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PLR IP Holdings, LLC

legal form Limited Liability Company
founding 1937, re-established in 2001 after bankruptcy
Seat Minnetonka United StatesUnited StatesUnited States 
Branch Consumer electronics
Website www.polaroid.com

Polaroid 900
Polaroid 430 Land Camera
The Polaroid Electric Eye 44

Polaroid is a traditional brand in the field of photography , which gained international popularity mainly through instant cameras and thus became the generic name for instant photography . The products sold under the brand temporarily also included sunglasses and various consumer electronics items . The rights owner of the Polaroid brand has been the Polish investor group Smolokowski since 2017 , but the administrative headquarters are still in Minnetonka, USA .



The physicist Edwin Herbert Land developed polarizing films, for which he was granted a patent in 1933. These polarization filters were based on a stretched polymer film ( polyvinyl alcohol ) with diffused iodine. With them, Land went into business for himself by founding his own company in Boston in 1937 , which he named Polaroid, apt to match the product. The films were also offered under this name; they were found in sunglasses, among other things.

On February 21, 1947, at the meeting of the Optical Society of America , Land presented a new type of camera called a "Land camera" in the form of a bellows camera, from which a finished positive image could be taken shortly after the exposure. The real revolutionary innovation, however, was less in the camera than in the film that went with it: For the first time, a rapid development process was used that transferred the exposed negative to a positive on the spot. The first camera (Type 95) was sold on November 26, 1948 by the Jorden Marsh Company in Boston. Initially only black and white, in the first few years, to be precise, sepia-colored (i.e. similar to old, brown-tinted photos), the color film called Polacolor was released in 1963 .

As early as 1957, Polaroid presented a slide film with which one could produce slides suitable for projection within two minutes. In 1959, with the Type 3000, a highly sensitive film came onto the market, so that you could do without a flash unit for indoor photos . 1961/62 followed with the multipurpose camera MP 3, a device with which one could also create high-quality reproductions, for example in libraries of old fonts. In 1964/65, the type 413, an infrared-sensitive film, and the XR 7 system, an X-ray diffraction cassette for crystallography, came onto the market. A special camera system, called ID-2 , made it possible to produce forgery-proof ID cards in two minutes.

On April 25, 1972, Edwin Land demonstrated at a general assembly how he exposed five images within ten seconds with a new camera model, which developed within four minutes - without the image having to be separated from the negative, as all film components were in the ejected image were integrated. The system was called SX-70 , it was the in-house code name that was used for the development of the instant photo process in the 1940s. It appeared at the turn of the year 1972/73 on the American and 1974 on the European market.

At the turn of the year 1981/82 the film type 600 appeared as its successor , which was very similar to the SX-70, but was more light-sensitive and was used in entry-level cameras. The slightly larger film type 1200, also called Image or Spectra , appeared a little later to serve the professional market.

In the 1990s, Polaroid tried to appeal to casual photographers and the younger generation with new product lines such as Captiva and iZone . The image format was very small and the products were soon discontinued.

Since February 2008, the Polaroid company has stopped producing instant cameras. On June 17, 2008, the production of the last Polaroid film T600 in the Dutch factory in Enschede was stopped.

Younger story

On December 18, 2008, Polaroid filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. The reason given was a fraud case that Polaroid is conducting against the former parent company Petters Group Worldwide and its owner Tom Petters. Tom Petters was sentenced to 50 years in prison in April 2010 for using a pyramid scheme to cause over $ 3.5 billion in damage. One of his lawyers announced an appeal against the verdict.

In January 2010 the singer Lady Gaga was presented as creative director of Polaroid at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas . In January 2011, Polaroid and Lady Gaga presented the “Gray Label” at the CES in Las Vegas. It includes three products: a new digital camera, a portable printer and sunglasses. The camera and printer using the already in the PoGo applied thermal printing process .

After the company discontinued the production of instant cameras and films as part of the bankruptcy in order to concentrate fully on the trade of products for digital photography , a Fujifilm Instax Mini with Polaroid lettering with the analog instant camera Polaroid 300 was integrated into the Sales program started.

The company Impossible took over the former Polaroid film factory in Enschede, Netherlands, to produce new film materials for traditional instant cameras. Since a number of former suppliers no longer manufacture the necessary preliminary products, the composition of the films had to be partly redeveloped with the support of Ilford .

In January 2016, the company announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it would launch its own 3D printer in collaboration with the British company EBP (Environmental Business Products) . The first 3D printer from Polaroid is called "Polaroid ModelSmart 250" and will be available from mid-2016 in 15 European countries, including Germany, Great Britain, France and the Scandinavian countries.

