Impossible B&W 600 Film Review and How To Recover Negatives

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Review

If you follow along with anything Impossible or follow any Impossible film photographers, chances are you have already heard of the rad new update to the line of black and white films they sell.  Last year Impossible stopped production of their of black and white film for an overhaul on the films formula. Before, the film had some serious issues with oxidation of the silver used in the development chemicals. This was a big issue because that instability would do some terrible things to your photos. Ranging from sepia toning to horrible crystal formations that would make blotches so big the photos would become unusable and unreadable in some cases.  However, on November 29th Impossible released their new updated, reformulated and improved films. The community exploded with excitement and anticipation. So here we are after months of testing, our review of the Impossible’s Black and White 600 film.

To begin with this film is like any other 600 film. Can be used in all 600 cameras and SX70’s with an ND filter. This film does require shielding like old Impossible films. We look forward to that changing soon! It is definitely something we want changed. However, with a frog tongue this is a very minimal problem. Especially with the super fast development time this film has! No opacification layer means the film develops in less the 10 minutes, usually around 5 minutes for us.

One of the greatest features of this film is the stability. It is not perfect just yet but it is FAR improved from the past editions. The images still shift a bit. However no were near the old editions. I mean like far from what they used to do. The films images are beautiful with a very unique look and contrast that is out of this world. They shift a very light sepia, if at all, but do not crystallize and bubble like old films.  The photos below are examples of photos I have shot and the side by sides were scanned the same day I shot them and then three weeks apart.

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How to Recover the Negatives

As we were writing this post I realized I had one last exposure in my Instant Lab of this film. After having seen some amazing double exposures done with it, I thought I would give it a shot. I did and failed miserably, I over exposed the image. Then the idea of taking it apart to see how easy the photos could be made into transparencies was. As I was taking it apart, the developing chemicals cracked and some was left on the emulsion revealing a negative! First I thought no way this cannot be a usable negative. I cleaned it and dried. Scanned it on regular flatbed scanner and was shocked! How have we not noticed and or looked. I have taken apart px600 imaged before but the developing chemicals always stuck to the negatives and I have never noticed. How has this gone unnoticed!

Right away I reached for one of the more dried images that I took 3 weeks ago. Of course as expected the white developing chemicals have hardened. Making it much harder to remove the fresh images. From what I can tell, the best way to reclaiming the negative is with fresh images. The longer the chemicals dry the harder removing that layer of white will be. Given I think we should all try more things and research this a little more but I think this is the start of something amazing. So this is what I did.

Removed all the white foil, and peeled part the back and the emulsion.

Run the negative under warm water and with my rubbed my thumb to clear the emulsion

Once it is completely removed, let dry completely

Scan image, invert in Photoshop and adjust curves, levels and contrast.

That is it!

The results look promising, more details in the shadows and sharper images. The negative of this first image was from an Instant Lab, is so sharp in the original scan I can see the pixels from my iPhone screen. We think that with more testing by us and the community we will be able to get some really great results!

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We really love this new film, even with the small shift and shielding. We think this is an amazing improvement. Maybe this film should be said to be a monochrome sepia film? Even so it’s so rad and can’t wait to see future releases and improvements. We will also be reviewing the SX70 version of this film in the future, so stay tuned. Below are two real world testimonies of two of our favorite instant film shooters! Michael Ash Smith of Pennsylvania and Marcelo Yanez of North Carolina.

“I used the BW 600 film 3 weeks ago for a portrait session and I was immediately impressed from the 1st shot. Within a few minutes I could tell if my exposure was accurate (takes longer to fully develop but that doesn’t bother me). I use my Polaroid 680 and fired off the entire pack for the session. At the end of the session I reviewed all 8 images and all 8 were not only usable, but beautiful. The contrast looked wonderful with rich blacks and nice highlights. No image was blown out and none showed any signs of crystalizing. With the old BW film after a few days the image would fade and change color. This film is now 3 weeks old and it looks nearly identical to when I shot it. The only thing noticeable is a slight decrease in the contrast. Also, I didn’t use the dry kit so if you use that, I would image it would be identical as the day the image was made. After shooting BW from IP for years now, this is easily their finest batch and I highly recommend using it.” Michael Ash Smith

“I’m still not sure how much better the new black and white film is from the previous generation. It still faces the chemical imbalances I love, their is still some oxidation (see overexposed image of woman), the opacification layer appears to be about the same (it’s not the CP dark blue chemical), and in all, the contrast doesn’t seem that much different when shot through a regular folding camera — my views on contrast change when the film is shot through the Instant Lab (I.e. picture of the dogs). I have yet to shoot much of it on the streets, but the tones and contrast people are boasting about on the web I’ve seen myself with packs of old PX100 Cool. It’s a step up from previous generations, but how much is yet to be determined —  so far it seems a bit slight. But, then again, I’m not sure how great the previous PX600 Cool was because I mainly stuck with PX100 Cool. I’m more looking forward to seeing how the SX70 B&W film holds up while I shoot it on the streets this weekend. 

However, one thing I’m loving about the new film is the ease of peeling for a transparency — it’s far cleaner and quicker than previous films. After five minutes of developing and just a wee bit of heating, you get a very clean peel with no residue — certainly my favorite part. The two top black and white layers of The Waste Land III image were done using the new 600 film, and the top layer of the birds in The Waste Land IV image was done with the new 600 film. ”  Marcelo Yanez

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