Instant analog film might just be the world’s most chemically complex entirely manmade product ever created. Numerous chemical reactions take place as you watch the instant print develop. The timing of these reactions is critical to get a good picture in the end. Some need to occur very fast and some more slowly. Some need to occur independently of the others. Some need to interact with others. Controlling all of this is our challenge. Our CTO Stephen Herchen has prepared this update to provide further insight into our research and development efforts over the last year – and the future of Impossible color film.

“When we started to re-invent analog instant photography from scratch, the team was limited to using chemicals that were readily available. We didn’t have access to custom chemicals. During the Polaroid days their chemists came up with over 30,000 new chemicals that had never existed before – several dozen of which were used in its films. When Polaroid stopped its film production the production of these custom chemicals was stopped as well, and these were not available as we attempted to develop our first film products. Over the past two years we have been making serious investments in our R&D in order to improve our films. The primary improvements that we are working on are making the photographs faster developing and more instant, eliminating the need to shield them from light while they are developing, and improving the quality of our B&W films and the color quality of our color films.

To do this required us to add a molecular design and chemical synthesis capability to the company in order to replace some of the non-custom chemicals in our first films with newly-invented custom chemicals. It is the properties within these custom chemicals that provide these targeted improvements. This will be an ongoing process but we are already seeing positive results that we are very excited about. At some point in this process we need to decide if the net result of this work has reached a point where we should bring the new chemistry into production and replace our current film with a new improved version. Having the ability to make a small quantity of this experimental film and provide it to our pioneers and members to test is an enormous help to us in making this decision.

Along the development path there were several versions of test film that were used by our pioneers and we used their feedback to refine our chemical formulations

Before we release our films onto the market, we put experimental batches of film through a rigorous set of tests ourselves but we still cannot test the film under the full range of conditions (camera models, exposure conditions, temperatures, the variety of indoor and outdoor subjects, etc) found around the world with our customers. Often when we test a new film with our pioneers we learn something new that we did not see in our internal testing. Plus we get their direct feedback about whether they see the targeted improvements, how significant these improvements are to them and if there is anything about the film that they did not like. We collect this feedback and use it as part of our process to make a go or no-go decision regarding proceeding to production.

As important as having this new chemistry capability is for us to achieve these improvements, our connection to our pioneers and members is also very important. The Impossible Project is still a fairly small company with limited resources so we need to be sure that we work with the highest priority on the things that matter most to our customers. The feedback that we get from our loyal customers helps us to set the right priorities. In addition to helping us set the right priorities there is another huge benefit from our direction connection to this kind of feedback. As we develop the new chemistry for our films we every day are making experimental films in the lab to test these chemicals and see if they are behaving as we designed them to and to see if we are getting the targeted improvements. This is a trial and error process that takes time. And our system is chemically interactive enough that often we will see the expected improvements but along with some unexpected side effects. We then continue working to maximize the good performance and minimize any unwanted side effects.

Our recent Generation 2.0 B&W films and recent improvements to our color films are good examples of this process at work. The main change made to our B&W films for Gen 2.0 was the incorporation of a new custom opacification dye into the developer paste that better protects the film from ambient light while it is developing outside the camera eliminating the need for shielding the film during this time. This new dye took a few years to develop and several versions of this film were tested before proceeding into production with this one. There are also several other chemical changes that provide more neutral blacks and whites and that improve the contrast of the film. 

Similarly, we have recently made a change to our color films in production with a chemical change in the light sensitive negative that produces more accurate, more saturated colors and another new custom opacification dye in the developer paste that enables the initial image to be seen much faster than with our previous color film. As was the case with our new B&W film, our pioneers played an important role in the development of this improved version of our color film. We continue to work hard in R&D on further significant improvements in these and in several other areas and, with the continued help of our long time pioneers and new members, we are confident that we will be successful and be able to deliver and continuous stream of better and better film products.”

TOOLS

White square frame film for 600 and SX-70 has now started to ship with our new color formula. We’re rolling this formula out to all formats as quickly as we can, though the process may take some months to reach all films. For now, you can be certain that the films you see below, bought directly from our online shop, will contain the new formula.

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White Frame Color Film for 600

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White Frame Color Film for SX-70

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19 Comments

  • Fantastic film and a real pleasure to use. The hard work of your Enschede team is evident and the whole instant film community owes a tremendous debt of gratitude.

  • How can I be sure that the film is based on the new formula if the film isn’t called 2nd generation? Any markers on the package?

