Sunday, February 10, 2008

Polaroid is dead, long live... ??

It's all over the photo forums, flickr, etc. Polaroid seems to be closing up shop on instant film and cameras. Oddly enough, there is no mention of this on the Polaroid website. Maybe they just haven't worked out the logistics/marketing angle for the move from film to all digital. Whatever the case, it is sad, indeed. There is currently plenty of film available. They have thousands of packs listed as available on the website. But when they discontinued Type 80s, it took about a year before they were scarce, to the point of virtual extinction. Depending on when they actually stop producing film, I'd say 2010 is probably the point at which we are all going to Ebay for our Polaroid.
Integral will go first. It's the most obviously available, with 600 (and sometimes 779) being sold at Walmart, Walgreens, grocery stores, etc. It is also the film format that has no alternative. Fuji makes some very nice, low priced peel-apart films. And while I prefer the peel-apart over integral, I still don't want to say goodbye to integral.
Will Fuji fill the gap in integral? Who knows. They do have an integral type called Instax, which is a smaller format, similar to Polaroid i-Zone film. I actually want to get an Instax camera sometime soon. The colors are just looks like another fun little camera. I just need to figure out which one to get. Some are goofy-looking in bright colors, probably designed with the younger crowd in mind. And I figure if I spent any amount of money on the nicer cameras, Fuji would immediately discontinue the format. There seems to be a Panoramic Instax, too. Of course, none of these are sold in the US. Not sure what makes the US so anti-film. Other countries are able to embrace future technologies while still celebrating the past. Maybe it's just the size and the population. Marketing to the masses and all that. And, of course, it really is all about money. On that note, I can fully understand why Polaroid doesn't care about instant film anymore. Digital is instant, and Polaroid isn't for the masses anymore. It's for the cool people, the people that take pictures because that's what they do. I'd say that 9 out of 10 consumers, at least, just want to take pictures of everything and anything and just collect them on a cd or e-mail them to friends/family/whatever. Why get excited about spending $20 for 10 photos when you can take 700 pictures on a $20 memory card? I'm not saying I agree, but I understand what big money wants, and that is big money. They aren't in the business to support artists...they are in the business to make money.
Once Polaroid stop making instant film, who cares anymore? They become just another digital camera maker (and one I've never even bothered looking at). And if this is any indication of what they come with, I want no part of it. They did announce a somewhat interesting creation, the Zink, created by ex-Polaroid employees, I guess. But I found that Fuji already has something similar, so even that isn't so exciting. Plus, it's basically just a printer for digital pictures. Wheee.
I'll just buy my Fuji instant film as long as that is produced, and maybe someone else will pick up the slack and produce instant film.
Anyway, I love using Polaroids. I don't have as many Polaroid cameras as this person, but I have more than a couple.
First is the Polaroid 195. The nicest of my collection, fully manual with a huge lens for super sharp pictures. You can open the lens wide enough to overexpose Polaroid film in a dark room! I recently fixed a few leaky spots in the bellows. It takes Type 100s (667, 669, etc.) and Type 80s.

My other fave is my Square Shooter, which I modified with a Colorpack II front, because it had a glass lens and the switch for Type 87 (3000 ISO). I still have a few packs of square film left.

My SX-70 Alpha 1 Model 2 has never seen any SX-70 film use from me. I modified it to use Type 600 and 779.

The One600 was my integral film camera before I got the SX-70.

The Sun 640 I've never used. I just bought it because it came with a couple packs of expired 600.

I've never used this OneStep, either, as it uses SX-70, and I don't know how to modify it. It doesn't pull apart easily like the Alpha...seems to be maybe clips or something that hold it together, because I don't see any screws. Classic rainbow design, though!

This Super Shooter was I think my first (current) Polaroid camera. I'm pretty sure this is what I had when I was a kid, too. Takes Type 100s. I say I think this was the first because there are a couple I've trashed trying to take them apart. Tore up the plastic and such. They are dirt cheap, so no biggy. I actually don't seem to have hardly ever used it. Mostly shot square until I got the 195.

