My cameras - part IV - instant photography

Instant cameras - did you think I forgot about them? No, not at all.
I just wanted to wait a bit with this post and avoid the situation when my blog turns into a purely technical, full of camera descriptions.
In addition, real experience with this technology is relatively new to me. I have used instant films for almost a decade, but it was a bit accidental and without pressure. The situation changed in 2017 when I got something more reliable in hand … in terms of the whole set: camera and film. 

Let’s start from the beginning. 

Polaroid T55 - yes. I started with the most advanced and best instant film ever. However, my adventure with it was short.
Launched in 1961, Type 55 was a large format peel-apart 4x5 black and white film that gives a positive and negative picture. Yes, negative … beautiful. The resolution and dynamic range of this film were amazing. Polaroid stopped production of the T55 in 2009, so roughly when I started thinking about photography more seriously. “Fresh” films were quite expensive, so I had to rely on expired ones, usually with an expiration date of 1995–2000. Basically, I couldn’t afford newer packages with prices around EUR 200 per package (20 sheets). In addition, my first contact with this film can be described as experiments. My photography my photography evolves. But at that time I was in the search for the right way.
I probably exposed about 10-15 sheets, and then my film holder (Polaroid 545i) broke. And it was over. 

Many amazing photographers have used the T55 for decades to create iconic images. This unique material disappeared but was later resurrected as New55. Unfortunately it also has gone in 2017. Remaining New 55 films are available HERE, So you still have the chance to experience it. Do it if you can.

In the meantine, a friend of mine gave me the Polaroid Spectra, which became my first portable instant camera. I ordered a package of the film. Then it was called the Impossible Project. I liked the camera, but the quality of the film was not there yet.

It was a time when digital photography was introduced everywhere on a massive scale. However, some people still wanted to use old technologies. The Impossible Project was based on the revival of Polaroid products because the original company went bankrupt. The results from the first films were rather poor, and I did not want to keep trying at the time.
The Impossible Project went through many stages, and their products were getting better every year. 

A few years later, I began to notice a massive improvement in the quality of the products delivered, which is natural, I think.
It was the moment when I started thinking about instant photography again.
However, I wanted to get something special in my hands - a camera that will give me pleasure to use and provide high-quality photos. 

It was just 2017 when I bought Polaroid SX-70 Land Camera Alpha 1 model 2.
I bought the camera without knowing if it works, but I took the risk. It was a good move because technically, the camera was fully functional. Externally, however, it required some maintenance.
From then on, it always accompanies me on my journey. 

The quality of the film is beautiful, and it improves every year, so - good work, Polaroid!
The best thing about this camera is that it is an SLR with manual focus and a glass lens (not plastic, as in many modern cameras of this type). It is a very sharp lens that records many details. 

Just check this enlarged sample from the middle of the frame of the previous photograph.

Everything is completely different compared to traditional negative film or digital technology. You get a physical, unique item - one of a kind photograph, and that is its beauty.

Then two other cameras joined the collection, but it will be difficult to consider them as an alternative that can help create a serious body of work. It doesn’t matter how advanced they are, it does not come with image quality. I’m talking about Fuji Instax here.
Don’t get me wrong - these are beautiful cameras, but they are dedicated to a different type of user. 

The first is Instax Neo Classic / mini90 - full of features and providing vivid and clear images. Uses Instax mini film. Very small. Still, I think that is the best fuji instant camera.

The second is Instax 100. Quite old. It uses a wide Instax film that is twice as large compared to the mini one. Just the perfect size, but again - a very basic camera and a plastic lens of course.
I love to use them when photographing family or friends, family events, holidays or casual snapshots. Something I’d normally use a mobile phone for. 

The Instax film itself - some say it has no character and provides images with a plastic appearance.
This is partly true, Instax photos differ in comparison with Polaroid. Both black and white and colour look much better on Polaroid. It’s hard to describe and this is my opinion and maybe a few other people ;) 

On the other side, Instax is very consistent, and nine out of ten photos will be excellent if we talk about chemical distribution, exposure and the printout itself. With Polaroid, it may be a bit more difficult, but if you do it right - there is no comparison. Different colour palette (for a colour film), different image dynamics. 

Returning to the quality of optics in Instax because this is, in my opinion, the biggest pain. If you prefer Instax film there is an alternative for the camera. A bit expensive but there is something.
Mint - High-quality equipment with glass optics and manual focus system. The price is of course justified. Mint is a small company built by people with a passion to provide unique products to those who are ready to pay for it. And that’s fine.

Please note that all the above, as I mentioned in my first post in this series, are just my experiences with cameras I was using or I am still using. It has nothing to do with an objective review or anything similar.  We all have our own experiences and priorities while using this or that equipment.  

This post also closes the entire series. Hope you enjoyed it.

Please check below links to previews posts:

- Part I - 35mm

- Part II - 120

- Part III - 4x5

Thanks a lot!

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