Blast From The Past: Classic Commercial for the Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera

One month ago today, the Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera — a camera that TIME’s own Harry McCracken called “the greatest gadget of all time” — celebrated its 41st birthday. When it came out it was absolutely revolutionary, and to get the word out, Polaroid put together a few ads to show off the instant shooter.

It’s impossible to get across just how magical the SX-70 must have seemed when Polaroid co-founder Edwin Land first demonstrated it in 1972 at the company’s annual meeting inside a warehouse in Needham, Massachusetts. He took the camera out of his suit coat pocket, and in ten seconds produced five photos — a previously impossible feat.


When he introduced it, Land claimed it contained 20,000 technical breakthroughs — a number that seems a bit high, if we’re being honest — every single one of them by Polaroid’s own engineers. In fact, according to McCracken, the company even manufactured just about every component of the SX-70 itself in its Boston factories.

“It’s as if Apple hadn’t just designed the iPad’s case and written its software,” writes McCracken, “but also invented its LCD display and wireless broadband networking.”


It made the cover of TIME and LIFE magazines, and even with the $180 price tag (equivalent to about $900 today) plus the $7 you had to spend for each 10-picture film pack, it still managed to sell over 700,000 units by mid-1974 (keep in mind, it wasn’t even widely available until the Fall of 1973 after an initial “pilot” release in Florida).

So many years later, the camera still holds up. Thanks to the Impossible Project, it’s still possible to find film for the camera, even though Polaroid stopped making it in 2006. All you need now is to get your own off of eBay. And if you’re not sure why you would, just watch the commercial at the top… it did a pretty darn good job or convincing people back in the 70s when it aired.

(via Reddit)

Image credit: Polaroid Land Camera SX-70 by spieri_sf

  • John Reinert Nash

    We should have more ads that use the phrase “Fresnel lens.” :)

  • Fazer

    Back when advertisers didn’t make ads for stupid people.

  • enzofloc

    In tomorrow’s ad we will discuss additive film colour and depth of field.

  • clipper

    I pimped mine with a loud covering from the well recommended & very reasonable Aki-Asahi in Japan. USD19 back in 2006. The current selection for these models are about halfway down on this page

    Tons more for other cameras too. There is also cameraleather in the States

    Some of the nice leathers transform the handling of the old tank like Russian rangefinders FED s and Zorki’s etc.

    And you should see my very pretty Canonet Chrome QL17 GIII recovered in cameraleather’s black lizard skin ……

  • superduckz

    Oh great I’m actually shopping for a nice used example of one of these and now you’ve gone and jacked the demand. I wish you could you have waited ONE MORE WEEK! :)

  • eoe

    You should mention somewhere that the ad was created by artful and clever marketers designers artists Ray and Charles Eames (the same folks who designed the Eames Chair)…

  • Ken Elliott

    When I was a kid, my grandfather loaned me his. It was like something from the future. If you remember what your reaction to seeing the first iPhone was, that was what the SX-70 was like. People would ask you all sorts of questions about it. The SLR 35mm cameras were just starting to become popular, and along comes a medium format SLR, with auto-exposure (!) that folds up to fit a jacket pocket. The instant gratification of the film sealed the deal. Previous instant film had a peel-off cover sheet that was coated on one side with a gel. It was nasty trash, and you had to coat the photo to protect it. The SX gave you a photo with no mess, no need to coat, and the film pack included the battery. No wonder Steve Jobs was inspired by the SX-70.

  • Sid Ceaser

    I wish I could get camerleather to reply to my emails. I’ve got a Hasselblad I want to customize, but my emails have gone unanswered for years. :(

  • Sid Ceaser

    My Happy Birthday wish to the SX from last year. Still just as good!