For the old Polaroid separator cameras of the 100 to 400 series, packaging films are now also being produced again under the New55 label.

Instant cameras

Release film

Black and white packaging film

In the separation process, the images and the film are pulled sideways from the camera after exposure, with the film running between two rollers, which in turn distributed the developer paste between the positive and negative. The finished positive can be peeled off after about 30 to 90 seconds of development time. As a rule, the negative can no longer be used, only a few black and white film types (Polapan 55, 85, 665) provided a negative that could be used for copying and enlarging after a special chemical treatment (washing off the chemicals with sodium sulfite solution = "clarification").

Polaroid Cold Clip, a low temperature development tool

As with every photochemical process, the general weak point of the films was their very high temperature sensitivity: exposure and development times had to be greatly extended at low temperatures. For this reason, in cameras for color film, a corresponding device was placed on the back wall or in the swivel cover, which consisted of two light metal plates that were glued to one side with adhesive tape. This device, called a cold clip , was heated near the body (under the arm, breast pocket) before the recording was developed. The image unit removed from the camera after the exposure was then placed between the preheated plates in order to shorten the development time or, depending on the outside temperature, to enable it at all.

The release film is very expensive to produce. The film pack housing is made of metal and plastic. The image units are housed in it in a collapsed form. When the release film is inserted, the white strips are laid out so that they do not jam. The rear wall of the camera is closed with a clamp fastener. After the recording, a white strip is first pulled out of the output tray on the side. It is followed by a printed handle made of paper from another slot. The image unit is removed from the camera by continuous pulling, which simultaneously starts the development process.

Internal structure of the model 80 for roll film

Separation films were available in several designs and formats. The first Polaroid cameras used a kind of roll film, but with the Polaroid Automatic 100 in 1963 they switched to pack film. Even today, packaging films (8.2 cm × 10.8 cm and 8.2 cm × 8.6 cm) are mainly used. a. come into their own in special Polaroid backs for various medium format cameras, as well as the somewhat less common flat films (10.2 cm × 12.7 cm and 20.3 cm × 25.4 cm), whose area of ​​application is exclusively in large format photography (specially on Polaroid cameras tailored to this film format do not exist).

Integral film

The SX-70 (open)

With a complex development one tried to avoid the waiting time and the intermediate negative. The cameras for the SX-70 system, introduced in 1973, always pushed out the image just exposed by means of a motor immediately after the exposure; then you could watch the picture develop over the next few minutes. It was an integral film, ie all film components are integrated in the ejected image - the image does not have to be separated from the negative and therefore does not leave any waste.

The film cassette contained ten color images measuring 7.8 cm × 7.9 cm (image area), underneath which was a particularly flat battery called Polapulse. The SX-70 was presented with a foldable SLR camera , for the entry-level models they initially stuck to the separation image process, it wasn't until 1977 that the Polaroid 1000 was completely converted to the new system, for which the actor Hansjörg Felmy in Germany in a large-scale one Campaign advertised. The SX-70 film produced photos of excellent quality, but had little latitude in exposure. As a result, it had to be exposed very precisely and therefore required exposure control even with the cheapest camera.

The successor was the film type 600 at the turn of the year 1981/82 , which was more light-sensitive with ISO 640/29 ° instead of ISO 160/23 °, but required its own camera type, and then the image film with the format 7.9 cm × 9 , 1 cm and another camera model. The films followed the same construction with a Polapulse battery, but which now had more capacity and could also supply the electronic flash. With the Vision 95, a smaller format (7.3 cm × 5.5 cm) appeared, with the associated cameras having an integrated picture box for all ten pictures of the film.

How the SX-70 film works

A Polaroid 600 pack

The magazine of the SX-70 film consists of a rectangular plastic container. Depending on the film, it contains eight, later ten photos and the laminated zinc-carbon battery “Polapulse”. A thin sheet metal spring lies over the battery and pushes the pictures upwards. At the top there is a light-tight cardboard cover sheet called the “Darkslide”. When the magazine is pushed into the open film compartment of the camera, an approx. 2 mm wide plastic strip kinks to the front and releases the image. When the film compartment is closed, the camera automatically ejects the top sheet of the magazine, i.e. the cover sheet for a new film. A foil tongue on the front of the cassette makes it easier to remove the empty magazine later.

