Polaroid SX-70: Model 1 vs Alpha 1

If you already have an SX-70 or are planning to get one, you will most certainly come across this question: What is the difference between a Model 1 and Alpha 1?

Alpha 1s are generally pricer, a bit harder to get your hands on, and more reliable.

To check the model of your camera, click here: https://mint-camera.com/en/polaroid-sx70/serial_number_calculator/

Noticeable differences

Earliest Polaroid SX-70 Model 1 (no split-circle version)

1972 – 1973 *

This model is very rare. Most of the Model 1s that you find won’t be this type. If you happen to have one of these cameras, you’ll notice that there are no numbers on the lens, only marked dials. And when you look through the viewfinder, you will notice it uses ground glass focussing instead of a split-circle.

The story is that the founder of Polaroid, Dr Edwin Land, at first disliked the idea of putting a split-circle in the viewfinder, believing that it would affect the user experience. Later on, his colleagues reported that customers were having difficulty focusing, especially in the dark. After analysing the options that were presented, Dr Edwin reluctantly accepted the idea of placing a split-circle inside the viewfinder to assist focussing, but on one condition – it couldn’t be in the center of the frame.

That’s why the split-circles that you see in the later Model 1s are off-center, offset towards the bottom. It is not a design flaw, it was deliberate.

Later Polaroid SX-70 Model 1

1973 – 1977 *

This is the most common model among all Polaroid SX-70s. There is a split-circle inside the viewfinder. The body is chrome, the leather is brown.

Type 1
Type 2

You’ll find this version of Model 1 with either dial marks or numerical dials on the lens. In general, type 1s are plagued with many problems because they came earlier, while type 2s are improved. There are a lot of slight variations, but to make things simple, we just call them the Polaroid SX-70 Model 1.

Polaroid SX-70 Alpha 1

1977 – 1982 *

The Alpha 1 is harder to find than the Model 1. Its official release price was higher than the Model 1, and the production units were less than the Model 1. All Alpha 1s have numerical dials on the lens.

The most noticeable difference is the tripod mounting hole and neck strap eyelets.

Less obvious differences

The Alpha 1 was released after the Model 1 and Model 2. Significant improvements were made 5 years after the initial release of the SX-70 after garnering user feedback. They improved the electronics, shutter design, and overall material.

If you place an Alpha 1 and Model 1 side-by-side, you’ll notice that the Alpha 1 has a matte surface finish like the iMac, while the Model 1’s body is more shiny. Apparently they used better material for the Alpha 1.

Another subtle difference, which Polaroid might have implemented after receiving customer feedback, was improving the open / fold mechanism. Alpha 1s feel much smoother when you open them. For Model 1, you sometimes have to yank it open.

Most importantly, engineering changes were made to the Alpha 1 to make it more robust. Alpha 1 users are free from the two most common defects a Model 1 user might experience. Firstly, Alpha 1 does not suffer from the “non-stop motor syndrome” anymore because the little plastic thing connecting the motor to the springs has been removed entirely. And secondly, the “loose film door syndrome” does not plague the camera anymore.

MiNT stopped selling the Model 1 and Alpha 1 without upgrades. The reason is fairly straightforward – they are rather unreliable and it is not easy to get a good picture. There’s a steep learning curve, and a lot of wasted film too.

On top of that, these cameras are becoming rarer and rarer, and we think the best way to treat these cameras is to upgrade them to a more practical version for the modern day user.

Besides the Classic model, every SLR670 is converted from an Alpha 1 or later model for better reliability.

That’s all I can think of for now! There’s probably a lot more to it than what I just mentioned.

Learn more: https://mint-camera.com/

* History is actually one of my weaker subjects. I’m not 100% sure about the dates, so if you can verify them, please let me know in the comments below!


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