Getting into Instant Photography

December 3, 2012 § 6 Comments

So you’re interested in learning more about this whole instant photography thing?  I know the feeling.  I can go on and on about why I love it, but I’d rather take this time to tell about some of the options that are available.

- A variety of cameras that shoot instant film -

– A variety of cameras that shoot instant film –

As you may or may not know, there are two companies manufacturing analog instant film that market their products world-wide;  FujiFilm in Japan and The Impossible Project in the Netherlands.

Fuji makes a couple of  types of instant: integral film for their Instax camera line (the Instax mini & Instax wide) and peel-apart film for Polaroid pack film cameras.  The Instax system is a great entry-level start into the world of instant.   If you’re looking to capture candid images at a club, a party, hanging out with friends, this is a ideal choice.  It fires a flash every time and takes good images.  Food for thought: If you really get into instant, you might find that that this camera system is restricted when compared against others in the field.  However, it’s all in how you use it.  I’ve seen some incredible work produced from professionals who shoot with Instax cameras.

Photo: Daniel Rodrigue - Fuji Instax Mini

Photo: Daniel Rodrigue – Fuji Instax Mini

Photo: Daniel Rodrigue - Fuji Instax 210

Photo: Daniel Rodrigue – Fuji Instax 210

Photo: Mark Goode - Fuji Instax 210

Photo: Mark Goode – Fuji Instax 210

Photo: Mark Goode - Fuji Instax 210

Photo: Mark Goode – Fuji Instax 210

Fuji’s peel-apart film, FP-100C (color) & FP-3000B (B&W), is used in 100 series Polaroids, cameras which use a NPC Polaroid back or ones that have been converted to use pack film (Polaroid 110A & Polaroid 110B’s come to mind).  Pack-film Polaroid cameras are a lot of fun to use.  You can find them for $10-50 (on average) for the cameras with automatic exposure and for the models with manual exposure settings you’ll spend $300+ (Polaroid 180, 185, 190, 195, 600SE, Fuji FP-1). When looking for one, inspect to make sure there are no light leaks in the bellows. Use a flashlight to shine around in the camera when the back is open and look on the outside of the bellows for leaks.  Check to make sure the rollers move freely and are fairly clean (wipe them down with a damp paper towel to remove any gunk you might find). Also, the required battery needed to run the meter is a little hard to find.  Most people I’ve found covert the camera to use either AA or AAA batteries.  It’s really simple.  This a great tutorial on how to do it.  Just be mindful of whether you need to convert to 3V or 4.5V which is easily determined by looking at the underside of the battery compartment door.  But don’t let this technical mumbo-jumbo fool you.  Once you get your camera in operating condition, the fun you’ll have with it is endless.

Fuji’s peel-apart film has a very clean look to it.   The colors are pleasantly saturated, and the detail & clarity is very good.

Fuji FP-100C - Polaroid Automatic 100

Fuji FP-100C – Polaroid Automatic 100

Fuji FP-100C - Polaroid Automatic 100

Fuji FP-100C – Polaroid Automatic 100

Fuji FP-100C - Polaroid Automatic 100

Fuji FP-100C – Polaroid Automatic 100

Fuji FP-100C - Polaroid Automatic 100

Fuji FP-100C – Polaroid Automatic 100

Photo: Daniel Rodrigue - Polaroid 180 - Fuji FP-3000B

Photo: Daniel Rodrigue – Polaroid 180 – Fuji FP-3000B

Each exposure, when peeled, has a positive print and a negative.   Further adding to the enjoyment of it, when shooting color film, the FP-100C negative can be salvaged to scan by bleaching the negative. 

As I mentioned earlier, you can use any camera that has a NPC Polaroid back with peel-apart as well.   I use a RB67 + a NPC Polaroid back and get great results.   Note the black unexposed portion of the frame when shooting with a RB67.

Mamiya RB67 + NPC Polaroid Back - Fuji FP-100C

Mamiya RB67 + NPC Polaroid Back – Fuji FP-100C

Mamiya RB67 + NPC Polaroid Back - Fuji FP-100B

Mamiya RB67 + NPC Polaroid Back – Fuji FP-100B

You might be thinking .. What about all of those other Polaroids cameras?  Do they still make film for those??  Luckily, since The Impossible Project stepped into the game, they do! They’ve re-invented integral film for literally hundreds of thousands of Polaroids that are still out there.  Any of the Polaroid 600 series, Spectra/Image or SX-70 cameras can still be used.  Beyond that, they’ve brought 8×10 instant film back into the marketplace.

A good Polaroid to start off with that shoots integral film would be any of the Polaroid One Steps/600 series cameras.  You know the ones; boxy, most flipped open and have a flash.  Nearly every office in the 80’s & 90’s had one for employee photos.   They are fairly easy to use and shoot color (PX-680) or B&W (PX-600) film.  There are a large variety of 600 series cameras available.  If you’re purchasing on Ebay or Craiglist, you’ll find One Steps from $10-$100+ on average depending on the model and if it’s a collectible.  The camera has two focusing distances (2-4ft and 4ft – infinity) and takes good images.

