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.
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.
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