Finally. New 8×10 Impossible Project instant color film. Ever since I got into large format photography, I’ve wanted to shoot 8×10 color film. I had scored some Polaroid 809 a while a back, but due to its scarcity, I’ve only shot one frame. When Troy Bradford told me that Impossible had tweeted about an upcoming announcement of their 8×10 color film, I was a little shocked. I had been asking IP for a few months if they were going to try their hand at large format color, and the answer I got was, they were but it was a long ways off. When it was announced earlier than expected, I was more than ready to pounce on the chance to grab some.
A good handful of us in the D/FW area were able to pick up some upon its release and when it arrived, just a couple days later, I was buzzing with excitement. I had many ideas of what I wanted to shoot, but the reality was, I had to be slow and patient with the images to be shot. I spoke with the ones that picked up a box and were going to shoot their 8×10′s and we all agreed to collaborate on a review of this film. Thankfully, now that the IFS has grown over the past few months in the area, I’m now able to enlist the help and expertise of others within our instant community to join in on a comprehensive review. I asked everybody to shoot a handful of frames, write down their experience and document detailed information regarding each image shot.
The following is what we’ve experienced with Impossible’s new 8×10 color film.
The first image I shot was at Minter’s Thunderbirds in north Dallas. Amos Minter specializes in restoring 1955-57 Ford Thunderbirds. I’ve been going to Amos’ place for a handful of years now and I’ve been documenting my time there on instant film for the past year. I’m working on a long-term project and I figured it would be the perfect spot to capture the first test image for a review. I set up the Burke & James 8×10 near a cherry yellow T-bird. A while back I had taken an image of a bumperette and I wanted to take the same style shot with this new 8×10 film. It took me a good 30 minutes to set everything up and when I was finally ready to take the photo. I took a deep breath and slowly pressed the shutter release that was attached to the lens. I rated the film at 400 ASA, the scene metered out at f/11 @ 1 second. I shot it around f/8ish due to the bellows extension of the camera. It was 74 degrees inside the showroom.
When the image slowly started appearing after it had been processed, my jaw was on the floor. The detail was stunning and the color … oh the color. Finally, a large format color instant film I could shoot. When I got home, I scanned the image, showed it to my wife and raced up to Kinko’s (or whatever its called now) and used their paper cutter to cut the tabs off the film. While I was up there, I started to press out the excess developing paste. That was a mistake. I inadvertently pressed the paste back into the image just on the left side of it. Whoops. It wasn’t that bad, but overnight it creeped into the picture about a centimeter wide and 2 inches in length running up the side of the image. I did remember reading somewhere that these color images would need a little extra care. They weren’t joking. So what do you do when you’ve got this great image but there’s something that’s just bothering the heck out of you .. like this developer paste that was creeping in? You might have guessed it already. You cut the edges off the photo and you transfer that bad boy to a piece of mounting board. Visual distraction solved.
It was honestly a pretty easy transfer. About 24 hours after I took this photo, I used a paper cutter to cut the edges off the image. I peeled the positive away from the negative and submersed the image in luke warm water in a tray. Within 5-10 minutes, with a little bit of coaxing from my fingers I was able to remove the semi-gelatinous emulsion. It was surprisingly durable and within 20 minutes I had it transferred to piece of mounting board. I used a roller to smooth out the emulsion, something I had seen Noreen Loh Hui Miun do in a video she posted a while back on Facebook. It worked very well.
Another test image I shot was of Jonathon Kimbrell, a screen printer that I’ve recently been in contact with here in Dallas. He made these incredibly cool cards for us a little while ago. I knew that his place, Napkin Art Studios, would be perfect for another test image. I cruised up there, set up the 8×10 and shot one of him using only the ambient light available.
I rated the film again at 400. The scene metered out to be about f/7 @ 1/4 of a second. The ambient temperature was 60 degrees when I developed the film. The light was coming from an open bay door at his studio and a few flourescents that were about 15 feet above him. Something I noticed on this shot that I hadn’t noticed on the other, was the blue line that looks as if it came from in between the pods, assumedly from the paste being thin in that area. You can see it faintly on his shirt and it runs across the length of the film.
