pillars of light

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I have no idea what happened here. This almost looks solarised. I don’t know whether the camera botched the exposure or whether the film (or its development) was awry. Either way I like it and it’s why I started using instant film in the first place. You’re probably not going to want this sort of unpredictability on a fashion shoot for Vogue but if you’re looking for an antidote to digital sterility this sort of thing will do nicely.

instant architecture

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I’m really pleased with some of the shots I’m getting with the Polaroid SX-70 loaded with Impossible film. There really is a special quality to the images.

What is not fun at all is the painstaking manual process of removing the dust spots from the scans. Even with a clean photo and scanner and automatic dust removal selected in the scanning options there is still A LOT of retouching required. Ah, the joys of film. Apart from dust removal there is very little post-processing on this image.

L on instant film

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Now this is more like it! I love this shot.

There’s definitely something going on here that digital simply doesn’t do.

The Polaroid SX-70 was on a tripod and fired with a cable release. This was taken indoors with some natural light from a window and a couple of ordinary household lamps to light the walls. The exposure was probably about an eighth of a second (I intentionally shot without flash).

I love the quality of this. The artifacts in the background (from the rollers?) are lovely.

Shooting instant film in a Polaroid SX-70

I spend a lot of time with digital files and every so often I realise how clinical and soulless the images can be. The answer of course is to shoot some film (no, the answer is most definitely not one of those apps for combining multiple iPhone shots and adding textures).

Given that the idea is to get a break from the clinical nature of digital the obvious answer is to use a film that is far from perfect. The route I recently chose was to pick up a Polaroid SX-70 Alpha from the early seventies and to load it with the somewhat experimental black and white film from the Impossible Project (I couldn’t load it with Polaroid film because that is no longer manufactured).

SX-70s have gone up in price, probably in no small part due to the wonderful work of The Impossible Project. Mine was £130 but is in near mint condition:

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In its day the SX-70 was a technological marvel. It’s an SLR which means you see the actual view through the lens. It has pretty accurate auto exposure, though the downside is that you have no control over the aperture. Focus is manual and you get a small split-prism rangefinder in the lower section of the viewfinder image.
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The folding mechanism is just beautiful and the camera really does become quite compact… though I doubt if you could get it in any pocket. The alpha model is especially useful as it has a tripod socket.

I also picked up a new cable release and a reusable flash bar (a more convenient system than the old bar of ten once-only flash bulbs).

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There is a very interesting and detailed article on Technologizer about Polaroid’s SX-70.

Polaroid ceased production of their instant films in 2008, despite selling 24 million units in that year alone, and promptly set about destroying everything. It was the enthusiasm of a handful of people, including some from Polaroid itself, that resulted in the saving of the last production plant (in the Netherlands) and the creation of a new film for Polaroid cameras. An article in Wired covers how The Impossible Project brought back instant film. So far it seems that The Impossible Project have done well and apparently sold nearly a million units last year. Their film, which was very experimental to begin with, is improving all the time.

What sort of images does this camera/film combination create? ¬†Early results are very promising. Soft, messy, full of imperfections and strange artifacts…. but promising.

Here are a couple of early test shots. There’s no artistic merit here, it’s just me getting to grips with the new rig. More serious instant photography will no doubt follow in due course.

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Addendum: I forgot to mention that at current prices Impossible film costs over £2 a shot!