The Polaroid SX-70 is a pretty complex instant camera. Knowing a little bit about basic photographic principles will help you to achieve more consistent results when shooting with it. That being said, the only adjustable variables are the focus wheel (which is pretty intuitive) and the exposure compensation wheel (which is less intuitive).
The exposure compensation wheel on the SX-70 needs to be adjusted for every single exposure – 1/3 towards darken is our general rule.
The sensitivity of Polaroid Original SX-70 type film is ±160 ASA, but Polaroid SX-70 cameras are calibrated for 100 ASA film. Therefore, it’s important to adjust the exposure wheel 1/3 toward darken to compensate for this difference in film speed (see diagram below).
Pro tip: Every time you close/fold down your camera, the exposure compensation wheel will reset to the center/neutral position. Therefore, you will need to adjust the wheel before every shot.
While 1/3 towards darken is a good rule-of-thumb, each camera behaves slightly differently – you’ll need to become familiar with yours through experience. Of course, different shooting conditions may call for small adjustments to achieve the best exposure as well. Just keep in mind that the more black showing on the exposure wheel, the darker the photo will be, and the more white showing on the exposure wheel, the lighter the picture will be.
Shooting Indoors & Shooting with Flash with the SX-70
The relatively slow film speed of SX-70 film (±160 ASA) means that the SX-70 requires a lot of light in order to achieve well-exposed photos. In darker environments, the camera will achieve this by using a longer shutter speed. You can often audibly hear the delay between pushing the shutter button and the photo ejecting from the camera. This means the camera is using a longer shutter speed, and may result in blurry photos as both you and your subject might move during the time the shutter is open.
We recommend using a the Mint SX-70 Flash Bar in darker environments. When using flash, you can leave the exposure wheel in the center/normal setting.