Sunday, January 31, 2010

Freeze Warning

Watch out this time of year when you order liquid chemicals, including pod films like 55, as the cold weather can freeze the contents.  If you live in the North as we do, inspect the box carefully when it arrives, and refuse it if it appears wet.  I'm waiting for some HC-110 and wondering if it will make it here.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

An even better description of silver diffusion transfer by Drexler

Drexler's patent, though much later than Land's has a good description of the preparation of a receptor layer.

This and the Land patent contain subject matter that would later be important to late 20th century nanotechnology - particularly the  concepts surrounding distributions of electrically conducting nanoparticles in various substrates - something that I did extensive work in that can be seen at

But you really should look at this Drexler patent instead.

Here is a link to that pdf

And here yet is another, much later patent on DTR on google patents here.

Land's key patent filed in 1944, issued in 1950 US2500421

The USPTO was slow in issuing this patent by Land, which is understandable since it was abandoned and refiled, possibly with additional material as was the practice of the time.

We are studying this one today, mostly for the description of the preparation of the receiver sheet.

Here is the link to a pdf of US2500421

After reading this, one has to wonder if the titanium dioxide was thought of as a "nucleating agent" or even a particle.

Donald Qualls' successful monobath posted on phot net


I have highlighted an interesting comment which needs to be tested.  

And Bravo to Donald!

Donald Qualls , Feb 29, 2004; 08:18 p.m.
Monobath from commercial chemicals: success!!

"Second results:

400TX 135, souped ten minutes, 75 F.

16 ml HC-110 USA concentrate
50 ml household ammonia (ammonium hydroxide,  5% solution)
10 ml Ilford Rapid Fixer concentrate
water to make 256 ml

Mixed by adding most of the water to the HC-110 concentrate, then ammonia, then fixer, then remainder of water to make up volume. Heated to 75 F in an external hot water bath.

IMPORTANT: Be certain the ammonia used is a 5% concentration. Test it first using an ammonia hydrometer available through ebay or Amazon.

Result: normal appearing negatives, within approximately 1 stop of rated speed at worst. I won't know for certain until I can scan them (they're drying now, probably won't get them scanned tonight), but to my eye contrast range appears normal and low light details are preserved -- I intentionally shot at a wide range of exposure, from about +2 to -2 stops, to test whether the latitude of the 400TX would be preserved, and it appears it was; there is considerable detail in a shot taken with a simple camera (most likely f/11, 1/100) in a grocery store aisle by available light, a situation that normally demands f/2.8 at 1/30 with ISO 400, give or take one stop.

Worthy of note that the concentrates used have excellent keeping properties, and household ammonia is a common cleaning supply available worldwide. Even accounting for use of distilled water both for mixing and a multi-change stand wash, total cost per film is about $1.25; if tap water can be used for wash, cost is more like sixty-five cents per film in 35 mm -- 120 would be about double this, since twice the solution is required for the same film area (unless one masters back-to-back loading). Film processed this way should be archivally stable if properly washed; even at this 1:24 dilution, the fixer has about 200% capacity over that needed to fix 80 square inches of film per above batch of monobath.

I'm pretty happy with this, as you can probably tell."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Valuable discussion on APUG entitled: Solving Polaroid PN 55 Secret

Link to a thread about 55 that has a lot of information, some lore, and much speculation.  One thing that mystifies me and contradicts my findings today is about the base used for the 55 negative.  I find the polyester base of TMX is a more exact match than any piece of Panatomic X I could did up. There is a 0.002" thickness difference, but the material in both is PET and not acetate.

Here is the link.

R&D Mess

You can tell a lot from a tinkerer's mess.  Plenty going on in this image of where a little bit of the R&D for the New 55 Project is being conducted.  Aside from obligatory microscope and other supplies, you can zoom in and see a silver cylinder, a bleached receiver sheet, some nanofilm in a bag, various film bases, cleared Fuji color negs, a tilt and swing modified front standard for my Speed Graphic, the famous Monobath Manual, and other detritus, failures, and bits.  Click on the image to see details.

TMY and 55 thicknesses are the same

Using various precision measuring devices, I see that a 55 negative is 0.0051", and TMY is also 0.0051", (post processing) but my Pan X is 0.0070" - 0.0074". (pre-processing).

TMY measurements taken from 120 and 35mm.  I need to confirm it on 4X5.  If so, that will make it easy to at least hit the thickness as 55 using TMY.  Later...nope 0.007" on the 4X5.  Kodak claims that the 4X5 is on what they refer to as the Estar base (polyster) but that the 35mm and 120 versions are on acetate.  This does not seem right to me - I am looking at some right now and have my Bic lighter ready to go.

