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 Polaroid SX-70 Sonar One Step - 1978                    New! WidePhotoViewer for iPhone/iPod/iPad       

First autofocus SLR
$249.95 in 1978 ($836 in 2010 dollars)

Click image to zoom

The Polaroid SX-70 was an SLR, perhaps even the world's first folding SLR, so when Polaroid added sonar autofocusing to it, it became the first autofocusing SLR. I don't have any film for mine, and the battery was in the film pack, so I can't try it out, but my guess is that the focusing wasn't very good. Not very targeted, anyway.

From a review of a later autofocusing Polaroid, I understand that the sonar emitted a chirping sound. Maybe an advantage if you were photographing birds?

Sonar wasn't really the way to do it—image analysis was, which is how the Pentax ME-F and Minolta Maxxum 7000 worked. But Sonar does have one advantage over visual focusing: You can focus in the dark.

Here's an article from the July 1978 issue of Popular Science:

This ad is from the 30-April-1979 issue of New York Magazine:

This still is from an 11-minute informercial/instruction manual that tells the story of the SX-70, including details on how it works and how to use it:

The video was created by the husband-and-wife team of Charles and Ray Eames,

with music composed and conducted by Elmer Bernstein. (That looks like a Canonflex that Charles is holding.)



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