Polaroid Instant Film, Reborn.

The impossible has happened. While that may sound a bit over dramatic, the project itself was titled “the impossible project”. What is it that is so impossible? The revival of Polaroid instant film.  This is not a newer, digital alternative, this is film you can actually buy and plop into your old Polaroid camera. What’s the big deal? All they had to do was start producing it again right? Not really. They’ve completely re-engineered it from scratch. That’s pretty impressive.  We had heard, early last year, that they were going to attempt it, and we’re pleased to see that they’ve succeeded.

That being said, a handheld, home hacked digital instant picture device sounds kind of cool. It would probably be an easy one to build too.

37 thoughts on “Polaroid Instant Film, Reborn.

  1. Dye sublimation printers can be had so cheap these days. You can even print straight from them without a computer is some cases. The advantages to a digital camera are to great for me to be bothered with instant film Polaroids.

  2. @salsa: yeah, but they had to make their own formula for the paper because the original stuff is now unobtainable. Chemistry Hack! It looks like they even have some new monochrome effects available beyond what Polariod offered.

  3. @salsa: They completely re-engineered the film (layers and chemicals) from scratch even though they are using the original equipment.

    @Pete: A Polaroid instant camera is much, much more portable than a digital camera and a dye-sublimation printer. Besides, this revival is for professionals and enthusiasts, not casual photographers.

  4. I always loved the Polaroids, I kept several in my collection, glad to see someone else likes them. And yes, I have several digitals, camera on the phone and even some 35mm I still use. Just the old Polaroid cameras were always good to break the ice at get togethers.

  5. The original workers just took over the factory and the machines, the chemicals the use to have aren’t around any more so they had to experiment with alternatives, and now they got a complete product again.

  6. @salsa:

    Even restarting film production can be very difficult. There’s a story about Kodak moving a film manufacturing plant and spending a lot of time to get things back into QC tolerances.

    Turns out that their source of gelatin changed, and with it coming from biological sources (moo!), it had different chemical qualities that needed to be accounted for.

    Emulsion production is a bit of a black art, with lots of trade secrets to be found everywhere.

  7. @Marco Kotrotsos That’s about what you pay now for “authentic” polaroid packs that are all about expired by now. I have a few unopened packs that expired mid last year, I’d used one and it still developed fine though you can expect some color issues on those expired packs.

    @Life2Death they talk about the batteries in their discovery docs. I hadn’t been to this page in a year or so though…

  8. @Mikey – Agreed, the quality sucks even in relation to original Polaroid quality.
    Didn’t Engadget report on that? Highly expensive, very poor results?
    Surely a pro photographer would instead shell out for one of those old film image filters for photoshop over this.
    I’m not a green type person, but wouldn’t this have a pretty bad effect on the environment too?

  9. You can buy excess-stock Polaroid dye sublimation printers with 20 sheets for about £20. They’re compact and portable and work with Bluetooth.

    However, they are not “sexy.”

    1. They’re not dye-sub, they’re “Zink”. The quality isn’t great, no way comparable to the very good results dye-sub gets. More like inkjet quality for colour reproduction. And I mean 1990s inkjets, with 4 colours.

  10. Protip: Photography isn’t always about capturing the scene in the most detail, with exact colour reproduction. A creative photographer can use the ‘flaws’ of a system like Polaroid, Instax or Holga to make warm, inviting images in contrast to the clinical hi-res photos people like me inevitably take with digicams.

    See this for a quick example – http://www.rocknrollbride.com/2010/03/under-the-spotlight-newell-jones-jones-photography/

  11. A nice gamma source, like copper with a high voltage pulse (in a vacuum) would produce X-rays. It would be great if this film could capture gammas (photo fluoresce intensifier plastic) and be used for a portable lock – Xray machine. Then the pins could be directly viewed for picking.

    1. That’s very likely “Zink”, a technique for portable digtal printers. The “ink” is special chemical crystals in CMY. A special combination of temperature and time melts the crystals of a particular colour, which are otherwise clear. This is done with tiny heaters along the height, as the paper is ejected sideways. Or the width and it’s ejected the other way, can’t remember.

      It’s smeary and much more expensive than that in practice, or was when they were still made.

      But that’s nothing to do with optical, old-fashioned Polaroid film in this article.

  12. problem 1: packs are VERY costly. 18$ for 8 pictures.

    problem 2: the new films simply don’t work.

    problem 3: when they do work the resulting images simply SUCK.

    really, here:


    you can find some test shot made with the newly engineered B/W film (the others they’re selling are old warehouse leftovers) and the results are simply ridiculous: half the pictures simply didn’t show up on paper, the other half were definitely of very poor quality.

    also, on a slightly different note, LOMO SUCKS!

  13. I used to love grabbing the “polapulse” batteries from those packs!

    For a young kid eager to rip stuff apart and hack it back in the day the discovery of those batteries was a GOLD MINE.

    There were outings where I brought back armloads of spent carts for the wealth of batteries.

    Good times.

  14. Same here I used to love recovering the polapulse batteries and using them in projects.

    They could fire model rocket ignitors and power TTL logic etc and where a lot less bulky then lantern batteries or even 4 AAs.

  15. I had figured if the film was ever again produced, the price would be double, reads like the figure I pulled out of my back side may be right or just a starting price. Who knows what the cost will be after they get the products dialed in. At $20 or so I’d buy the occasional pack, but probably not regularly. Then again I never did buy it regularly.

  16. The real heroic aspects of such projects often never get any press, let alone fame. There’s a term used in some social circles to describe a sort of fame that motivates some of Hackerdom’s best. That term is Egoboo” It’s more likely to be Grokked by most folks who need not Google for the concept “Grok”

    I’d be very interested in seeing the version of “makes a printable negative” film come back. As it potentially could be used for micrographic document captures with no wet chemistry etc required.

    Polaroid’s emotional resonance is inherently rooted in the VISUAL intersecting with time. Yeah, a Dye Sub like PoGo can be damn close in many ways for semi-emulating self developing films. But the emotional magic which began with peel and coat reached it’s pinnacle with SX-70’s Visible Progress of “While you watch” image forming. The other technical reality of SX-70 film centers on a presumption that pictures on that film are WAY harder to alter from what the lens saw.

    The whole team that has been responsible for restoring this tech deserves our deepest respect.

  17. The best part is making art from the poloroid SX70 prints .These are awesome little works of manipulated art.If you have never seen these google them and have a look at what you can do.You can get really creative with these cameras as long as you have the film.I love digital too but you cannot create this type of art with digital sorry.

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