Instant film photography has returned, and it’s better than ever. Here’s a buying guide to cameras and film packs for B&W instant photography.
It was the original image sharing technology: Long before Instagram, flickr and Facebook, people shared their images by handing them to each other. Polaroid was the first, and for the longest time only, way to get those prints into peoples’ hands almost instantly. They had a long run, from 1948-2008. And for a while, instant photography was no longer possible.
But now it’s back, and according to recent sales results, instant film is the single most popular photography-related item to be sold on Amazon. Even better: There are currently over a dozen different instant black-and-white films currently available, in different sizes and formats—more B&W choices than were available in Polaroid’s heyday. None of them are made by Polaroid, but there are a few that will work in Polaroid cameras.
The big player nowadays is Impossible, which not only has produced monochrome films for SX-70, 600, I-Type and Spectra-type cameras, but they’re also making new Impossible Polaroid-branded cameras that take all of these emulsions. Some of their films, such as their 8×10 film for Polaroid #4213, is made by hand and commands a premium price. At the other end of the spectrum is the Impossible I-1, an original instant camera designed by Impossible, which uses I-Type and 600 type film. A digital/analog hybrid, it can be controlled via Bluetooth and mobile devices through an app.
While Impossible’s audience ranges from serious enthusiasts and pros to more casual shooters, Fujifilm’s Instax is more of a lifestyle adjunct. Surprisingly, the small photos have garnered an enthusiastic following amongst hipsters and teenagers who want actual things in their hands that they can share and trade with their friends.
Finally there’s the newcomer, Leica, which introduced the “if you have to ask you can’t afford it” Sofort instant camera, and have announced the Sofort Monochrom film pack.
If you want to get into instant B&W photography, here’s a look at what’s available, and which current-production cameras each works with.
Impossible Black & White 2.0 8×10 Film for Polaroid #4213 (10 exposures)
At just under $200 for a pack of ten it’s the most expensive and specialized instant film. This sheet film works with Polaroid type 4213 holders in 8×10 view cameras. New formulation promises outstanding results.
Impossible Black & White Film for I-type
On the other end of the price spectrum, designed for Impossible’s home-grown I-type camera, this film has white frames and a development time of 5-10 minutes. It is the least expensive Impossible film because it doesn’t contain batteries. According to Impossible, I-type film uses the latest b&w chemistries to produce photos with depth, contrast and distinctive analog texture.
Impossible Black & White Instant Film for Polaroid Spectra-Type Cameras
While most Polaroid-type photos are square, Spectra was introduced to offer a wider-format option. Impossible has not only revived the film format, but they also now make the Impossible Spectra camera so if your old Spectra isn’t working, you still have options.
Impossible 600 B&W Film for Polaroid 600 Type Cameras & I-1
The Polaroid 600 series was that company’s most popular instant camera, and it has been revived, with the Polaroid name, by Impossible, which offers more B&W flavors than ever for the format: The classic white-frame, square picture film, as well as packs with black frames and a pack of mixed color frames. There’s even a round-frame film pack. This film works with both all Polaroid/Impossible 600-series (there are four variations) and Impossible I-1.
Impossible SX-70 B&W Film
For some instant photography fanatics, bringing back the SX-70 format is the holy grail. The Iconic SX-70 was the world’s first instant SLR, and it folded flat. Many SX-70s have been gathering dust for years but no worries: Impossible has revived the SX-70 camera, too! Dr. Land must be smiling.
Fujifilm instax mini Monochrome Instant Film
Before Impossible did the impossible, Fujifilm was on the scene with its Instax line of instant cameras. While they don’t have any B&W for their larger-format cameras, they do offer a monochrome emulsion for their smaller, low-cost Instax Mini line, which is quite popular with teens and tweens. The packs are also available in two and four 10-pack kits.
Leica Sofort Monochrom Film Pack
A newcomer to instant photography, the legendary and posh Leica company offers high-end lifestyle bliss with its recently-announced the classy-looking, Leica-tweaked Sofort instant camera. Like the Instax Mini it produces 2.13×3.39-inch pictures, ideal for sharing with grown-up kids. Preferably ones who have deep pockets.
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