PX 100 Impossible Project Film Test

April 6, 2010

So here it is my test of the new PX100 film from Impossible Project.

But first a few declarations at the outset, in the attempt to keep this fair.

I, Kevin Mason, am a Polaroid addict, there is little better than shooting portraits on an sx70 with a pack of scarce but reliable 600 film. (You should be able to view some of my old Polaroids here)

I have been excited ever since I first heard about the Impossible Project and I really want it to succeed, produce viable films at a price that is reasonable.

I have not performed this test under any strict conditions, but following a few bits of general advice I have shot this as I would normally use my SX70. (The lens still had a 1ND filter over it on all but one of the shots).

I shoot Polaroids for both Commercial work and Personal work- both of which put very different demands on both the photographer and the film.

I paid £19.99 for this pack of 8 exposures at The Photographers Gallery London, its cheaper online if you can buy bulk.

I have only ever put 600 film in my sx70 previously.

I am not attempting to solve these clear image problems, but just to shoot with a fresh pack and see what I get. (E.g I am sure gels etc could fix some of these issues).

I really couldnt at this point give a damn about fancy packaging, collectable dark slides or the almost lomographic fetishism that this project is being marketed as, I just want a film I can use with a certain amount of creative control.

I shot all the tests in the street outside the studio, in natural light, varying between shade, sunny, into the sun etc. Just like in one of my regular Polaroid 600 shots of Georgie below, who I shot in all 8 of the images.

Georgie Hobday Polaroid 600 film, sx70

Georgie Hobday Polaroid 600 film, sx70

The biggest change to report with this film, is that Impossible have released a product so unstable that you have to hide it from any light as its developing. In other words the film isnt instant, you cant watch your picture appear and more importantly you cant selectively burn in areas with a lighter etc as many Polaroid shooters (including myself) do now, to have more control over the image. It also means you must eject the image into a dark bag, or under the dark slide (taped to the front of the camera) and is both fiddly and inhibiting.

The film is also incredibly sensitive to temperature and needs to be kept warm, but not put under pressure, so even sticking it in a pocket may radically mark the image. Doesnt like light, and hates cold temperatures, well in the UK this films seems hugely impractical so far. The biggest joy of the whole process, watching the image appear, has been sacrificed, but I understand this is a new film and maybe the returns will be greater for it….

Shooting this film is a slow process you’ll need to wait a good 3 minutes or so for the image to fix, and then you can check the shot, adjust any exposure etc and shoot again. Its disruptive, plus in the general cold of the UK, shooting outside, even with a cold clip seems even slower. The film itself is wildly, and I dont use that term loosely, unpredictable- to the point that there is NO consistency in the shots that developed, regardless of the lighting conditions, temperature etc. I tried photographing a full size stop sign and had trouble. If a film is this tempremental it rules it out for any commercial work at all, a client would not put up with the differing results- as it reduces the photographer to just a ‘hit and hope’ role.

So some general points- Although I understand this is an ‘artistic’ film, Impossible have deemed it fit for release and not at a test product price, but a full price that is considerably more than pro commercial film. So I am looking at it in terms both of its art product use, and its commercial use, or more importantly an outcome that can be predicted.

The film clearly isnt Black and White, varying between sepia and some reds/greens in between.
It seems to have an extremely high number of flaws (dark spots etc).
It switches between massively overexposed and a solarised effect.

These are straight scans with some Levels correct (same for each).

PX Impossible Project Test Shoot

The background in this shot, about 2 foot from the subject is dark grey, the fur she is wearing is black, and this was shot in the shade, about 4pm, with a 1ND over the lens.

PX Impossible Project Test Shoot

Shot into the sun, with subject blocking the sun, attempting to get some flare etc, its a weak afternoon UK sun. I can just make out the building behind the subject but nothing else.

PX Impossible Project Test Shoot

Shot with the sun behind me, ND filter still over lens.

PX Impossible Project Test Shoot

Shot against a black paint background, again Georgies Black fur has completely disappeared.

PX Impossible Project Test Shoot

Probably the best tonal range, but one of the most ‘unreadable’ images- shot in shade, with highlight from the sun just catching left of Georgies face.

