For the past two years, monochrome Impossible Project film has taken a back seat to development of color lines. While the Impossible Project made huge breakthroughs with their Color Protection line, black and white film slowly disappeared, sometimes completely from the IP store. Along with a complete revamp of their naming system and packaging in late 2013, the Impossible Project finally announced a new line of black and white film. The new film is supposed to feature a new and improved formula and replaces the ‘silver shade’ line of film, so how does it stack up?
It looks like the Impossible Project wasn’t sitting on their hands with their monochrome line behind the scenes; the new B&W film for 600 cameras is easily their best black and white film yet. It’s far superior to IP’s last attempt well over a year ago with PX 600 Silver Shade Cool, which featured an unpleasant texture created by white specks. The new B&W film contains no such defects, and features better detail, contrast, and colors.
The new generation of black and white instant film shows many improvements, many subtle. IP’s Silver Shade line often tended to be more sepia toned than true black and white. However, the new generation of IP black and white film is pure black and white without hardly a trace of sepia tone to be found.
Personally, I find the new film to be sharper and more contrast-y than previous generations. I say personally because there is no easy way to actually test this without old film and test charts. Differences in cameras will make a huge difference, but I shot on a soft Polaroid OneStep Closeup with a fixed focus lens and everything looked great. Even underexposed photos, which were traditionally a total loss, don’t look too bad on the new film.
I’m a huge fan of how the new film handles blacks. Total black was solid black in previous generations, with little to no texture. This had a tendency to create a ‘solarized’ image at times, as the total black would be lighter than some of the grays around it. However, the new film adds some very subtle grain in the solid blacks, which looks great and scans well. Even better, there are no strange white specks or breaks interrupting the image.
The last generation of IP black and white film showed excellent durability, with minimal color shift as the images aged. I’ll update this in the future, but I predict they’ll be just as stable as previous lines. However, since there is a new formula involved, one never knows for sure. Otherwise, construction is solid with no chemical leakage.
In previous generations I had problems with unexposed sections of the film from it not getting pressed correctly by the rollers, but I didn’t have any problems with this in the film I tested. I recommend using Impossible Project film quickly, as it doesn’t stockpile well. Usually issues like this will pop up when the film gets to about a year old.
One big question I had when I heard about this film was whether the Impossible Project was finally bringing over the opacifier from the color lines to the black and white. The opacificer is a chemical that protects the image immediately after it ejects from the camera. Early Impossible Project films did not have one, which meant that the image had to be shielded with a darkslide or frog tongue adapter. Currently I cannot find any information on the Impossible Project’s website as to whether or not the image needs to be shielded from light. Once the site was chock full of warnings on how to protect the image, but now there is no info one way or another.
From what I can tell, this film does not appear have an opacifier protecting the image upon ejection. I didn’t want to waste film testing it out in the sun, but watching the image develop, it is exactly like old Impossible Project film and not like the modern color lines. The images develop very quickly, often within ten minutes. The color IP opacifier usually takes about an hour to disappear, which leads me to think it’s not there. I’m surprised to find no information from Impossible Project on this however, and will update this section as soon as I find out for sure one way or another.
Impossible Project’s new B&W film for 600 cameras is a fantastic successor to the Silver Shade line of film and a blast to use. Color always seems to hog the stage, but it would be a shame if people overlook this film. I plan on using it quite a bit in the future and look forward to seeing the same chemical formula appear in B&W film for Spectra cameras and in the medium format lines.
For now, be sure to use a darkslide or frog tongue adapter on your camera when shooting outside, as the image is sensitive for the first few seconds when it pops out of the camera.
Good luck and happy shooting!