If there were analog cameras that truly were another breed were the Polaroids. The reasons that they were totally different beasts from the far more common 35mm and medium format cameras lies in the much larger area that the polaroid had to expose; you see, for all effects, the Polas were large format cameras only that its negative (because all Polaroid film involved a negative, and the really clever ones didn’t show it to you) was used only once on a single contact print.
The fact that they were dumbified large format cameras amazes me. Dr. Land, the designer of all Polaroid cameras very much followed the path set up by designers of 6×9 folders that were the rage until the popularisation of the 35mm cinefilm format in the early 1930’s by Leica. If you take a look at the first Polas from the 1950’s, the similarities are obvious. The folding served more purposes than just coolness: it was intended for portability. See, the exposure area being larger meant that the focal distance of the lenses involved had to be in proportion; this made for very large cameras, and here’s where the folding shines: it could be collapsed into the body when not in use and it was much lighter than any other alternative. With time, the designs were more and more simplified in order to cut costs and being able to sell the cameras for cheaper. What you see above, the Type 80, was an involution on the concept: it simply got rid of the bellows and changed it for rigid thermoplastic integrated into the film compartment; with setting operable from the both the body and the fixed lensboard.
As in most Polaroids, the exposure was fully automatic. This amazes me because this is a feature that no other large format camera incorporates and even in the realm of medium format, there are only a handful examples. Large format auto-exposure cameras for cheap. Where do I sign? There was only one serious drawback to them: they were only for Polaroid instant films, most of which are not available anymore. Now you think I’ve gone nuts, but I think that if we were able to stick a large format filmholder into one of those, I would still have the chance to shoot it. As a matter of fact, there are several guys in the Internets that will mod a Pola into anything you want, which is just fantastic. One day I will have one, with brand new black vulkanite cover and shiny, shiny chrome re-plating. Until then, I will have to stick to the few films available, which are color and b&w 100 ASA by Fuji for the type 100 cameras, and the wildly unreliable Impossible PX film for SX-70 and type 600, which sucks, but sucks in a kinda nice way. And hey, if you want a Pola, check my evilbay store first because if I die of starvation, which at the current state of affairs is a possibility that we must consider, I won’t be able to write here anymore and, like Don McLean said, maybe make you happy for a while.
Just joking, about starving. But no. Buy a camera from me, I command you!