PX Impossible Project Test Shoot

The most worrying image- shot against a white wall, with strong shadow from left to right, of some fencing, the blacks are a deep red, the subject has disappeared, the image appears solarised?
PX Impossible Project Test Shoot

Against Grey, in the shade.

PX Impossible Project Test Shoot

Against Grey, in the shade.

Now the last two shots are the best in terms of clarity, one was shot with the ND filter over then lens, the other wasnt, but as they both went into the bag one after each other I am not sure which is the one without the ND, normally I’d hazard a guess but with 8 wildly differing shots as these from one pack it hardly seems worth it to work it out.

This film has some fantastic qualities and another long period of testing and refining may make it into something great, but right now Impossible Project are way back at the beginning of Photography. This film is wild, you cant expect to just put it into an SX70 and shoot, no matter how many years of other Polaroid films you have. If you buy this film then you’ll find yourself changing the way you shoot- fine if you shoot for fun, and have money to burn. For a specific Project or Commercial work, like when we photographed these compression socks from comprogear or did the photography for the article "Carbon Steel vs Cast Iron Cooking Appliances", at this point I’d say its almost unuseable, you may get some great shots, but it feels almost completely out of your hands- not something I’d be happy pitching to a client.

It feels rushed, and the dire instructions on the Impossible site (below) only seem to emphasise that point, and if Impossible have any respect for their market they will revise these instructions immediately with actual workable tips/advice from pros, packing gels into the box maybe instead of a ‘collectable’ ie gimmicky dark slide, and also offering a return on their product if you arent happy with it.

Sit down in your favorite chair in your favorite room at ROOM TEMPERATURE (17-24°C / 63-75°F)
Put the PX 100 Film into your camera
Put the lighten/darken wheel to MIDDLE SETTING
Hold camera STABLE, especially at low light levels
Make the first MAGIC SHOT
IMMEDIATELY SHIELD PICTURE FROM LIGHT (cover with your hand)
Develop the picture UPSIDE DOWN FOR 60 - 90 SECONDS
Take another deep breath, turn over, and inhale your FIRST PX 100 SHOT

Did I mention it costs £19.99 for 8 shots, I did, well just remember that, and go read the above again, this is their customer service advice……

Its an admirable start from nothing though and may breathe life into these cameras again, but if you want a truly instant film, save your money right now and get old stock 600 film, or even an Instax camera. If you want reliable almost instant shots, then buy a pack film camera and use the great range from Fuji. Impossible need to change their pricing, be completely upfront about this being an experiment and not a viable film yet. If you want to throw your money into the wind then invest in a few packs of this PX100, you may fall in love or you may just find that you been cheated.

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Responses to PX 100 Impossible Project Film Test

  1. Avangelist says:

    Wow, that is quite remarkable. I am very surprised indeed by this. The thing I really don’t understand is that this is not like something new has been invented and it’s in the ‘early’ adopter stages, Polaroid film has been around for quite some time and is not bound by the KFC secret herbs and spices act.

    What I am getting at is that they could have just taken an existing formula, and added a .1 somewhere and released that and everyone would be happy.

    I just don’t quite get where this notion for re-inventing the wheel is coming from.

    I think if Polaroid take their currently failing Pogo printer (released at something like £90? now down to £20) and add a range finder on the top of it and a flash they could be onto something.

    Ah, hang on what I just described is a POLAROID camera.
    Go figure!

    Looks like garbage to me.

  2. Vicky says:

    After seeing the huge list of instructions, the price and initial results of sepia fuzz I decided against giving this one a go. Some people seem to have become really fanatical in a cult-y sort of way since they announced they were stopping production, to the point where they can’t be objective about the company & products they’re putting out. It’s nice to see a proper review.

    But then I’ve never been a fan of the unsaleable/polapremium lot. Buying up loads of cheap old stock and putting it together on a nice shiny site with a huge mark up doesn’t make you some kind of saviour. It’s funny how they managed to get people to pay more for faulty film, several times over.

