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Toys Technology

Polaroid Lovers Try To Revive Its Instant Film 443

Posted by kdawson
from the dust-off-the-sx-70 dept.
Maximum Prophet nods a NY Times piece on a Dutch group living the retro dream: they are trying to bring back Polaroid film. This group has the machinery to make the film packs, but needs to recreate the chemicals. Polaroid Inc. stopping making the specialized chemicals years ago, after having stockpiled what they would need for their last production runs. "They want to recast an outdated production process in an abandoned Polaroid factory for an age that has fallen for digital pictures because they think people still have room in their hearts for retro photography that eschews airbrushing or Photoshop. 'This project is about building a very interesting business to last for at least another decade,' said Florian Kaps, the Austrian entrepreneur behind the effort [in Enschede, The Netherlands]. 'It is about the importance of analog aspects in a more and more digital world. ... If everyone runs in one direction [i.e. digital photography], it creates a niche market in the other.'"
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Polaroid Lovers Try To Revive Its Instant Film

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  • by Admodieus (918728) <john&misczak,net> on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:16PM (#28098241)
    Part of the advantage of instant film was being able to see how the picture was that instant, thus giving you the ability to retake the picture if you weren't satisfied. Digital cameras, with their screens and additional features, do the same job but do it even better. There's no need for instant film anymore.
  • Tag? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gubers33 (1302099) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:18PM (#28098269)
    Can someone please explain why porn is one of the tags on this story? Retro pictures for retro porn?
  • Good Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stonecutter2 (940299) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:19PM (#28098285) Homepage Journal
    Although the trend is toward easy digital transferring of images, they're usually not that great if taken with cell phones, and digital cameras require an intermediate step to get it to a computer. I remember the days of taking Polaroids of friends, and snapping several so everyone got one. I'm not even sure that most younger folks these days would have even seen a Polaroid "insta-matic" but I bet they'd get a real kick out of them if they did. It was kind of special that you got to shoot the picture and develop it and instantly pass it along/share it with others. I hope they can figure out the chemical process necessary to recreate the film, but maybe Kodak could be persuaded to license the formula to the new manufacturer?
  • by The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:22PM (#28098329)

    Not to mention that the quality of a Polaroid was awful at best and if you did get a great shot it's not like it was trivial to make copies of it or enlarge it. A scanner would certainly make it possible to make copies now, but that kind of defeats choosing it over a digital camera, and the enlarging of the image still applies due to the image quality.

  • by Admodieus (918728) <john&misczak,net> on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:23PM (#28098335)
    But that's not the niche they're going for. They are looking for the people whose heartstrings they can tug on in order to sell these things. They're not even thinking about law enforcement and its applications, even though your point is valid.
  • by dblackshell (1450807) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:26PM (#28098395) Homepage
    Not everybody on /. is a native English speaker.
  • Polaroid appeal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CherniyVolk (513591) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:28PM (#28098423)

    I always viewed Polaroid cameras as being, to be elegant and frank, ghetto.

    But, they do have a unique visual aesthetic, it's not just the bold white border and the thick bottom border that gives it away. Nor the glassy sheen over the picture itself. There is something about a Polaroid shot, that makes the picture undoubtedly Polaroid nearly every time. It looks like a ghetto shot, but in this day and age with free artists and artistic expression on a free internet, maybe some of the guys at Deviant Art can do some very very nice retro art using Polaroid shots.

    I'm certain of it. Just as certain as "indie" films with their similar low-budget feel gives off a certain appeal to their films. Like Tarantino(sp?) films feel low-budget until Bruce Willis appears before the camera (like he isn't getting paid right?).

    My only suggestion to this business endeavor... give the artists a larger sample. Original Polaroid shots were stamp size squares, almost every one of them have some part of the primary subject being clipped by the boundaries. A wide aspect ratio shot, on Polaroid, I think would be very awesome.

    Hell, I might even be interested, even though I'm not an artist. Also, maybe an electronic means to get that Polaroid shot, into digital form from the camera itself would be sexy. Afterall, no matter the intentions of the visual artist, it's destined to be digitized eventually. (Rembrandt probably never imagined his work would be digitized yet it has been.)

  • by alvinrod (889928) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:28PM (#28098443)

    There's no need for horse-drawn carriages either, given that cars are a quicker and more energy efficient means of conveyance, but there are always a few hapless romantics who like to see the world as it once was.

    As long as there's a demand for something, no matter how silly it might seem, someone will supply it.

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:29PM (#28098467) Homepage Journal

    So what you're saying is that we need built-in printer (whatever the printer type) as the next feature of digital cameras?

    That would be interesting, even if it's a niche market.

  • ObSteveMartin (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:30PM (#28098477)

    but there are always a few hapless romantics who like to see the world as it once was.

    An arctic region covered with ice.

  • by Itninja (937614) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:36PM (#28098579) Homepage
    I don't know man....the rise of the CD has rekindled a love for vinyl LPs. The Fred Meyer in my town even has a small section dedicated to /new/ vinyl. And I am sure there was a niche market created for horse buggy makers after the rise of the automobile.
  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:36PM (#28098589) Homepage Journal

    Just as there is a small art market for modern photography using long-obsolete film processes [] such as tintype, there will be a small art market for various Polaroid films.