    • Amy Heaton says:

      Hey Alexander, over time this will become our new standard film. There will be no difference in packaging. We’re rolling this formula out to all formats as quickly as we can, though the process may take some months to reach all films in all locations. For now, you can be certain that the films you see below, bought directly from our online shop, will contain the new formula.

      • Ga'Vintay M says:

        Are you going to change the info on the webpage or announcing the new color film available through email or etc. Plus, I’m excited for the new film!!!!!

        • Amy Heaton says:

          Hey Ga’vintay, yes we are currently in the process of updating the website and we will send out a newsletter each time a new film is updated. For now it is just the two products mentioned above – White square frame film for 600 and SX-70.

  • Peter says:

    Thanks for the update!

    I’m a bit stumped as to why you are not tweaking the package to note the updated formula as you did for your B+W 2.0 film.

    Many of us buy our film locally or from places such as Amazon, and this decision makes it impossible to tell what formulation you’re getting until after you’ve snapped your photo. Can you provide any estimate as to when you’ll be shipping this film out to your partners? Thanks!

    • Amy Heaton says:

      Hey Peter, you’re very welcome! Although this formula includes the ‘Generation 2.0’ improvements we’ve decided not to call this film ‘Generation 2.0’. Unlike with our Gen 2.0 Black and White film, which signified a huge step in development, we believe that even more can be done and we’re working hard to keep the improvements coming, while still giving you the chance to benefit from these latest advances. The new packs will start to ship out as of today, so you will need to check with your local store for a case by case update on their current stock. As I’m sure you can understand this is difficult for us to control, but we can assure you that we are working closely with our stockists, and that packs of white square frame film for 600 and SX-70 bought directly from our online shop, will contain the new formula.

  • Enda Furlong says:

    Great news that development is continuing, and with positive results. Looking forward to trying this new film!

  • Lola says:

    I am so excited to try it! Is it the new formula sold in the starter pack as well? And is there stil any need to protect the film from the light?

    • Amy Heaton says:

      Thanks Lolo! We will be adding the new formula to our starter packs from now on for packs purchased via our online shop, though the process may take some months to reach all starter packs in all locations. The new films will still require some shielding although they are less sensitive to light than previous iterations.

  • Kevin Lowe says:

    I was going to take a trip over to your Manchester pop-up shop over the weekend – will this film be available there? It’s all very exciting.

    • Amy Heaton says:

      Hey Kevin, that would be great! We do have the new film available at our pop-up space, we’ll let the team know you mentioned it here 🙂

  • karoy says:

    First, much thanks for your hard work on the new formulas. I love them, and I even loved them when there were orange stripes and brown spots.. 😉

    But, I could never quite understand what happened to the original Polaroid chemical formulas and processes. Would the new Polaroid corporate owners not share them with TIP, were the formulas lost or what? I get it they stopped producing them, but the science of them wasn’t lost, was it? What was the real story of having to re-invent the new film chemistry?

    • Amy Heaton says:

      Hey Karoy, thanks for your feedback and support! Actually yes, when the original Polaroid factory closed down the chemical companies that supplied components for their formulas also stopped producing the custom chemicals that were necessary to produce the films. Without these custom chemicals developed by Polaroid the formulas themselves were essentially obsolete and thus we had to start from scratch. Hope that answers your question!

      • karoy says:

        Hi Amy! Them custom chemical formulas were also written down, no? Just because they were no longer produced, the overall formula(s) are NOT actually obsolete, only difficult to produce, logistically speaking. So, apologies, but I am still curious.

        • Amy Heaton says:

          Hey Karoy, no worries! Sorry if I wasn’t clear. The custom chemicals were created especially for Polaroid, using many chemical components which have since been banned because they are not considered safe to use anymore under new EU health and safety regulations. Some of these (now illegal) components were integral to the final formula, to the point where without them the original formulas cannot be produced. We are working hard to better our film using the chemicals we have available, and with this new color film we have come closer than ever before 🙂

  • Aiman Zikry says:

    Hey, thanks for the update!

    Does the new formula still need to be shielded from light after the film is ejected from the camera?

    P.S. Keep up the good work, Impossible Project! 😀

    • Amy Heaton says:

      Hey Aiman, Thanks! We still recommend that you shield your color photographs from light for now for best results. We hope that in the future even our color photos will be less sensitive to light and develop un-shielded as with our Gen 2.0 black and white formula.

  • Larry says:

    Looking forward to trying this new color film. I’ve only used one pack of the color SX-70 film, and that had a date of 2014, and i was not pleased with it. So i’m happy to see some advancement in this. I’ll have to cherry pick by date from now on when looking for color film.

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