    Shame about the problems you had with it too, ‘cos it looks like there were some real keepers in there -the 4th B+W one down especially.

  3. Polaroid Monster says:

    what i don’t understand is they are ex Polaroid guys working at an ex-Polaroid plant. i’d think they’d have this down after 30 years. i do like some aspects of their SX70 film but yeah it’s hard to use because it’s so volatile and a lot of shots are completely unusable.

  4. Lou O' Bedlam says:

    My understanding is that many of the chemical components required to make Polaroid film are no longer around. Polaroid spent the last few years using up old supplies of various chemicals that hadn’t been in production since 2005. It was that, as much as profit margins, that led to Polaroid discontinuing the film.

    So what The Impossible Project is doing is attempting to come up with a new way to create the process. Something that took Polaroid about a decade, TIP attempted to accomplish in a year.

    That said, I’m with Kevin in his assessment of the film. It’s still very much a work in progress. The fact that they’ve gotten this far is, frankly, astounding. I’m hoping that, given time, they’ll be able to improve the process, get it up to the kind of quality we expect from Polaroid film.

  5. Stephen Hughes says:

    Im going down the fuji route.Cheaper,more readily availible the only 2 issues are it isnt polaroid 600 film and the camera is ugly as fuck but apart from that I see no problems.

    Im gonna publish a full blog on it when I get mine through

  6. ABF says:

    I bought 5 packs of that film from Impossible Shop expecting a consistent result and i ended up with the same results as Kevin Mason reported, or worse: the rear of the film wasn’t properly sealed resulting in a huge spattering of blue-greysh paste inside my beloved SX-70! WTF! I’ve shot 8 photos only (a pack) and every sheet had the same manufacturing problem, not to say the ‘impossible’ photographic results.
    I’m not a fanatic of a particular brand: i shot professionally in 35mm and 120 with Contax RTSIII, Canon F1 Old, Zeiss Super Ikontas and many more cameras. I own various Polaroid cameras from Sx-70 to Pro Cam and i still love them. The only thing i can say about The Impossible Project is that they are cheating us putting in commerce a product that’s unusable at a price that does’nt make any sense! I’ll return this product and never buy anything from that people. One of the saddest thing is that film is made with Ilford B&W techonlogy (i took this phrase as it is from the film box); sad thing because i thought Ilford was a serious company and Impossible Project is only a cheating company like Lomography, adressed to people victim of trends and marketing and not to photographer. Period.

  7. zoingimage says:

    wow
    thanks for taking the time to write all this.
    to be honest i am not surprised.. the impossible project have the same approach as lomography and they both use a very aggressive marketing technique that fools people.
    i have just received 20 rolls at zoingimage and i am sending them strait back!!!
    thanks again
    serge

  8. mrbryanmarshall says:

    Great review - I’ve just gone through the first pack of this in my SX70 Sonar - very similar results. (also in Brighton)

    First shot - best of the lot, altho dirty rollers caused some lines - dirty rollers were caused by the film splitting - which also meant 3 shots at the end wre trashed.

    I went back to The Photogs Gallery in London - where the film was purchased - and they said you can send your pics back to TIP and they will refund if they deem they are ruined, not really worth the fuss in my opinion. They did say they are asking TIP if they can collect ruined pics and refund on behalf of them through the gallery.

    Anyhoo - ordered some 100, 600 and Artistic from Dale Photographic (google it) £18 a pack, postage was £5 for all packs - better the TIP postage of £14… I’ve seen the 600 film, much better results. Going to use it in my SX70, but with a 2 stop red filter - keen to see the results.

    All in All, for £20 a pop, Im disapointed with the lack of consistancy - will probabaly still spend a fortune on it tho.

  9. gina says:

    Thank you so very much for saving me big bucks…I was devastated after Polaroid stopped making film and almost wet myself when I heard the impossible project had started selling their version. Thank God I didn’t order any, which I very much wanted to! Guess we’ll have to wait and see if it improves, or if Polaroid get their asses back in gear and leave me broke as hell but with lovely instant photos once again =)

  10. Pingback: Polaroid Test Number Two | Garage Studios

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