“Back In A Flash!” – The Polaroid #268 Flashgun

Oh, the memories. Of fired M3 flashbulbs, the sulfer-like smell, the molten accumulation on the outside of a fired bulb. As I have been embracing Polaroid photography unlike any format I can remember, the Polaroid #268 Flashgun is likely my most memorable childhood Polaroid experience, right behind the “pull and peel” film packs. I now have (3) 268’s- This one, my Dad’s original, with a silver reflector, I use for B&W photography:

Polaroid #268 Flashgun, with the silver reflector.

Polaroid #268 Flashgun, with the silver reflector.

A few months ago, I bought this one from Goodwill. It has a gold reflector, so I use it for my color Polaroid flash photography. As my son has very fair skin, it seems to have a warming property. Inexplicably, as the 268 was introduced in 1963 with the Automatic 100, also when Polacolor was introduced, they seemed to make both varieties in the same era. I know my father purchased his, with the silver reflector, in 1968, appx. 5 years after the introduction of color. Here it is with the optional diffuser from the #581 Portrait Kit, a must have for Polaroid portrait fans. This was a nice buy for just a few dollars-

Polaroid #268 Flashgun, Gold Reflector, With Optional Portrait Kit Diffuser

Polaroid #268 Flashgun, Gold Reflector, With Optional Portrait Kit Diffuser

My third 268 is a broken one, that came with a Goodwill Polaroid camera. The flash does not work as intended, as the pivot for the flash head was broken. But I saved it for potential use down the road for spare parts, or if someday I bite the bullet, and do an electronic flash conversion. With boxes of fresh Sylvania Blue Dot bulbs out there such as these, easily available out there on eBay, how can one resist buying these nostalgic gems? Look at the faces on the models on the boxes- classic. Would you feed that groom wedding cake?

Sylvania M3 Blue Dot Clear Bulbs- 12 To A Box

Sylvania M3 Blue Dot Clear Bulbs- 12 To A Box

A special note about Sylvania Blue Dot M3 Bulbs- the ones you want for Polaroid #268 Flashguns are the CLEAR ones, not the M3B BLUE ones. If you use those, and secure the blue door over them, you already have blue, and you will underexpose. Add the portrait diffuser to it, and you will underexpose even more. Get the clear ones, such as the ones pictured here. The boxes should be clearly designated M3, NOT M3B. Also, keep in mind the limitations of this system. If you are used to flamethrowers, such as the Nikon SB-900 used to take these pictures, you will be seriously disappointed. It has nowhere near the intensity, or the coverage, of modern electronic flashes. Also, it does not have fill flash capability. Nonetheless, it is a heck of a lot of fun. Cheesy, old-timey flashbulb boxes and all.

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5 thoughts on ““Back In A Flash!” – The Polaroid #268 Flashgun

  1. I’ve been using my electronic Canon Speedlite 199A flashgun. It seems to work most of the time. I remember flashbulbs from the ’70s though and have thought about getting a few, especially for some special occasions like birthdays and Xmas to match the pictures I have from decades ago. Electronic flashguns are much more convenient of course but not quite as much fun.

  2. I heard that the poloraid flash gun produces more light than the electronic flashes, is that true or not? Is this a brighter light than a electronic flash?

    What are pros and cons Flashbulbs vs electronic flash

      • thanks for the response. I am going to be filming in a cave, where it is completely devoid of light.
        and I need a flash with a little longer exposure time and as bright as possible. This is a one of a kind shot I am looking for, not something I would do on a regular basis. And you are right I am scrambiling on line looking for bulbs right now.

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