The next image I took was at Makeshift Photography‘s studio in Deep Ellum. A handful of us got together on Saturday to test out some more images. I set up a scene with some of Steve Reeves’ toys that he had laying around. We grabbed a wooden figure, a zebra and a Spiderman figure that he had laying around. We used Amanda Potter‘s SX-70 in the image and set up a shot
I used 4 lights for this image. An octabox, a couple of strip boxes and a flash behind the curtain in the back. I was hoping the film would have picked up the wider spread the flash had on the curtain in the back, oh well. The scene metered out to be f/22 @ 1/60th but due to the bellows extension I shot it at f/16. The image developed at 69 degrees and the setup was …
The next image was another picture of “Woody”. The thought I had, was I’d set up some christmas lights behind him in the shape of backwards P and would position his arms so that it looked as if he was holding it up, sort of like a trophy. I spent a good four hours on the set up of this image. Admittedly, I probably wasn’t working the whole time on it, but it did take quite some time for me to position everything before I was finally ready to click the shutter.
I used two strip boxes with grids on either side of the figure. I tested the lights with my D700 and the exposure I came up with was f/8 at 2 seconds. When I was finally ready to pull the trigger, I opened the lens up to its widest aperture, f/6.1 (due to the bellows extension), tripped the shutter with the cable release in one hand and popped in the strobes via a Pocket Wizard with the other. I had the lens open for just over 2 seconds.
The image was processed at 72 degrees and took about 45 minutes to appear, as did all the rest. I stowed it away in an open box on my way home and peeked at it carefully when I finally made it through the front door. Stunned .. once again.
The last image I took for this review was a simple available light portrait of my friend’s son, Callum. The last time I photographed Callum was about 2 years ago. I took the image in the same style as the last (of course this one was in color) and set up the same way I had before (butcher’s paper taped to a wall on the side of a building).
One of things I noticed off the bat, was the wispy streak across his face. I would love to use this film for this type of portraiture in the future. I can’t being to fathom the challenges Impossible’s chemists have had in creating an integral 8×10 color film but I hope this is corrected before the release this fall. That’s my only issue with this film.
The image is slightly warm. Callum’s hair is blonde and due to the development temperature I assume (79 degrees), the color cast has shifted a little bit towards magenta. This image was metered out as follows: 400 ASA at 1/30th of a second at f/16 and two-thirds. I shot this at just under f/16 due to the bellows extension.
- Steve Reeves -
I must admit that the new color 8×10 instant film from The Impossible Project is a lot better than I expected it to be. I participated in the test group for the Black and White version of the film last year and over the last couple of years I’ve experimented with a number of the films they’ve released. I love the idea of being able to produce an instant analog image and because of that I’ve been a fan and impassioned supporter of their efforts from the beginning. Getting good color from the films, however… Well, it’s been a whole lot of “grinning and bearing it.”
To be fair they’ve come a long way. The current versions of the smaller formats produce color images that are leaps and bounds beyond where they were even a year ago. Bravo for that. I was skeptical that it would prove to be as successful with the 8×10 right out of the gate. It’s test film after all, right?
Well, color me impressed. The stuff looks amazing. In the shots I’ve done the reds and blues really pop. Greens seem to be a bit weak, but otherwise the color is strong and vibrant. I’ve only taken half of my shots so far. Three relatively successful ones. One underexposed and one catastrophic user error that generated a real mess.
Shot #1 “OT SED” and #2 “DES TO”
“If you’re not going to use movements, why shoot big!” I said. Those around me had their doubts and they were right. The giant vignette you see in the two shots of the car are the result of using a 4×5 lens on an 8×10 camera. Oops. Otherwise these two shots show an interesting comparison between the new IP 8×10 color film and a sheet of Polaroid 809 circa 1999. The 809 shot came in a little underexposed and the IP shot came in a little hot. We spot metered the scene and the IP film being fresh and rated at 400 ISO should have come out spot on. It’s close and the error was mine as I didn’t get the camera set to the exact prescribed f-stop. I’d like to think that film with a wider latitude would have protected me in this case but there’s very little of that to be had. When shooting 8×10 you’re already dealing with the added complication of factoring in bellows draw and in this case there’s very little room for error. My advice? Triple-check your meter readings then check them again. This was the first shot of 809 that I’ve taken out of my precious box of the stuff and I was real happy to see an image at all. We rated the film at 64 ASA and it looks like it could have even been pulled to 50. The color has shifted over the years towards green. One other thing worth noting, the old 809 peel-a-part film gives you a correctly-oriented image. If IP is going to stick with integral film then I suppose we’ll have to get used to the “wet plate” look where everything is backwards.
