Yesterday, Impossible announced the full availability of their new Polaroid 600 equivalent film, which they call PX680 Colour Shade First Flush. The “First Flush” refers to the fact that this is still not a perfected medium, and requires a degree of care and special handling to get the best out of it.
Now, I haven’t got any of the First Flush version yet, but I did get hold of a couple of packs of the “beta” version of PX680 and recently posted an enthusiastic first impression. Having since used up the rest of my stock of the film, and with yesterday’s announcement, it seems like a good time to write a little more. I imagine the new FF is slightly improved over the beta product, but from what I have read and seen out on the web it seems likely to behave roughly the same. Another thing I’m not going to do is compare it with the original Polaroid 600 colour film, because I’ve never used that.
What I am going to say is how much better this film is than any of the Impossible PX70 colour films that I’ve tried previously. The first frame I shot was just the sleeve of the hoodie hanging on the back of my chair. I shot with the flash, didn’t shield the film as it came out, and didn’t heat it afterwards. The image is bright, contrasty and rich in colour – quite true to life colour, too – and with no effect due to light exposure after ejection. Because the weather was gloomy, I took some shots outside, again unshielded and found the same sort of result. When it brightened up I started to notice a small overexposure effect when shooting unshielded. In the case of the tulip photo here it was bright but not sunny, and as soon as it was ejected I put the film in my top pocket – but only a small area at the bottom of the frame is suffering from what is effectively a light leak.
In direct sunlight the effect is more dramatic, as seen in the third shot here. I thought I’d done enough to shade the film, but clearly not – the whole image is washed out with a heavy red-orange cast. After this, when shooting outside, I made sure to eject the film directly into a light-proof black plastic bag, as I had done for PX70.
The beta film came out at just the right time, as spring here was in full bloom, and there were plenty of colourful opportunities and good light, just right for testing colour film. I won’t show them all here – they’re on my flickr photostream – but the last one here, of magnolia flowers, is pretty typical: good contrast, vibrant colour and relatively sharp given the limits of the Spirit 600.
Aside from the image quality, the other major improvement is in the stability of the image. All the PX-70 images I have taken have suffered significant shifts in colour, taking on a blue cast over time. There are techniques that can supposedly help prevent this, but so far I haven’t managed to make them work. My storage conditions just aren’t up to it, apparently being much to humid to allow the emulsions to dry properly. I checked today and found that even some PX70 that I used since finishing the PX680 a week ago has shifted significantly. However, none of the PX680 I have taken has shifted even slightly as far as I can tell.
This for me is the most significant advance by Impossible. There has been plenty of criticism of Impossible on this front when it comes to the number of tricks required to both take and keep a decent image. Some of this is justified – understandably people with Polaroids want to shoot a photo, see the result straight away and then look it at later and see the same picture – and not everyone appreciates just how complicated a task it is to replicate the original Polaroid corporation’s decades of research and development effectively from scratch. There’s a reason it’s called the Impossible Project, after all.
My experience with PX680 so far tells me that, just a year from their first product launch, Impossible have come a very long way. Until now it was the unpredictable, unstable nature of the Colour shade films that really put me off. I don’t mind experimenting with materials, as I hope other posts on this blog show, but if the results don’t last it’s less satisfying. Now that problem seems to have been overcome I’m much more willing to save up a bit of cash to buy Impossible films in future and help keep instant film alive.