Saturday, March 28, 2009

Instant Photography/Polaroid getting started Guide

If you are interested in getting started with instant photography, but are over/underwhelmed by the choices available as of the date of this post, hopefully this post will clarify a few things. This not exhaustive list, but its to point beginners in the right direction.

Integral or Pack Film?

Integral film - this is the kind that develops before your eyes. This is one most people are familar with, similar to kind used in the movie Momento. Click here for an example of its development. This kind that is made famous by the saying 'Shake it like a Polaroid' picture. Sadly this type of film is out of production. Currently Fuji Instax is the only integral film that is still manufactured, but this is not compatible with Polaroid cameras. You have to use Fuji-made cameras for Fuji Instax. Though I am not familar with the chemistry, the instax films do not have the batteries inside the films packs like the old polaroids.

In my opinion - the Fuji Instax, although not the same square format of Polaroids, is an able replacement.

There is hope for those with old polaroid cameras that use - the Impossible Project will try to reinvent film for these cameras by 2010.

Pack Film - This is the kind of film you pull out of the camera. After developing for an alloted period of time, usually one minute depending on the temperature, you peel the film apart. As will with integral, Fuji is the only company that makes this film. Good News is that these films will fit in some Polaroid Cameras! However

I've used alot of Pack Film from expired Polaroids - and I will miss them when I am gone. These films had their own feel to them. Though Fuji fp-100c is a superb film (really vibrant colour!), there is something about the muted and retro colourof polaroid packfilms that will sorely miss. Also I love the results I have gotten with Polaroid UV-ID.

This is non-definitive list - Please refer to this page for complete list of films available

Maker Integral Example Camera? Available?
Polaroid 600, ISO 640 (consumer) Polaroid One Step Out of Production, Declining Availability
Polaroid 779, ISO 640 (pro) Polaroid One Step Out of Production, Declining Availability
Polaroid Spectra / Image, ISO 640 SX 70 Out of Production, Declining Availability
Fuji Instax Mini Mini 7 Readily Available on Internet
Fuji Instax Wide Instax 200
Readily Available on Internet
Impossible Mission Impossible Film, 600? Polaroid One Step 2010 Availability?
Impossible Mission Impossible Film, Spectra? SX 70 2010 Availability?
Maker Pack Film (peel apart) Example Camera? Available?
Polaroid 669 Color (consumer grade) Land Cameras Out of Production, Declining Availability
Polaroid 690 (pro grade) Land Cameras
Out of Production, Declining Availability
Polaroid 667 (black/white) Land Cameras
Out of Production, Declining Availability
Polaroid UV-ID Land Cameras
Out of Production, Declining Availability
Fuji FP-100C Land Cameras
Readily Available on Internet
Fuji FP-3000B (black/white) Land Cameras
Readily Available on Internet

Where to buy? Ebay is your best bet for expired integral films. Occasionally you might find some of this film in old camera shops.

What is this Bloggers recommendation?

  • For Integral - get Instax Wide Film. Its readily available and cheaper than a drug habit
  • Get an old Pack Film Camera, and buy Fuji FP-100c for. Scrounge for Polaroid Films
  • If you have a Polaroid Integral Camera (SX-70, 600 types) wait and see if the Impossible Project succeeds!

Kris Kringle out on a limb

This is print from my Fuji Instax Mini Camera.  Its a fun alternative to polaroid integral film, and is readily available. Image is of a Christmas ornament I found in Auckland Domain. Click to enlarge

Sunday, March 22, 2009

9 Steps to taking better Polaroids - Practical Polaroid Tips

Since diving into Polaroid photography last September, I searched the internets for sound advice looking for how to shoot polaroid film. I found very little helpful hints except for 'Keep shooting them, and you'll eventually get better'. While thats true, given the price of the film, some practical help would be more than welcome.

This blog entry is aimed for beginners such as myself. Though I am used to shooting digital SLR, I found that I still had to learn quite a bit about photography.

