Review: Polaroid SLR 680 / 690

Recently, I came across a little gem in local camera fair about half a year ago. Walking by all the tables, amongst a slew of cameras, I spotted what looked like an SLR 680. I was stoked; ever since I had heard that a foldable Polaroid 600 slr existed, it was my most sought after treasure. But to my confusion the camera said “Polaroid 690.” I had never seen one of these ever, so I did some Googling and texted Francisco about it. He assured that he would never talk to me again if I didn’t buy it. I asked the owner how much he was selling it for. Since the manual focus switch was broken and hence only auto-focused he said he would sell it for $60. I was floored, but at such a low price I had to wonder if it even worked. Good thing for me, I had a pack of 600 film with me that I could test. Low and behold the camera worked and I was sold.

 

 

 


Instantly, I was in love with this camera. It looks just like a normal SX-70 Sonar, with the brick on top that had the Sonar auto-focusing mechanism. However, the Polaroid 690, and the SLR 680, have a built in flash that can be turned on and off. Also different from the SX-70 is the obvious: the 680 and 690 both take Polaroid 600 film. This means you can use all the awesome 600 films released by the Impossible Project or all those magical expired Polaroid films like 779 and 690. The differences between the SX-70 and SLR 680/690 are few and obvious, but what exactly differs between the two SLR 600 cameras, and why were they given different names?

    Polaroid Slr 680 and 690, the same Camera?

In essence the Polaroid SLR 680 and 690 are the same camera. What differs between them lies within. The Polaroid 690 was a response to the high demand to bring the Polaroid slr 680 back, which was discontinued in 1987. However, this time around, the Polaroid 690 would be manufactured in Japan, rather than the U.S. and the digital integrated circuitry, which governed the exposure system, was replaced with a digital micro-processer. In essence, the Polaroid 690 is the Japanese version of the Polaroid SLR 680.

Different circuitry, but still the same ol’ reliable camera; both the 680 and the 690 rock a 116mm, f8, fully coated 4-element glass lens, which automatically exposes from f/8 – f/22. The Sonar on this baby, much like the SX-70, is perfect. Thinking about it, it blows me away how this thing knows exactly what to focus on, and it does it quick, focusing on anything about 10 inches away to infinity. This thing gets CLOSE and it keeps all the sharpness you would expect in an instant photo and packs an insanely shallow depth of field, much like the SX-70. A nice little touch to this camera is that the flash angles itself as well to point itself at the subject, accommodating for focal distance. Sheer brilliance if you ask me.

    Film

What’s great about the 680/690 is being able to use the 600 speed film without having to buy or fiddle with a filter of any sort: just pop in the film and go. The 600 speed film is also great for shooting later in the day or in overcast weather and even in doors, since harsher light won’t be as necessary as it is with the SX-70. It is a very versatile and sharp film, and being able to use it in a single lens reflex camera with such a shallow depth of field makes it a powerhouse combination.

Something else I recently learned is that Impossible Project’s PX-70 film actually works in my Polaroid 690. I found out when I recently visited Francisco and had packs of PX-70 but only my 690 since I forgot my SX-70. It was a gamble worth taking, and one I’m glad I did. Only thing is, make sure you turn the lighten wheel all the way up. The images come out perfect though, and even the flash works well with the film, as Francisco found out during a good friend’s wedding.

    Wrap-up

If you want everything that the SX-70 Sonar has but love the amazing 600 film, and want to shoot something that requires less light, this is the way to go! Due to it’s flash capabilities, it makes it a great party camera as well. The Polaroid 680 / 690 is a camera for all situations, and one you will never regret owning.

 


Impossible Project’s PX-70 film

 


Impossible Project’s PX-680 and PX-600 film

 

 

Comments

  1. Sorry for reposting but I removed typos and other mistakes so the comment is easier to read now. Many apologies.
    Hi, I get the undeveloped patch issue with this camera using Impossible film. Applying pressure on the rollers resolves the issue. I am surprised you haven’t had this problem as it appears to be quite common. Also, you say that Impossible film is awesome. I beg to differ. Even the latest PX680 is terribly unreliable. Indoors without a flash you get horribly blurry images. Outside, in bright light, the image gets damaged if it is exposed to moderate sunlight, in spite of Impossible’s claims otherwise. I have been taking Polaroid’s since the mid-90s and I have used three different cameras with the PX680 film (Impulse AF, The Polaroid One 600, and the 690), and my conclusion is that the film is definitely sensitive to sunlight. The images also seem to fade fairly quickly and in spite of the 690 being an extraordinay camera (with the focussing being especially impressive), the film that is currently available produces really poor results.
    The hipsters of today like instant cameras for different reasons. They find the flaws of the Impossible film quite artistic. I remember Polaroid being an alternative to other forms of film photography where you had to have the film processed. The Polaroid was for snapshots and during its peak no one ever said the quality was great. They were good for what they did (save time on getting photos processed), but better film cameras were available. Polaroid cameras were always a joke for serious photographers who got far better results with other film cameras. Very few professional photographers used Polaroid cameras, but on the internet the revisionists have created a world in which Polaroids were used by artists and pros. They weren’t – Nikon, Canon, Kodak, Fuji, Olymlus and Leica made far better cameras, so why would a pro spend a small fortune on Polaroid film? Lenses on Polaroid cameras were never great and you got small pictures. I still use instant cameras for the same purpuse I used them in the past – to get quick printed snapshots. Some are of excellent quality (when I use a Polaroid 250 land camera with Fuji’s pack film), others are quite good (using Instax wide with the 500af Fuji camera), and the rest are very average (Polaroid 600 cameras using Impossible film). It is sad that today’s generation of photographers have to use crap film to get very average results with even the best Polaroid cameras. The technology never allowed production of outstanding photographs. The images are too small for anything other than casual photography (and at this the cameras excelled, hence their popularity). It is great that film is still made and the cameras are not obsolete but the quality of the film needs to improve considerably. The hipsters don’t help matters by calling Impossible film ‘awesome’. It costs twice as much as the original Polaroid film, offers eight exposures instead of ten and the film is very temperamental. If photographers accept that the current Impossible film is awesome why would the company even bother making better quality products when they can churn out overpriced crap that gets praised?Because it is ‘saving instant photography’? I think the praise needs to wait until Impossible make a film worthy of it. You can get better images with Instax using Fuji’s polished film that gives superior results. I think the Fuji film produces better images than even the original Polaroid integral film which always had washed out colours (I know, I know – the dreaminess of Polaroid – as if the company actually liked making washed out images a feature of their cameras and film…).
    Still, you got a bargain with the 690. Hopefully someday Impossible will make decent film to make the camera shine again. For now, even the best Polaroid camera will not produce amazing images with the crap film available.

  2. Hello guys,
    I remember when I was a kid my father would carry it around and I would even find photos taken with it around the house…
    Guess what, I, a grown up man now, was looking for some other things in the basement, I found it! I Found it!!

    Now I need to know whether it still works or not!!

    What’s my next step!?

    Thanks a lot!

  3. it’s a great camera, the best in my collection. bought and used in Russia (http://speedphoting.ru/camera/polaroid_600/slr_680/), works well in the cold and heat.

  4. my dad has one of them polaroid 690, i guess the weather’s been bad for it and thus when I inserted a pack of new impossible project film the darkslide ejected and the flash capacitor blew up… everything ELSE works fine, except the flash capacitor..

    does anyone know where it can be replaced?

  5. How you make sure the exposure of every frame is right?

  6. A lot of pros proofed their images with a 4×5 polaroid, back in the day before committing to film , this had a lot to do with an art director on set who needed the reassurance that his concept works…..

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