Giant Polaroid Camera Makes Two Foot Instant Prints

Photographer Tim Mantoani with 20x24 Polaroids in the NYC 20X24 Studio. Photo courtesy of Mantoani.com

Photographer Tim Mantoani with 20×24 Polaroids in the NYC 20X24 Studio. Photo courtesy of Mantoani.com

We all love Polaroid. Polaroid, no matter what time period you are looking at, as always had that nostalgic feel right from the minute the camera shoots it out until your kids are finding them in cardboard boxes in the attic. I know that I personally put that little 3×4 image square in my car visor, the corners of my mirror or in the front of my binder I use for class. I wrote a post on this a few weeks ago and I also tested out the new Impossible Film and thought I learned a great deal about Polaroid. Turns out I was missing a whole chunk of something cool. What if that instant picture could be HUGE? Like, 2ft tall huge? Can a photo so instantaneous be so large, and even further, does it actually look good?

Yes! Recently, I came across a Polaroid camera that is HUGE. Polaroid’s 20×24 camera, weighing in at 235lbs, takes photos that are in fact, 20×24 inches. They were created in 1977 and 1978. Only five of these bad boys still exist, and one lives in NYC’s 20X24 Studio named after the camera. I found this video on a website called Science Friday, you can also see it there.

Really cool, right? This camera has taken portraits of President Obama, Lady Gaga, and other world icons. Polaroid stopped making the film for this camera a few years ago but Studio 20×24 still has enough left to make 1,000 black and white photos and 15,000 color photos.

Shahrukh Khan and  Vivienne Westwood with a 20x24 Polaroid. Photo Even Kafka courtesy of Forbes.com

John Reuter and Jen Trausch with a 20×24 Polaroid. Photo Even Kafka courtesy of Forbes.com

20x24 Polaroid. Photo courtesy of 20x24studio.com

20×24 Polaroid. Photo courtesy of 20x24studio.com

So why is this ancient thing still so relevant? I checked out the 20X24 Studio website and found this great explanation:

“Why not fake it, you might ask? A highly skilled digital artist could take a high-resolution digital capture from an 80mp digital back and try to simulate the optical characteristics of large format lenses, they could ramp back the color to simulate the more limited palette of color instant films, they could scan the unique edge marks that 20Ɨ24 cameras produce, they could hope to but never achieve the depth of a diffusion transfer print. They could do all these things, and perhaps fool a great many people. So can art forgers simulate a DaVinci or Picasso, and again one could fool a great many people and even experts for a time. Inevitably it comes down to authenticity and a 20Ɨ24 instant photograph is the epitome of authenticity. It is especially so in 2012, thirty-six years after its invention.”

If there are five cameras left, where are they? One is in the 20×24 Studio in NYC and another is also in NYC on loan at the

Lady Gaga with her 20x24 self portrait print. Photo courtesy of Vogue.com

Lady Gaga with her 20×24 self portrait print. Photo courtesy of Vogue.com

Film Society of Lincoln Center. Three and Four are owned by photographers in Cambridge, MA and Prague, Czech Republic.
Five is being operated by Impossible works in Paris, France. The lenses used in the NYC studio are 1200mm, 800mm, 600mm, 360mm, 210mm, and 135mm. The first three were the ones originally designed for the camera.

Lady Gaga, who became the creative director for Polaroid a few years ago, posed in front of the rare camera for an image that was displayed at MIT in Boston.

I’m currently looking into how much it would cost to get a portrait done, or even if that is something that is possible. I’m curious to find out so hopefully I get some information soon.

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