I've never used this Swinger 3000. It was only $3 and cool looking. It only takes Type 667, 3000 speed film. A one trick pony, I guess. Someday I'll take it out. That hole in the top is for a flash, I think. Very groovy finish. Someday I'll buy a couple different Polaroids and put them together to make an atrocity. Like a red Zip with this front or something.

This was my first Polaroid Pinhole camera, made from a Square Shooter 2. It will never get used again, as I would hate to waste my remaining square film in the thing.

My second pinhole (actually third, as this one has been two different pinholes) was made from a dysfunctional ProPack that I bought at Goodwill, only because it had a sticker on the side that said "Adult Probation Department." It was only $8, which is too much considering it didn't work. But it is a perfect camera to take apart if you want a Polaroid back. So right now it is a pinhole. Someday I may use it for something else.

And, last, is the Polaroid 150 that I talk about in my last post. Proof that we may still have Polaroid film 25 years from now.

So, Polaroid is dead...

Long live Polaroid!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Polaroid past is present.

A couple months ago, I found four rolls of Polaroid Type 47 for a very good price. The boxes don't have an expiration date on them, but it's probably early to mid-1980s, as the particular box design was changed to the newer blue box around 1985-86.

So, what exactly is Type 47? Roll film! 3000 speed roll film, to be exact. Same as Type 667 and Type 87. Before Polaroids came in hard little plastic packs, they came rolled up on a spool (two, actually). This film was discontinued in the 1990s. I think the latest expiration date I've seen on Type 47 is 1994. Type 47 seems to be the last roll film produced. Most were halted in the 1960s and 1970s. There are actually some pretty nifty roll films. Type 146-L is actually color slide film! Imagine that large color positive slide...sweet. Unfortunately, the stuff would be way too old to work by now, I'm sure.
So let's open up that box.

As you can see, the package is shaped nothing like pack film. It also has a tube of coater, like you would get with Type 665. I managed to not take any photos of the rolls, and I don't want to open up another pack until I shoot it so it doesn't dry out, so I'll just show what I have. Sorry, I seem to be ill prepared for this post! Here are the instructions.

When you unroll the film, you get a set of instructions. You can see the two rolls and how they fit into the camera.

It's actually a bit confusing, just because it's different and not like pack film. I'll go into a bit more detail about the foibles of loading in a few.
Okay, so I have all this sweet film...but I didn't have a camera to use it in. I needed a roll film Polaroid. Good news is that because roll film is defunct, the cameras are, for the most part, dirt cheap. There are a couple expensive cameras, just because they have very nice lenses and people convert them for pack film. I wanted the cheapest working camera I could find. I wasn't even sure if the film still worked. I did some research and went to a local camera store to check them out. I didn't want to order one online because I have zero experience with these cameras and didn't know what was good and bad about them. I looked at a J-66, but it takes batteries, and probably batteries that aren't made anymore. I figured all manual was the way to go. There were a couple all manuals. The one I initially considered buying turned out to not work, so I bought a Polaroid 150 for about 10 bucks. According the Landlist, this camera was made from 1957-1960, and originally sold for $109. I got the camera, a case, a flash set and a filter for around 10 bucks. And speaking of the filter, it's damn well and good that I went to a camera store to check these out, because I didn't know that you need a filter when using 3000 speed outside. I would have had blown-out photos if that filter hadn't been in the case. The filter reduces the film speed from 3000 to 200. That, my friends, is a dark filter.
Okay, so the camera. First off, it's huge. I thought my 195 was big...this is bigger. A few comparison shots. Next to that little Fuji Natura, it looks like the monster from Cloverfield.

And your intrepid camera explorer (hey ladies) holding a 10-pound camera. Not something I want to wear around my neck.

Speaking of size comparison, Type 47 does use a spool. Here is The Polaroid spool next to a 120 spool.

So how does a roll film Polaroid work? We'll start from the inside and work our way out. First we see where the rolls of film go in.

Unlike pack film, where the positive and negative are packed together, roll film has two separate rolls. The negative roll sits on the right spool and the print/developer roll sits in the left side. You place both rolls in the proper sides and then close the first door.