    The patents on most instant films expired long ago.

    Polaroid should publish the trade secrets it is no longer using and leave it up to hobbyists and entrepreneurs to either make the chemicals themselves or contract with a chemical factory to make them. They should also release Kodak from its consent decree on the off-chance that Kodak or a future successor-of-interest may want to play in that arena.

    Other makers of obsolete film stocks should do the same.

  • by techiemikey (1126169) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:39PM (#28098623)
    And yet, you still see some people using a horse and buggy. The Amish and various people in cities for park tours for example.
  • by zarkill (1100367) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:40PM (#28098653)

    But you see, the point is that someone still DOES make horse buggies. People still go to Central Park to ride the buggies, and SOMEONE has to create them.

    That's the great thing about a niche market - if you're the only one in a certain business, be it horse buggies or resurrecting Polaroid film, you might very well be able to get enough customers who are interested in your product to stay in business.

    If they think that enough people still find the old-school Polaroid film appealing, then they'd be stupid NOT to take their money, since no one else wants to.

  • by smd75 (1551583) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:41PM (#28098665)
    You couldnt be more wrong. There are still photographers who use film because they get better quality from film than most digital cameras. The only cameras that can begin to compete with film as far as resolution and quality are digital backs that cost upwards of $25,000. If you already have a large format camera and a studio set up for film, there isn't much point to changing because the costs associated with transitioning. Many studios are now digital, and yes it is simple to use, but not simple to transition to. Megapixels dont mean anything. You can have large number of megapixels in a point and shoot, but it still doesnt come near a pro-amerature / pro SLR as far as quality. I learned more about photography shooting film than I did with a digital. Shoot it once, shoot it right. Ive become lazy with digital photography and can shoot multiples blowing away my memory card and getting only a couple shots. There is still a need for film, and Im part of that trend. I hope I can still get film for my cameras for my wedding
  • by Shakrai (717556) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:45PM (#28098719) Journal

    There's no need for horse-drawn carriages either, given that cars are a quicker and more energy efficient means of conveyance

    How is hauling >1,000 pounds of steel with an engine that has a thermal efficiency rating of <50% more energy efficient than a lightweight carriage drawn by an animal?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:47PM (#28098751)

    I think there is still a need for this. Last year we took the kids to a department store in my hometown that has had a Santa Land since I was a kid. They've always offered pictures with Santa for a few bucks... not the $20-$30 and up that they charge at the big malls, but $5 or less. They always used a Polaroid, but just recently switched to digital.

    The only problem is that now the system is so complex that it slows down the entire visit with Santa, that is if 'Mrs. Santa' can even get a picture to print. When we were there, she couldn't, and finally told us to take our own pictures (which was allowed if you bought one, but she gave us our money back since she couldn't print one).

    Now, for something like this, even us techno geeks have to admit that a cheap Polaroid with expensive cartridges is a better solution than a digital camera, computer, and printer. Santa at the mall has the digital camera, computer, and printer, but there are also about 4 staff working to support the system, and they even use pagers so you can arrange the time of your visit. And of course those pictures start at about $20.

    So I think there is definitely a market for this, in some situations you want an instant picture and don't want to invest the time and money to mess around with a PC, printer, etc.

  • by blhack (921171) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:49PM (#28098803)

    we're talking about a new technology that's made the old technology completely obsolete.

    In other words:

    "I personally find this technology to be STOOPID! The huge hordes of people that still want it are equally STOOPID and we should ignore any opportunities to fulfill a demand because the demand is STOOPID and I disgree with it!"

    Is that about right?

    (hint: if I could get a Polaroid and the film for it at target, I would)
    (bonus: I shoot digital all day long [like it's my job{oh wait, it IS my job!}])

  • by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:53PM (#28098871) Journal
    And sure enough, those who survived [] seem to be doing quite well. As long as some people still want them, other people will be able to make a profit off it.
  • by Abreu (173023) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @02:58PM (#28098965)

    Pay for the stables and the feed for a couple of horses and then talk about "efficiency"

  • 35mm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @03:09PM (#28099131)
    35mm isn't dead yet, so why should Polaroid be? I do not agree that you must be forced into always accepting the latest technologies -- despite Microsoft's wishes to the contrary.
  • by osu-neko (2604) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @03:19PM (#28099301)

    There's no need for instant film anymore.

    Okay, how did Captain Obvious here get modded as "insightful"?

    There's no NEED for most of the things we buy. Things live on because people like and enjoy them, not because there's any need. Since the advent of modern firearms, there's no need for bows and arrows, and yet bow hunting remains a popular sport.

    Although some hunt to support themselves, many hunt for sport. Although some people making a living as photographers, for many, photography is a hobby. Arguing that there's no need for Polaroids is like arguing there's no need for bows. It's absolutely true, and makes it clear just how clueless the person making the statement is, how badly they've missed the point.

  • by perryizgr8 (1370173) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @03:31PM (#28099503)

    How'd you remember your login/password here?


