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Polaroid Lovers Try to Revive Its Instant Film


Tim Tyler
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In this small town just across the border from Germany, a small group of Dutch scientists and one irrepressible Austrian salesman have dedicated themselves to the task of reinventing one of the great inventions of the 20th century — Polaroid’s instant film.

 

They want to recast an outdated production process in an abandoned Polaroid factory for an age that has fallen for digital pictures because they think people still have room in their hearts for retro photography that eschews airbrushing or Photoshop.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/technology/26polaroid.html

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While interesting, what does this have anything to do with Cinematography?

 

As someone who still uses Polaroids for lighting tests, I couldn't care less that Polaroid is gone. Fuji makes the same products, and they aren't planning on doubling the costs, as these guys are.

 

Honestly, $1.25 is a stretch, price-wise. But $2.50 per exposure? That is robery. . .

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??? I was able to access the article without needing to register.

Maybe it's your browser.

Right, it seems I had my cookies disabled and instead of telling me that, the NYT site threw a "registration required" page at me.

 

I think it would be nice if someone would start re-manufacturing Polaroid 600 film. There are heaps of those cameras laying around, and last time I checked Fuji didn't offer a compatible film...

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  • 1 month later...
Right, it seems I had my cookies disabled and instead of telling me that, the NYT site threw a "registration required" page at me.

 

I think it would be nice if someone would start re-manufacturing Polaroid 600 film. There are heaps of those cameras laying around, and last time I checked Fuji didn't offer a compatible film...

 

 

I concur, I have a 600 camera sitting on my desk with a layer of dust on it. I love that Fuji is still making pull n peel packs for my old land camera and my 4x5 holder for my big camera. I think that if they want to reconstitute the 600 packs, and maybe even offer some different emulsions and speeds to give us more options than one stock of ISO 100 Color, one B&W, and then one ISO 3000 B&W...why argue? It's not like there's only 2 options for Kodak motion picture film, or with Fuji's, Kodak even offers an alternate 500T, the expression. Ilford has HP5 and Delta 400, Kodak has the NC and VC color negative films, I say we embrace it. If it's good people will pay 2.50 and exposure. I pay $3 for my 4x5 from fuji. -f

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Is a $2.50/exposure test, that can be done digitally now, feasible?

 

 

It seems pretty clear, at least to me that the answer is a definitive "NO".

 

I wish them all the best, but they just don't get the market if they think peopple are going to shell out $25 to take 10 pictures.

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I'd personally go for $2.50 (though I would prefer cheaper) a lighting test -v- digital camera and computer monitor on set to bring with me/power/worry'bout. Not to mention it'd help TONS when I'm out in the field w/o those necessaries (e.g. wish I had thought to bring that and a bolex with me when i was in Senegal.... Oh well, so goes life).

A higher price would just force me to be stingier with it, which for me makes some sense as then I have more time to invest in each exposure. But that's just me.

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I'd personally go for $2.50 (though I would prefer cheaper) a lighting test -v- digital camera and computer monitor on set to bring with me/power/worry'bout. Not to mention it'd help TONS when I'm out in the field w/o those necessaries (e.g. wish I had thought to bring that and a bolex with me when i was in Senegal.... Oh well, so goes life).

A higher price would just force me to be stingier with it, which for me makes some sense as then I have more time to invest in each exposure. But that's just me.

 

But, Adrian, why would you do that when there are currently available materials (Fuji FP100 and Fuji Instax) that can be had for less than one dollar a sheet and do the same thing as well as or even according to some better than Polaroid did?

 

And why would it be easier than just looking at a camera LCD screen? Polaroids are *not* high resolution.

 

What they really should concentrate on are the artsty formats. I saw some 20x24" prints from the World Trade Center and I think even bigger stuff (5-foot?) that was incredible.

 

If it isn't quick and easy, unless it is worlds better than what is currently available from Fuji, it just isn't worth it.

 

You can't be nostalgic or be an "artist" with lighting and makeup tests on a set budget. This is a business decision, not one of sentiment.

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Hi,

 

In the smaller formats for commercial use the Fuji is so much better,Polaroid with a Hassy back was crap.

What I miss is the 5x4 B&W with the neg which makes beautiful prints,and the 10x8,I kept my 10x8 processor in the hope that it would be revived.

Last time I bought it,10x8 Pola cost over £100 GDP per box (can't remember if it was 10 or 15 sheets) but I would happily pay

double if I could still get it again,beautiful quality,quite unique.

