Polaroid Camera Won't Turn On

By Scott Shpak

A quick guide to understanding why Polaroid cameras don't turn on, usually due to expired film pack batteries.

Things You'll Need

  • Replacement batteries/battery charger

Polaroid cameras introduced instant film processing to the world while producing cameras for consumers, professionals and special applications. By 1956, the company had made 1 million cameras. Though the company no longer makes cameras or film for the classic while-you-wait instant photos, three types of Polaroid consumer cameras can still be commonly found, and a new manufacturer has emerged to produce film for these cameras. Powered by a battery built in to each film pack, a Polaroid camera that won't turn on likely needs only new film.

Integral Film Pack Cameras

In 1972, Polaroid introduced the SX-70 camera, the first camera to expose and start processing a photo with just a touch of a button. The company later produced the 600 series and Spectra cameras that used similar film packs that were more sensitive to light than SX-70 film.

In each of these camera types, after a photo is taken, motors in the camera push the print through rollers that break open chemical pods and spread the chemicals across the print, creating the image that emerges moments later. Power for the motors comes from a battery inside the film pack. Each time you load a new pack of film, you're changing the battery too.

Polaroid stopped producing film for its cameras in 2008. While photographers and dealers stockpiled film packs, the film and chemicals are perishable. Although the life of the film and chemicals can be extended through careful storage, battery life is now a problem for original Polaroid film packs. Even with carefully stored film, there's no way to operate a film pack camera with a dead battery in the pack.

The Impossible Project acquired equipment from a decommissioned Polaroid factory and now produces black-and-white and color film for 600-series, SX-70 and Spectra camera types. Revive your Polaroid camera with a matching film pack, which contains a fresh battery to power your camera, available from The Impossible Project.

Changing an Integral Film Pack

Step 1

Open the camera's film door. As you hold the camera in the same orientation as you would for taking a photo, the door release is on the right side. Some models have a push-button release, while others have a slider that pushes forward to open the door. Note that folding cameras must be in the open position to access the film door release.

Step 2

Remove the empty film pack. There's a tab at the front of the pack to aid removal. Pull on the tab to slide the film pack out of the camera.

Step 3

Insert the new film pack. Integral film packs only fit in one orientation. One side of the pack has two openings -- the contacts for transferring battery power. This is the bottom of the pack. With the bottom down and the tab away from the camera, the pack is ready to slide into the camera. Insert it fully and close the film door. The camera ejects the dark slide from the film pack, and you're ready to photograph.

Warning

Don't force the film pack into your camera; it should slide in without resistance. Each of the three integral film pack styles is unique. You can't, for example, use a 600-series film pack in an SX-70 camera without modifying both camera and film pack.

Other Polaroid Cameras

While the 600-series, SX-70 and Spectra style cameras dominate the Polaroid used camera market, there are other models that used conventional batteries, such as AA 1.5-volt batteries and the obscure No. 531 4.5-volt and No. 532 3.0-volt batteries. While these batteries will power up your camera, no new film is available for these models.