Hunting around for some TMX here at the lab - I have plenty at home so I may have to wait until tonight.

Comment from Gerald

gerald said...
hard to say if it was the same exactly. it probably was in the beginning, and later was at least based on it. thing is: the haptics are very close, and this is an, if not the most, important point of 55. it's not only about 'one' negative. it's about 'the' negative. as panatomic-x was discontinued long ago, photographers used 55 even just for the neg. they were not interested in the pos or the instant at all. it's the greys, the unbelievable sharpness (no way a 'neg' of a bleached fuji can reach that just a tiny bit. it's just a transparent paper-negative, not a real negative!), the unique way the material can solarize. to save you some time clicking: (at the bottom and around) (at the bottom, by 'wirehead' (at the buttom, 'bite the dust') I'm putting useful comments like this into a post body so we can enable links - comments doesn't support that :(

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Interesting tidbit about 55 emulsion

Scanning through the discussion groups, I ran across this post about type 55 being Panatomic X emulsion.  The Post is from Tim Summa and I would like to contact him once I figure out how (not easy with these forums - anybody? hmmm nice images! wow)

Old Panatomic X image shown above, as I recall.  Hard to remember decades back.

Anyway, I was just comparing some 55 today to that very sheet film, which I have in an old moldy expired stack, and it is not the same overall thickness (Kodak is thicker) but maybe the emulsion is the same.  From the Monobath Manual I learned that it is possible to make a very good monobath for Pan X, but the remaining problem was getting the silver out.  That's easy because of the discovery of Rott.  I see.

Very interesting.  It is all clicking today.

Now, on to studying pods. Actually I want to avoid pods altogether and have been thinking along the lines of a water-activated hydrogel monobath. The result would be the same (so I imagine, possibly naively) as spreading the layer of goo. Still, all those rollers are out there, most in perfect shape. I counted about a dozen Land patents focusing on the rollers - it seems to me that making the chemicals spread evenly and consistently was the single most important enabling technology in early Polaroid, and maybe everything later too.  There are lots of details about spreading viscous liquid mixtures in thin layers at various speeds - something that modern rheology might well revisit.

There are a lot more options available today - micro encapsulated solutions are all over the industrial landscape, for instance.  OK I have to get over my Pod/Goo phobia, and start reading.

Comments about Fuji Instant Film and the New 55 Project

Here's an example of why I think Fuji has most of what we need already to make a suitable replacement for type 55.  This is a scan of a color negative saved from FP100c. (click here to see it as a color positive scanned straight from the negative with no manipulation ) I have worked on a quick process for removing the black mask in one continuous layer - this has been a lot of fun and produced some decent color negatives.  But the color is turned off here, so we can look at greyscale and texture.  This is a scan using an epson 750 pro with the fuji neg laying on the bed without any attempt at flattening, and at 1200 dpi.  Zoom in and notice that this negative does have some sharpness, and there are reasonably even and gradual tonal qualities present. No curve manipulations done here at all.  There is also no evidence of reticulation, which is the bane of the FP100c when recovered.

It's encouraging to look at.  With a way to make the black mask strip off easily, I see no reason not to take this material out for some serious negative-making.

I think we need a better subject and some lights to make that Aero Ektar and Speed Graphic look a little nicer.

Number Six: Elections? In this place?
Number Two: Of course--we make our choice every 12 months. Every citizen has a choice. Are you going to run?
Number Six: Like blazes, the first chance I get.

Call for materials - don't throw your 55 parts away!

We need you parts!  Your 55 parts to be specific.  Any portion of the actual 55 packet

Sleeves - we need them especially right now.

metal clips - if I can get dozens, it could save weeks
"bad" ones. Damaged, open or torn - all useful.

Don't need coaters, boxes (unless they are full of long expired 55 - we need one very old pack of 55 to see what it looks like after more than 10 years past expiration, but that's not what this post is about really)

Please send them to us.  If we are going to try to duplicate the "holes" and still use the same 4x5 back, having a good supply of these materials will send the project in the right direction more quickly. Why reinvent the wheel if you don't have to?

Also keep that stuff out of the landfill.

Here's where to send your type 55 trash (please no goo)

New 55 Project
72 Nickerson Rd
Ashland MA 01721


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Link to the Rott patent - origins of instant photography

Here is a link to the Rott patent much discussed in the book "Monobath Manual".