There is a flap that lays over the first door. This is equivalent to the first tab that you pull with pack film. When you close the door:

You pull the long sheet out and the first shot is ready to take. So you shoot, then what? Well, first, you flip the red switch on the back.

This is basically a lock, and when you flip it, you can pull the film until it clicks and locks again (the next shot). When you pull it, you are taking the exposed negative and meeting it up with the print. The goop transfers the image to the print. Somewhat interesting is that the print paper is not light sensitive at all. So, somehow, through the magic of Polaroid, the goop takes the image from the negative and prints a positive onto the glossy paper. This gets me to thinking that maybe you could use other papers to print your Polaroid images on. I may try that with pack film someday. Take it apart and change the paper out. I also wonder if it's possible to homebrew Polaroid developer...then you could make your own Polaroids!
Anyway, so you've flipped the switch and pulled the tab. Next you wait the alloted development time. Because this film was so old, I waited about 2-3 minutes. So where is the print? It doesn't actually develop outside of the camera like pack film. It's more like a momma shark that spits out a fully developed baby shark. I don't think this is actually true for sharks, but it was fun to say. SO you wait, and then you open up the "third door". This isn't opening up the's just a print door on the back.

You see the print sitting there. This is obviously 'finished' film, but you see what's happening. The print has perforated edges, and you just rip it out (carefully). What's left is a negative that stays in the camera until your next shot is taken and pulled.

And your very curly print is yours to coat and dry.

So while you are taking your "current" shot, the last negative sits in the camera. Now, what you are supposed to do is use the cutter on the edge of the camera to rip each negative off for disposal (and, again, the negative you pull and throw away is from your previous shot while the new one is developing). But, you don't have to tear them off, and you can just collect a very large mess of negatives. Just for fun.

You can see the film obviously still worked. No surprise, or I probably wouldn't be typing all of this out. At the time I thought, "Hot Dawg!" with a few cuss words between the hot and dawg. But!!! WAIT!!! Is it really that easy!
I actually completely screwed my first roll. I loaded everything as instructed, took a shot and pulled the film...nothing. Just a white sheet. Did it again, and again, just white. And it was really tough to pull the film. Something definitely wasn't right. And there was goop all over the inside, and I didn't have a negative. At this point, I didn't know what to expect, so I didn't know that there was supposed to be a negative. Anyway, I knew something was wrong. So I just opened up the camera, exposing the film roll. Turns out the negative roll was still wound and sitting on the spool, not attached to the prints spool. I wasn't sure how it was constructed to know what was wrong. I ended up taking a fresh roll in a dark room and figured out what was wrong just by feeling around. The two are taped together at a certain point, and the tape had completely dried out, separating the two parts. So I fumbled around in the dark and taped it back together with fresh scotch tape. And I made it work! The second roll was a success. These are the remnants of the sacrificed roll.

The undeveloped negative roll, the unprinted paper and the mess that I pulled through.
Okay, so it works! I took it with me on a road trip with sol exposure to Miami, Arizona, a small mining/ghost town east of Phoenix. Here are some prints. They have the funny pull tab as part of the print. They are slightly smaller than the 100 films (665, 667, etc.).

Has that expired 3000 film look to it! Very nice. High contrast, faded. Very vintage look. I have two more rolls to use...not sure on what, but they will probably last a bit longer until I decide. They are about 20 years old already!
One other nifty feature. With Type 87 and 667, you can scan the goop side. Well, Type 47 also retains an image on the negative side. First I scanned it as is.

Not so hot. I decided to experiment a bit. I carefully rinsed the goop negative, to find that there is an actual usable paper negative under the goop! If you wash 87 or 667, the image washes off. Type 47 retains the image...very cool. So I rinsed a few of the negatives, let them dry and scanned them.

Nothing fantastic, but interesting still. I'm not sure how stable the paper negatives are, if they will fade or what, but it's just something else to mess around with.
Okay, I'm tired of typing. Someday soon I will talk about my new Great Wall 120 camera, and I have some funky vintage plastic toy cameras coming straight from China in a month or so. Should be fun! Oyasumi Nasai.