4×5) is introduced, forever changing the passport photo business.
1966 The ID-2 Land Identification system is introduced to make instant badges for workers. TLX radiographic furthers Polaroid’s reach into industrial applications.
1967 The highly successful Automatic 100 series continues with the introduction of the 210, 220, 230, 240, 250 at a variety of price points. 4×5 Type 51 film introduced.
1968 Just to fill in the product/price grid, the Automatic 215 and 225 come out. The Swinger continues with 3000 ASA-only Big Swinger. Other new cameras were the M-10 and Special Events 228 (high volume). The Model 545 film holder debuts – a workhorse for professional photographers which continues to be used today.
1969 Polaroid Automatic 350Polaroid adopts what would later be the SOP for Apple – the 1-year product cycle for updates as the Automatic 315, 320, 325, 330, 335, 340, 350, 360 cameras are introduced. The 360 features the first Integrated Circuits in Polaroid cameras. The first rigid-body packfilm cameras appear – the Colorpack II and IV.
1970 Some more cheap Automatic 100 series cameras drop – the Countdown M60 and M80. The Colorpack rigid-body line continues with Colorpack III and M6. Type 20C film debuts. Sales top $500 million. The project that would lead to the SX-70 camera and film is begun in earnest.
1971 The final round of Automatic 100 series cameras are released – the 420, 430, 440, 450, Countdown 70 and Countown 90. Andy Warhol gives the Big Shot 15 minutes of fame. The square-format Colorpack 80, 82, 85, 88, Square Shooter and ZIP are introduced along with Type 87 and Type 88 film. The Super Colorpack debuts. The updated Miniportrait passport camera heads out, as well as a slew of industrial cameras – 701, 703, 704, 706, CU-5, ID-3 Indentification.
Land gives Polaroid shareholders the first tease of the SX-70 system at the annual meeting in April. This short film, created by icons Charles and Ray Eames, was screened at that meeting and promptly distributed to media and photo dealers nationwide.
The Magic Camera
1972 The Polaroid SX-70 Land CameraThe SX-70 System is introduced to the public by Sir Lawrence Olivier and goes on sale in Florida in October – Land’s attempt to test the camera in a limited marketplace and work out the bugs. Despite the $160 list price (that’s $830 today), many Florida retailers begin adding names to lists and taking deposits for $300-$400 per camera. Magazines, newspapers and the public can’t get enough of this work of wonder and the SX-70 revolutionizes photography by offering the public a true SLR that folds flat and produces photographs instantly. Oh, and the Square Shooter 2 and 4 roll out.
1973 The oddly named “The Colorpack” as well as the Colorpack V packfilm cameras go on sale. The improved MP-4 copy stand is unveiled. 5000 SX-70 cameras are produced each day, along with 50,000 packs of SX-70 film. Despite sales growth over 20% per year, enormous popularity and a well-established monopoly in instant film – Polaroid’s stock becomes shaky as analysts wonder if Polaroid can pay off it’s $250 million investment in the SX-70 System.
1974 Oh well, how about one more Automatic 100 series camera – the pro-grade 195. Bill McCune, Polaroid’s head of camera production, wins a power struggle with Land and introduces the lower-priced SX-70 model 2. Type 105 rolls out. Polaroid estimates over 1 billion instant prints made this year. Stock continues a downward trend and plummets to the lowest point since 1953 after earnings are released.
1975 More cheap packfilm cameras roll out – Electric zip, Super shooter, Super Shooter Plus, Clincher, Colorpack 100 and Color Swinger. The price-point battle continues as SX-70 Model 2 Executive, SX-70 model 3 are released. Polacolor 2 film comes out of the lab. Land resigns as President of Polaroid in the wake of the debacle with the stock price and focuses strictly on research. This research is now focused on instant movie film.
1976 Polaroid OneStep for SX-70 FilmThe OneStep series of SX-70 cameras are introduced with the Pronto!, Pronto! Plus, Pronto! S and Pronto! SM. James Garner and Mariette Hartley are queued as pitch-persons. Type 88 and 107C film are introduced. Polaroid sues Kodak for copyright infringement over Kodak’s instant cameras and film. Over 6 million Land cameras produced this year.
1977 High-end SX-70’s come back into the market with the introduction of the SX-70 Alpha, Alpha 1 Executive, Alpha 1 model 2 – featuring a number of improvements to the focus and flash systems (if not real leather). The Encore, OneStep, Pronto! B, Pronto! Extra, Pronto! RF cameras debut. The first modern packfilm cameras are introduced – the Reporter and EE100. To the amazement of all – the 20×24 camera debuts. Internationally, the 1500, 3000, EE38, EE58, EE100, Colorpack 200 and 1000 cameras are introduced. More film with updated formulas goes on sale – Type 84, 665, 667, 668 and 708. Land is awarded his 500th patent. Polaroid sales cross the $1 billion mark.