Shot #3, #4 “Necktie Dyed Eggs” (Underexposed)
IP – f/45 @ 1 sec
809 – f/45 @ 32 sec
I “digiroided” this scene in my studio with a Nikon D800. Oh the irony! I forgot to factor in bellows draw and as a result, took the shot one stop lower than I should have. The keen eye might notice that it’s WAY more than one stop too dark. Might light source was a south-facing window. The strength of the light changed with some regularity, but even so I got pretty consistent readings from the Nikon. Alas, way too dark. While I was waiting out the 45 minutes to see how the shot turned out I fired on off onto a sheet of the 809. I gave this one an extra stop (after also adjusting the ISO from 400 down to 64) and the result was also under exposed.
I’m chalking this up to reciprocity failure. To get the depth of field I wanted I had the lens closed down to f/45. If I were to guess, I’d say I should have added a few stops to each shot to brighten them up.
UPDATE: After reviewing my notes I came to realize that my initial shot was more than one stop lower than my metered shots. Including bellows draw I made that exposure 3 stops too dark. This seems like a reasonable difference without suggesting reciprocity as a contributing factor.
Shot #5 “Neck Tie Dyed Eggs”
At this point I adjusted my settings to try and get a brighter image. I upped my time by three stops and let loose with an 8 second exposure using the T mode on my lens. As you can see it’s a lot brighter and there is some pretty good exposure in the mid tones. The highlights, however, are gone. Very very narrow latitude!
A word of caution! Make sure you load your film carrier into your processor correctly. If you get it in backwards where the tab is pointing outwards (an obvious problem to anyone paying attention better than I was…) and press the big white button you will instantly coat your rollers with blue goo. Trust me, don’t do it. The good news is that the negative wasn’t ruined. It was still safely in the carrier. Unfortunately I now have an extra negative and no positive to make a happy IP color sandwich. Anyone out there wanna buy half a shot of IP color film?
Shot #6 “Dyed Egg”
At this point I felt like I was more or less dialing it in. After recomposing I found that I could get by with f32. The last image was a little darker than I wanted so I split the difference. The result, as you can see, really demonstrates the narrow latitude of the film. I like the moody dark shadows but man, I sure wish I had more details in the highlights. In the vase below are some pigeon feathers that Annie Donovan’s pigeon shed when she came by the studio last year to shoot her IP 8×10 B&W test film. Unfortunately, that area is too blown out to really notice what’s in the bottom of the vase. I did try to bring it full circle though.
Overall, I’m very happy with the film. The color is a lot stronger than I expected and knowing that the light conditions need to be tightly controlled is ok. If I know it, I can plan for it. Being able to hold an original 1st generation 8×10 instant image in my hands is well worth the challenges.
The materials used are of course slightly different than Impossible’s 8×10 black & white film. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that there seems to be some waviness on the back of the negative after the paste has been spread. I think it might be from the moisture and the amount of paste that’s spread in between it that is causing that to happen.
Be VERY careful when handling these images, especially near the top where the excess paste is trapped. The images definitely remain wet for quite some time and are more sensitive to movement after it has been developed, more so than their b&w. You might notice that because of the paste at the very end that’s caught in the ‘trap’, over time the excess will creep back in just a little bit. Troy did mention to me over the phone, that he and Tyler pulled their rollers outside of their processor and have used them to gently roll the excess paste out and away from the trap at the top or side of the image.
It’s worth it. It has that unique look and color quality that’s unattainable using any other photographic medium. The colors are rich, it’s about as sharp as a tack and it has those Impossible qualities and quirks that we’ve all grown to love so much.
Thank you Impossible for bringing integral 8×10 color to our door steps!
- © The Instant Film Society -