This is specifically for integral film (the kind that develops before your eyes) - such as the one picture below:

1. Shoot the bloody film! The film is only going to get older and the battery inside the film may go flat. A shitty Polaroid taken is better than Polaroid not taken at all ;)
2. Keep the film refridgerated but not frozen. This helps preserve the batteries. If my camera still has film in it, I wrap my Camera in an airtight bag and put it in the cooler. Note, Fuji Instax film doesn't require this as it doesn't have battery within the film. Keep it away from the Pork though, unless you like the smell of leftovers on your camera...
3. Don't leave the camera open If its a one step camera you will see a green light on if its open. This will drain the film batteries. When the batteries are flat, I am not sure of any easy to resuciate the film and you will not be able to use the camera.
4. Shoot in sunlight. Despite Polaroid is fast film (ISO 640), shooting in full often yields best results. But don't expect super sharpness from this film - having such a high ISO rating often means that results are grainy. Here are some blunders that resulted from low light situations:

Shooting at early morning may lead to blurry results like below; some sort of stabalisation is recommended:

Shooting in Evening/Night may result in shots like below. It was actually twilight, but the picture made it look darker than it was. Stabalisation would have been helpful :

5. Use your flash with caution: This sequence of shots show to show you how flash can affect your shoots:

Shot 1 - No flash. The Camera was on 'darkest' setting which was my mistake. It was slightly overcast day but it made it look more like night.
Shot 2 - With flash. I adjusted the camera brightness settings back to normal and took a shot. As you can see a bit too strong. I could have positioned myself further away, but i wouldn't have been able to frame the shot the way I wanted:

Shot 3. Partially Covered Flash. Too weaken the flash, I held my left index finger over 2/3s of the flash. This was just the right amount of flash to light the foreground without bleaching it out.
6. Polarising filters are helpful - this may add even more contrast (Polaroids have strong constrast) but will make the colours stand out. 90%+ of my shots use a granny-rigged polaroid filter in front of the lens. Below is an example of punch in colours a polarising filter can give to a polaroid:
7. Your rangefinder lies on close ups. Ok it does to all range finders. But given the price of polaroid films - be very mindful of this. This shot was supposed to be a light bulb in front of the rising sun... I was too close to the bulb and misjudged the object through the range finder:

8. Post Processing in Photoshop - Even more so than with digital, levels on Polaroid can do wonders. Scans often have poor contrast, and below Is an example of what Photoshop Autolevels can do to Polaroid image (original scann on left, autoleveled image on right):

9. Be prepared for unexpected results! The worst part of Polaroid integral film is inconsistency; however this is the best part of the film too. Just embrace that your shots, for better or worse, will always be a surprise! The below shot was taken of a four leaf clover... and it had an unexpected gold aura around it.

If you are looking for samples polaroidic inspiration I recommend visiting Polanoid. Also, If you have any thing you want to add, by all means please comment below.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Tough Day with the Polaroid 104: Wasted Polaroids

I had bought some 669 film expired from 2004. I had previously used expired film (in fact I think all my pack film I've used has been expired - even the Fujifilm) . 

Below is the result of woes of getting a bad pack film. The pitch black parts is the negative part, but the pinkish to dark greys are the positive images. So I wound 10 crap images, the entire pack was munted. It was part of 20 pack of 669 I bought from ebay for about 35 NZD.  Unfortunately the prior pack also was defective. However, I was happier with the results from 779 integral film i took earlier.

Yep - Polaroids are an expensive hobby. But its better than cigarettes, drugs or alcohol (and cheaper, for now). All you need is one great shot and all the shite that you snapped before becomes a distant memory. For all my years of digital photography, I find shooting polaroid much more satisfying. 

By the way, if you are in NZ, I find that Trademe suppliers (and Ebay AU) overcharge for their polaroids - its best to find bargains on Ebay and do the maths with the exchange rate and shipping costs you'll get much better deals. 

Beware, you could get results like the above, but just take it in stride and keep a back up camera with you ;)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Balancing Act

This image was taken on my Polaroid One Step Camera, using Polarising Filter and 779 Film. Its the sculpture at the Matakana Country Park

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Eye in the Sand

Digital Image - shot with digital Sony A200 Camera. And an eyeball.

Golden Egg

Found a birdnest with a gold egg. Gonna cash it in when the recession hits :) Fp 100c/Polaroid 104 Camera

Travelling T-rex

Hobo T-rex. Fp 100c; Polaroid 104 Camera.

The Scream

This image looks better very large - i cut a copy of the face of agyness deyn from a magazine and place in the hole on the driftwood. Web size doesn't do it justice :( Fuji Instax Wide

Devil's Left Testicle

I was at Whatipu and found a red golfball in the dunes. I happened to have a golf tee in my bag (from when I was at a Danish driving range). I set up this shot then tee'd off with Polaroid Onestep + polarising filter. Shot on 600 film. Shot during Twilight


T-rex likes his greens. Shot at Fairy Falls, fp 100c film, polaroid 104 camera

Channel Surfing

Shot at Port Waikato on Fuji Instax Wide film:

Escape Crab

Yes - I shoot digital :) This is the first pure digital post I've posted on my Parahanga. Shot with Sony A200, love that camera. I have a Canon 10D as well, but I prefer my Sony.

