PX70 Color Shade is the Impossible Project’s colour integral instant film for Polaroid cameras. It’s still an experimental product and to some extent this little write up is irrelevant since the exact material I used – the “First Flush” product – is no longer available, having been replaced with the next iteration. However, I think it’s worth recording my thoughts so that I can see how the film evolves.
Impossible stated that although designed for SX70-type cameras, PX70 has a wide exposure latitude and can work with 600 types too. Having bought a triple pack and trying it in the Spirit 600 my feelings would be that while, yes it works, it’s not a great choice, and I got much more consistent results with the PX600. Here’s why; the PX70 is rated as 125 ASA whereas the photocell controlled shutter on the Spirit is fixed for 600 ASA. As a result the film is about two and a half stops underexposed by default, and even with the lighten/darken control (and I use the word “control” loosely) set all the way to lighten, the PX70 comes out fairly dark. This is not helped by the fairly basic nature of the Spirit 600. The maximum aperture of f/11. is really quite limiting and to try and get a steady shot is a real battle for light. A better 600 camera might produce better results, but the first few shots with the Spirit were underwhelming. Using the flash for a test of the bookcase in my study showed a bit of potential however.
The next chance for some testing came a couple of days later when the motor club at work were staging a small car show. The sun was trying its best to appear so I popped along and finished off the first pack. The results are somewhat flat although a bit of curve adjustment on the scans makes for a lot of improvement. Apart from the low contrast, the main characteristic is a real lack of red in the photos. The Triumph shown here is in reality a bright scarlet colour, but PX70 reduces is to a dull orange. Looking at other results on flickr and even Impossible’s own results gallery this seems to be a common attribute. If you look at the scans in larger sizes you’ll also notice lots of weird effects. The two main ones are the orange mottled patches, and the black wrinkly effects. The wrinkles seem due to the rollers mangling the emulsion and underlying titanium dioxide layer, due to either the poor build of the Spirit 600, or increased thickness of Impossible film over the original Polaroid 600 film.
With the second pack I decided to try and tackle the light issue another way. I cut a small square of ND2 filter and taped it over the photo cell to effectively meter at something closer to 125 instead of 600 and hopefully produce better exposure. This seems to work, but brought with it issues with slow shutter speeds, due to that f/11 aperture. Mostly I found this frustrating since with the extra exposure I was getting reasonable images, but they were all a bit shaky, not helped by the awkward handling of the camera. However, for the Koi photograph here I worked with the effect and quite liked the effect. It was a bright morning but the pond was in shade and so was relatively dim and had a blue cast. The small aperture and slow film speed combined to give about a quarter second exposure during which the fish moved about and so did I, resulting a pleasingly abstract sort of photograph.
The best quality photograph on PX70 using the Spirit 600 is probably the “Conservatory” shot seen here. There is still a lack of real red and an overall blue cast, but with fewer wrinkles and blotches than others, it came out quite well given the low fidelity nature of the lens. However, while it shows the potential of the material, I can’t help feeling that a better camera than the Spirit would be preferable. Of course this material is still in its infancy, and the samples of the new “Push” version of PX70 look more vibrant, with much better reproduction of reds. Unfortunately Impossible aren’t recommending the new version for 600 cameras in the same way as they did the First Flush I sampled, which makes me reluctant to try it out. Partly based on the relatively high cost – at £2 a shot I want something a little more suited to my camera.
If another 600 format version comes along I’ll certainly try that as I quite like being at the experimental end of things. This is typified by my own favourite of all the PX70 photos I took, which combines the marginal exposure and a bit of fogging from exposure to light as it came out of the camera with a lot of random defects to produce a ghostly low fidelity image that I really like. It is the kind of photograph you can’t quite produce any other way, and having it pop out of the camera just that way does feel slightly magical. To that end I hope that Impossible continue to develop their colour film, so that it’s around for a long time, and also that I get hold of a better camera to make proper use of it.