Download the pdf here

New visitors with questions

I have been asked more about what I do and some background, as people are naturally curious, skeptical and also helpful in their suggestions.

Check out the blog at to review a project we completed in the field of ribbon microphones. It is an interesting and long story of a 52 month start to finish new material and new product enterprise that was started by me and Hugh Tripp,  after we escaped from a large medical device company. Blog readers were dismayed when I stopped writing about microphones and started posting things about cameras, films and photography.

Shure Inc bought the Crowley and Tripp Microphones product line and now sell it as their own microphone brand. I believe it is the first time that 85 year old company took in an outside microphone design, at least as far as I know.

Monobath Manual by Haist

 I found a great book by Grant Haist who discusses monobaths, mostly from the "Kodak" perspective - but - there is an excellent chapter on silver diffusion transfer and its history, including reference to the inventor Rott who apparently was the first to patent the idea of using a receiver sheet to collect the excess silver during processing - something that plagued traditional monobath technique. His patent is UK 614,155 and is from 1939.  Land refers to this in later patents.

In any case, people got so excited about positive images on the receiver paper that they almost forgot about the negative, with the exception of course of type 55 and its ilk.

I will be studying this along with some friends in Cambridge MA, nearby to here, who have firsthand knowledge and anecdotes to share.

After reading the chapter on silver diffusion, I can imagine using ordinary sheet film in conjunction with a dry receiver sheet coated with a hydrogel diffusion layer, which would completely peel away after processing the negative. I would water activate it if possible, and avoid pods of goo.

Out with the old

Many people were very sad to see this sticker on their last box of Polaroid 55.  But I am not!

You see, the exit of a company from a marketplace does not mean that a particular technology or material cannot be made in a more efficient way, or by people with different reasons than before to make it.

Unlike difficult Kodachrome, Type 55 is pretty simple. Fuji could do it in a short time using their existing 4x5 film base and masking processes, with a few tweaks.  But I think they are going to miss the boat - still I am very glad to have a lot of Fuji instant film here!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Today's results

Well today I decided to learn more about the thickness control of the Fuji instant products which have a thinner emulsion and better sharpness than some of the Polaroid materials such as 669. What I found is interesting: Fuji is using their well controlled film base of what appears to be PET.  Careful measurements show very consistent thickness.  Also the masking layers are very dense, consistent, and have very high opacity. These are not easily dissolved in water but require bleach to separate from the film base, which has been reported by others.

I am collecting all this data.  A very useful tool has been the gage block comparator, which measures to millionths of an inch.  (or meters if you must)

There is a lot to do to establish new design schemes using traditional film emulsions as part of silver migration systems.  Our work in thin films (look up "roswellite" in google for instance) and coatings used in medical devices leads me to think that there may be a new strategy for producing an instant, very high quality negative at 4x5 and 8X10.

If you have just become aware of this project, and wish to help, you are most welcome.  This is not intended to lead to any large industrial or commercial enterprise - far from it - it is intended to promote art, and if it can do that, at reasonable cost, we will all have more options to express visual ideas in the future.  I am looking for people who worked at Polaroid or Kodak with deposition experience, a chemist familiar with silver migration kinetics, and other interested tech types with ideas of how to pull this off.  I have many.  If you are in the Boston area, so much the better. Please make yourself known! Perhaps we can catch up at PHSNE, or somewhere else.

Reference Type 55 shot

Here is the reference shot I am currently using as inspiration for the New55Project.

It is of Hemlock Gorge, in Newton Massachusetts.  An insect has nearly destroyed all the hemlock trees, but not the images, which remain a while longer.

You can read more about this and get to a large downloadable file if you click on this link here.

First experiment - instant negative

Here is the first attempt at an "instant negative". As you can see, there is a lot of work to do, yet there is an image!

We will need all the help we can get from the chemists to make this a practical film for the serious photographer.

Our goal is to make 4X5 and 8X10 instant negative films.  The characteristics of these films should be like Polaroid Type 55, or better.  There are some things that could be improved in the 55 film, and these might be addressed during the project.

Unlike the Impossible Project, which we like very much and cannot wait to be customers of, New55Project is not supposed to be that difficult or impossible to accomplish. We'll see!

New 55 Project Commences!

With the news that there are no plans to produce any more Polaroid Type 55 P/N film a small group of Massachusetts tinkerers are starting to make their own instant negative films and processes.

This is a spinout project of Soundwave Research Laboratories, Inc., which is primarily an acoustics company.  There is also a connection to Bob Crowley's laboratory at

This is just the first post. Expect to see postings of various experiments soon.