Photo: Patrick Clarke - Polaroid One 600 - Impossible Project PZ600

Photo: Patrick Clarke – Polaroid One 600 – Impossible Project PX-600

Photo: Laidric Stevenson - Polaroid Sun 660 - Impossible Project PX-680 CP

Photo: Laidric Stevenson – Polaroid Sun 660 – Impossible Project PX-680 CP

Photo: Annie Donovan - Polaroid One 600 - Impossible Project PX-70 NIGO

Photo: Annie Donovan – Polaroid One 600 – Impossible Project PX-70 NIGO

Photo: John Morrison - Polaroid One Step - Impossible Project PX-680 COOL

Photo: John Morrison – Polaroid One Step – Impossible Project PX-680 COOL

Polaroid Spectra cameras are another great option and are pretty durable cameras too.  If you’re going to be roughing it while out and about, this particular camera is perfect for the job.  I’ve been using these for a while and they produce really nice results.  Most of the Spectra cameras I’ve picked up have been $10-20.  They use color (PZ680) or B&W (PZ600) Impossible Project film, use inaudible sound waves to aid in auto-focusing and are pretty user friendly.  I took one to a Texas Rangers game at the Ballpark in Arlington this past summer.  If you’re interested in reading a little more about the camera & how it works, you can find that here.

Photo: Synthia Goode - Polaroid Spectra - Impossible Project PZ-600

Photo: Synthia Goode – Polaroid Spectra – Impossible Project PZ-600

Polaroid Spectra AF - Impossible Project PZ-680

Polaroid Spectra AF – Impossible Project PZ-680

Polaroid Spectra AF - Impossible Project PZ-680

Polaroid Spectra AF – Impossible Project PZ-680

This brings me to Polaroid SX-70’s.  These are some of my favorite Polaroid cameras to use.   They are really fun to operate.  Unlike all of the other cameras as fore mentioned, because this particular camera is a SLR, what you see in the viewfinder is what you get.  The Sonar SX-70, like the Spectra, also uses inaudible sound waves to measure the subject’s distance from the camera. If you get lucky, you can find these for around $20.  But most of the various SX-70 models go anywhere from $40-100 depending on its condition and whether it’s been serviced/refurbished etc.  Using SX-70’s with Impossible film can be a little challenging, however once you get over the learning curve and get a handle on how to best utilize their films with this camera, it produces some awesome results.  

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar - Impossible Project PZ-600 + ND4 Filter

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar – Impossible Project PZ-600 + ND4 Filter

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar - Impossible Project PX-70 COOL

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar – Impossible Project PX-70 COOL

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar - Impossible Project PX-70 NIGO Edition

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar – Impossible Project PX-70 NIGO Edition

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar - Impossible Project PX-70 CP

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar – Impossible Project PX-70 CP

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar - Impossible Project PX-70 CP

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar – Impossible Project PX-70 CP

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar - Impossible Project PX-70 COOL

Polaroid SX-70 Sonar – Impossible Project PX-70 COOL

Last, but certainly not least, is the Polaroid SLR680/SLR690.  These are top of the line Polaroids that shoot 600 speed film (PX-680 or PX-600).   I’ve seen these online anywhere from $75-$200+, again, depending on the typical used-camera variables.  They are modeled after the SX-70. Their rollers spread the film a little more even, it has more focusing zones than the Sonar SX-70 and they come equipped with a flash that can be toggled on/off.

When looking for a used camera, of course look for signs of damage, but even more so, check the lens to make sure it’s clean.  Inspect the rollers; they should move somewhat freely.  If you bring an empty film pack with you, you can check to make sure the camera’s ejection mechanism is working (this is not needed on Polaroids which use peel-apart film).  Simply slide a darkslide into the empty pack, put it into the camera and if everything functioning properly, when you close the film door, the darkslide should eject out.  Some cameras might sound slow or sluggish if they haven’t been used in a while.  Actuate the shutter a handful of times. It will help move the gears and get the juices flowing.  If you’re in the D/FW area, I have a few empty packs laying around.  I’ll mail you one if you’re in need.

A big thanks to Daniel RodrigueMark GoodePatrick ClarkeAnnie DonovanLaidric StevensonJohn Morrison & Synthia Goode for letting me use their images to fill out this blog post.  It is appreciated!

