The SX-70 camera needs light to create stunning portraits. Mixing ISO 160 film with a fixed f/8 aperture is a recipe for needing a lot of light to create a good, sharp portrait in all but perfect lighting conditions.
With the rising cost of disposable flashbars still on the market, the only long-term saving grace for Polaroid SX-70 shooters is the MiNT Flashbar II. But is this flashbar up to the task? Here are my thoughts after purchasing a second copy.
The MiNT Flashbar II is one of the most useful accessories for the Polaroid SX-70 camera. The flashbar allows photographers to take portraits in any lighting scenario with eitThe MiNT Flashbar II is the most useful accessory for the Polaroid SX-70. The flashbar allows photographers to take portraits in any lighting scenario with either Polaroid 600 or SX-70 film. The device also allows users to sync an external flash, and comes with creative color filters. But it isn’t perfect.
Overall, the MiNT Flashbar II is an incredibly useful tool. It comes with creative color filters to liven the mood, and truly unlocks the full creative potential of the SX-70 camera with external flash.
|Built new and reusable||Recycle time takes over 25 seconds (10 seconds for 600 film)|
|External flash sync||The device is fragile|
|Comes with creative color filters||Costs more than some professional speedlights|
|Allows the use of 600 film on SX-70 camera without modification||Not recommended for use in the cold|
|Makes the SX-70 usable in all lighting conditions|
|Fuss-free, lightweight, easy to use|
|Comes with batteries|
What are the benefits of the MiNT Flashbar II
The MiNT Flashbar II is an incredible tool for instant photography with an SX-70. Not only does this flash guarantee that you’re going to get the perfect exposure at any time with either Polaroid film type, but it also has a 2.5mm sync port that enables the use of an external flash.
The device also comes with colored filters and has an option to vary the flash’s power to properly expose either SX-70 film or 600 film. Since the SX-70 film isn’t always in stock, and the 600 film has a little better dynamic range with the same sharpness, it can be a great option to use in this camera.
Just note that the Flashbar II can only create good exposures in dim lighting conditions when using 600 film in an SX-70 camera. In daylight, the images are going to be overexposed.
The last benefit comes down to the weight and form factor. While the recycle time is slow, the flash only needs two AAA batteries to operate, keeping weight and size down so that it can easily fit in the same pocket or pouch as the camera itself. For reference, the MiNT Flashbar II is almost exactly the same size and form factor as the Sonar module on the later SX-70 cameras
Can I use the external flash sync without the Flashbar firing?
This was a big question for me. I don’t always enjoy having direct flash in my photos, and often don’t want to mix sources. So the ability to use the external sync without the flashbar firing is important to me.
The SX-70 can fire an external flash without the flashbar firing if you take the shot while it’s charging. If the green light is on, simply discharge the flash by pressing the circular button next to the on/off switch and then take your shot while the light is still blue.
The recycle time on the MiNT Flashbar II is 25 seconds for SX-70 film, and 10 seconds for 600 film (with fully-charged batteries at room temperature), giving you plenty of time to shoot before the flash has recharged.
How strong is the light from the MiNT Flashbar II?
I spent a lot of time working out the proper exposure settings for my flashes.
The MiNT Flashbar II uses a flash that is a little less powerful than 1/1 on the Godox TT600 on the full power setting, and about 1/4 at the half power setting for 600 film. These numbers will vary depending on the power of your flash, so it’s always important to use a proper light meter (like this one on Amazon) to get the right exposure settings in the studio.
However, one aspect to note is that the Polaroid SX-70 will automatically reduce the size of the aperture in the close focus ranges to get a perfect exposure with a disposable flash unit. So test your exposures before shooting an entire pack of film.
What are the downsides of the MiNT Flashbar II?
The main downside of the MiNT Flashbar II is that it’s not that cheap, yet the build quality is fairly flimsy. I’ve recently bought this flashbar for the second time because the first one broke after I dropped it for the first time.
Let it be known that the MiNT Flashbar II cannot take much (if any) abuse. Because of that, it took me 4 years before I decided to cough up the money a second time for this device. Before that, I stuck to using the disposable flashbars, picking them up every chance I had at flea markets, garage sales, or used camera stores. But now that they’re getting so expensive, it made sense to try my luck a second time.
Painfully slow flash recycle times
And finally, the recycle time on this flash unit is absurdly slow. Waiting 25 seconds can feel like a lifetime when you’re in the middle of a photoshoot. Models and family members start to lose their grace when the shot setup takes too long.
If you’re using this for a professional shoot, it may be worth using the 600 film since the lower-power setting reduces the recycle time down to 10 seconds.
In the future, though, I’d like MiNT to consider adding a cold shoe mount to the top of the flash specifically for the remote trigger. At the moment, I jerry-rig the flash trigger onto the camera using this cheap device on Amazon.
Is the MiNT Flashbar II worth it?
It’s true that there are slim pickings when it comes to flash options for the SX-70 camera. There are some flashguns, along with the disposable flashes by General Electric and other manufacturers. But none of those options come with any guarantee like the MiNT Flashbar II.
The disposable flashes produce an incredible image with exceptionally flattering light. However they are quickly becoming more expensive — sometimes costing as much as $20+shipping for 10 potential flashes (less if there’s any corrosion). I’ll take unlimited (albeit slow) flashes with the MiNT Flashbar II over the rising costs of flashbars and the gas needed to find them any day of the week.
At the end of the day, the reliability of having a flash unit like this, and one that allows so much more creative control, is 100% worth it to me. The fuss-free nature of using this flash makes it perfect for every shooter, from beginners to professionals alike. If you can focus the camera, you can use this flashbar and get great results.
The SX-70 camera needs flash to get good exposures in anything other than ideal light. And this unit easily solves that problem. It’s so useful, and if this second flashbar breaks, I might just pick up a third unit.
Daren is a journalist and wedding photographer based in Vancouver, B.C. He’s been taking personal and professional photos on film since 2017 and began developing and printing his own photos after wanting more control than what local labs could offer. Discover his newest publications at Soft Grain Books, or check out the print shop.