The SX-70 film consists of a total of 16 layers. At the bottom of the image carrier are three color-sensitive silver halide layers ( RGB color space ) and the corresponding color coupler developer layers ( CMY ). The image receiving layer and the transparent cover sheet are on top.

When an exposed image is ejected, two rollers distribute an alkaline paste with an opaque "darker" and a white pigment over the negative layer, whereupon development begins. The alkaline paste penetrates all layers and activates the color developer. These combine with the exposed silver halide grains and are blocked. The remaining color developers rise to the top layer, where they, together with the white pigment, create the color image. The darkening paste becomes transparent at the end and the image becomes visible.

The SX-70 film was improved for the first time in 1975/76 and then again with the Time Zero Supercolor from 1980. Time Zero meant that the image developed within a minute, and now the developer paste was right from the start on white. Both times the picture quality has been improved. Production of the film ceased in early 2006.

SX-70 film is suitable for various - unofficial - creativity techniques, e.g. B. Moving the emulsion, rubbing through structures, heating.

Later, the 600 film with higher sensitivity and the wide format "Image" film were presented as successors.


Polaroid Swinger Model 20
Polaroid Vision (also Captiva)
Polaroid 635 Supercolor
Polaroid Model 80 with Flash Model 281

Since the Polaroid cameras did not enlarge prints, but rather chemically transferred the positive image from the negative, they were medium format cameras . The special models for take-away passport photos represented a special form, for this purpose medium-format camera manufacturers for Polaroid built cameras with two or four lenses that could produce a set of passport photos simultaneously. The normal cameras had lenses with a focal length of around 115 mm and an aperture ratio of around 1: 9, with plastic lenses often being used. In the case of the separating image cameras, the better models were given a timer that emitted a signal to remind them to separate the image.

In 1965, the "Swinger" was the first instant camera to hit the market for $ 20. Your lens had an aperture of f / 17 and a focal length of 100 mm. The shutter speed was fixed at 1/200 s. The Polaroid roll film 83 mm × 86 mm was used.

In addition to the amateur cameras, some with interchangeable lenses were also available for professional use. The Polaroid 600 SE was made by Mamiya, it used packaging film with the size 8.5 × 10.5 cm², and there were three interchangeable lenses for it, with 75 mm (f / 5.6), 127 mm (f / 4, 7) and 150 mm (f / 5.6) focal length. Since the large format also required large devices, folding cameras kept coming onto the market.

With the SX-70 system , a folding mirror reflex camera of the same name appeared. It contained a large, double-sided mirror, the top of which directed the beam from the lens into the viewfinder. When folded up, its underside reflected the beam onto the horizontally lying film. This camera was also offered by Foto Quelle from 1978 under the name Revue . Until production was discontinued in 1981, the SX-70 was brought onto the market in several versions. Later models were equipped with an ultrasonic autofocus. The model series 3 differs from its predecessor in that it does not have a single-lens reflex system. The manipulable integral film made the SX-70 a popular camera for artists.

The Big Shot , produced between 1971 and 1973, was a simple, rigid instant camera for portraits (color film type 108, negative format: 8.5 cm × 10.5 cm). The distance was fixed at about three feet. The camera had to be moved forwards or backwards until two images in the viewfinder matched (principle of mixed image rangefinder). The famous artist Andy Warhol was particularly fond of this idiosyncratic portrait camera; not least because of this, it received cult status. The Electric Eye 900 from 1960 was the first fully automatic camera to use CdS instead of selenium cells for exposure measurement and the Automatic 100 from 1963 had a fully electronic shutter control.

The Polaroid 660 focuses by changing the focal length using different lenses: The lens has a movable segment with four lenses, with which the following focal lengths result: 107 mm (from a distance of 3.9 m to the subject), 105 mm (1.5 m to 3, 9 m), 99 mm (0.9 m to 1.5 m) and 90 mm (0.6 m to 0.9 m). So no lenses need to be moved along the optical axis. The principle of focusing by changing the focal length is called internal focusing .

The Captiva (or Vision) series by Polaroid was built from 1993 to 1997, the new price was 269.00 DM . They were SLR cameras in a modern looking form. They used 500-type film, with an image size of 73 mm × 54 mm ( ISO 600). A film set contained ten images. The camera had a lens with an aperture of f 12, the focal length was 107 mm, and the apparatus was equipped with infrared autofocus and automatic exposure . It also had a built-in electronic flash and a self-timer, and it could be folded up to save space.