If you’d like to know more, send a message my way.  I’d be happy to help you in any way that I can.  Email me at info@instantfilmsociety.com

-Justin

www.goodephotography.biz

www.instantfilmsociety.com

Using Impossible Project Film in a Mamiya RB67 aka “The Patrick Clarke Method”

June 21, 2012 § 5 Comments

In my previous blog post, I touched briefly on Impossible’s viewfinder article on Patrick Clarke regarding his use of a Mamiya RB67 with Impossible Project film.    The article did a great job of explaining how it works and for photography-minded individuals nothing further is needed.  However, for people just getting into instant film or photography in general, a pictorial on the subject would clear up any potential guesswork that has be done.

Mamiya RB67 + Polaroid SX-70

Mamiya RB67 + Polaroid SX-70

This method (not what’s pictured above ;-)) works with Impossible’s SX-70 & 600 series film.  When I first read about this, I was stoked because I knew I had the gear to try this out.  It’s a pretty backwards way of taking a photo, BUT the fact that you’re able to do it, is really cool.  Clarke touched on the RB67’s qualities in the article  “… amazed at how technically perfect the camera and its lenses were. I could control the depth of field, the shutter speed and aperture exactly like I wanted. My exposures were dead on, and the images were sharp as I could want” .. I couldn’t agree more.   The fact that you can utilize these qualities with Impossible film is awesome.

Now the how to’s ..

First, from this point forward, **anything inside asterisks MUST BE DONE in complete darkness (in a dark room, light-tight bag, dark closet etc.)**  Dealing with undeveloped film, because it’s so sensitive to light,  has to be kept in the dark until it’s developed.  This particular method, extracting film from a cartridge for use in another camera, needs a certain level of care in order to keep the image undeveloped until you’re ready.

If you don’t have access to a darkroom or a really dark closet, you will need to insert a dark slide into the cartridge to protect the film from light before removing it.

Release the lock to swing down the rollers ...

Release the lock and swing down the rollers …

Pull out the film cartridge just a little bit ...

Pull out the film cartridge just a little bit …

Carefully insert a dark slide OVER the top of images inside the cartridge

Carefully insert a dark slide OVER the top of images inside the cartridge

There’s a great video on Impossible’s website that teaches you how to swap film packs between cameras that talks about these first steps if you’re interested.

Push the dark slide all the way in ..

Push the dark slide all the way in ..

Pull the film cartridge ....

Pull the film cartridge ….

Out of the camera ...

Out of the camera …

Gently press down and push the dark slide all the way up ...

Gently press down with your thumbs and push the dark slide up … NOTE: Do this in a dark area so light doesn’t leak onto the top of the image. 

Voila! Happy unexposed film ...

Voila! Happy unexposed film …

Take the Polaroid back off of the RB67 ...

Take the Polaroid back off of the RB67 …

At this point, you need to put the Polaroid back & the freshly removed film cartridge in a changing bag (a light tight bag used to extract film) or your darkroom ;-).   In total darkness you will need to …

Open the back ...

**Open the back and remove the empty film cartridge**

Place the unexposed photo face down in the film back.  Use a photo before hand to figure out the optimal placement for the film.

**Remove & place an unexposed photo face down in the film back** Use a photo before hand to figure out the optimal placement for the film.

Gently replace the empty FP-100C cartridge to hold the film in place.  Make sure the photo doesn't move when you push down the cartridge ...

**Gently replace the empty FP-100C cartridge to hold the film in place.**Make sure the photo doesn’t move when you push down the cartridge …

Remount the Polaroid back to the RB67 and take your photo!

**Close it up** and remount the Polaroid back to the RB67.

Go take a picture of something!

The RB67 opening is almost the same size as Impossible images ..

For reference: The RB67 opening is almost the same size as Impossible images ..

Once you have shot your image, remove the Polaroid back and put it back in the changing bag with the Impossible film cartridge & a SX-70/600 series camera (or go to a darkroom if you’re so lucky ;-)).  Remove the exposed image from the Polaroid back and …

Pull the plastic light seal down and squeeze the sides of the cartridge gently to make room to insert the exposed photo

**Move the plastic light seal down. Squeeze the sides of the cartridge gently to make room to insert the exposed photo**

Slide the exposed image back into the cartridge

**Slide the exposed image back into the cartridge …**

**Push it all the way into the cartridge**

**

**Reinsert the cartridge into the camera**

**Reinsert the cartridge into the camera**

**Push it in and close the front ... the photo ejects and starts to develop**

**Push it in and close the front … the photo will eject and start to develop**

At this point, I normally slide an empty PX70 box inside the changing bag to store & remove the exposed image.

EXAMPLE:  Note the reversed image when shooting this way … 

Impossible Project PX-70 + Mamiya RB67 + 90mm f/3.8

*

7702447828_2de9915d4f 8269155974_e182df1704

That’s about it!  Now this method will work with any NPC back that uses FP-100C film.   The only question will be how much ‘real estate’ is being exposed on the negative.

Thanks for reading and thanks to this blog post for the inspiration!

-Justin

www.goodephotography.biz

BUY IMPOSSIBLE PROJECT FILM HERE!!!

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