 

Tom.

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Well I'd not be using Polaroids, generally, for HD stuff, but for location scouting etc, very useful. Also much cheaper/easier than bringing DSLR/Laptop/Printer/Paper, possibly even cheaper too, though I've no math for that. (certainly cheaper if you count how much time I'd spend printing/photoshopping etc.)

Now if only I had a Polaroid camera... anyone wanna donate me one? I promise to share any artsy photographs of my feet with the forum.

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Because continuity and wardrobe used Polaroids all the time.

 

And you are nitpicking and not listening to what I am saying. . .

 

You can still buy Fujiroids that are practically identical to the Polaroid products for far less than $2.50 a shot.

 

Care to tell me why I should pony up more than 250% more?

 

For the brand name? Because you said so?

 

 

Do me a favor and read my posts in full before you criticize me anymore Peter. I'm not prepared to argue with someone who only reads half of what I write.

 

If Fuji were gone, I'd say, yeah, it's expensive, but it has its place. But Fuji is still making instant film.

 

 

Adrian, you can buy a Fuji Instax for under $80. The film is *cheaper* than the ubiquitous Polaroid 600 series was, if I recall correctly. Pick one up!

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And you are nitpicking and not listening to what I am saying. . .

 

You can still buy Fujiroids that are practically identical to the Polaroid products for far less than $2.50 a shot.

 

Care to tell me why I should pony up more than 250% more?

 

For the brand name? Because you said so?

 

 

Do me a favor and read my posts in full before you criticize me anymore Peter. I'm not prepared to argue with someone who only reads half of what I write.

 

If Fuji were gone, I'd say, yeah, it's expensive, but it has its place. But Fuji is still making instant film.

 

 

Adrian, you can buy a Fuji Instax for under $80. The film is *cheaper* than the ubiquitous Polaroid 600 series was, if I recall correctly. Pick one up!

 

Holy ! Karl, chill out. I'm not suggesting anyone buy anything. Polaroid was an iconic brand that was used extensively in movie production not long ago. That is reason enough for this thread to exist.

 

I read your whole post, which I always do with anything that I comment on. I didn't respond to the Fuji point b/c I honestly don't think productions would go back to instant film anyway. It's all pocket digitals now.

 

But Karl, you are taking what is a public interest thread in the News & Events forum way too seriously. Don't waste your brain on proving that the Fuji Instax is a worthy replacement for Polaroid's 600 series. The topic TRULY doesn't merit your deductive skills.

 

But "Public Enemies" does. That's the post of yours that I've been dying to read. Not to argue, but to get your impression. You gave "Knowing" a fair review and stood your ground.

 

The instant film wars belong in the history books, but the digital film war is being shot-out at a multiplex near you. May I humbly suggest you buy a ticket?

 

:)

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26polaroid_600a.JPG

 

Digital cameras are ubiquitous, cheap and easy to use — the reasons Polaroid stopped making the film last year — so what this group in Enschede is attempting may seem hopelessly retrograde.

But to them, that is exactly the point. They want to recast an outdated production process in an abandoned Polaroid factory for an age that has fallen for digital pictures because they think people still have room in their hearts for retro photography that eschews airbrushing or Photoshop.

 

“This project is about building a very interesting business to last for at least another decade,” said Florian Kaps, the Austrian entrepreneur behind the effort. “It is about the importance of analog aspects in a more and more digital world.”

 

No one said it would be easy. Chemical processes and the chemicals themselves must be reinvented in a factory that, though littered with Polaroid detritus of yore, lacks the necessary materials to restart production. Crucial equipment nearly landed in a Dutch dump. But the group got a break when prosecutors in the United States arrested the private equity investor who owned Polaroid’s assets.

 

Mr. Kaps is, if anything, enthusiastic despite the hurdles he faces. He hopes to start production later this year for distribution in the United States, Europe and Asia and is convinced there is still an eager market for Polaroid film packs.

 

He estimates the number of Polaroid instant cameras in circulation at one billion. That number is probably fanciful, or at the very least includes a lot of cameras in the back of closets. But 30 million film packs in 2007, and 24 million in the first half of 2008 were produced at the Enschede factory for sale worldwide.

 

The digital storm, Mr. Kaps says, has left analog opportunity in its wake. “If everyone runs in one direction, it creates a niche market in the other,” he said.

