The coveted Polaroid Land 180 and 195 cameras have slower f/4.7 lenses, and no flash connectors, unless you mod the lens or camera.
The inexpensive and ubiquitous Land Cameras (250, 350 etc) are 100% automatic with f/13 lenses, requiring a direct flash, long exposures, fast ISO 3000 film and/or bright direct sunlight, and a battery compartment modification to use AAAs.
All other medium format systems besides the Mamiya Universal Press (Hasselblad, Contax, Pentax, Bronica etc) cover only a fraction of the frame.
The next nearest “good choice,” a Mamiya RB/RZ, has a good portion of the frame permanently blacked out, and it weighs at minimum 5.5 lbs/2.5 kg, difficult for most people to carry around.
The only medium-format camera with full coverage of the 4.25″x3.25″ frame is the Mamiya Universal Press. Plus, it can be carried by hand.
While 4×5 cameras also have 100% frame coverage, they have their own limitations. The ones with easy focus- SLRs – are very large and heavy. The lighter and manageable ones have more difficult focus (ground glass or rangefinders paired with slow lenses).
Because the 4.x25x3.25 format is only a portion of the 4×5 frame, making composition is challenging or time consuming, because the Polaroid backs are off-center.
For landscapes or slow, carefully posed portraits of still subjects, a 4×5 system is okay, but less than ideal for instant film shooting in regular portrait situations.
In here, I show the range of lighting abilities the camera has, with an example of bounce flash, direct flash, remotely triggered strobe in a softbox, interior lighting in the evening, and natural daylight.
Outside of my family, the Mamiya Universal Press is perfect for client work.
Besides being a conversation piece at a wedding, shooting instant film allows you to hand your clients a beautiful print in just a few minutes. Everyone appreciates the specialness of having a real print in their hands, despite the digital age’s proliferation of photos.
About the Mamiya Universal Press
First made in 1969 through the 70s, the Mamiya Universal Press is a 100% manual camera with multiple interchangeable lenses and a universe of options for film backs, living up to its name.
And, like anything Mamiya, it is built like a tank, and weighs like one too. Fortunately, there are still many cameras going around, and professional repair shops are still able to fix them.
Polaroid Originals (aka Impossible Project) (600 and Spectra sizes). (Find on Amazon)
The 600 type film, Instax wide, and peel-apart FP100c/3000b/Polaroid etc are all the same size – 4.25’x3.25”. Instax Mini and Square are smaller.
Fuji will make Instax in the foreseeable future, and it’s relatively inexpensive at about $0.75 USD per photo.
Polaroid Originals/Impossible Project film is here to stay, and has its own charm, at about $3 USD per photo.
The last peel apart film made, FP-100c (also Fujifilm), ceased new production in early 2016. Thankfully, there was a recent successful Kickstarter, by the same people who made the Impossible Project film, to manufacture new peel apart film sometime in mid-2019, and initially will run close to $10 USD per photo.
There are still sources online for other peel apart films, such as the ISO 3000 B&W FP-3000b, as well as rarer, older, and riskier (funky colors, dried out pods etc) films made by Fuji and Polaroid like FP-100b, 667, 669, etc.
Overall, the Mamiya Universal Press photographic system by far is the most versatile, flexible and future-proof system, even as available film formats change rapidly.
Paired with FP100c or FP3000b peel-apart film (still easy to find as of spring 2019), you can make large format quality images in combination with the 100/2.8 lens, and quickly switch to your favorite medium format stocks to shoot 120/220 film.
Nothing beats the look of excitement on people’s faces when you hand them a beautiful instant print right there.