Polaroid SX-70 & The Impossible Project

The SX-70 is a folding single lens reflex Land Camera first produced by the Polaroid  Corporation in 1972. It was the first instant SLR in history, and the first camera to use Polaroid's new integral print film, which developed automatically without the need for intervention from the photographer. This was revolutionary at the time, and a precursor to today's 600 and Spectra films.

The SX-70 has a folding body design, a 4-element 116mm f/8 glass lens, and an automatic exposure system. The camera allows manual focus as close as 10.4 inches (26.4cm), and has a shutter speed range from 1/175s to more than 10 seconds. A variety of models was offered, though all share the same basic design. Later models have an ultrasonic rangefinder autofocusing system known as Sonar.

All models feature an electronically controlled 'flash-bar' socket across the top of the camera, for insertion of a 10-times use flashbulb unit. Polaroid - as well as other companies - made external flash units that plugged into this socket.

As well as the folding SLR model, a variety of non-folding, 'consumer'-type models were released that also used to SX-70 integral film. Polaroid's SX-70 film was last produced in December 2005, and was sold out by March, 2006. What little remains often suffers from flat batteries or dried-up chemicals.

This example was processed after scanning. Some argue 'instant' images should be left unaltered. But given the image requires scanning anyway, aren't modern instant films simply the new 'negative?'In October 2008 The Impossible Project saved the last Polaroid production plant for Integral Instant film in Enschede (NL) and started to re-invent and re-produce a new instant film for traditional Polaroid Cameras. Starting with the very best 10 former Polaroid employees, who shared the passion as well as the belief in the Impossible dream, the Impossible Project employes currently 20 people in the factory in Enschede. All of them have a long time of expertise in the field of Instant film production (more than 500 years accumulated).

Due to the fact that the original Polaroid colour dyes are not available any more and there is no chance to reproduce them, the Impossible project had to start from scratch. The team had one year to completely reinvent a new photographic instant system. After thousands of experiments they managed to develop what is called Impossible Silver Shade system. This unique new monochrome system contains 29 new layers as well as 13 new chemicals and forms the strong basis of all of Impossible's future products.

What I have posted here is a series of images shot on PX-70 Color Shade film created by The Impossible Project using a Polaroid SX-70 folding camera.

It is important to note The Impossible Project is NOT making Polaroid film. While they are recreating instant films, they should not be confused with Polaroid. Polaroid is basically gone... the chemical suppliers where pushed out of business when Polaroid went out of business. Many machines were destroyed... basically, all that was left was back stock of film and film that was in the pipeline.

A quadtych of images shot on The Impossible Projects PX-70 Color Shade instant film.The-Impossible-Project for the most part had to start all over. They are currently 'testing' (in retail channels) several integrated films... (the kind that shoot out of the camera). Unfortunately, it seems they will not be making the more desirable (professionally) peel-apart films.

The look from their first efforts is encouraging... and has a unique flavor. Certainly, the flavor could be described as an "acquired' taste. I will say that there are things I'm starting to like about it. No... I won't be shooting family memories with it.... but , I do have some ideas.

Finally, I'll be working with some of The-Impossible-Project's other films in the coming weeks. I will also be providing them with feedback on the use and aesthetics.

Watch for images produced on Silver Shade and Sepia. To be clear, however, the Sepia is a peel-apart Polaroid film and I will be shooting it with one of my 'traditional' Polaraoid camers. Either way, I think the results may be a little more 'of this world' than the current PX-70 Color Shade. But that's not to say the Color Shade films won't improve with time.