Marta Bukowska, a partner in Basic Model Management in New York, said that digital cameras had entirely displaced Polaroid for the workaday tasks of scouting talent, pitching clients, and beginning a photo shoot. About 18 months ago, the agency stopped using Polaroids regularly because digital is much less expensive, but still gets requests to capture that “high-quality, old-fashioned look” with a genuine instant photo.

 

“It used to be something you use for a lighting test,” Ms. Bukowska said. “Now it is the art itself.”

Mr. Kaps, 38, was already tapping the artist market in 2005 with an online shop devoted to selling Polaroid products, and a Web site, Polanoid.net, where people can upload scanned Polaroid pictures. Mr. Kaps, a Ph.D. biologist with the tiniest of ponytails who trots around the Enschede factory in sneakers, had been an Internet project manager for a group dedicated to preserving analog photography.

 

The experience left him firm in the conviction that his calling and his training were not in sync. “I wrote a very interesting thesis about spider eyes, but I was always a salesman,” Mr. Kaps said.

Mr. Kaps, who lives in Vienna, was on hand in June 2008 for the ceremony when Polaroid shut down its factory in Enschede, which had manufactured film cassettes for the SX-70 — the signature Polaroid camera that folds into a squat rectangle.

 

There he met André Bosman, the engineering manager at the Enschede plant, a sprawling complex in the middle of the town of 150,000 people. Mr. Bosman tipped off Mr. Kaps to the fact that the machines for making Polaroid film cassettes, whose replacement cost Mr. Bosman estimates at about $130 million, still worked but would be cleared out in a matter of days.

“So we stopped drinking beer — which is a pity because Dutch beer is good — and started talking business,” Mr. Kaps said.

 

They managed to stave off destruction of the equipment by peppering Polaroid with requests to surrender it. They might have failed had federal prosecutors last October not arrested Tom Petters, head of the Petters Group Worldwide, a private equity firm based in Minnesota, that had bought Polaroid’s name and assets in 2005. He was accused of running a Ponzi scheme. (The charges are unrelated to the Polaroid investment.)

 

Mr. Petters had driven an aggressively digital strategy for Polaroid, and his downfall — though the case is still pending — made Polaroid receptive to Mr. Kaps’s pleas. The machinery was saved.

Polaroid’s last assets, including the name, its intellectual property and its inventory, were sold this month. It did not respond to requests for comment.

 

The Dutch owner of the factory leased the building to the company created by Mr. Kaps, who had since raised $2.6 million in capital from friends and family.

 

The task at hand is resurrecting production of Polaroid instant film.

Each film cassette that slips into a camera contains all the things that would normally be in a darkroom: photographic paper, a negative, a substance to fix the image and one to stop the photo from developing further. Rollers inside a Polaroid camera explode chemical packs in the cassette to set off the process.

 

Unfortunately for Mr. Bosman, the former head engineer, Polaroid itself once manufactured the chemicals integral to the process in the United States but dismantled that production years ago after stockpiling what it needed.

 

So they are now seeking, or reinventing, chemicals that can mimic what Polaroid’s own once did. For example, they are searching for a form of latex that can be easily coated onto a gelatin base to recreate the “timing layer” of Polaroid film, which controls the developing process.

 

“We have a total of about 300 years of experience here,” Mr. Bosman said. “That is the key to reinventing this process.”

 

© NYTimes

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Guest Patrick Nuse
Well I'd not be using Polaroids, generally, for HD stuff, but for location scouting etc, very useful. Also much cheaper/easier than bringing DSLR/Laptop/Printer/Paper, possibly even cheaper too, though I've no math for that. (certainly cheaper if you count how much time I'd spend printing/photoshopping etc.)

Now if only I had a Polaroid camera... anyone wanna donate me one? I promise to share any artsy photographs of my feet with the forum.

 

I have some polaroid cameras that use peel apart pack film if you want one of those. I usually bust it out gatherings just for fun and conversation.

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still have a polaroid back for my Bronica... would love to use it again actually.

 

Don't they *still* make the film for this? It's Fuji, but practically identical stuff. . .

 

 

Adrian: If, 'alas', you can't afford $20 shipping for a free camera, why do you want to see $25/pack Polaroid film. You probably won't be able to afford to shoot with it either. Not trying to be a jerk, just saying. . . If someone is making the rounds for this company trying to gauge interest and you are really positive about the stuff verbally but then don't buy any, to whom are you really doing a disservice in the long run?

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