After all, Polaroid also had cameras for documentation and archiving in its range, such as the MP4, the CU5 or the Makro 5 SLR. These cameras were mainly used in the medical field, in chemical analysis ( gel chromatography , electrophoresis ) and in other scientific documentation tasks.

Instant photo backs and special cameras

Instant photo backs were available for medium format cameras that could be attached instead of the roll film cassettes. This enabled the lighting and perfect functioning of the camera to be checked, a procedure that is extremely popular among studio photographers. Various companies offered instant cameras for special applications that recorded Polaroid cassettes. Among them in particular oscilloscope manufacturers, who made it possible to archive screen displays. The Polaprinter produced instant photos from ordinary 35mm slides.


In 1977, Polaroid also introduced an 8mm instant film called “Polavision”. For this purpose, there was an easy-to-use camera that had a stiff double zoom lens with two distance settings and took special cassettes. After exposure, they were put into a viewing device, developed within 90 seconds during rewinding and automatically presented on the 30 cm ground glass after a 45-second waiting time (for development). Editing of the film was not planned. One cassette contained 12 meters of film, corresponding to 2 minutes 35 seconds of playing time - as with Super 8 , the film ran at a speed of 18 frames / second. The devices were produced by the Austrian company Eumig . A specialist company presented a high-speed camera for scientific purposes that ran at up to 300 frames / second.

The film material is based on the additive color process, i.e. it contains a color filter layer made up of blue, red and green elements, which are applied as line filters to the positive-looking silver image. When projecting, the colored lines in the eye merge to form a full-color positive. The same principle was used a little later in the “Polachrome” instant slide film. The peculiarity of the built-in filter requires a basic density of ND 0.6 = 2 f-stops. Light attenuation of even the brightest areas ( highlights ), so mixing conventional slides and instant color slides in one slide show is not easily possible.

Digital photography

Polaroid has been cooperating with Praktica and Sigma's Foveon X3 technology since 2004 . Corresponding cameras were marketed under the name ION in the entry-level segment.

The latest development from Polaroid is the "pocket-sized" PoGo printer for digital photo printing. The printer works with special paper in which color crystals are embedded that are activated during the printing process. Images can be transferred to the printer via Bluetooth or USB.

App for smartphones

In 2016 Polaroid launched an iPhone app called "Swing". With this app you can create short videos of your own photos in the Polaroid style.

Since 2016, Polaroid has had a cooperation with Cheerz, a photo app that can be used to print smartphone images and photos from social networks and to create personal photo products.

Polaroid in art

Some well-known artists (including Ansel Adams , who worked for the company in the 1960s) work with Polaroid not because of the simplicity of the system, but because exceptional recordings are possible with special cameras and films. The Polaroid 20 × 24 studio camera should be mentioned here, with which recordings in the format 20 "× 24" (50 cm × 60 cm) can be made.

In the late 1980s, media theorist Jean Baudrillard judged instant images to be a "special effect of our time":

“This is also the ecstasy of the Polaroid: almost simultaneously maintaining the object and its image, [...] the optical materialization of a magical process. The Polaroid is like a film that has fallen off the real object. "

Polaroid occupies a special position in his relationship to photography in the work of Wim Wenders , who discovered the possibilities of Polaroid in the 1970s:

“We heard rumors that a fantastic machine existed that would take photos that could be seen to emerge. We wrote to Polaroid and they loaned us two sets long before they went on sale. "

- Wim Wenders : The logic of images , 1988

The photographer and the film photographer enjoy a privileged status in Wenders' works. In some of Wenders' films his characters perform rituals of protection from an absent past by distracting themselves with sounds, rock music and photos of the present. In this way, the images of the Poloaroid camera become signs of their insecurity for his figures, which are supposed to show fundamental problems in the representation of individual experiences. Photographing here is a method of orienting a self that is pursued by the transience of existence and tries to overcome this state by creating a representation of being in the world. On the one hand, photography is a child's game here and, on the other hand, a means of analysis. Self-photography, however, becomes obsessive when narcissistic desire makes the image the sole object of the subject's gaze. In his work, Wenders wanders through the imaginary of film history and provides characters who struggle to transform their lives into images and stories. On their way through a physical and psychological landscape, they seek authenticity with self-images, driven by the fear of not being able to find suitable images and not being able to integrate the images into a suitable story.

In Alice in the Cities (1974) shows for the first time, the alter ego of the director, the journalist Philip Winter, who wanted to write on a journey across the American landscape, but instead of writing only Polaroids shot. Winter looks at his collection of Polaroids more often. "It's so beautiful and empty," notes Alice when she sees a Polaroid of a look out of the airplane window.

