Instant film

Instant film

Instant film is a photographic film that is designed to be used in an instant camera (and, with accessory hardware, with many professional film cameras). The film contains the chemicals needed for developing and fixing the photo, and the instant camera exposes and initiates the developing process after a photograph has been taken.

With earlier types of Polaroid instant cameras, the film is pulled through rollers which breaks open a pod containing a reagent that is spread between the exposed negative and receiving positive sheet. This film sandwich develops for a predetermined time, depending on film type and ambient temperature, after which the positive sheet is peeled away from the negative to reveal the developed photo.

In 1972, integral film was developed which incorporated timing and receiving layers to automatically develop and fix the photo without any intervention from the photographer.

Instant film is available in sizes from 24 mm x 36 mm (similar to 135 film)up to 20" x 24" size, with the most popular film sizes for consumer snapshots being approximately 3¼" x 4¼" (the image itselfis smaller as there is a border surrounding the image). Early instant film was distributed on rolls, but currently is typically distributed folded into film packs of 8-10 exposures that allow each image to be removed from the camera after it has exposed. Integral film packs contain a flat electrical battery to operate exposure/focusing mechanisms as well as film ejection motors in the camera. The inclusion of the battery within the film pack ensures that a fresh battery is available with each new pack of film.

Single sheet films are also available for use in large format cameras.

Instant film is frequently used in situations where it is necessary to validate that the resulting image was suitable soon after taking a photograph, such as in documenting evidence in law enforcement, in health care and scientific applications, and producing photographs for personal identification, such as for use in passports. Instant film is also used by artists to achieve effects that are impossible to accomplish with traditional photography, by manipulating the emulsion during the developing process, or separating the image emulsion from the film base. Instant film is being rapidly supplanted by digital photography and printing (using home dye sublimation, inkjet, and laser printers.)

Instant film is notable for having had a wider range of film speeds available than other negative films of the same era: instantfilm has been produced with ASA 4 to ASA 20,000. Current instant film formats typically have an ASA between 80 and 3000.

Film Brands


Film Types

Polaroid film can be divided into 4 basic types:

Roll film: was distributed in two separate negative and positive rolls and developed inside the camera. It was introduced in 1948 and was manufactured until 1992.

Pack film: was distributed in a film pack which contained both negative and positive sheets and developed outside the camera. It was introduced in 1963 and is still manufactured.

Integral film: is also distributed in a film pack, but each film envelope contains all the chemical layers to expose, develop, and fix the photo. It was introduced in 1972 and is still manufactured.

Polavision:An instant motion picture film, Polavision, was introduced by Polaroid in 1978, with an image format similar to Super 8 mm film,and based on an additive color process. Polavision required a specific camera and tabletop viewer, and was not a commercial success,but did lead to the development of an instant 35 mm color slide film. Polavision film has been taken off the market.

End of production

In February 2008, Polaroid (under the control of Thomas J Petters of Petters Group Worldwide) announced it would cease production of all instant film; the company will shut down three factories and lay off 450 workers. [Associated Press February 8, 2008] Sales of chemical film by all makers have dropped by at least 25% per year in this decade, and the decline is likely to accelerate. Fujifilm is now the only remaining supplier of instant film in the United States.

At the time of the announcement, Polaroid's instant film offerings included the following:

Type 600 cameras (integral film, develops automatically, 3.1 x 3.1 inch)
* Type 600, ISO 640 (consumer cameras)
* Type 779, ISO 640 (professional color, high definition)

Spectra / 1200 cameras (integral film, develops automatically, 3.6 x 2.9 inch)
* Spectra / Image, ISO 640 (consumer cameras)
* Type 990, ISO 640 (professional color, high definition)
* Spectra Grid, ISO 640 (has a grid for technical use)

Type 100 series packfilm for Land cameras (timed peel-apart development, sometimes called type 660, 4.25 x 3.25 inch)
* Type 664, ISO 100 black and white
* Type 667, ISO 3000 black and white
* Type 669, ISO 80 color (consumer grade, but used for art purposes such as image transfer and emulsion lifts)
* Type 672, ISO 400 black and white
* Type 690, ISO 100 color (professional grade)

Type 50 series sheetfilm for 4x5 inch large format (time peel-apart development, all professional grade)
* Type 51, ISO 640 print, ISO 80 negative, black and white (very high contrast print, reusable negative)
* Type 52, ISO 400 black and white (wide tonal range)
* Type 53, ISO 800 black and white
* Type 54, ISO 100 black and white
* Type 55, ISO 50 print, ISO 25 negative, black and white (extremely high resolution, reusable negative)
* Type 57, ISO 3000 black and white
* Type 59, ISO 80 color (consumer grade, used for art, such as image transfer and emulsion lifts)
* Type 72, ISO 400 black and white (medium tonal range)
* Type 79, ISO 100 color, high color fidelity, "Polacolor Pro"

Type 800 series sheetfilm for 8x10 inch cameras, processors, Daylabs and other purposes
* Type 803, ISO 800 black and white
* Type 804, ISO 100 black and white
* Type 809, ISO 80 color for art purposes


Polaroids have the same storage standards under ISO 18920:2000 as any other photograph. [Albright, G. & Fischer, M. Care of Photographs. Retrieved February 18, 2008, from Northeast Document Conservation Center Web site:] Regular storage conditions should be less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit and between 50% and 30% relative humidity (RH). Cold storage (0 degrees Fahrenheit optimum) is not helpful unless RH can be controlled and cold storage RH is generally drier than required. RH below 30% will create an environment that is too dry and may cause the photograph to curl.


