At first glance, Polaroid’s “The Reporter” camera is just another forgettable plastic pack-film camera from the golden age and fertile mind of our favorite photographic company (sorry, Kodak). But wait! Don’t spend $600 on some clapped-out 180 or 360 until you give The Reporter (not the Reporter) a second or third look. In my hunt for a daily pack-film shooter, the modestly-priced The Reporter (sic) performs surprisingly well.
Firstly, there are the benefits of the reverse macho ethic (what Stephen Potter would have called “Photographermanship”) — viz, “real men don’t use rangefinders, and only pansies use Auto Focus.” No problem here; The Reporter lets you suffer for your art by making you focus manually always, and thereby sharpen your own organic God-Given rangefinder skills (which have atrophied since we lived in caves and stopped hunting, and being hunted by, Dinosaurs).
Yes, this is long before the introduction of Polaroid’s wonderful (unfailingly reliable, incredibly clever, and dead-accurate) sonar focusing device. The exposure is automatic, with the usual lighten/darken wheel, 75/3000ASA switch (Fuji’s color pack film is ASA 90, but it’s close enough, and you can fine-tune if you have to). It even takes standard double-A batteries; not some weird vintage things you have to go looking for.
Stay tuned for sample pictures, which will ultimately decide if The Reporter’s plastic lens is going to cut it, but I’d have to say meantime that the very best aspect of The Reporter is the PACKAGING. It’s a small, light, attractive package, with a cool vintage look and nifty, easy-to-carry folding design which (heresy coming) looks neater and more unique and less awkward and primitive and erector-set-like than all those expensive pack-film cameras you’ve been saving for.
Could it be possible that a camera you can pick up on Ebay for around $25 is actually more fun, useful, and practical than something with a Zeiss-Ikon Rangefinder made in, gosh, WEST GERMANY? You know, the place where they make LEICAS?
Hey, all you hipster-poseurs: for a REAL dyed-in-Cambridge Polaroid alumnus-fan like me, there is NOTHING better than a plastic viewfinder made in Waltham, Massachusetts.