Ripley in The American Friend (1977) makes Polaroids of himself while lying on a pool table and the images fall on himself as they come out of the camera. The protagonist is trapped in an excess of self-expression and self-centeredness. In Ripley's case, his search for a secure self isolates him so much that his attempt to keep the world in check cannot prevent it from falling upon him.

In Der Stand der Dinge (1982) a mother interprets the Polaroids recorded by her children in order to understand the perception of her children. For Wenders' characters, photography becomes an indispensable means of understanding and confirming the self.

A homage to photography and August Sander , the 20th century's most influential photographer in portrait history, can be found in Der Himmel über Berlin (1987): Homer, the old poet, lovingly and reverently leafed through Sander's anthology People in the Berlin State Library 20th century . In Wenders 'monumental overview of history, memory and German identity, Sanders' classification of Weimar society is placed between two books with a mythical status: it is up there with the Bible and Homer's Odyssey . In the light of Wenders' praise of the filmmaker as the angel of the narrative in Der Himmel über Berlin , it seems that for Wenders cinema was an important synthesis of images as epiphany on the one hand and history as revelation on the other. The poetry in this context of pictures and stories was written by Peter Handke .

Even Lisbon Story (1994) ends with a colorful, self-reflexive homage to hundred years of film and photographic art. From Alice in the Cities to Der Himmel über Berlin , the photographer as a figure at Wenders has developed from a private collector who assembles his self from Polaroid snapshots to a mythical chronicler of the national identity of a once upon a time . In the mid-1990s, Wenders made this connection between past and present even clearer by publishing an anthology of his own photographs from thirty years of filmmaking and global travel under the title Once . Here photographs are used straightforwardly to tell a very personal story. In 2018, Wenders exhibited his own Polaroids, which he found in a cigar box while organizing his estate. These were both everyday photos, in which the private person emerged who photographed their food or their car with the instant camera, as well as recordings of film sets. The exhibition also featured one of the pictures Dennis Hopper had rained down on him in The American Friend . Today the pictures are art objects of high value, because Polaroid pictures are unique, which is why they are rated as particularly interesting in the age of limitless digital copying.

Andy Warhol , who is said to have always carried a Polaroid camera with him, tried to elevate Polaroids to an art form. The Andy Warhol illustrated book . Polaroids 1958–1987 shows many of these private, often spontaneous recordings and from today's perspective looks like an analog Facebook . Warhol himself compared his Polaroid pictures with a “visual diary”. He photographed Jimmy Carter , Marc Chagall , Caroline von Monaco , John Lennon and the Rolling Stones , among others , but also his shoes, a garden gnome and a spilled cola.

An exhibition at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg in 2018 proves that the brand name Polaroid now stands for much more than direct amateur photography. Examples of photo artists who work with Polaroids are Chuck Close , Ellen Carrey , Dawoud Bey , Bruce Charlesworth , Robert Mapplethorpe , Ellen von Unwerth , Maripol , Sibylle Bergemann and Helmut Newton . Artists like David Hockney also used Polaroid photographs in photo collages . In some cases, finished images are also mechanically processed.

Another form of instant art is a type of Polaroid painting that has been around since the 1980s. Here, photos that have not yet dried are transformed into impressionistic paintings and collages, for example .


Web links

Commons : Polaroid Cameras  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Polaroid camera  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

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  2. Polaroid filters. In: state of polarization of light. on: uni-jena.de , p. 5. (PDF; 305 kB)
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  4. Polaroid files for bankruptcy. In: heise online , December 19, 2008.
  5. Billion fraudster Petters has to go to prison for 50 years. In: Spiegel Online. April 8, 2010.
  6. ^ I Need You Hopeless !!!: Lady Gaga Talks About The Polaroid Partnership With CNBC. In: youtube.com , January 10, 2010, accessed March 28, 2017.
  7. Classic Instant . Polaroid. Archived from the original on May 28, 2010. Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved May 23, 2010. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.polaroid.com
  8. Polaroid heirs help analog film make a comeback. ( Memento from December 17, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) on the website of the Financial Times Deutschland.
  9. ^ The Impossible Project . Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  10. Polaroid App 'Swing' in the App Store
  11. Polaroid cooperation from Cheerz
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  18. Michael Braun : The angel of the story. Wim Wenders “The Sky Over Berlin” . In: media observations . February 4, 2019, ISSN  1612-7315 , urn : nbn: de: 101: 1-2019020412395951594784 .
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