Update April 2020: Polaroid Originals has rebranded to Polaroid, but it’s still the same company selling the same film.
Update November 2017: The Impossible Project has rebranded itself as Polaroid Originals. The film is the same excellent instant stock that Impossible has been steadily refining for years, but with one big difference. It’s more affordable now! That’s right, you can get 8 exposures of Polaroid goodness for 19 USD rather than 24 USD. Still not cheap by any means, but it’s better than nothing! Also, you can now buy film from places like Amazon and B&H in addition to directly from the Polaroid Originals website.
Over the past few months, I’ve had quite a few people write me to ask if there was a place they could get affordable instant film for their Polaroid cameras. The answer?
No such thing exists. Sadly, cheap, affordable film for Polaroid cameras is as extinct as flying unicorns.
Polaroid stopped manufacturing instant film for their cameras in 2008, so any remaining Polaroid film floating out there has long expired. Collectors and artists still lust after it though, so what little remains is incredibly expensive. Even if you happen to find some and purchase it for a decent price, it’s very likely the film is going to have a dead battery.
So that leaves the Impossible Project, a plucky upstart that started manufacturing new film for Polaroid cameras in 2010. They’ve done an incredible job creating exciting new films in both monochrome and color, but they aren’t cheap. One pack of new film generally runs about 23 USD, and one pack of Impossible Project film only carries 8 exposures. That’s nearly $3 per picture, not even counting shipping or sales tax costs. Every once in a blue moon the Impossible Project sells off corrupted or damaged film at a discount, but it’s rare and the film doesn’t stockpile well.
And that’s it. Those are your two options for Polaroid cameras. Instant film is not a cheap hobby. Because of the finicky nature of using old cameras and experimental film, it’s not uncommon to lose up to half your exposures to camera misfires, roller problems, you name it. Especially when using SX-70 cameras, I’ve lost entire cartridges of film to the camera spazzing out.
There is one alternative to Polaroid instant film that is slightly cheaper, but you’re not going to be able to use Polaroid cameras. The Fuji Instax system has cheaper, but still not cheap, instant film. However, I generally don’t like the film as much for artistic purposes and the cameras aren’t as fun. However, if you need to buy a huge amount of instant film for a wedding or event, it’s probably your best choice.
If cost is important, going digital is always the cheapest option, as excellent DSLRs, point and shoots, and even smartphones have never been better and more affordable. Analogue photography is fun, but sadly, it will never be cheap.