Earlier this week I shot my last remaining pack of Polaroid Image Soft Tone film. It feels like the end of an era.
Back when the Impossible Project was still in its infancy, it used to sell what remained of a stockpile of expired Polaroid instant film. 600 and SX-70 film all flew off the shelves, but the much lesser known Image formats stuck around. Weirdly enough, Polaroid made two types of Image film: normal and ‘soft tone.’ To this day, I have no idea why soft tone existed, except that maybe somebody at Polaroid screwed up and they decided to sell off the film.
Soft tone wasn’t blurry like the name would suggest. Rather, it was the same Polaroid film, except filled with tiny yellow dots and had slightly reduced contrast. It wasn’t the easiest film to work with, and traditional Image film looked much better for pretty much the same price. However, I was curious, so I ordered a pack to play with. It wasn’t love at first sight, but I found that soft tone excelled at creating moody landscapes. A bought a pack here and there and kept playing with it. Then one day… it happened.
The Impossible Project put Soft Tone on sale for 10 USD a pack. Ten bucks for a pack of instant film. Ten bucks. For context, a pack of unstable (at the time) Impossible Project film cost upwards of 22 USD for 8 exposures, and here was genuine, super-rare Polaroid being sold at ten dollars for ten exposures a pack. I spent every dollar I had in my meager recent-college-grad account to stockpile as many packs as I could and carefully squirreled away 20 packs of the good stuff.
It’s been years since this legendary sale occurred, and I’ve shot a lot of film since then. Over the years, my store of Soft Tone has always been a weird source of comfort. I knew it was always there, and I could always take it out take some amazing pictures with it. Unlike the unpredictable Impossible Project films I typically dealt with, the Polaroid soft tone was dependable like an old friend.
But all good things must end, and last night I shot my last two packs soft tone on my trusty Spectra AF. They performed admirably as always. The Impossible Project makes amazing film, but now the end of Polaroid has finally really hit home for me. It’s been over six years since Polaroid officially halted production of new film, and now, for me at least, it exists only in memory and exposed pictures.
It’s been a fun ride. Here’s to a bright future for instant film in a Polaroid-less world.