Current Fuji instant film offerings include:

Compatible with Polaroid Type 100 packfilm (also known as "Type 660")
* FP-100C, ISO 100, pro grade color, comparable to Polaroid Type 690
* FP-100C Silk, ISO 100, pro grade color
* FP-100B, ISO 100, black and white, comparable to Polaroid Type 664
* FP-3000B, ISO 3000, black and white, comparable to Polaroid Type 667
* FP-400B45 Super, ISO 500, black and white

For use in the Fujifilm PA-45 holder. Compatible with the old Polaroid Type 500 series packfilm versions of Type 50 sheetfilm
* FP-100C45, ISO 100, pro grade, comparable to Polaroid packfilm Type 579 and sheetfilm Type 79
* FP-100B45 Super, ISO 100, black and white
* FP-3000B45 Super, ISO 3000, black and white, comparable to Polaroid type 57
* FP-500B45 Super, ISO 500, black and white

Note: In order to use FP-100c45 large format packfilm, one needs to have an old Polaroid Type 550 film back, or Fuji PA-45 film back. They are the only film backs that can hold Fuji's large format packfilm, as Fuji is the last company still making this format of film.

Instax brand films (integral film, develops automatically)
* Instax Wide (99x62mm)
* Instax Mini (46x62mm)


Kodak manufactured Polaroid's instant film from 1963 to 1969, when Polaroid decided to manufacture its own. Kodak introduced its own instant film, which was different from Polaroid's in several ways: [ [ The Land List - Non-Polaroid Instant Cameras ] ]
* Kodak instant film developed itself from the back layer forward, the opposite of Polaroid's film.
* Kodak used a matte finish on the front, made possible by putting the chemical pack on the back.Kodak was prohibited in 1986 from further selling instant cameras and instant film. The patent infringement came about when Kodak tried to avoid the patent by placing the emulsion layers in the reverse order. The courts ruled that this was in fact an infringement on the patents held by Edwin H. Land and the Polaroid Corporation.

How it works

All instant film uses diffusion transfer to move the dyes from the negative to the positive via a reagent. The process varies according to the film type.

Black and White Roll/Pack film

A negative sheet is exposed inside the camera, then lined up with a positive sheet and squeezed through a set of rollers which spread a reagent between the two layers, creating a developing film sandwich. The negative developed quickly, after which some of the unexposed silver halide grains (and the latent image it contained) were solubilized by the reagent and transferred by diffusion from the negative to the positive. After a minute, the negative is peeled away to reveal the photo which was transferred to the positive receiving sheet [ [ Jim's Polaroid Cameras: How film works] ] .

Colour Roll/Pack film

Though similar in format to black and white film, the instant colour process is much more complex, involving a negative which contains 3 layers of emulsion sensitive to blue, green, and red. Underneath each layer are dye developing molecules in their complementary colours of yellow, magenta, and cyan. When light strikes an emulsion layer, it blocks the complementary dye below it. For instance, when blue strikes the blue sensitive emulsion layer, it blocks the yellow dye, but allows the magenta and cyan dyes to transfer to the positive, which combine to create blue. When green and red (yellow) strikes their respective layers, it blocks the complementary dyes of magenta and cyan below them, allowing only yellow dye to transfer to the positive. [ [ Jim's Polaroid Cameras: How film works] ]

Integral film

This process is similar to color instant film with added timing and receiving layers. The film itself integrates all the layers to expose, develop, and fix the photo into a plastic envelope commonly associated with a Polaroid photo.

See also

*Film format
*Photographic film
*Polaroid type 55


External links

* US patent reference
number = 2543181
y = 1951 | m = 02 | d = 27
inventor = Edwin H. Land
title = Photographic product comprising a rupturable container carrying a photographic process

* [ Polaroid Instant Film] Information about Polaroid's instant camera film.
* [ Polaroid SX-70/Time-Zero Film Important Notice 2006]
*Instant film discontinued altogether [ Notification of Polaroid Instant Film Availability 2008]
* [ Information about Polaroid Pack film]
* [ Information about original Polaroid Picture Rolls]
* [ Non-Polaroid Instant Film] , an impressive summary of unusual instant film camera makers
* [ 台灣拍立得SX-70攝影同好會 Taiwan Polaroid Photography Ruten Club]
* [ Save Polaroid] Site devoted to encouraging other companies to license and produce Polaroid instant films

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