Last weekend, Synthia and I went to the ranch to photograph Erica Perry’s bridal & promo photos.    When we were finished, we headed up to Synthia’s parents house to celebrate her niece’s b-day.   While we were visiting, her mom told us that she had an old 35mm camera at the dentist office that she wanted to give us.   The three of us cruised up the road and rummaged around the attic and found the camera; a Yashica inter-oral macro camera.   The lens has an inner ring flash and is fixed to the body (pretty cool, needs an odd battery).   While we were up there, Synthia’s mom mentioned that they might have an old Polaroid too.   She went searching through some boxes and dug up a Polaroid Macro 5 SLR.   I quickly figured out that this could use Impossible’s Spectra film.

Polaroid Macro 5 SLR
Polaroid Macro 5 SLR

The excitement was buzzing through me!  Macros with a Polaroid??? I’d probably seen one of these in the past, but I’d never realized what it could do.    With a SX-70, the closest you can focus is 10 inches.  Being able to focus closer, provides a whole new realm of creativity to dive into.

When I got back home, I searched online and found the Polaroid Macro 5’s manual.  There are 5 different distances in which you can focus the camera; 52, 26, 10, 5 and 3 inches. You press the shutter down 1/2 way and it emits two dots of light from the camera.  As you bring the image into focus, the dots intersect and overlap each other; a dual-light rangefinder. There are two flashes on either side of the lens (which you can toggle on & off separately) and there’s also an external PC port on the camera, so you can slave flashes off-camera.

For those that are going to try any off-camera flash photography, you’ll find the following chart useful.  You should note, that the Polaroid Macro 5 has a fixed shutter speed of 1/50th.   For proper exposures using off-camera flash, you’ll need to use a handheld flash meter to figure out the right output for your strobes/flashes.

Polaroid Macro 5 SLR Camera Specifications
Polaroid Macro 5 SLR Camera Specifications

The first image I shot, cliche yes, was of Synthia’s eye.   I wanted to get a feel for just how close this thing could focus.   I set the Macro 5 to focus at its closest distance (3 inches), kept the exposure at neutral with the flashes on, and snapped the photo.

Polaroid Macro 5 SLR - Impossible Project PZ680 Old Generation
Polaroid Macro 5 SLR – Impossible Project PZ680 Old Generation

Later on, I went to Archinal Camera to show my friend Robert the newest acquisition.  He’s got a TON of old cameras on a shelf above his desk.   I grabbed an old Kodak camera and snapped another macro for the blog.

Polaroid Macro 5 SLR - Impossible Project PZ680 Old Generation
Polaroid Macro 5 SLR – Impossible Project PZ680 Old Generation

Afterwards, I went to my brother’s house and snapped a photo of Edie (my niece).  She was hanging out under the kitchen table.   I set the focus to 26 inches and started rocking back & forth until she was in focus.  She wasn’t too fond of the focusing lights.  When the image developed, I noticed a time stamp on top of the photo.  I pressed the Mode button on the back until “– — —-” showed up, hoping it would turn off that feature.  It did.

Polaroid Macro 5 SLR - Impossible Project PZ680 Old Generation
Polaroid Macro 5 SLR – Impossible Project PZ680 Old Generation

What about its off camera flash capabilities??   I set up a Nikon SB-600, set at 1/16th power, about 3 inches away from a dead fly I found.   I figured, why not?  I set the camera to its closest focusing distance (3 inches) and hooked up some Pocket Wizards.  I turned the Macro 5’s internal flashes off and fired a photo.

Polaroid Macro 5 SLR - Impossible Project PZ-680 Old Generation
Polaroid Macro 5 SLR – Impossible Project PZ-680 Old Generation

As stated in the Macro 5’s manual, “Test exposures may be required to determine the correct location and settings for the auxiliary flash unit for correct exposure”.  That’s definitely the case.   My Sekonic L-358 can only meter up to f/90.  I was guesstimating the right output on the SB-600 and the exposure is overexposed.  Regardless of the outcome of this photo, it’s pretty nice that you CAN use slaved flashes if you want to venture down that path.

One more test shot with slaved flashes.   This time I used a SB-600 & SB-800 and cross lit my Leica M2.  I set the focusing distance to 10 inches and tested the flash output with the L-358.  It was sitting around f/51-57.

Polaroid Macro 5 SLR - Impossible Project PZ-680 Old Generation
Polaroid Macro 5 SLR – Impossible Project PZ-680 Old Generation

Phew!  Talk about a tough camera to shoot with off-camera flash!  With a fixed shutter speed of 1/50th and also dealing with an aperture range of f/20 – f/100, it certainly makes it challenging.  Now, I haven’t given up on its capabilities yet, however, I think I’ll save this thing for the next time I’m at the Dallas Arboretum.  I would imagine this thing would be great for flower & insect macros.

If macro photography is your cup of tea, you might be interested in picking up a Polaroid Macro 5 SLR from The Impossible Project here, or you can find them online on Ebay.

Thanks for reading!



  1. You’ve come full circle. Five years ago when you first got serious about photography, you were “all about macro.” Now, you’re rediscovering the genre . . . only with the uber cool Impossible Project film and an old Polaroid camera. As usual, an excellent post with great supporting images.

  2. Justin Goode Author

    Thanks Patrick! This thing is definitely hard to use w/ off camera flash. I burned a handful of exposures testing it out. At first when I had the PWs plugged into the sync port, it wasn’t firing the strobes. Then after I took out the pack of film, and swapped it for an empty pack, I figured out that the cable had to pulled out slightly in order to make a connection to fire the strobes.

    I do look forward to trying this out at the Arboretum one day. What a sight that will be 🙂 I might get a few looks and possibly a “what the hell are you shooting with??” comment.

  3. David Broughton. Old Mill Dental Studio

    Hi Justin,

    I am a Dental Technician and have a Polaroid Macro 5 SLR 1200 which I have used in the past for dental patient photos when studying tooth detail to copy. Haven’t used it for a while since obtaining film was difficult.
    From your post I understand your own spectra film is compatible. If this is so, what is the price and number of shots per film?
    Looking forward to hearing from you.
    David Broughton

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