The Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera
Released in 1972, the Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera was a landmark in instant camera design and functionality. Designed at the cost of $750,000,000 (like, whoa) the SX-70 was the parent model to the modern Polaroids - one-step instant cameras with film that required no peeling. Not only that, but it was also rumored to be one of the very first pocket-sized SLR cameras available in any film format. The luxury of owning one at the came didn't come cheap: the SX-70 initially sold upwards $300, which, by early 70s standards, made it cost-prohibitive to most basic consumers. (source: http://joyopfer.com/sx70)
These days, you can expect to pay significantly less, with good, working models as cheap as $10 at swap meets and not much more online at sites like eBay. While they seem primitive by today's modern instant camera standards - no built-in flash for example - the SX-70 still takes gorgeous, beautiful pictures in good light and besides, it boasts some of the coolest style you'll ever find in any camera with its faux-leather binding, chrome trim and of course, pop-out design.
I was turned onto the SX-70 by "Cool" Chris Veltri who runs Groove Merchant Records in S.F. I was a little skeptical at first, but quickly fell in love with the camera's unique charms. Even it's limitations have proven to be assets in taking remarkable pictures. For example, the main photographic limitation with the camera is how it performs in low light situations sans flash (by the way, flash bulbs are available if you want them). The exposure control automatically keeps the shutter open until the film has received enough light to process, but unless you've got it on a tripod (which you'll need an adapter for anyways), expect a ton of motion blur plus an oversaturation of whatever light sources exist within the frame. The upshot is that you can create some fantastic images in the process, like the self-portrait you see at left, the result of a bright neon sign and long exposure, plus tons of blur.
The main drawback to the SX-70 is the cost of the special Time-Zero film that the camera requires. At least Polaroid still keeps it in production, but most places, you can expect to pay $15 for a 10-pack, and that's assuming you can even find it to begin with. Still, Polaroid's offer something that few cameras - save digitals - can offer: instant gratification and unlike digitals, the finished photo is instantly tangible from the second it spits out of the camera.
IMPORTANT: If possible, try not to use outdated Time-Zero film (each pack should be stamped with an expiration date. I've used some that were about six months old and that was ok, but I recently bought 10 packs of film that were over a year old and it was a disaster. What happened to ALL of them was that the seams were cracked, allowing emulsion to leak out when the film was processed through the camera. The emulsion is corrosive and will not only eat through the photograph, but also your fingers. This can be accurately described as a very bad thing. It's not like your skin will begin to melt, but the emulsion will give you blisters. Bad, very bad. Just make sure if you buy Time-Zero off eBay or something that you ask what the exp. date is. If the film has been stored in a cool environment, then you may be able to gamble if it's less than a year past, but otherwise, I wouldn't risk it.
In case you've never seen this: