How do instant cameras work?

With instant cameras, you are able to develop photos the moment you click them. The basic function of the instant cameras is the same as in other cameras. Other than that these cameras have the equipment to develop the photos on plastic sheets of film.

Self developing films

Photos can be developed within seconds if you are using the Polaroid cameras. When the camera shutter opens, the image and the light is captured on the film roll. These films already have the necessary chemicals that are required to develop the picture.

The reagent

There are three silver compound layers, which help in the production of the photo. The three layers are sensitive to red, green and blue lights. These are the basic colors which make up all other colors. In addition to this, there are four different types of chemicals that help in the image generation. These chemicals too come in layers namely; image layer, acid layer, timing layer and the developer layer. All these layers must be catalyzed by a specific reagent in order to produce the photo. The reagent is along the edges of the instant camera film rolls.

Processing the film

Within minutes of clicking the photo, the instant camera ejects the photographic paper from the rollers. The rollers work by coating the reagents located on the edge of the film. As soon as the film gets layered by the reagents, the silver compounds and other chemicals get catalyzed. For the first few seconds the image is grayish but soon the colors can be seen on the photographic paper. As the chemical reactions happen, the color will be visible on the photo. When the chemical reactions will cease, the photo is ready. Now you can have super memories with the instant camera.

The light-sensitive layers of chemicals react with the three color wavelength that falls on the layers. Difference in intensity of these basic colors gives rise to other colors. The silver compounds turn from silver halide to metallic silver, as soon as they get exposed.

With other types of cameras the films have to be developed in dark rooms, or they would need a printer to reproduce the image in a photo paper. The instant cameras are self-sufficient and do all these on their own.


The main disadvantage with the instant camera is its size. The film sizes are fixed and you can’t get a different size image. Also the cameras are costly. The film replacement is quite expensive too. The film roll is expensive since the photo is been developed inside the camera in an instant. This is obvious as the film does all the processing by itself using so many chemicals.

Furthermore, these cameras are bigger than digital cameras and can’t be carried everywhere. The normal adjustments that you can do with your photo, for example, the color balance, cropping, red eye correction; etc. can’t be done with instant camera photos. The resolution and sharpness of the image are not as good as that of a digital camera. This is the reason, that instant camera such as Polaroid has become obsolete.

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    I see this question day in and day out anourd here. The honest truth is that today, current model dSLRs from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax and Olympus all take great photographs. In general, it’s a myth that there is a dSLR that’s best for a newbie photographer. What I can tell you is that Sony was the first to actually include help screens for photographers in their 3 new bodies, the A230, the A330 and the A380. Nikon just followed with their latest entry level dSLR, and Sony has done it again with their new A500 and A550.Other brands have yet to do this, but bet it’s coming. However this isn’t a deal breaker kind of thing so don’t get too caught up in it. So back to using the camera, they all work in a similar fashion, they all have the shutter button in the same place if you know what I mean.The only con I can think of for the entry level dSLRs is Nikon not including a autofocus motor. I don’t shoot nikon but I see owners of the nikon d40, d60, d3000 and d5000 complaining about it when certain lenses become manual focus. You won’t have that issue with Canon or Sony Alpha.If you plan on doing low light high ISO photography, there can be differences as some cameras are cleaner in low light. The general rule of thumb is the more expensive the body, the better the sensor and the processor, and this will result in cleaner images.And the lower price of say 500-600 bucks, I’d say Canon has the edge, then nikon then Sony. But as you get to the 900 dollar price point, I’d say the new Sony A550 is the champ.If you are set on Canon or Nikon at the lower price point, I’d go Canon. The no autofocus motor at the bottom end with Nikon is a deal breaker. It’s fine with most lenses until you come across that one you want and it won’t AF on your body, then you’ll feel differently. Either way, there are so many reviews by pros on the web for all these cameras, you need hit the search engines and do some serious reading.

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