Polaroid SX-70 revisited

Writer and photographer / Scott Wittenburg

For those of you like myself who have enjoyed the Polaroid alternative processes over the years there is some good news and some bad news.

Gas Pump SX-70 PolaroidThe good news, in case you haven’t already heard, is that The Impossible Project (the-impossible-project.com) launched a comeback of Polaroid film earlier this year. Thanks to their efforts, you can purchase re-packaged SX-70 color film for manipulations and Polaroid 669 for image transfers and emulsion lifts. The bad news is that their stock of these films won’t be around much longer. And from what I have gleaned at their website, once this old stuff is gone, it won’t be available again.

Image right: Gas Pump, Polaroid SX-70 manipulation by Scott Wittenburg

So now you are probably asking yourself, what’s going on here? Well, the answer is actually some more good news. The Impossible Project has created several alternative films that work in many of the old Polaroid cameras, camera backs and slide printers—they even offer a Polaroid film back to fit the Holga camera that accepts type 100 peel-apart films. (The original Holga backs became virtually useless about as soon as they were manufactured after the film that fit them was dropped from Polaroid’s swiftly shrinking list of available instant films.)

You can get some interesting results using these new alternative films if you’re willing to take a chance and experiment a bit. For example, they offer a brand new monochromatic film for either an SX-70 or 600 cameras. Their pitch for this film is “PX Silver Shade Film is experimental material that will produce changing results depending on light conditions and temperature.” This is followed by a prompt to view a sample gallery of shots taken with the quirky black and white film plus a link for a downloadable user manual on how to use it.

Fade to black compositeA while back they also offered another “new” film that fits SX-70 cameras called “Fade To Black,” which is currently out of stock but may return. I have experimented with this film with less than spectacular results (see photo sequence.) The properties sounded interesting: after you expose it, it changes colors as it develops then becomes totally black within twenty-four hours. The idea is to peel off the backing once the film has turned the color you want to preserve and then it will remain that color. You can also place the totally developed black print in the “bright sun for two weeks” and the image will actually reappear! (I am currently trying this out and will let you know how that turns out.)

Some other choices of “new” instant films include “Chocolate,” “Sepia,” and “Blue,” which fit any type 100 camera or camera backs that accept 669 film. There are even several different choices of film that fit the old Spectra cameras.

So although I’m bummed that the classic Polaroid instant films are apparently going to be kaput yet again, I’m nevertheless fairly psyched at the prospect of trying the new stuff that’s out there for the trying. After all, something is better than nothing, right? And who knows, maybe Polaroid alternative processes will re-invent themselves if given a chance. Time will tell. Stay tuned to this blog and I’ll let you know of any new developments from The Impossible Project as they occur.

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