Friday, December 30, 2011

Gamma Settings and Happy New Year

I see many visitors using iPads and iPhones with gammas set to 2.2. That is very contrasty. I have set the pictures on this blog to look "right" at a gamma of 1.8.  Over half of the visitors to this blog use Macs, and three quarters use Firefox. You can see the stats yourself by clicking the little green button at the bottom of this page. We usually get about 150 visitors every day, and some stay a long while and come back again and again. Thanks for visiting, and welcome new visitors! Don't worry, we only see the numbers, and not your actual information.  Site traffic is the only method we have to see what is of interest to you, and what is not.  Please keep it coming by telling others.

2012 looks good, and we have seen a definite increase in business activity over the last two months, and good sales of our antenna products, along with a sudden increase in new technology development activities and inquiries.  There is a sense in Massachusetts that the economy is picking up quite noticeably, with all the usual things that go along with it, like more traffic!

We have used the last two years well, with increased forward spend in R&D, and have amassed, (for us, a small company) a slew of new patents and patent applications, new product designs, know-how, customers, and suppliers, all ready to be cranked up with the application of working capital and increased manufacturing here. I hope it all doesn't come on too suddenly, but I think it might.

It is amazing that we sometimes have to explain to people that yes, we actually make physical products here in Ashland and ship them all over the world. If we are lucky, other companies and collaborators notice this and start sharing the benefits of the innovations with their customers, too.

A Happy New Year to all our current friends and collaborators, and sincere thanks for your contributions, time, and interest in New55. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Freezing, and updated mailing list

Tomorrow we are going to freeze some New55. The general consensus is that it is alright to freeze old T55 as long as there is enough time afterward for the pod to warm up completely. I have never confirmed this so we will also freeze a couple of old T55 pods.

If you have any real life experience with frozen polaroids, now would be the time to tell us about it.  Also if you have been a contributor to New55 and would like to update your mailing address, please do. Send an email with your address to bob at


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Are you a local?

We are thinking about having a workshop in the near future about New55.

The location would probably be in Ashland MA or in Boston, likely some weekday evening, perhaps from 7 to 9, something like that.  Talk/Demonstration, some hands on opportunities, refreshments, Q&A and that sort of thing.

It would be helpful to know about those who are interested in New55 and are nearby anyway. Let's hear from you.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Frequently Asked Questions about New55

written by Bob Crowley

What is New55?

New55 is a new, instant positive-negative (PN) system that produces a high quality 4x5 black and white negative, and a positive print.  It is not a recreation of Polaroid Type 55.  It is a new, single shot system that incorporates a negative material, a processing pod, a special positive receiver sheet, and other components needed for a field-processable instant photograph to be produced by a photographer, without a darkroom.

New55 is a trash-reduced design that produces less waste than old Type 55 did.

Why did you start New55?

One day on Twitter I noticed that The Impossible Project said they were not going to focus on 4x5 materials, so I said that I would do it. We have accomplished nearly all of our performance goals and only have yet to commercialize what we have done.

Is the New55 Project associated with The Impossible Project?

Yes, in an informal and collaborative way. We strongly support The Impossible Project's efforts as they re-learn what took Polaroid decades to accomplish. Bob Crowley visited The Impossible Project factory in Enschede, and New55 has done fruitful, but still in-process experiments with various materials produced by The Impossible Project.

What is the connection between New55 and 20X24 Studio?

New55 is located in Ashland, MA, not far from 20X24's Connecticut facility, and very close by to 20X24's Ted McClelland who has been working closely with us to bring New55 to life.  Because New55 and 20x24 use PN systems and not integral systems for their films, we share some of the technology and materials, and have other things in common, such as suppliers, and collaborators.

When will New55 FILM be released for sale?

The current plan is 8 months after the final funding, which is not yet in place.   It will take that long to tool up, get supply lines filled, and iron out the bugs from the system. We do have a working system today that is mostly hand assembled.  It works well, but cannot be made in large production quantities until there is money available for scale up.  R&D has been costly, but funded as a skunkworks project by Soundwave Research, which has paid for hired help, materials, air travel, equipment, and provides R&D space and infrastructure. Soundwave Research is a product development and manufacturing company that has invented and produced many new products. 

Can I get samples or be a film tester?

We do not have a test supply of New55.

What equipment is needed to use New55 FILM?

