A Real Polaroid SLR Instant Camera
By James Grahame
My 4 year-old son wants a Polaroid camera. Oddly enough, he came up with the idea while watching a cartoon. One of the characters had a camera that ejected instant prints for the front, and he decided the design was far more sensible than a digital point-and-shoot. I agreed with him. I have an old Polaroid OneStep camera in a box somewhere and I promised that we could shoot a few photos. He grinned and responded, "Stop signs, dad. I want to take pictures of traffic signs." Unfortunately, I neglected to check the price of Polaroid film packs -- this little roadside safari is going to cost me $1.50 a shot.
A number of people have asked me whether Polaroid ever made an SLR instant camera with through-the-lens focusing and framing (Polaroids typically offer a simple discrete viewfinder). The good news is that Polaroid produced such a series. The bad news is that they don't look anything like a normal compact Canon or Nikon 35 mm SLR, nor do they offer zoom lenses -- they share the same lumpy design as nearly every other classic Polaroid device.
The Polaroid SLR 690 was expensive, carrying a list price of $399 when it debuted in 1996. It offered a rather slow 4-element 116 mm f/8 lens with ultrasonic echo ranging and a 4-bit microprocessor to control the two-blade scanning aperture system. Other convenient features included center-weighted scene averaging exposure control, an auto-focus bypass switch, and a built-in tripod mount. Honestly, a Polaroid SLR is of limited use with a fixed focal length lens and I wish that Polaroid had been able to integrate a zoom.
Discover more about the Polaroid SLR 690 [Ken Rockwell, with more great photos]