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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Rodrigue, Mark Goode, Patrick Clarke, Annie Donovan, Laidric Stevenson, John 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
November 12, 2012 § 10 Comments
The meet-up at the fair was the inaugural event for the Instant Film Society, an organization I’m helping start that promotes the use, accessibility and education of analog instant photography. Following the success of the State Fair PolaWalk, we were all anxious to hook up again for another. The next event was scheduled for November 10th. The weather up ended being gorgeous and the turnout was phenomenal.
On the day of, I packed a Polaroid Sonar SX-70, a SLR680 and a handful of packs of Impossible Project PX-70 COOL & PX-680 CP. Synthia had her trusty Spectra AF with some Polaroid Softtone film. We threw in a couple more Polaroid cameras for some friends to borrow, hopped in the car and made our way over to Ft. Worth.
The evening before I had been contacted by one of my cousins, Luke. To my surprise, he told me his family was going to join us at the zoo and needed to know where he could pick up some film. I mentioned I had a One Step he could borrow and directed him to Urban Outfitters. He ended picking up a pack of Impossible’s Rainbow Frame film. Another friend of ours, Amy, joined as well. She had been keeping up with the blog and was interested in learning more about The Impossible Project and instant film in general. In fact, they weren’t the only ones who were new to the walk. While promoting this event, I got connected with a few other photographers online who came and a large group from Brookhaven met up too. We had more than 20 people there. It’s really cool that we all met up for the love of instant film.
After we arrived and hooked up with everybody, we started making our way around the zoo. The images shot were a mix of Impossible Project, expired Polaroid and Fuji instant film. Enjoy the pics!
Some of the group has wandered off at this point and had gone their own way. We regrouped as many of us as we could and snapped a quick shot about halfway through the afternoon.
Throughout the day, we were approached by strangers inquiring about the event and just what all this was about. Everyone was thrilled that you could still buy instant film, smiled at the sight of the cameras and were glad to know that it was still being produced. We passed out handfuls of flyers & stickers from Impossible and helped spread the word about all things instant.
The next day I talked with many of the people that joined up with us. Everyone loved the event and most were already talking about the next. I could feel the energy & excitement. One in particular said she spent her Sunday afternoon obsessively looking on Ebay for Polaroid cameras and felt as if somehow she was supposed to stumble upon this hobby. That’s what this is all about for me. Spreading the love of instant photography to others and inspiring more people to reach out and try it. Once you shoot it and feel it .. it’s really hard not to love it.
Want to learn more? Come to our next PolaWalk on December 15th in Sundance Square. You can find details here.
September 30, 2012 § 6 Comments
Phew! I’m sitting at my desk right now, 3 hours after my arrival back home, and I can’t help but to keep grinning at all of the things that happened today. What an amazing experience. I can’t begin to stress how great it was, to see such happy pepole on a day like today. On any other day, we probably would have been miserable! The non-stop rain .. the endless, torrential downpour that pummeled the group today … But you know what? EVERYBODY was smiling. Not one person was unhappy about making the trek out to the fair to meet fellow instant photographers. I say it all the time, but it’s incredible the type of people that this medium attracts.
My day began, with knowing that it would be wet … REALLY wet today. The forecast was 80%-90% rain throughout the duration of the day with thunderstorms likely ALL day. What do you do, when you’ve organized an event and promoted it for a month. Do you abandon ship? No. You go through with it as planned and hope for the best. I can’t stress enough, that “the best” did occur.
Synthia and I left the house at noon, so we could make our way down to the Texas State Fair and grab a Fletcher’s corny dog before we hooked up with everybody else. Parking was fairly easy (plenty of spaces) and of course, there weren’t the usual crowds that normally accompany the fair’s 2nd day. We made our way in and I snapped off a couple of photos as we made our way towards Big Tex.
