Friday, May 28, 2010

Project plans are nearly ready, but is the marketplace?

Just a note to say Thank-you to the many blogs and other websites pointing to this one.  While most of them understand that what we are trying to do is aimed at enabling field processing of 4x5 negatives, a few seem to suggest we are trying to reproduce 55.  That is not so, and would not make economic sense today, as the production cost for such a sheet film would require a retail price tag of over $6. Some people stall at the cost of about $2.50 a shot for FP-100B45 which is well worth it but nobody seems to know about it. It leads me to ask why Fuji cannot bring themselves to Fedex some of the 500 speed 4X5 black and white version to the US too, and spread some PA45 backs around.   It's mystifying, given such a "well narrowed" market. (that's marketspeak for a customer base that has only a few remaining choices)

The spirit of 55, the ease of use, the portability, and the making of images using the many millions of 4x5 cameras that are out in the realm, is the driver for the New 55 Project. As you can read, we have looked in detail at the DTR process, looking for new opportunities to meld that with existing emulsions, using reagents derived from monobath formulas, just as Old Pol did.  In the process of doing so, a few side diversions emerged to amuse and entertain us, such as the workflow to accomplish the recuperation of fairly high quality negatives from Fuji's FP-100C films, which are only a buck a shot.  Also, several monobath formulas have been tested, and the results shown to be promising, but not perfect yet without the boost of DTR.

Equipment to make instant sheet film has been identified, and is available for purchase. It would only take money, and not much time, if we really wanted to invest in recreating 55 or something very much like it. It would not be hard to do at all.

Now would be a good time for Ilford or Fuji to invest in the project if they were interested, as there is a fairly complete product development plan in place, and very low technical risk involved.  That won't happen. Fuji is too far away and Ilford has already passed - or at least they passed on a rights transfer from Old Pol, something that is no longer needed, since we are building the new know-how to proceed, if there is interest.

So go out and buy lots of 4x5 Efke 25, (you can get it for a little under a dollar a sheet here in the US) and some holders, and prepare to try an interesting new monobath reagant, and workflow, that may be convenient enough, and cheap enough.

From the masthead from day one:

The goal is to enable the supply of a very high quality 4x5 (and possibly 8X10) negative material, for artistic purposes, that can be easily field processed, such as so-called "instant film" of discontinued Polaroid type 55, and get this to happen any way we can!  We will need your help to make it happen.


Aaron said...

It is unfortunate that it is going to be too complicated to get a print out of the process. Even P55's imperfect prints were a great way to test a shot.

It seems that monobaths disappeared because they needed to be extensively customized to each film. But, today, with film choices narrowing, and internet information transfer increasing, I don't think that is a problem.

I wonder if it would be possible to modify a grafmatic holder so that the film passes across a monobath gel as it slides into the bottom of holder. There has to be an ingenious way to do it using a gel and some existing (and cheap) hardware.

Bob Crowley said...

It's too expensive really. The total parts cost would be about $3 with sleeve, pod, film, receiver paper and clip. Certainly if this could be sold in good numbers at $10 each it would be attractive.

Yes - a rapid exchange system. I have processed sheet film in the Riteway, so that would be the way to go. A plastic Grafmatic, with some holes for water to get in and wet the dry monobath gelpack.

Ian Mazursky said...

$6-10 a sheet or a bit more is perfectly fine by me.
Im paying more then that now for 55. A field processed sheet is worth it.
A lot of us would buy into it. Many paid much more then that for a sheet of 55.

I can see taking a small dark tent and a few trays and chems with me to make it happen.
Im just thinking about the potential of field processing one of my 12x20 negatives.

Thanks for all of your work on this!

fujigirl said...

I am truly enjoying this blog. Hoping more educators find it as it is very difficult to let people know about the products Fujifilm makes that educators are interested in. It seems they just happen upon them one day and are astounded Fujifilm has had them out for years.

Bob Crowley said...

Fuji instant films are virtually unknown in the US. The excellent Instax wide material only has one very limited camera that uses it. We think that a very large increase in Instax film sales would result if such a camera existed. It is a mystery why Fuji has produced a new (nice) 120 rollfilm rangefinder, but nothing for the Instax Wide that performs well.

The superb Fuji peelapart films are used by pros and now some hobbyists too, and of course industrial users. Fuji needs to understand that thought leaders such as Zoe Wiseman, if they used the films for their art, would alert the larger marketplace and therefore increase sales.

A well focused market such as this should be easy to reach. We've penetrated and sold into smaller markets and have done very well in the past, and believe this is no different. Fujifilm should have some coordinated, planned marketing program in the English speaking world to support and increase the sales of their analog film products. This could be done at fairly low cost and might double sales of these products.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Bob Crowley on the great sharpness and color of the 100C. The Instax looks pretty interesting, but that camera needs a real lens. I'd gladly buy it.

Brad Brok said...

Time is money, and at $10-16 shot would be well worth the money.

And the Instax Wide seriously confuses me as well, having such a great film with only one camera to put it in. And on top of that it's absolute rubbish for actual art uses.

The 3000b, and 100c films have served me so well in the past, and I plan on using them well into the future. Having New55 will be a great and welcomed addition.

Bob Crowley said...

I wouldn't say rubbish, but it does require skill to use it, and a bright sunny day mostly. I took one apart and it is the most complex camera possible - it even has a microprocessor in it. But, it is a fixed, or two position focus that you have to select, and very limited exposure control. You should see all the gears inside!! Amazing!

Something relatively simple like a Konica Instant Press that takes Instax Wide would be an instant hit.

Josh Allen said...

It would be great if you could get fuji or ilford involved. Why did Ilford turn down the license to make Polaroid films? Too costly for them? That's too bad. Fuji doesn't have any offices or manufacturing in the US or Canada? Even if they don't couldn't you get them to help fund the project? Sorry, I guess these questions are just my own curiosity and probably won't help you any. I'm just so frustrated by the whole situation surrounding Polaroid. It seems that we (the enthusiasts) could get Polaroid film back into production through our dedication and financial support, but apparently we're going to have to settle with approximations to Polaroid's beauty. Well whatever happens, I think what you're doing is great! I suspect you've considered this but what about asking for donations? I know that seems a little... I don't know, but it could help move things along. I would definitely give what I could. Anyways, thanks for what you're doing. Good luck. I'll keep watching :)

Bob Crowley said...

Ilford said they couldn't justify the expense or handle the complexities. That was when Polaroid, in whatever form it took on that day, wanted money to sell the equipment and know how to them. No deal. Not needed now as we have figured out most of it. There is no need to pay "Polaroid" to produce this kind of material at all, only the desire to make the investment needed. The machinery would not be very costly and newer machinery is available that would be much better than the antiquated apparatus once used in Waltham.

Some people say they would pay $10 for a shot, but they are too few. $5 is the limit, and even that a risky proposition. So, I am aiming at $3, but you'll have to roll your own, and that will possibly be even more fun. Too soon to tell.

Remember that quality is very important to 55 users, and they want predictable results, which veer away completely from the Lomography movement and the market TIP wants to serve. These are very divergent scenes and many artists participate in both.

Bill L. said...

Have you inquired over at You need a customer base, and they seem like a good place to find one.