Cheap is relative I guess. And everyone has their idea of what is cheap. $39 for a Polaroid back to me is cheap. Considering that the ones for my Bronica are $50+ USD, and I've seen them for some of my other cameras that go for $80-200.
For me, it would be related to what a standard film back costs vs the back+shipping vs how much use I'd get from it vs the cost of a Land Camera itself.
When it comes to Hasselblad stuff, it's always a bit expensive because it's good quality and the name carries weight. So I'd expect more money for the same kind of product then a Bronica back that does the same thing. And so on.
Anyway... GarageBoy, have we helped here? Maybe if you give more details on what exactly you hope to accomplish with the camera(s), your intended usage, what you'd like from it etc will help us aim you more in the right direction?
I don't know where you are located but I will be happy to keep my eye out for things for people here locally if I come across it and it's within the price range you want. I've found cameras and film for people before a few times.
I've gotten into instant film pretty seriously in the past year, via a Polaroid Land Camera Model 100, Colorpack II and Fuji PA-145 film back on my 4x5 camera (for the Fuji pack films) plus a Polaroid Model 600, SX-70 and two Spectras (for the Impossible Project films). The cost of the Polaroid cameras ranged from $6 for a Spectra to $75 for the SX-70.
The Fuji pack film makes nice images and isn't too expensive. The old 1960's and '70's cameras usually work pretty well, although it takes a while to get used to their primitive autoexposure. I've tried drying, cleaning and scanning the negatives from both B&W and color and they're fun to experiment with. Taking a photo with pack film is a deliberate process though, especially if you're worrying about saving the negatives.
When choosing an automatic Polaroid pack camera, I would recommend the older rangefinder models with the "Scene Selector" switch on the front. This allows full aperture of approximately f10 in low light situations, which works very well with the Fuji FP-3000B B&W film (ISO 3000).
The integrated Impossible films avoid the muss and fuss of goopy negatives and waste paper, but this convenience is offset by the 40-60 minutes it takes for an image to fully develop. This is not Instant Photography, it's a One Hour Photo. The slowness makes it very hard to make compensating adjustments in exposure or lighting, plus the $3 cost per print is a serious disincentive to experimentation. Generally, the colors in Impossible prints are somewhat murky, with a yellow or blue-green cast overall.
Films for the SX-70 and 600 cameras (PX type) are prone to streaking and blank spots because of uneven developer spreading. The SX-70 that I have is an early model with manual focus and indeed it's a wonderful mechanism to unfold and behold. However, the camera was originally designed for ISO 100 film and the PX-70 film is actually quite a bit faster than that, so you must remember to adjust the exposure control wheel in the 'darken' direction whenever you open the camera. My Model 600 camera is awkward and clunky and the flash always fires no matter what, but at least the PX-680 film is the right speed for that camera.
I've been much more pleased with the Impossible film for the Spectra cameras (PZ type), both in the wider aspect ratio of the photos and in the more consistently acceptable color and exposure. Spectra cameras date from the 1980's and '90's and have sonar autofocus, sophisticated autoexposure and variable flash. They come in several versions, the most useful type being the original "Spectra System" models with the switches on the back that control functions like autofocus and flash override. The later "Spectra II" cameras lack these switches, but otherwise perform well.
I haven't tried the Impossible B&W films yet, but they are reportedly very fussy about temperature and need to be carefully dried to ensure long term image stability. Overall, the Impossible Project films are a work in progress, but their image quality is steadily improving.
No matter which Impossible film you use, be sure to purchase the appropriate "Frog Tongue" accessory that fits your camera. The emerging print is very vulnerable to light when it first zips out of the camera and keeping it covered with something like the Frog Tongue for the first 5-10 seconds is very important for final picture quality and contrast.
I just bid and won a Polaroid back for my dad's hasselblad that I could borrow for $20
Still would like to play with something that'll cover the full image
I just want one to take more casual photos of friends
The instant photography aspect gets everyone excited and more comfortable vs. sticking a giant F3P/MD4 combo in their faces
Also looking for some gift ideas for Christmas
$20? Nice! I keep looking at the Bronica ETRS backs for the filmpacks. I just hate that it only uses a small part of the image. I mean I could crop it down but why can't they use the whole thing and just extend the back aways and maybe do some kind of adjustment for focus? Dreams.
I was at the local flea market shop with the camera booth on Sunday and they had quite a few Land Cameras there... a ColorPack for $7, a 101 for $30 and a 450 for $40, another booth had a Colorpack for I think $20. They also always have 5+ of the 600 style Polaroids, those are always cheap usually $5-25 a pop.
I want that 450, it has the Zeiss Ikon rangefinder. I may go back and take a battery to see if it works and buy it.
I don't need more Land Cameras. I do want an SX-70 but holy smokes they are expensive. And the places who are selling them all redone and cleaned up are literally asking $200-400. Who in the world told them their cameras that are cleaned up and working are worth that kind of money, seriously. And who would pay that? I am struggling to allow myself to spend $50-75 for a good working SX-70.
GB, have you figured out which model of Land Camera you might want? Any luck finding a SX-70? Win the lottery? :D
I personally bought a 440 and a 523 battery for a friend as a present
For myself to play with, I might get a 250, though I've seen 350s/450s cheaper, which is weird because they're just 250s with a timer and different flash
The 100 is appealing, as the original pack camera
SX70s are EXPENSIVE
The one step doesn't have flash options
Ideally, I'd like to plug a flash into whatever I buy
If you want to use a flash with it, you need to get a Land Camera that has the old style flash connector and get yourself hot shoe adapter. Then you can plug the newer flash in and just hold it when taking shots. I've also seen people glue a cold shoe onto the top of the camera and do the same newer flash with it running via an adapter to teh old plug in on the Land Cameras with it.
I think the Colorpack Land Cameras all only come with the old style 4 sided cube flash so unless you are good at electronics and hacking a hot shoe, those are out. They are def cheap though.
I like my 101 and my 320 both quite a bit. They are nearly identical in function minus the 101's rangefinder folding under the front cover. I'm looking for a 250 but may get the 450 I mentioned just because it's available and has the Zeiss RF on it over the 250s which seem to be harder to come by.
I keep looking for an SX70 and hoping my camera guy will have one in his booth, but I don't -need- it so I'm hoping to stumble across it one day at a good price. I don't care if it's not pretty as long as it functions 100%.
Hmm, so I hooked up a 440 to a random flash on PC cord and it seems to work?
That is correct, any flash that uses the old style pc cord should work including newer flashs on a hotshoe -> pc cord adapter.
I've got a 250 with an AA conversion which was really quite simple, although I did have to hack the body to fit an on/off switch in place of the integrated one that it came with (can't remember why it had to be replaced but it did). I also have a couple of big shot cameras, although their reliance on magicubes (not the regular flash cube) makes them a bit of a nuisance. The flash is hard on your subjects too. I have vague plans of replacing the regular Big Shot lens with an LF lens in a press shutter so that I can use electronic flash. I also have a Fuji Instax 100 which is fun. They're cheaper to buy than the mini version and the film is pretty close in price so why not use the larger film?