I Can See You

Shot on Polaroid 600 instant integral film. Auckland Domain.

Polaroid 104 Land Camera review

My first introduction to Peel Apart Instant was through my Polaroid 104 Land Camera. Like my Vito B, the owner was selling it on at an auction because he wasn't sure if it worked and if film was still made for it. Here's my review:

The Good
  • Solid Build. Components are simple (its the film thats complex!)
  • When done right, the depth of field can be superb
  • Looks Neat. I once walked around town with it taking pics - it gets tons of looks and comments, especially from teenagers!
  • Fuji FP 100c works well with it, is readily available film

The Bad
  • Polaroid Film is no longer made, so you have to rely Fuji Film. Polaroid film colours are not as saturate or vibrant as fuji, but has more subdued 'retro look'.
  • Battery is hard to come by locally, but can be bought on online. Incidently I read somewhere that you can use a 9volt without any issues, as long as you don't mind the battery sticky out of the holder. Buy online:
  • Shooting close ups is difficult. Get a tape meaure and meaure it exactly for close shots - 3.5 ft minimum, or 1.07 Meters (107 cm).
  • Very fiddly to pull film out. The piece of paper that you pull to get the film out has broken off more than once. you can slightly open the back to pull the film without exposing the film.

The Ugly
  • Eats Film - I am not sure what it is, but whether the film is expired or not, sometimes the films stick to each and can ruin entire pack. Especially suceptible to this is Fuji 100 Gloss Film. This can really frustrating as the film IS not cheap. It can be because the film is bad, I've had rolls that where flawless, rolls which 2 or 3 pics got stuck together, rolls which half the film where stuck together and twice.. where the entire roll was munted :(

The Verdict
Do I recommend it? Probably not. There are definitely better working cameras than this one, but you can get very good results from the camera. All my peel apart films posted here are from this camera, so you can get results from it (eg FP 100c Silk and Glossy, 669, UV ID, 125i, 669). In New Zealand, pack film cameras are hard to find for good price. Vintage camera stores have outrageous markups here so its best to look locallyon trademe or internationally on ebay for these types of cameras. I'll probably replace it with another pack film camera in the future.

Here is the first shot I took from the camera. Its a bit underexposed, but it was magic pulling it out the first time - don't read anything sexual into that ;)


Red Rain

We decorated an umbrella with some 'red slime' we created for fun. This was shot on Fuji FP100c Film. 

Someone to watch over my keys

We went to the Auckland Zoo yesterday and I tried out my Voigtlander Vito B. Outside the Zoo there is a park and someone lost left their keys on the table. There was a rooster who was intensely eyeing them! Shot on 35mm Film Fomopan 100:

Voigtländer Vito B review

I recently aquired Voigtländer Vito B camera through an auction - I was actually a bit lucky. The guy selling it said it didn't work because the shutter release wasn't firing.. However, after reading on the internet that this was common problem for the camera [check out links below], I decided to bid on it. I was a bit of punt, but I worked great.

Now the reasons I got this camera is that it was very manual. Not only do you have to guess the F Stop and the Shutter speeds (eg, no light meter), but you had to guess the distance. I wanted something to take me back to the basics of photography. This camera was perfect for that.

Here's the good stuff about it:
  • Compact, Solid Build. Camera is 50+ years old and feels like it could last longer
  • Sharp lens
  • Being completely manual, its great for learning how intuitively measure lighting.

Here's the bad:
  • Sticky shutter - this annoying.
  • Negatives sometime overlap each other, creating an unintended double exposure on the edges of the photos

Overall I love this little camera. Aside from issues with the shutter gettng stuck and the negatives overlapping, the shots are great! If you can get your hands on this camera to learn the zone system below is a shot from the first roll of film I took from the camera:

Some great links about the Vito B:
How to use the Voigtländer Vito B: Perfect step by step guide to using this camera
Voigtländer Vito B Info Page: Nice article about the Camera, very informative
Voigtländer Manuals: List of Voigtlander manuals, I believe the Vito BR manual is the same for the Vito B, and should help fill the gaps not learned from the tutorial above.

Also you you are learning to shoot without a light meter, this page from Fred Parker is priceless! [link]. This will give you guides lines for guessing the perfect exposure for your  Vito B - or any other camera for that matter!