Last time I wrote about PX70 Colour Shade I wasn’t keen on trying any more right away because the only camera I had was the Spirit 600 and Impossible themselves weren’t recommending the new version of PX70 for use with 600 cameras. So what am I doing writing this? Well, on one of my semi-regular trawls through nearby charity shops I spotted a Polaroid Sonar Autofocus 5000 complete with a matching Polatronic 5 flash unit.
It seemed in decent shape, if a little dusty, and when I popped open the front and removed and replaced the empty film pack still in there, it came to life, trying to eject a darkslide. This was a good sign, so I bought it.
This is not a 600 camera – it takes SX70 type film – so I saw it as an opportunity to try out the newer PX70 “Push” film and promptly ordered a few packs from Impossible. While waiting for it to arrive I checked out the camera in more detail and gave it a good clean. There was enough charge in the empty film pack to prove that the shutter and the film ejection mechanism worked, and a quick clean made the rollers nice and shiny again. However, the autofocus seems broken – whatever it’s pointed at the focus snaps over to the nearest setting. The flash unit is also a little the worse for age, with severe corrosion in the battery compartment and no longer seeming able to charge up full enough to fire. Ah well, while the flash might have been useful indoors, it’s not vital, and there is a manual option for focus, which will do me just fine.
Once the film had arrived a few days later I was able to test properly of course, which for experimental colour film like this means looking for the most garish subjects possible and taking photographs of them. The first few I struggled with. Impossible say the PUSH film needs plenty of light and the gloomy indoor light I had at the time really wasn’t enough. The Sonar has an f/9.5 lens so is only slightly faster than the Spirit 600, but it does have a tripod socket, so the inevitable long exposure times due to the ISO 100 speed rating are less of a problem.
Another tip from the Impossible folks was to heat the film as it developed to get more colour, so I tried this out. The temperatures in this part of the world in early March are generally chilly, so when I went out to shoot the daffodils popping up in my garden I quickly brought the film back inside and placed it on a hand warming pouch while it developed. The result is pretty exciting, especially compared to the washed out and very blue images from the packs of PX70 First Flush I shot in the Spirit.
I used the same hand warmer for the shot of some cushions on my sofa lit by afternoon sunshine, and was again rewarded with some great vibrant colours and real warmth. For the first time I saw a real red on an Impossible film – the best I got from the previous incarnation was a dull orange. If anything it seems to do worst at green this time around with the foliage of the daffodil appearing very dark and lacking any colour.
The mottled effect is still there in the darker areas, and there’s a “comet” effect visible in some shots – apparently a manufacturing problem – and the film still needs shielding from light while it develops, so clearly there’s a lot of work to be done, but the progress is definite and very encouraging.
To try the next pack I thought I’d be a bit more adventurous and wandered up to Hursley cemetery before work on a bright spring morning. This wasn’t a great success – the temperature was barely above freezing and this led to very washed out images that almost looked like some of the PX600 Silver Shade results. I went back at lunchtime instead, when it was a little brighter and about 15 degrees warmer and was rewarded with a pretty nice pair of shots.
The first here is of a patch of daffodils alongside a pink marble tomb and shows a reasonable amount of colour; even the green isn’t too bad. One interesting feature from a camera test here is the sharp edge of the tomb, showing that the Sonar’s lens really isn’t too bad, and there’s a reasonably pleasing air to the out of focus background. Compared to the Spirit 600 this is definitely better.
The second from this jaunt is of the angel statue in the cemetery and has a much more muted look. I think partly the subject is just less colourful and partly the camera had been out in the cold a bit longer and so the film needed more heat. It was a bit of a struggle to get the shots into my inside pocket while keeping them out of the daylight, which is why I think the angel has an obvious light leak. In this case however it works just fine with the low contrast and flat colour for this beautiful statue.
Returning to the camera, it’s very similar in use to the Spirit 600, but slightly easier to handle because of the lack of a flip-up flash. The scale based manual focus works pretty well and gives a welcome bit of extra control over the image. The tripod socket is very welcome, especially since my continual gripe about slow lenses on Polaroid cameras is just as valid here – with a tripod it’s less of a concern unless I’m photographing something moving.
To sum up the film, the PX70 Push shows that Impossible continue to move in the right direction. This version of the film is far superior to the PX70 First Flush I tried out in the autumn. I still have one pack of Push left which I decided to save for warmer, sunnier weather and I’m looking forward to using it up. However, there’s another exciting prospect ahead, since Impossible have recently announced the results of early testing of their new PX680 colour film for 600 series cameras and sample shots in the PX680 flickr group look amazing.