Friday, February 22, 2008


First they stopped production of Time Zero, my favorite Polaroid film of all time, then they quietly yanked their instant cameras from their website and the marketplace, and now for the final nail in the coffin - Polaroid is ceasing production of all instant films at the end of this year. I'm sure many people could care less in this digital age that Polaroid is going the way of the dinosaur (except for sticking their name on a variety of mediocre electronic merchandise from LCD TV's to digital cameras), but for a lot of dedicated shooters, this is madness. My love of Polaroid is known far and wide among my friends and family and I've actually been pleasantly surprised that many people have empathetically and tenderly brought up the topic with me and and earnestly inquired if I'm going to be stockpiling industrial size refrigerators full of the stuff. While I do have a small stockpile of about 15 boxes of Time Zero, plus a medley of other formats like peel apart film and a plethora of packfilms (Spectra, Joycam, 779 and even iZone) in my extra fridge - all stacked neatly next to the spare Lactose Free 2% milk and a odd mix of 35mm and 120 films - I am not currently planning to buy all the Polaroid film that is still circulating on the planet. For one thing, Fuji makes their own alternative to Polaroid's peel apart film (photo of Lucy the Boxador shot on Fuji FP-100C film with a Polaroid 195 at f3.8) and it's far superior to Polaroid's own brew anyway - it doesn't have the tendency to curl like the Polaroids and it doesn't smell gross like the Polaroids and it actually has a nicer color rendition too. So for now, the peel apart film I use is safe. It is possible that another corporation will come along and carry some of the film formats Polaroid is ending. My main hope is that the 600 film format will stay alive for years to come. When you think of someone taking a Polaroid and pushing the button and the film spitting out the front, it's the 600 format that you are thinking of. 600 is synonymous with Polaroid. Time Zero, my fave, was the same shape as 600, (Polaroid comparison of 600 on the left vs Time Zero on the right) although a different formulation that made everything you shot look like it was taken back in a washed out 70's haze, except for the saturated and dreamy blue tones that made an average sky or swimming pool (Calalilies in Pool photo shot on Time Zero with a SX-70) or ocean view look magnificent. If 600 isn't picked up by another company, I will be sad forever and a little bit of my creativity will die too. And stockpiling 600 will not help matters - even when refrigerated, the film just starts deteriorating within a year or two of the expiration - leaving brown streaks (instead of imagery) in places the emulsion has fallen apart. Now I don't really care that the instant cameras have ceased production because the truth is that pretty much any Polaroid camera made within the last decade or so sucks completely. From an ergonomic and design point of view, the newer cameras are just not intuitive to open, close, or use. In an effort to make them more compact, they just muddled up the usability. Anyone who's ever used a vintage SX-70 (the photo is of my favorite camera - a hand me down from my Uncle Eddie)
will tell you they should have just kept that design in perpetuity. And as far as focusing any of the newer cameras - the newer cameras do a fuzzy, washed out approximation of in focus. The older cameras that had sonar focusing could actually focus in complete darkness. I've taken pictures of a person sleeping in a totally black room with Spectra and Impulse cameras that used sonar focusing - and the photos come out crisply in focus. (b/w photo focused with a sonar Polaroid Impulse in total darkness) The new crappy Polaroid cameras can't do that. I don't know how much it cost Polaroid to manufacture their 600 and Spectra films - the ones the general public were most likely to use - but with the cost of each individual Polaroid photo averaging at over a dollar a pop - I'm not surprised sales would have dwindled. Maybe if Polaroid could have cut costs of its retail film packs, they wouldn't have had to get rid of it entirely. I know that whenever I venture out with any of my Polaroid cameras and go shoot, people my age and older get a smile on their face when they see the camera and photos, and young kids - typically so unimpressed by anything that wasn't just released today - are curious to see this old technology and still impressed by the magic of an instant photo. Ever want to liven up a party - whip out any format of Polaroid and people get a great buzz posing for pictures and waiting for the result to magically appear moments later. Halloween dress up is more fun with Polaroid!

Polaroid cameras and their films have always been timeless fun and there's not many things you can talk about anymore that fall into that category. Even a distressed Jeepster becomes "art" with a Polaroid.

A Polaroid is instant and forever and special.

Here's a video clip about the demise of the instant films and pay extra special attention to the jackass at the end - the guy that bought out Polaroid after their bankruptcy. His positive spin doctoring about the end of instant films is laughable - he's happier to slap the Polaroid name on crap than to actually keep any respect the brand has garnered for decades. I'm sure Edwin Land and Ansel Adams are spinning in their graves.


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Tyler Roemer said...

That dog shot is awesome!