Retrying The Impossible

I have posted and blogged about my disappointments with The Impossible Project’s films. Quirky, of questionable quality control, and very expensive. the films have been, at almost $3.00 an exposure, and a huge bust to many photographers who experienced Polaroid’s seamless behind the scenes development and innovation. This is now creatively marketed as “experimental” film. While creating a whole cottage industry around accessories, cases, books, filters, frog tongues, shades, the company has nonetheless spurred a cult following. And over $4 million of revenue in 2010 (Bloomberg BusinessWeek). The images also could yield speckles, crystals, and, in certain cases, an image that would fade. Good thing I scanned all of them, because many of them are now faded away, despite being well stored, and away from ambient light.

This past year, after shooting a ton of 35mm, I am now toying with giving integral instant film another try.

Recently, Impossible announced a PX70 Color Protection film, which does look indeed very promising. No longer requiring shades, shields, and cardboard contraptions to cover the emulsion as it is ejected from the camera, the films also promise less quirks, less voodoo, and seemingly much better colors. I have three Polaroid SX-70 cameras- the Sonar, the Time Zero (I really cannot see a difference between the two cameras, aside from slightly different Polaroid rebadging), and most recently, the Alpha 1.

The Alpha 1, which came out in 1977, added a spit prism rangefinder prism glass for easier focusing, slots for the included leather strap, and a built-in tripod stand. This particular model was given to me last year by my mailman, who knows I love and collect cameras. In beautiful condition, I decided to get it ready for the film, when I try it later this month. This called for a couple of hours of cleaning. I plan on keeping all of these cameras “stock”, and not reskinning them with new leather strips. That is yet another SX-70 cottage industry.

My SX-70 Alpha 1

My SX-70 Alpha 1

The camera is a beautiful, elegant looking instrument, which when first introduced in 1971/72, set the photographic world into a frenzy. While Polaroid invested millions and millions of dollars into its design, it took Dr. Land closer to his instant image vision. Unlike the previous crack and peel Automatic Land Cameras (AKA pack cameras), the SX-70 developed in front of the photographer’s eyes, while protected by a mylar sleeve. It was Polaroid’s first truly organic design, done completely in-house, and not outsourced. And it was the company’s first motorized camera, and Single Lens Reflex (SLR) design. Free of the litter associated with the Automatic Land Camera’s film, the camera was also more ecologically friendly in the American mobile lifestyle of the 1970’s. Better for the parks and landmarks that amateur photographers liked to capture for family snapshots.

Behind the front door are the rollers. A MUST clean item!

Behind the front door are the rollers. A MUST clean item!

There is a latch on the side of the camera, which opens the front door, where the integral film pack goes, The battery for camera power also is contained in the pack. The SX-70 does not house its own batteries. There are rollers, smaller but similar to the Automatic Land Camera’s. These should be cleaned, very well. I had great success using baby wipes, which I also use to clean the rollers on my pack cameras collection. The crud and debris tends to build up on the left side of the rollers. Believe it or not, there are actually videos on YouTube showing how to clean the rollers! It really is not that difficult.

Side view. Polaroid LOVED bellows in the 60's, and early 70's.

Side view. Polaroid LOVED bellows in the 60’s, and early 70’s.

I also used the baby wipes to clean up the leather and chrome. An eyeglass cloth came in handy to clean the viewfinder and front lens element. Done. The SX-70 really is a beautiful little jewel. Maybe one of the greatest industrial engineering feats in the history of photography, and prehaps Edwin Land’s crowning achievement, out of many. Now, to only see if it works. Film is on the way.

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2 thoughts on “Retrying The Impossible

  1. I’ve used a cartridge of PX 680. The images are about 3 months old, and I haven’t noticed any significant fading. Definitely nothing remotely close to the faded image you have posted on Flickr. I’m finding the images come out quite dark , much like the images you’ve posted, and no matter where I set the slider. Maybe this is why I’m not seeing as much fading. 4 million, eh? Still, Impossible strikes me more legit than, say, Lomography. My Kodak Bull’s Eye cost me 1 dollar at a garage sale. I talked the 10 year old manning the table down from 2 dollars….

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