We use a standard Polaroid 545 single sheet back. There are many thousands of these well-made film holders available and they fit easily in nearly every 4x5 camera. Currently, we are using the metal 545 holder with the back cover removed, so we can more easily check and manipulate the clip finger. This is necessary because New55FILM is currently not made with lubricious paper.

Is a tub of sodium sulfite still needed?

No. The sodium sulfite is hard to get, so we use ordinary fixer for the final negative bath. Fixer is available easily, is cheap, clears better, and stays fresh for a very long time.

What will be the price of New55?

The target price is $6 US.

Can I pre-order New55?

We are not currently taking any pre-orders.

Do you have machinery to produce New55?

We have fixtures, templates, night vision systems and other things we need to produce the prototypes and continue the development. We share the pod machine owned by 20x24, and in our plan are specifications for full tooling of the product.

Does New55 use Panatomic X?

No. Old T55 used a material called SO139 which was similar to Pan-X and produced by Kodak. We have tested nearly every available negative emulsion in production and have chosen one that has faster speed and allows us to get a positive print that is correctly processed with virtually the same exposure. Users of old T55 had to choose if they wanted the negative or the print to be properly exposed, but not both. New55 will solve that problem through a combination of film speed, processing reagent and balancing these against the positive.

Who is doing the development of New55?

Soundwave Research Labs, and collaborators Jack Willard, Des Fyler, John Reuter, Ted McLelland, Tobias Feltus and Bob Crowley have done most of the R&D.  We've also had a great deal of assistance and encouragement from Ilford, The Impossible Project and Doc Kaps, who has been to the lab where New55 is being developed, and have had special support of materials from many other people. If I tried listing them I would leave someone out.

Are there any plans for an 8x10 version?

No plans, exactly, but it seems possible. An 8x10 system is an expensive item.

Do you have any plans for an instant 4x5 color negative product?

We'd like to see this happen and think we can after New55 is released.

Is New55 a copy of Polaroid Type 55? 

No, it definitely is an all-new system that superficially resembles T55 and shares some of the fun characteristics like edge effects, solarization, and certainly has all the magic, maybe more.  This improves "the value proposition" considerably, in our view, since we get two useful photographs from one.  The negative has extreme sharpness and a long scale, and the positive print can be display quality.

I see some of the New55 test photographs on Flickr and here on the New55 blog. Who did these?

Bob Crowley, with assistance of Jack Willard, Des Fyler and Keitaro Yoshioka. You can see them here.

How can I help the New55 Project?

Right now the best thing is to put our link wherever you can. Mention New55 online, tell everyone who might be interested about it, and grab links from this blog and send them all around in emails. on forums, on Twitter and Facebook, and everywhere else you can think of.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mark Osterman of the 19th Century

I had the great pleasure of attending an emulsion making class put on by Mark at the George Eastman House, with Kodak photo engineer Ron Mowry. Mark's enthusiasm for old photographic processes is very appealing to me as I am a process freak, having developed various exotic processes for producing the likes of acoustic nanofilm etc. Many alternative or traditional processes will be kept available through the efforts of Mark and others.

It is not hard to see that these are "real" photographs. Not still video images. The Nikon D700 that I rented produces a high quality still video image that resembles a photograph shared on the internet, which is what we do nowadays.

I disagree with Mark's assertion that we are at the end of film. Far from it, new photosensitive nanomaterials (all film is a nanotechnology) and optically enabled surfaces, and materials science in general, portend a continued use, and eventual regrowth, of light sensitive materials for a lot of purposes, including pictorial use.

Most people won't even be aware of it, except certain artists and scientists, maybe for a long while, but it is happening now.

We are in a transitional period, a digital age, to be superseded by another age. It will take some time. Meanwhile, there is no danger of the millions of Speed Graphics and other non-electronic cameras disappearing in 300 years. None. There are just too many of them. If they sit mute for a decade or more, that won't matter much.

More good things from Mark, here. 
And even more, here, including a step by step guide to making your own dry plates!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Of where we were about a year ago. No DTR that day.

4X5 of 1936 Hadley Flood

 Among a collection of glass plate negatives that record the great Hadley Flood of 1936, was this sheet film negative.  I was at first puzzled by the scene of apparently cheery and curious people being held off by armed soldiers until I read about the event, which severely damaged the bridge they are seen on.

Various portions of this previously unseen negative are sharp and as I zoomed around spotted these two girls among the crowd.

The photograph, the thing, survived 70+ years and we can still enjoy it simply by looking at it.