1978 Autofocus technology comes out of the lab with the debut of the SX-70 Sonar OneStep and the Pronto! Sonar OneStep. More cameras this year are the Presto!, Pronto! BC, MemoryMaker, 600, Instant 10, Instant 20, Instant 30. Land’s pet project – Polavision debuts with instant movie film that uses a groundbreaking additive color system and features a state-of-the-art factory with computer controls, laser cutters and clean rooms. Polavision promptly flops due to 3 minute cassettes that must be viewed on a tiny screen – not projected – and because video tape has entered the consumer market. Type 608 film gets added to the list.
1979 The SX-70 Polasonic Autofocus and 5000 cameras are introduced. SX-70 film gets an update to Time Zero and Type 611 film goes on sale. 7.3 million cameras produced.
1980 Type 891 and Polacolor ER films debut. The Polaprinter slide printer is rolled out and a cottage industry of image transfer and emulsion-lift prints takes off. 6.6 million cameras produced.
600 Takes Over
1981 New SX-70’s are added to the lineup – SX-70 TimeZero AF, The Button, TimeZero OneStep and TimeZero Pronto AF. 600 Film debuts along with the introduction of the Sun 600 Light Management system and the Sun 640 and 660 AutoFocus cameras. Other film types this year are 612, 552, 558, 559, 59, 809 and 891 (8×10 transparency).
1982 New cameras for 1982 include the Sun 650, Amigo 620 and ID-3 Model 710. The SX-70 is given new life in the form of the professionally-targeted SLR 680. Edwin Land retires from Polaroid.
1983 Updated 600 cameras are released – the OneStep Sun and the 600 LMS. 35mm slide Autoprocess film is introduced.
1984 The Sun 600 AF is released and a few specialty film types – 331, 336, 339 – are introduced.
1985 Polaroid wins lawsuit against Kodak
The Spectra Years
1986 The Spectra System camera, accessories and 990 (Spectra) film are introduced and quickly adopted by law enforcement, medical, dental and theater professionals due to their more advanced image controls.
1987 Spectra Onyx debuts – the first working transparent camera.
1988 The colorful Cool Cam line of 600-film cameras hits stores. Spectra High Definition Grid film introduced.
1990 The Spectra is upgraded to the Spectra Pro.
1991 Polaroid receives $925M from Kodak for patent infringement
500 Film anyone? Anyone?!?
1993 Polaroid attempts to stay relevant with a more modern SLR camera – the Captiva and it’s requisite Captiva 95 film. The public is largely unimpressed despite national ads featuring Sinbad.
1996 Polariod offers the waning professional market the SLR 690 and Pro Cam. Spectra film is upgraded to Spectra Pro.
1997 Polaroid makes takes a final shot at enticing new customers by introducing the mass-market OneStep Express, OneStep AF, OneStep “talking” cameras. Digital cameras begin to make waves.
1998 For some bizarre reason, Polaroid teams with the Spice Girls for the SpiceCam. Platinum 600 and 500 film is released.
1999 More tie-in cameras appear – the Barbie® and Taz® Instant cameras. The 500-compatible JoyCam and PopShots appear, hoping to appeal to a younger audience. as does the I-Zone with pocket and pocket sticker film. Due to the low price of I-Zone film, it briefly receives a bit of attention.
2000 Hoping to keep professional users from switching to digital – the Polaroid Business Edition 600 2, Job Pro 2; Spectra 1200i, 1200si cameras are introduced. The I-Zone digital combo debuts with a scanner for your I-Zone images.
2001 A few final cameras are brought into the marketplace – the Mio, Spectra 1200ff, I-zone convertable, I-zone with radio and Pinhole. MIO film is introduced as well. After many years of declining sales and what are largely considered poorly conceived and manufactured cameras – Polaroid files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
2002 The I-zone colour changing camera quickly finds its place in the junk drawers of the world. Equity One partners aquires Polaroid’s assets from bankruptcy.
2003 The last new film formulas are released from the labs – 690, 84, 85, 87, 88, 89. The Polaroid One camera is introduced and wins a design award. Polaroid Instant digital prints kiosks are born.
2004 Superficial updates are given to a number of cameras – Image 1200, One600 Pro, One600 JobPro, One600 Ultra, One600 Classic, izone200. The Image 1200 is the first (and last) instant camera with digital LCD viewfinder.
2005 As the I-Zone “craze” wanes – the I-Zone 200 camera and film are released, including I-zone 200 sticky. Polaroid introduces online photofinishing service. Petter’s Group Worldwide acquires Polaroid’s assets for $426M and decides to discontinue film. Purchases of raw materials for pods lessen then stop altogether.
2006 Polaroid discontinues SX-70, type 665, and type 85 film.
2008 On February 8th, in an interview with the Boston Globe concerning the upcoming Zink-compatible printer, Polaroid “announces” all instant film production will cease in 2008/2009.
A new deal?