5 Things you may not know about the instant photo camera


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Look around. This is the age of instant gratification. If you’ve clicked it, you want to see it. Now. No wonder everyone is busy snapping pictures on their cell phones. So how is the instant photo camera making a comeback?

Words Aninda Sardar

The year 2002 is of great significance to the way we lead our lives today, especially the stuff you see on social media platforms. This was the year that the now ubiquitous cell phone got its first camera. The same year on October 13, the Australian website ABC Online described a digital self-portrait as a ‘selfie’, the first published record of the word that even toddlers recognise today. There has been no looking back and since then the cell phone has become our primary image recording device. Yet, somehow the emergence of the cell phone camera with its promise of instant visual delight hasn’t resulted in the demise of all types of film cameras. In fact, the instant photo camera that we commonly call a Polaroid continues to do fairly well.

1.    Instant photo cameras use analogue film, just like in the old days
If you’re a child of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s then you’d know this as a Polaroid, which was loosely applied to all instant photo cameras. If you’re a Millennial, you’d probably be more familiar with the name Instax. Either way, what you’re referring to is a camera loaded with an analogue film that develops itself into a printed photograph soon after you’ve pressed the shutter button. 

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2.    The instant photo camera is still very successful 
Thing is, it’s sort of difficult to be on the side of conventional wisdom when data suggests the exact opposite. Digest this, Fujifilm, the makers of the earlier mentioned Instax series of instant photo cameras, ships a total of 45 staggering million units around the world! Polaroid, the company that invented the instant photo camera continues to list as many as 18 different products on their website. Fujifilm offers 11 different models of its Instax series globally, with eight of them available in India and Kodak’s line-up has a modest four. 
“We have designed these cameras to offer ease of clicking and can be operated by anyone from a young teenager to an old person. Another key factor leading to growth of instant camera is its beautiful design and attractive colors packed in a compact design. It allows one to print images and preserve them as memories forever with just a single click,” says Centhil Nathan, senior vice president, Fujifilm India. 

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3.    People still feel emotionally connected to a printed image
Strangely, the draw seems to be emotion, and it isn’t limited to a particular age group. “Instant camera as a category has become popular amongst people across age groups. In the digital-age, the concept of having a print copy of a picture brings alive the emotional quotient. We often call Gen Z and millennials a ‘selfie generation’ however even in today’s digital era, print copies hold a strong place amongst millennials. Cumulative shipments of over 45 million units worldwide is a testimony that people still like to have a printed copy of a picture,” says Fujifilm’s Centhil Nathan. Rising trends of sharing printed photographs and decorating work stations with collages of printed photos have also done their bit to keep the instant photo camera from being extinct.

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4.    Did you know that the story actually begins as an endearing dad-daughter chronicle?
Edwin H Land, who left Harvard and founded Polaroid, was on a family vacation. The year was 1943 and Land’s daughter was just three years old. When daddy snapped little Miss Land, the curious kitten wanted to know why she couldn’t see the picture right then. That got Mr. Land’s grey cells going and in 1947 he announced to the world that he has invented the instant-picture process. 

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5.    The original instant camera needed a full minute to create a photograph
The world’s first dry-process method was capable of developing a proper photograph in exactly a minute after the photographer had clicked it. By September 1956, the company had produced a million of these gadgets and went on to develop the world’s first instant colour film in 1963, exactly 20 years after little Miss Land’s question to her daddy. Through photography’s analogue age, when you’d have to wait for days to get a peak at your holiday memories, the lure of the instant photo camera, or Polaroid as they became largely known, was its immediacy.

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Leads me to think, maybe it’s time to dust out dad’s old Polaroid 600 and take it on the next holiday. Certainly, an idea that clicks!