The name Polaroid is synonymous with instant cameras and their film. Although other manufacturers have created instant film, it was invented by the Polaroid company, who first produced it in 1948 and continued to implement fresh innovations in both cameras and film. Some older models of Polaroid camera are seen as collectible 'retro' items in their own right, even if film is no longer available for them, while others are still in use today thanks to continued availability of appropriate film.
About Polaroid Film
Polaroid film does not need to be developed in a laboratory. The film itself contains chemicals which begin to develop the photograph as soon as it has been taken. The process is complete within minutes, leaving the resulting photograph as robust and resistant to handling as an ordinary print. The instantaneous nature of Polaroid film made it useful for professional photographers, allowing them to see how a shot would come out before retaking it with a traditional camera, as well as other applications such as taking photographs for passes and other identification documents. Although the original advantages of Polaroid film have been superseded by the instant accessibility of digital photos, Polaroid still has plenty of fans who appreciate the distinctive appearance of Polaroid photos, the retro style of the cameras themselves, and the fun of watching an instant photograph develop. Polaroid has made hundreds of different instant camera models since the first and remains a popular brand. More recently, the company marketed the PoGo, a tiny, portable printer designed to provide instant printouts of photos taken using digital cameras and mobile phones. The range of cameras takes Polaroid film in a variety of types and sizes.
Types of Polaroid Film
Several kinds of Polaroid film have been invented and produced since the inception of the instant camera, although all types follow the basic principle of automatic development without the need for a laboratory. The classic image of a Polaroid picture is the three inch by three inch square surrounded by a white border, but Polaroid film was produced in many different shapes and sizes, including eight by ten inch, four by five inch, and wallet or passport sized photographs. The PoGo prints two- by three-inch images.
The original black and white Polaroid film was supplied as two separate rolls, one for the positive, one for the negative. When a picture was taken, the film was pulled through rollers inside the camera, which pressed the two layers together and activated the chemical reagent applied to the film to start the development process. The negative sheet could then be peeled off to reveal the positive print. This type of film is no longer made by Polaroid, and it is only possible to buy it second hand or from a third party manufacturer.
Single Sheets and Pack Films
Later Polaroid film was supplied in single sheets, each containing a positive and negative layer as well as the reagent required for development. This format was easier to use and less bulky than separate positive and negative rolls. Polaroid then introduced pack film, which used the same technology, but allowed a pack of multiple sheets to be loaded into the camera at once. This made Polaroid photography quicker and more convenient than before. Colour Polaroid film was first produced in 1963. This necessitated a much more complicated process and more layers of film in the sheet.
Modern Polaroid Film: Integral Packs and Zink
The type of Polaroid film with which most people are familiar is the integral pack. With this system, a pack of film is loaded into the camera and individual photos are ejected after exposure. The photograph itself contains everything required to develop the image, and the process can be watched after the photo leaves the camera. The PoGo mobile printer uses a proprietary brand of paper, called Zink, for inkless thermal printing.
How to Buy Polaroid Film
In recent years, Polaroid film, along with many other traditional film formats, has become difficult to obtain as support for film cameras has been withdrawn. Production of Polaroid roll film was discontinued in 1992, although some older camera models can be converted to take newer types of Polaroid film. Currently, only two major manufacturers offer instant film. Polaroid has recommenced sales of some film formats, although only newer models of camera are supported. The Fuji corporation also produces several types of instant film, some of which can be used in Polaroid cameras. Some small, independent firms have begun the manufacture of reproduction Polaroid cameras and film, based on the original specifications. This means that photographic materials and support are once more available for some older styles of camera. It is usual to order materials from this type of business over the internet. For some older cameras, the only option is second-hand film. This may be 'new old stock' discovered in a shop's inventory, or items unused and no longer needed by a private seller. Unused film sealed in its packet may still be usable for some time after the expiry date printed on the package, up to several years, but this depends on how the film has been stored. Temperature is particularly important, with film kept at a low temperature, or even frozen, surviving best. Ideally, the seller will describe the conditions under which the film has been kept, which will indicate whether or not it is likely to be viable for photography. Websites like eBay list items from sellers all over the world, allowing the buyer to compare types and costs on Polaroid film side by side, quickly and easily. eBay is a source of both film manufactured by Polaroid and that from third parties, as well as listing both new and second-hand items from private and business sellers. Therefore, eBay can be an excellent resource when trying to track down an unusual or uncommon film format at the best possible price.
Despite the rise in popularity of digital cameras and the wane of traditional film photography, Polaroid photography remains beloved of artists and hobbyists alike. It can sometimes be difficult to obtain the correct film, however, so it is a good idea to find a reliable supplier and stock up. Using eBay correctly can be an invaluable aid in locating Polaroid film stockists. In this way, even cameras for which film is no longer manufactured can continue to give good service and excellent results.