Friday, December 9, 2011

New R&D batches scheduled in January

We expect to start a round of R&D batches of New55 this January and will be refining some of the problems we encountered with the first batch, which are:

Sticking slides. This was and still is a problem, as the assembly is thicker than old T55.

Uneven spread. The metering of the pod and positioning of the pod, and more consistent backing thickness, are needed.

Clips. We have been using reclaimed clips, but need to move to fabricated clips.

Peel tab. We have used scissors instead of a peel tab. This works fine but requires that we remember scissors. A precut peel tab and adhesive are needed.

Fingerprints.  This is an expected problem with hand assembly, but we think we can at least reduce them.

Pod leakage.  A better way to seal the pods is needed. A thermal sealer with a rounded blade and better temperature control would help a lot.

Opaque paper supply. We have to use thicker than desired paper to achieve opacity. A better quality paper with lower surface friction and fewer pinholes would be very much appreciated.

Other things. There are plenty, and obviously we need to keep the lights on at the lab which we do by making and selling other products.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

8x10 Film Holder that doesn't have a light leak wanted

It must be just bad luck, but so far I have not purchased an 8x10 sheet film holder off ebay that doesn't have some sort of defect such as a light leak caused by bowing where the darkslide is inserted.  I'm using a very fast emulsion relative to what many people use (for a very interesting experiment) and trying to avoid as many defects up front as things progress.

Anyone know how to reshape a plastic film holder? I am tempted to glue tensioned steel rails on either side to counteract the bow.

Then I can get this rig operating. What you see is a Speed Graphic with its focal plane shutter grafted onto some 8x10 camera, all mounted on a Saltzman tripod. The shutter arrangement works just fine with all kinds of barrel lenses, even the Aero Ektar for close ups, which easily covers 8x10 when extended a bit.  The camera shown is notoriously wiggly, and so is the tripod head it is mounted upon. One would think this might be a rigid setup, but no it is not, as it oscillates quite wildly and in fact if one intended to design it to oscillate, this is a good way to accomplish it.  Nevertheless it is possible to get a sharp photograph by waiting for things to settle down. The focal plane shutter hardly jiggles the camera and is fine for short exposures. Longer exposures like 1/4 or greater are also possible with care.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

John D. de Vries, the Speed Graphic, and the Aero Ektar

You should know about the brilliant John D. de Vries, author,  of the website called The Master Site for the Larger Camera. John has written extensively about his passion for the Speed Graphic and Aero Ektar combination, so expensively in fact, that it may take you hours to look at all the information, and even then you cannot be sure, as the navigation of John's site is patterned after the controls of the Speed Graphic, and his own unusual sense of order.

According to Mr. de Vries,  "Never before in photographic history has been written so much about one lens to so few !" and he may be right.

The fitting of maximally-apertured lenses onto large and medium format cameras and tilting them about seems to have reached beyond cult and into the new, or renewed art of real cameras producing real photographs.

If you have not visited John's site before and have even a slight interest in the Speed Graphic and Aero Ektar lenses, and the science and art of large format photography, go here, to this link, and bookmark it immediately, because you will be back again.

If for some reason you are asked for a password, follow the instructions and ask for one, as it is well worth it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

SHOP New55

This page is a placeholder for things in our shop, starting with camera and film equipment and culminating in unique new products for photography, artistic expression, and exploration.

Revenue from SHOP New55 purchases materials, capital equipment, tools, and services aimed at the commercialization of New55 FILM.

If I can figure out how to do it, I will put a paypal button on this page and keep adding stuff to it, and link to this page like we did with the very popular Fuji FP100C negative tutorial.

chester holdings llc wifi

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Set Your Gamma

If you have a new iPhone, iPad or Apple appliance, your gamma, which is how grays are shown, is probably set to 2.2. Snow Leopard changes your gamma from 1.8 to 2.2 without asking you.

Apple used to ship Macbooks with the gamma set to 1.8, but recently cranked up the contrast so things will look snappier on the shiny, glare-prone screens.

The images on this blog are scanned or adjusted to look right on a display set to a gamma of 1.8.  I use a shiny screened (annoyingly glare-inducing) Macbook Pro, which is great except for the gloss, and I have set it to 1.8.

You will miss much of the tonality of the New55 photographs unless you lower your gamma. You can change it by going to display properties and working your way through the menus.

