Friday, September 09, 2005

Does Polaroid Still Have a Place?

When I was about 10 years old, there was nothing I wanted more for my birthday than a Polaroid camera. I was so captivated by the idea that I could see a photo magically develop within 60 or so seconds of taking the picture that I couldn't get the camera out of my mind. I begged and pleaded with my mom and dad to get me one. Since my birthday falls within a week of Christmas, I even negotiated with my parents and offered to allow the Polaroid to serve as a gift for both occasions. I'm not sure which part of my arguments was most effective at getting through to the folks, but I actually did end up with the exact Polaroid camera that I wanted.

The film for the camera was quite expensive in those days, so I tried not to go crazy with my picture-taking adventures. But I still had a lot of fun taking candid shots of my brother and my dog. The photos themselves weren't of the highest quality. I still have some of those old Polaroid pictures from 20 years ago, and they look a bit faded now, although that's perhaps only to be expected after so much time has passed. I don't think Polaroid ever positioned themselves as being a high-quality camera and film combo. I think the big draw was the convenience and novelty (for that time) of having pictures self-develop in about a minute.

Surprisingly, in this day and age of digital cameras, Polaroid still sells their so-called "instant imaging" models. I don't have access to sales data, so I don't know for sure how successful these cameras are. But if I had to guess, I would say that there's probably not much of a market for them anymore. I mean, there are all kinds of very affordable, high-quality digital cameras on the market that will take much sharper photographs than a Polaroid instant imaging camera could produce. And of course, digital camera images are immediately accessible and can be printed in a matter of seconds provided that you have the necessary equipment. For these reasons, and many more (including the fact that digital cameras are so much more versatile than Polaroids), I think that Polaroid instant imaging cameras don't have much of a place in modern photography.

In a way, I am kind of sad to see Polaroid cameras becoming obsolete. I obviously have a lot of fond memories from the many years of enjoyment that my camera gave me as a child. Don't get me wrong: I know that the natural progression of technology dictates that things like this are bound to occur. Old favorites will be replaced by more efficient products with better capabilities than we could ever have imagined before. I love my digital camera, and I constantly marvel at all the things it can do. But at the same time, I will always remember the utter amazement with which I watched Polaroid pictures develop right before my 10-year-old eyes.

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