My much loved but under-employed Polaroid SLR680 SE has finally had a bit more use in the last few months with five packs of Impossible Project PX680 Colour protection to enjoy but there were a few surprises in the process. The results are a lot of fun and for the next week or so I'll be posting one Impossible Project picture per day to show them in a little more detail.
The transition from old Polaroid 600 film to PX680 Colour Protection is trickier than I thought for three principle reasons.
The first surprise was the biggest, but least daunting in the the long-run - PX680 CP is not as "instant" as I had expected. For the first few minutes I thought I had done something wrong or that the camera had ceased to function in the intervening years since its last use. The pictures dutifully ejected as usual but, despite following IP's instructions to place out of direct light, there didn't seem even the faintest ghost of an image when I looked at it a few minutes later. I shot another test frame, turning the exposure compensation up to max in case there was an ISO mis-match. Again, a plain blue image after several minutes. With a heavy heart I put the camera down and resigned myself to the fact that the long hibernation had damaged it in some way.
A few hours later, hardly daring to look, I opened the little Moleskin concertina file I used for storing instant film while shooting... and there they were; two pictures, one massively over-exposed!
After a while I came to realise that the image seems to develop within half an hour or so, sometimes slightly quicker. However, this doesn't really bother me. Quite the reverse in fact - the discipline of locking the picture away for a while only increases the enjoyment of eventually checking it. A bit like taking a film to the mini-lab and waiting for the prints.
The second observation was that nearly all the pictures had a little divot in the centre of the upper edge. Again, my first thoughts were that the camera had suffered some kind of malfunction but after thinking about the fact that PX680 CP is physically thicker than the old 600 it seemed logical that some kind of pinching was occurring. A quick check on the internet explained that the SLR680 had a different roller mechanism to the older SX70 and that this could cause the compression mark. The cleaning suggested has had no effect in my case but was worth trying. The marks themselves vary in size, and while there seem to be many factors, I have yet to establish any predictable pattern. On some of the pictures, they lend a certain analogue authenticity but after a while it can become distracting.
The final difference is the colour. Impossible Project have done an amazing job in resurrecting the technology after all the machines in the original Polaroid factory were put beyond use, but the PX680 CP has a compressed colour gamut in comparison with the 600 and a particularly distinctive yellowing of the whites and highlights. This means that after a while I found myself avoiding certain colours and lighting conditions, fearing the compressed tonality and slightly "urine yellow" results I was getting.
But there are some positive aspects of this very different colour palette and after a period of adjustment I started to find subject matter that would better suit the slightly dream-like qualities of the new film. This process of experimentation has been massively enjoyable and it has been years since I have taken pictures with such a sense of open-minded discovery. Relinquishing control in this way is so liberating compared with much of my everyday work where I am constantly striving for consistency.
Naturally, it is possible to correct some of these casts once the pictures have been scanned or copied digitally, but that sort of defeats the point. Instant film photography is an adventure, a whimsical exploration, a shot of uncertainty in an increasingly predictable world.
As long as you can enjoy it on those terms, it's hugely rewarding.