Rob Fraboni and no solarization

New55 scan from negative
Last week Rob was in to discuss various things having to do with analog backlash and what to do about them. After the discussion I got him over into the studio for a minute and grabbed a quick New55 shot of him. As I pulled the sleeve, it seemed to me that I had not exposed the negative for some reason, so I just left it on the bench as I shot another one.

The processing time was 3 minutes, and as could be expected, the reaction has run to completion or near to it, leaving little to no undeveloped silver and therefore no areas that are solarized when the PN is peeled and open to the light.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Post number 303

This is the three-hundred and third post on, an epic blog, the second that I have done with over 300 posts but nowhere near the 650 posts of microphonium, which served as a model for New55.  A lot has happened over the last year and a half, much more than I ever imagined could happen, and several new discoveries have been made, including what we think is the basis for an all-new instant system, should we decide to go that far.

The PN material, called New55 PN Film by us, has been demonstrated on still life and live model subjects with some promising results, not the least of which is the ability to get both a good positive and a good negative from one PN sheet.  This is something that old T55 never did - one had to choose between having a properly exposed positive or a correct negative.  That means our "value proposition" for New55 is a good one.

Meanwhile, a perfectly performing monobath called R3 was adapted or swiped from the very ingenious Donals Qualls and shown to work with excellent results on Ilford Pan F, Tmax, old outdated films of various types, Efke 25, and virtually any other black and white negative sheet or roll film, and the results are all within the first 300 posts.  If you haven't tried it, you are missing out.

Behind-the-scenes work involved traveling to exotic places such as Enschede Netherlands to The Impossible Project to see firsthand the machines and facility where integral film was reborn, then to Mobberly UK, where Ilford produces the finest black and white materials and runs a very important manufacturing facility.  Also the trip to the George Eastman House was pivotal to understanding the basics of emulsion-making, something we needed to know.

In the past 18 months we established a base of collaborators and built a consensus for action that is continuing, and kept anyone and everyone interested in the loop by weekly posts of whatever was happening at that time, some of it research, some sidetracks, and others having to do with discussions about price and products, and there were a few criticisms too.

Next we are codifying the results-to-date, carefully recording dimensions, times, temperatures, thicknesses, materials, vendors, and much more, for the day when business conditions are right for production of New55 to start. It can start, 8 months from funding, and a fairly detailed plan was posted about 100 articles ago that is still accurate.

All the while the now familiar FP100C negative reclamation page on the right has been drawing in newbies to the blog thanks to many, many links scattered in four continents. About a quarter of them look around, and some have stayed.

Perhaps the most important thing I have discovered for myself is photography, and what a photograph is.  The line has been blurred in the past decade: My digi gets used a lot, much as I used to use the Nikon F.  But the line has never been clearer about what is a photograph, and what is a high quality still video image. I will leave it to you to think about and possibly debate, but I am sure that instant photography onto paper or film that you process on the spot is the most real and most relevant photography there is, and that is, to me, a new discovery brought on by this investigation.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Positive Calotypes, Daguerreotypes, and more

A good number of New55 visitors have expressed interest in early and so-called alternative photographic processes. Here is a link and excerpt from The History and Practice of the Art of Photography Henry Snelling first published in 1849.

At a meeting of the British Association, Professor Grove described a process by which positive calotype pictures could be directly obtained; and thus the necessity to transfer by which the imperfections of the paper are shown, and which is moreover a troublesome and tedious process, is avoided. As light favors most chemical actions, Mr. Grove was led to believe that a paper darkened by the sun (which darkening is supposed to result from the precipitation of silver) might be bleached by using a solvent which would not attack the silver in the dark, but would do so in the light. The plan found to be the most successful is as follows: More here

Monday, October 31, 2011

New55 Core Team

10X crop from a corner of a New55 negative? Very curious!
Because I write  this blog and am the voice of the project people have the impression that I am doing this alone, which would not be possible.  In addition to the work of Jack Willard, John Chervinsky and Des Fyler, we also have Ted McClelland and John Reuter of 20X24  engaged with the making and management of New55, and Tobias Feltus, located in Edinburgh.  I'm the instigator but not really the person doing much of it, or at least not all of it.  There are some well-known companies such as Ilford, who should be recognized, and Soundwave Research Laboratories, Inc, which works in ultrasound and makes various products and donates space and time to New55. Other contributors are Keitaro Yoshioka at Mass Art,  Doc Kaps and Andre Bosman of The Impossible Project, and a bunch of others who have sent in clips, well wishes, good vibes and notes of encouragement.  Since one of these categories probably includes you, now is a good time to say "thanks" and let's keep going.

