Christopher J Osborne

PolaroidPolaroid SX-70 Polasonic SE

Polaroid introduced the worlds first autofocus SLR camera in 1978. They used a variety of different names for this technology in different markets. For example in the US they used the name Sonar OneStep, and this particular example is called the Polasonic Autofocus.

This camera has the plain plastic body of a Model 2 type camera, but more luxurious models with chrome plating were also available. In 1978 this camera cost a wallet emptying $249.95 (approx. $825/£530 in 2010 money), mind you in real terms that was still a little cheaper than the original SX-70 cost 6 years earlier.

As well as the the sonar autofocus unit, Polaroid added a red LED in the viewfinder which lights up to warn the user that a shutter speed likely to cause camera shake will be used.

The sonic autofocus system on these camera works amazingly well. It’s virtually instantaneous, there is absolutely no hunting, and because it works by sound waves it doesn’t just work in low light… it works in no light at all!

In fact it works so well, it almost makes you wonder why they don’t use similar systems today… but of course there are disadvantages: to begin with the sonar unit is quite bulky. Then there is the fact that it doesn’t work through the lens, so I guess you would need to tailor the unit to each lens, which would be a problem on a camera with interchangeable lenses. And finally, as an active technology that measures the time it takes for the sounds waves to bounce back from the subject, it doesn’t work well when there is something between you and the subject, like a window for example.

One of the disadvantages of this camera over the manual focus SX-70 cameras, is that the sonar unit means you can’t use the close up lens and telephoto conversion lens you can see on my Polaroid SX-70 (original model) page. But there is no doubt that within the context of this camera, it works brilliantly well.

Photographs taken with the Polaroid SX-70 Polasonic SE

Film: Polaroid SX-70 TZ Artistic

Location: Easter Road, Edinburgh

I've never really used this camer properly as the normal manual focus SX-70 cameras are just much more useful for day-to-day photography. But I did put one pack of Polaroid SX-70 TZ Artistic through it just to see if it worked. These days the idea of wasting a precious pack of TZ Artistic just on testing a camera is quite horrifying! It's difficult to remember a time when this film was actually fairly easy to come by!

Film: Polaroid SX-70 TZ Artistic

Location: Easter Road, Edinburgh