First Glance: The Impossible Project PX 600 UV Silver Shade Instant Film

The big news in instant films this past month was the release of PX 600 UV film from The Impossible Project. PX 600 UV is part of The Impossible Project's Silver Shade line. The Silver Shade films are monochromatic… read; black and white… but more accurately, they have more of a sepia tone. It's pleasing none-the-less.

This improved edition of the PX 600 Silver Shade features a special UV filtering coat, intended to improve the black and white tones. It has been optimized for the use in traditional Polaroid 600 cameras. With the addition of an ND filter along with a slight adjustment on the lighten/darken wheel, the film can also be used with the Polaroid SX-70.

Today I received five packs of the new film. I had tried previous versions and while my feelings (and results) were mixed, I was encouraged by the early reports and sample images from this new UV version.

I initially had planned to take a little more time assessing the film and seeing how the film responded to different light, temperature, use and misuse.

But then, what good is that? In the real world, we get film, we shoot it, we want results.

You see, I think it is important not to lose sight of what instant films are all about. Sure… there are people out there manipulating it, peeling it, cutting it up and turning into mosaics, collages and all sorts of other neat interpretations. Then there are those that look at streaked discolored fading expired films and wax on poetically for hours about God knows what. Me? I want my Polaroid cameras… especially my integral film cameras, to be fun. I want to see an image, compose it, push the button and wait for my instant print. Then… I want to see what I created. Not what came out or what I got. There's a difference.

The act of shooting a Polaroid or instant film should be about the user experience and the emotional collateral. Instant was supposed to give everyone a little rush… a little excitement. Everyone waiting for the print wanting to see. Don't people still flock to the back of a point n' shoot digital display screen to see how the picture turned out and how they look? Sure they do. It's called fun.

I'm a photographer. Maybe I'm an artist… but that's for others to decide. What I know is when I push that button, I want…, no I need to deliver a good time. I need to make people smile… even if it's just for a moment. Photos… especially photos of people being people, are supposed to be fun.

Be that as it may, it's for that reason I didn't wait to do rigorous testing with the film. Because ultimately that's not how I want to use it. I want to open the box, slip the cartridge in the camera and start having fun.

This photo was from the same first pack of film but a day after I wrote this review. Very encouraging.Getting instant and integral film back to where it was when Polaroid ceased production still has a way to go. However, I'm extremely pleased to report, the PX 600 UV film has moved the process a giant step forward. Make no mistake, as The Impossible Project team states emphatically, PX Silver Shade Film is still experimental and may or may not produce changing results depending on light conditions and temperature. So, buyer beware.

I shot five frames so far. The first frame (the bridge) was pretty darn good. I might have been a bit dark on the adjustment wheel. The second shot was equally as good, but still a bit dark and a darker scene.

The third shot, I over compensated and moved the lightness wheel too much and the image was overexposed. The fourth (this time I waited) I adjusted back and the exposure was spot on. Unfortunately, it was late in the day and being the light hog that the SX-70 is, I may have moved a bit and the image was soft.

The fifth and final image was the orchid. Being later yet, I could have lightened up just a touch. The SX-70 wheel is pretty wide in its gamut, so a little bit of adjustment can make a lot of change. But the orchid shot was sharp… and honestly, pretty nice.

I can say that my first experience with PX 600 UV was awfully good. It's not yet black and white… though as I play more I might be able to coax it along. But the variables within my first results were much narrower than previous films I've used from The Impossible Project.

Like all integral films, I'm curious to see how the images firm up in the next day or two. I'm sure they'll get nicer. Long term? We still won't know for a while.

The images that did turn out where sharp and transitioned from dark to light pretty good. Though, I'm sure the light/white is going to be the part I chase working with the camera.

There are a few anomalies in the films surface. I don't know if they're from chemicals not spreading evenly or maybe residual grittiness within the chemicals… I really don't know. But they're visible and you can see them in the scans.

You still need to shield the film as it ejects from the camera. This is VERY important if you want consistent results. The first 10-30 seconds are critical. You must shield the image from the light while the chemicals begin to go to work.

Like I said, the SX-70 is a light hog. Though in fairness to the SX-70, every Polaroid camera I own prefers gorgeous light. Even FujiFilms near perfect (almost too perfect) peel-apart pack films seem made for sunny 16 exposures. So I'm anxious to get the film out in good daylight and see what I can do.

I'm extremely impressed with The Impossible Project's progress and how much this film has moved closer to my goal of simply having fun.  Stay tuned.