UPDATE: As of late 2013 this film is still being sold even as other Impossible Project lines are being updated. I expect this will be updated as well soon, but you’ll still be able to find it on eBay and retail for some time.
The PZ 680 and PX 680 variants of Impossible Project’s new instant film have long been largely interchangeable image-wise. Both types of film use very similar chemistry, and the only major difference is that PZ is in a widescreen shape that fits in the spectra/image/type 1200 series of Polaroid cameras. It’s definitely a niche product, so kudos to the Impossible Project for supporting it from day one when it would have been easy to ignore.
I’ve written fairly extensively about the PX 680 Color Protection film before, but in case you haven’t been caught up, it’s the best color film the Impossible Project has produced yet. It’s also the first IP film that you can hand off to somebody who isn’t a film expert without worrying that they will forget the dark slide or overexpose the image. There are a few quirks, but the film performs, provides great colors, and is much more user friendly. I’ve finally gotten my hands on some PZ 680 for my Spectra cameras, and I’m happy to report that, as predicted, it’s pretty much the same as PX 680.
The biggest new feature of the color protection series of color shade film is the opacifier, which is a chemical that temporarily protects the image as it pops out of the camera. Older Impossible Project films were still sensitive to light when they ejected and needed a dark slide or hand ready to cover them up as they popped out of the slot. I can only imagine how many complaints the Impossible Project got from people complaining that all their photos were blown out.
The new opacifier works, but I wouldn’t depend on it entirely like one could with the old gray Polaroid opacifier. Especially when outdoors, keep using a dark slide or frog tongue adapter to protect your images for the first few minutes after they pop out of the camera. I immediately throw new photos into a special pocket in my bag to protect them after shooting. If the images are exposed to bright light, they tend to fog up or become washed out entirely.
With the new opacifier also comes a much longer wait time. The box claims the photos are ready in 30 minutes, but I’ve found an hour is closer to reality. I don’t mind waiting, but it does take away a bit of the ‘instant’ aspect of the images. Also, models tend to be confused as to why they can’t watch the image appear through the blue haze.
Image quality wise, this is some of the best stuff the Impossible Project has produced. Colors are just ever so slightly muted since the pre-opacifier generation, but they look great. However, there is a clear blue tint to all photos, which is something that’s been around since the creation of Impossible Project color shade film. Also, I’ve noticed that all variants of Color Protection tend to struggle with the color green. It tends to come out as a deep blue-black, so if you’re primarily shooting trees, be prepared for some strange color shifts.
The blue tint tends to get worse as the photo ages, so I highly recommend scanning your PZ 680 color protection photos sometime between 7 hours after exposure to 1 week. Beyond that, you’re risking a blue tint taking over your images. Humidity and temperature have a big impact on the speed of the ‘blue-ing’ of the picture, so storage has a lot to do with survival.
I noticed that the film tended to overexpose on default Spectra AF settings, so be sure to set your exposure compensation to slightly darken the image or else you’ll get a washed out picture. With Impossible Project films it’s fairly typical to have to compensate one way or another.
If you have a Spectra, Image or type 1200 Polaroid camera, PZ 680 color protection is pretty much the best (and only) film out there. Expired soft tone film and older versions of the Impossible Project’s film have disappeared as of late 2013.
If you’re looking at buying an instant film camera, I love the Spectra line of cameras, but consider your usage before buying. If you’re a wedding or event photographer that needs to give away images to people, the Fuji Instax films are cheaper and last much, much longer. If you’re an artist or photographer however, you can’t go wrong with the great, unpredictable colors of PZ 680 Color Protection film.