Daniel R. and Catherine met up with us first and they were both smiling. They rain hadn’t affected their moods in the slightest (i wouldn’t have thought so, they are really kind & cool people). After some chuckles and small talk, a fellow photographer I met online, Richard, made his way towards our group and introduced himself. He jumped in with both feet; pulled out his cameras, started gabbing photography, it was greatness! It seemed like he was really happy to be around other instant photographers. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, he had to split early and didn’t end up hanging out with us. Hopefully he can make it out to the next event that gets organized. Before, he left I snapped a quick picture of him with his 680 SLR …
At this point, Christian & Elaine showed and were grinning from ear to ear as well. Christian helped promote this event and it was definitely appreciated. He mentioned that he had been so excited about this event that he could hardly sleep. Truth be told, I had been tossing and turning most of the week. A few minutes later, Jeremy & Amber showed up. I introduced them to everyone, passed off one of the Spectras I brought for them, and got them up to speed on the ins and outs of the camera. One of Daniel R’s students arrived, Adriana, and all of us introduced ourselves to her. She walked up holding this super cool pink, black and yellow neon Polaroid Cool Cam. It looked awesome! We waited around a little while longer for two more guys that I had met online; Daniel P. & Matthew. They drove in from Tyler and once they arrived, they were already soaked, but again nothing but smiles. I handed Daniel a Polaroid Automatic 100 with a few packs of FP-100C that I had promised him and we quickly organized a group photo.
Daniel R. spotted an interesting looking character walking towards a streamliner that was parked near Big Tex and asked him if he could take his photo. The moment I saw the guy, I knew it was “the voice of Big Tex”. I ran over there with my camera and once Daniel was done shooting this image on his Instax …
I snapped off a quick triptych on the SX-70 .. .
– CLICK IMAGE FOR LARGER SIZE –
We all snapped off a few more photos, while we waited around a little while longer for any stragglers …
Then we started making our way towards The Midway area and commenced burning some film!
The rain was relentless! It just wouldn’t stop. I’m still in awe, that all of these people came out in such high spirits, despite the rain. Nothing was going to stop this group!! Rain?!? Pshaw!! Whatevs! After a while, we decided to make our way into the Food Court to dry off a little bit, relax and get to know each other a little more.
For Synthia and I, this was the first time we had met most of these people. I’m usually not the type to go out and seek the company of strangers for events, and for that matter, I really don’t like talking to strangers. It’s funny. My passion for using instant film is helping me turn a new leaf in my life. Many of you have never met me, and don’t know that I stutter. Sometimes it can get the best of me, but most of the time, it’s not that big of a deal. Sure, it doesn’t define me, but it has shaped me into the person that I am. For a guy like me, meeting strangers and talking to new people is a thing that I try and avoid most of the time. When I started thinking about hosting this PolaWalk, I knew that I would killing a few birds with one stone: 1) I’d get an opportunity to “break the mold” so to speak, and get out there and meet strangers and force myself over this hump. 2) I’d get the chance to spread the love of Impossible to other shooters. And 3) I’d be able to make new friends in the area that share the love that I feel for photography. All in all, it was a winning idea all around.
Anyhow, at this point Jeremy, Amber, Synthia and Adriana all had to bolt. So we packed up our things and made our way back outside. We started walking along and WHOOMFFF!! A huge gust of wind ripped apart my umbrella, haha! It was hilarious! Daniel R. snapped a quick pick while everybody was laughing. Later on, Amber wrote something about it being an UNbrella. Very fitting Amber …
We headed indoors to the petting zoo. Walked around a little while and eventually made our way back outside.
Most of us were pretty tired and fairly soaked (COMPLETELY) so we decided to call it a day. We all parted ways and made our way out of the park. I snapped a couple of images on the way out, but by this time it really started pouring some heavy rain. I had no umbrel … UNbrella at this point, so I got even more soaked! Luckily, I had some plastic bags in my backpack and saved my gear & film from getting completely drenched.
Overall, an incredible experience! I can’t wait to schedule more of these around the metroplex and help spread the word about the greatness that is Impossible Project film. If you are interested in learning more about this medium, please get in touch with me. I’m an open door and would love to help you get into this medium. There’s nothing better for personal photography. Even more so, it’s a fantastic medium for the professional photographer. Offering this sort of “out of the box” photography is giving your clients something you can’t get anywhere else. There’s only ONE company making integral film. Get off your butts and support them! Doing so, gives the gift of “the polaroid” back to this generation and hopefully the next.