Polaroid SX-70, part 2

When we last left our Polaroid story it looked liked Edwin Land’s dreams of a utopian world of analogue instant photography was over. With the advancements and popularity of digital cameras, “instant film” cameras (and for that matter film cameras in general) were becoming less popular. In early 2008, Polaroid announced that it would stop producing all types of instant film for Polaroid cameras.

Detail from the exterior of the Gothic-style Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver. Photo: C.Hagemoen

Detail from the exterior of the Gothic-style Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

When Polaroid ended instant film production in 2008, The Impossible Project (founded by Florian ‘Doc’ Kaps and André Bosman) picked up where they left off—purchasing the last Polaroid production plant (literally days before it was to be demolished) and the equipment for producing integral instant film. What made this project even more ‘impossible’ was the fact that they had to find new solutions for replacing and upgrading problematic or unavailable components. They decided not to recreate Polaroid film but instead to develop new products with new characteristics.

Don’t undertake a project unless it’s manifestly important and nearly impossible.
– Edwin Land, founder of Polaroid

It all began with ten of the very best former Polaroid employees who shared Kaps’ and Bosman’s passion as well as the belief in an Impossible dream. The Impossible team started to invent and produce totally new instant film materials for all the perfectly functioning Polaroid cameras that existed worldwide.

In the meantime, in the summer of 2009, my local Urban Outfitters  started selling packs of slightly outdated Polaroid 600 film. The film packs were inserted into sleeves that had the following statement written on them:

This is a pack of original Polaroid Type 779 instant film saved from the last production runs made at the last Polaroid factory in Enschede, Netherlands in 2008. This film has been hand-selected, tested and stored at low temperatures exclusively for Urban Outfitters. This is one of the last Polaroid films made until next year…

Urban Outfitters has partnered with the Impossible Project in a worldwide effort to restart and reinvent instant photography. We will help bring back Instant film in 2010.

To learn more about the future of instant photography visit The-Impossible-Project.com.

This was my last chance to buy actual Polaroid film, so I stocked up and bought 12 packs – at $28.00/pack, this was as much as I was willing (or able) to spend. This was also the first time I heard about the Impossible Project.

Polaroid bike

The first image I took with my last batch of Polaroid film – an appropriate subject considering this film came from Holland. Photo- C.Hagemoen

I  heard that it was possible to use Polaroid 600 film (or the compatible Polaroid Type 779 film) in an SX-70 camera.  Apparently, 600 film is four times more sensitive than SX-70 film, so using it will leave you with very over-exposed photos. The solution to this issue is to use a neutral density 2 filter over the lens. So I went to my favorite old camera store and bought a 2″ square of Wratten ND 0.70 gelatin filter – from which I cut a small piece and taped it over my SX-70 lens.

Sx-70 with ND filter

My SX-70 with the piece of ND filter over the lens. Photo: C. Hagemoen

The second issue, with using 600 film in an SX-70 camera, that needed to be ‘MacGyvered’, was concerned with inserting the film pack into the camera. On the 600 film there are four little plastic nubs on the bottom of the pack whose purpose is to stop you from sliding them into the “wrong” camera. One solution is to use an exacto knife to “shave off” these nubs. The other solution is to use a stiff piece of card under the film as you slide it in over the obstructions in the SX-70′s film compartment. This card is easily removed after you have passed the point of impediment. I use the card method as it is much faster and not as fiddly.

glass

Glass image using my Urban Outfitters Polaroid film in my SX-70 camera. Photo: C. Hagemoen

For the past 4 years I have been judiciously using my booty of “the last of the Polaroid” film and from the original 12 packs, I have 3 packs (10 images in each) left! I have kept the film  in my fridge the whole time and so far, even though the film expired 4 years ago, I have not had any real problems using it. [Knock on wood!]

Here are some more of the images I have taken using this film:

Detail of Flack building in Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Detail of Flack building in Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Shop window on Main Street, Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Shop window on Main Street, Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Detail from Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver. Photo: C.Hagemoen

Detail from Holy Rosary Cathedral in Vancouver. Photo: C.Hagemoen

Sinbad's Cafe, Oliver, BC. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Sinbad’s Cafe, Oliver, BC. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Grapes on the vine, Oliver BC. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Grapes on the vine, Oliver BC. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Ride at Playland in Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Ride at Playland in Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

There are perhaps a few issues with using outdated film – the colour has slightly shifted and sometimes there are odd marks on the images – but I am really enjoying the atmospheric ‘feel’ these images have. I am going to miss it when all of my film is used up.

Back to our friends at the Impossible project.

In 2010, the Impossible Project began releasing a variety of new and unique (a nice way of saying quirky) instant films- thus saving analog instant photography from extinction. Impossible creates and manufactures new analog instant films in black & white and colour for classic Polaroid 600, SX-70 and Image/Spectra cameras.

I decided to try some of this Impossible Project film so I bought a pack of the Silver Shade film. After I had read the instructions for use, I must admit I became a little intimidated – this wasn’t going to be as straight forward as my Polaroid film.

The film is very sensitive as it is expelled from the camera, so they ask you to shield it from light straight away and keep it covered ( emulsion side down) for about 5 minutes. This is not an easy maneuver to perform.

My first attempts at using Impossible Project film. My first exposure is on the left - and the best one from the batch is one the right. Photo: C. Hagemoen

My first attempts at using Impossible Project film. My first exposure is on the left – and the best one from the batch is one the right. Photo: C. Hagemoen

I wasn’t really impressed with the results. My first exposure was too dark, but that was easily changed by adjusting the exposure dial on the camera. The best image I got from this pack of film (8 images per pack) was taken in full sunlight, resulting in the correct exposure, but I still wasn’t really impressed with the film. This soon turned to disappointment when after 4 images, no more would come out of the camera. At first I thought my camera had died, but a quick check online showed that this is a common problem with these films. The solutions offered did not improve my situation, so I ended up opening the camera and just taking the remainder of the film and pack out – thus losing the last 4 images.

To be fair, I did purchase this film about 18 months before I actually used it, so perhaps they have improved the film in the meantime. I do plan to try again with Impossible Project films, as I have seen some really cool images produced with them. But, in the meantime, I think I will stick with my last packs of Polaroid film. My intention is to shoot 2 of the remaining 3 packs over the next several months – saving the last remaining pack as long as I can.

More information about the Impossible Project story, and their products, can be found at the Impossible Project site.

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One thought on “Polaroid SX-70, part 2

  1. Pingback: Reviving a Polaroid 360 Land Camera | vanalogue

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