  • "Ive become lazy with digital photography and can shoot multiples blowing away my memory card and getting only a couple shots."

    Seems like that's the problem. A poor craftsman blames his tools. You can do great or mediocre things with any tools. If you can take a great shot with film, you can do the exact same thing with a good digital SLR to the extent of my experience. The only thing that film might add is more resolution, but that's only readily apparent if you blow pictures up past A0 or so size. And even then, 35mm film resolves to roughly 10-20 megapixels. All current SLR's are there or above.

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @03:51PM (#28099771) Homepage

    The digital guy took more "Free" pics (unfortunately worth every penny), but the film guy took more "Great" pics. In the end the film guy comes out ahead with more "Great" pics and learns more.

    Bah. While you CAN do that digitally (and lots of people do - just look at the various photography sites on the web), digital is the best learning system for picture quality yet. Near instant feedback. Automatic metadata capture (remember the little notebook we all used writing down exposures, f stops and all?). The ability to "get creative" without breaking the bank, realizing that most of the time you won't get what you're looking for.

    Since going digital about 5 years ago, I'm a much better photographer than my old slide days.

    And my fingers don't smell funny all of the time.

    Shot discipline is just one thing you have to learn with digital cameras. Now that I have a couple hundred thousand exposures under my belt, I don't shoot nearly as much as I used to - I know what works and what doesn't. But I never would have gotten there with film. It was just too slow and expensive.

  • by bcat24 (914105) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @03:56PM (#28099817) Homepage Journal

    Not to mention that the quality of a Polaroid was awful at best and if you did get a great shot it's not like it was trivial to make copies of it or enlarge it.

    You say that like it's a bad thing. *Sigh*

  • Re:Duh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dogtanian (588974) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @03:57PM (#28099851) Homepage

    "If everyone runs in one direction [i.e. digital photography], it creates a niche market in the other."

    Uh, no, not if EVERYONE runs in one direction.

    You're being wilfully pedantic. Large corporations whose business models revolve around the mass market will often stop supporting a field when "everyone" (read; the vast majority of people) leaves it. While they may not be interested in serving the small number of remaining users, smaller businesses more focused on niches may be perfectly capable of making decent money from them.

    Either way, it's pretty much a retarded business decision. [snip]

    Your opinion of why Polaroid sucks might or might not be true, but has no bearing on whether or not it's a "retarded business decision". If it's clear that they can get enough nostalgics (stupid or otherwise) to buy it that they'll make a nice profit, then it's not a "retarded business decision".

    That is business.

  • by confused one (671304) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @04:20PM (#28100175)
    Not necessarily true. Polaroid stopped making the film because it made sense for them to stop making film. If they're trying to compete with digital cameras, Polaroid instant film will lose. If they're trying to provide supplies for a niche product, where the consumer might be willing to pay a higher price, then it might be profitable. Maybe not for Polaroid, because, again, it tried to work on large scales and compete with other formats like digital and 35mm; but, perhaps for a smaller vender working in a hobbyist market, it will work. Oh, and by the way, I can mix this kind of stuff up in my workshop... It's just chemistry.
  • Re:Livestock feed? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @05:36PM (#28101217) Homepage Journal
    On the other hand, when a car gets beyond repair you can't eat it.
  • by the42ndfl00r (1562857) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @05:57PM (#28101477)
    Clearly my child, you are not a photographer, at least not a professional one with a decent amount of experience in the business of photography. Polaroids have far more advantage than your little mind can understand. When a photographer is shooting with 4x5, 5x7, 8x10 or 11x14 film all of which have a far superior quality level than any digital, no matter how expensive, on the market, that photographer does not want to waste the film by shooting it with the wrong exposure. This is where the polaroid film back came in. It would make a perfect cheap test shot to make sure you weren't wasting that $10 sheet of film. After developing the film and finding out it's not worth printing it's most likely far too late to re-shoot and you just lost your client and all the money you invested in your job. The cheap plastic cameras that is usually associated with polaroid were just fun, which can simply be replaced with digital. However, it's professional uses have been lost, because the fuji models of instant film have not been able to reproduce the quality of the polaroid. The cameras made the pictures bad. Find an SX-70 or use a 4x5 view camera with a film back and see how beautiful that shot can be. You, Mr. Admodieus haven't got a clue what you are talking about and shouldn't have spoken in the first place.
  • by sortius_nod (1080919) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @06:58PM (#28102149) Homepage

    I can understand for a specific artistic effect, but Polaroids were notoriously unreliable, they degraded quickly, and the colours were never 100% correct. The reason why the standard died, as was mentioned by the GGGP was for the instant "view and reshoot if needed".

    I doubt many artists would even use polaroids due to the rapid degradation of the photo when exposed to light for great periods of time. Not having any negatives also ensures that the photo cannot be reprinted if it does deteriorate.

    For law enforcement, that would be just stupid. Monumentally stupid. The quality and the life of the photo ensure that the evidence is not permissible in a court. If it was 35mm film, I'd understand, but not Polaroids.

  • by rhyder128k (1051042) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:59PM (#28103565) Homepage
    The high price was also a factor that worked against it.

To the landlord belongs the doorknobs.