Update: The Impossible Project has discontinued this film as of late 2013, but since this film was on the market for quite some time, you’ll be able to find it floating around retail stores and on eBay.
The Impossible Project already had a winner on its hands with the excellent PX 680 Color Shade Cool film, which featured awesome colors and no weird texture defects. Finally getting the color situation under control, IP turned its focus to finally solving the most vexing problem it has faced since the beginning: the opacifier.
When instant film pops out of the camera, the developing chemicals remain temporarily sensitive to light. Classic Polaroid film solved this problem with a layer of gray chemicals called opacifier that protected the image and faded away to nothing as the photo finished developing. This is what caused the classic Polaroid ‘reveal’ that was so captivating. When I was a kid I’d always stare at the image, watching it slowly appear out of a chemical fog.
Polaroid dumped all their chemical production in the trash in the mid-2000s, and the process for making the old opacifer disappeared forever. When the Impossible Project took over, the paste was long gone and they struggled to find a replacement. IP films thus far have been sensitive to light when they pop out, requiring the photographer to shoot the film into a box or under a darkslide, then hiding it somewhere away from light to protect it.
Photo by Dan Finnen
It worked, sort of. People who didn’t know better or were used to old Polaroid immediately blew out their first few packs and were confused by the blank results. Taping darkslides to the front of cameras was cumbersome and prone to failure. The Impossible Project released frog tongue adapters and tried their best to educate people, but the opacifier issue just wouldn’t go away.
So that’s why PX 680 Color Protection film is a big deal, and IP knows it. They’ve made this the first type of film they actually guarantee to work, and have gone all out celebrating and publicizing it. But the big question is: does it work? And does it still have the great colors of the previous ‘cool’ generation?
For the most part, the answer is yes. The new blue IP opacifier actually works fairly well and the colors still look great. IP has every right to be proud, as this is the first generation of film they can hand off to an everyday person without worrying they’ll not be able to figure out how to use it. IP’s future as a company seems a lot more secure now with this challenge largely under their belt. They’ve come a long way from the leaky sepia-toned instant photos of their first flush films.
Unlike Polaroid, the Impossible opacifier is blue instead of gray. Also unlike Polaroid, it takes ages to go away. If you want to sit and watch the photo develop, go for it, but you’re going to be staring at dark blue for at least an hour or two before much of anything appears. When I first shot a few color protection photos I thought I had severely underexposed them since they just appeared completely dark blue. However, if you’re patient, the image will eventually appear from the blue fog to reveal itself.
An important note: if you’re shooting outside you should still definitely keep on your darkslide or frog tongue and hide the film somewhere after taking it. The IP opacifier is decent, but it’s no match for the power of the sun. Your image will probably survive, but it’ll be overexposed and faded. To stay on the safe side I treat this like any other previous generation of Impossible Project film.
As for the colors themselves, they’re mostly the same as PX 680 Color Shade Cool. Personally, they seem a bit less vibrant than Cool and ever so slightly bluer. There is no problem with the lizard skin defect or dots, which is excellent. I imagine that the image will prove to be fairly stable, as my Cool generation photos have shown to be quite durable.
If you’re experienced with Impossible Project films, I still recommend PX 680 Color Shade Cool over this film simply because most likely you’ll find it cheaper and the colors are great. However don’t hesitate to get this film, especially if you’re new to IP films or are buying it for somebody who is. It’s a lot easier to use than previous generations and makes the point where IP is finally beginning to recapture some of that Polaroid magic.