It's hard to write a review of the Polaroid Originals instant film without being tempted to recount the birth of Polaroid's instant film, its demise, its rebirth as the Impossible Project, and the purchase of the Polaroid brand by Impossible's biggest shareholder. But I assume if you're here reading this, you know all that. If not, read Instant: The Story of Polaroid by Christopher Bonanos, and then read the endless threads on Flickr about the various Impossible Project film formulations.
My favorite Impossible film was made in 2014—it was just beautiful, if a little slow to develop. I haven't been thrilled with batches produced starting in 2016. A dodgy opacity layer meant white streaks (even if you covered the film as it ejected) and the color seemed lifeless. I couldn't rely on it unless I was shooting inside. And the packs leaked blue goo frequently. Beta film that I tested earlier this year gave me hope, however.
Today I shot my first pack marketed under Polaroid Originals—so now when people ask if Polaroid still makes film you can say "yes" and just leave it at that. Fortunately that's not all that happened.
I shot with a Polaroid 680 SLR on partly cloudy San Francisco day, somewhat humid, temperature about 69 degrees. I shot the first few photos without covering them upon ejection, but after that I employed a dark slide to cover it as it came out, as I'd found a bit of light damage at the top and bottom and my first shot had the telltale blue squiggles. I let them develop in a coat pocket.
With the dark slide things went pretty well. The detail is pretty stunning. For instance, in my fence photo, the numbers were hard to see in real life, and here they're clearly delineated. The colors are pretty rich, though I wish the reds were more lush. The film still shoots pretty light, so I usually kept the light/dark wheel in some degree of dark. I should have gone a little darker for the mannequin shot.
The worst part of last year's batches was the uneven chemical spread, resulting in smudgy edges at the bottom of the photos. While I appreciate the accidental in art, I want to choose when my accidents happen. I was mostly successful with the Polaroid Originals. Only in my car tail light photo do I see some unevenness at the bottom. Polaroid marketing plays up the "uniqueness" part to cover such inconsistencies.
And then there's developing time. It seems to be on track with the advertised 10 to 14 minutes. I could start to see an image after just a couple of minutes.
Oh, and the film is about $5 cheaper per pack of 8, which should go a little way towards ameliorating one of the biggest gripes Impossible detractors had. Spending $18 just doesn't seem like as big a barrier as $24, though I spent $24 many, many times.
So, yes, it's better. A lot better. And a lot cheaper too.