Recently, we were contacted by fellow instant film photographer, Paul Ravenscroft (you can find him on Instagram) with a tutorial he’d been working on. Paul’s tutorial explains how to load and use Impossible Film in a Polaroid Land Camera. We were happy to share Paul’s write up and hope that some of you might be willing to experiment and share your results. If you have any questions or comments for Paul, we’d definitely welcome him back to answer some of them. Below, we’ll share a few of Paul’s results, too. And now we leave you with Paul…
Like many instant photographers, I was sorry to hear in February that Fuji, the last manufacturer of peel-apart packfilm, or type 100 to use the Polaroid designation, had ceased production, a decision that left many of us wondering if our beautiful Land cameras had overnight become nothing more than retro ornaments.
I think however I may have been too pessimistic. While there are a number of quite expensive conversions available to recycle your packfilm camera to accept another film format, I recently discovered a solution so simple I initially couldn’t believe it worked.
In short, an Impossible film cartridge fits snugly into a Land camera film bay. And that’s it (almost); no expensive camera modifications, full frame coverage, and the Land camera’s rangefinder – if it has one – still works accurately.
Following trials, it has been possible to replicate the method with folding packfilm Land cameras (all the models 100 to 450, both manual and automatic exposure), their cheaper plastic cousins like the Colorpack series and even the long-redundant type 80/88 square format plastic variants such as the Square Shooter, for which no film has been available for decades. And the Big Shot and 600SE too. Basically anything that can shoot packfilm can work with Impossible film.
The practicalities are straightforward if slightly more involved. To shoot Impossible film in a packfilm camera you’ll need any sx-70 format integral camera; a darkroom or a changing bag; and of course a packfilm camera.
Here’s what you do (specifically with a folding packfilm camera):
- load a new pack of Impossible sx-70 film in an integral camera as you normally would and let it eject the darkslide
- then in the dark (darkroom or changing bag), open the integral camera’s film door and pull out the Impossible film pack by the tag
- next slide the “fat” end of the Impossible pack – film side towards the lens – into the space in the Land camera where the packfilm cartridge sits
- you’ll feel it is a snug fit; a bit of pressure is required but with some
- jiggling and a bit of practice it can be inserted in seconds
- gently push the IP cartridge as far as you can towards the packfilm camera door hinge and carefully make sure it’s wedged in as far it can go towards the lens before closing the back of the camera
- now you can open the darkroom bag or leave your darkroom and take a shot as you normally would (adjusting with the exposure wheel, if it’s an automatic Land camera, to account for the slight difference between the camera’s 75asa speed setting and the 100asa Impossible film)
- looking through the packfilm viewfinder, the yellow rangefinder spot marks the centre of the Impossible frame pretty closely and the top and bottom frame lines of the packfilm camera indicate quite accurately the parameters of the shot – you just have to mentally lop off the left and right edges to envisage the square Impossible frame
- to develop the photo, return to your darkroom or put both cameras back into the changing bag and transfer the Impossible film pack from the packfilm camera into the integral camera
- the shot then pops out as the integral camera thinks it’s ejecting the darkslide from a new pack
And that’s it. Fortuitously, the distance between the rear lens element and the film plane of the Impossible pack appears to be the same or at least very close to a packfilm cartridge, so rangefinder focus remains accurate. And if you have one of the manual exposure “professional” packfilm cameras, you can of course use Impossible 600 film too, adjusting for the film speed difference. Some automatic packfilm cameras have a 300asa setting and by adjusting the exposure wheel you can also use Impossible 600 film.
This process is refined from one I’d read about elsewhere, but that proposed a more complicated and fiddly method which involved breaking parts off the film pack and moving individual pieces of film between packs. I started experimenting because I wondered if there was a more straightforward process which could enable us to keep shooting with our Land cams when the supply of FP100C runs out and if no new producer steps into the breach.
One caveat; it is quite a tight squeeze to insert the film and clearly there is potential to damage the pack, although I have replicated the process repeatedly without doing so. Sometimes the small plastic strip which covers the film slot on the Impossible pack breaks off, but as long as it doesn’t fall across the lens, and presuming you are careful to swap the pack between cameras in total darkness, this method works reliably. Please bear in mind the precise instructions above are specifically for using Impossible sx-70 and 600 film in a folding Land camera; how to modify the method slightly for the plastic cameras, Big Shot, type 80/88 models etc. is fairly obvious.
I hope you, like me, are delighted to find a way to keep your precious Land cams in use – happy shooting!