Bob Crowley

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sharpness, resolution and grain of New55

A close crop of a fairly recent New55 PN negative processed for two minutes and cleared in ordinary hypo.  The Xenotar 150mm f2.8 is capable of very high resolution wide open, as it is designed to be used.  I measure about 120 lp/mm on the negative, just an estimate, which is somewhat less sharp than the 180 lp/mm claimed for old T55.  You can just see some of the grain coming up in the brass end of a little steam engine that was the subject of the day.

Around the periphery of the image, where there was a black background, some reversal occurred, but not in the center.  The spread of the reagent, and the exposure, determine how much development is left over after peeling.  It seems that no harm is caused by a longer development time, but we are going to use 2 minutes as the standard of comparison so we can detect changes as the design evolves.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Solarization of New55

A lot of people have asked me about the solarization of New55. Some want it, others don't. Can we control it? Yes, and here is a good example of controlled solarization. Notice the skin values are not affected yet the entire Byron camera is apparently reversed! How is this possible?

Actually it is quite easy to control. Meter and light the exposure of the reversed area one to two stops below the lowest value of the non-solarized image. Process for 2 minutes and peel in moderate light before placing the negative in the fixer to remove the goo. This is the result. All kinds of fun artistic effects can be achieved, and they are startling sometimes, as the effect appears to have delineated itself, almost like magic. Maybe it is.

This is the negative side of New55 PN. The positive side does not solarize.

May 2016 update: you can buy this film here

Friday, September 23, 2011

New55 Early Results

Our subject from last week's session is shown very tightly cropped and greatly enlarged.  This is the negative side of a New55 shot taken with the trusty Speed Graphic and Xenotar 150mm f2.8, work performed over at Mass Art with the assistance of Keitaro Yoshioka and other collaborators. To see the entire image you can go to our slide show on flickr. You may have to change your access settings.

Or you can see them here in higher resolution.

The results we can now get appear to exceed the performance of old T55 in an important way: Both positive and negative are properly exposed and processed in one operation, something Polaroid never achieved.

Every day I get requests and questions from people, some asking "what can I do to help?"
Right now, one thing you can do is tell others, put the link to New55 in other forums, mention it and link it in your posts, and keep doing it. Copy and paste the URL everywhere you can. This helps build traffic and consensus that further investment is worthwhile.  Places to go include APUG, LF forums, and also general photo forums, certain fashion and modeling sites, the popular press (comments sections) and on Twitter and Facebook and places I am not aware of. Please do this as the opportunity presents itself, and don't be afraid to grab this or other images from here to post with the link back to


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Blogger has changed the way you click images

Yet another unexpected change here to blogger: When you click on an image to enlarge it, you first get a framed, somewhat enlarged image. THEN, if you want to see the full sized image, you have to right click it, select "image" then click that. THEN, when the image comes up with a little + sign on the cursor, you can then click it again, this time (finally) for the full sized screen filling detailed rich image that was the whole point in a 1 MB upload.

All this clicking is making me weary, but it is actually easy to do. Try it on an image here and let me know what you find. Here is a test image.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

PX 70 Color Shade, realistically scanned

You see a few overly saturated scans of some of The Impossible Project's new films online, which is unnecessary in my view!  Here is a quick shot of my friend Herb Singleton from my Jordan Marsh SX70 out near the loading dock.

Not bad I say, not bad.  The colors are actually quite accurate - our building has that blue, Herb's shirt was that orange, and there was a lot of blue sky above.  I will buy and use this regularly, and I expect others will too.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Any Monday

And another day of playing with obsolete cameras, film, and chemicals. Relics of the past carry unknown futures without our care, we consider their potential for what we might still do, or leave behind. The choice is uncertain: the world changes faster than us or familiar places. Occasionally, something happens to make them appear new, and more interesting.

Click on the images for a close-up view. The top one is a scan of the negative. The two below are PN positives from the same session.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tobias Feltus on SHOTS

In this month's issue of SHOTS we are delighted to see fellow New55 Developer and cover photographer Tobias Feltus (L) featured on the cover in this self portrait with brother Joseph Feltus. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The New Gypsies - Iain McKell

It is hard not to enjoy McKell's photo essays, as they are so generously displayed in reasonable detail, online at this website.

The often perfect formalism and refined but not contrived makeup of McKell's images would already be enough if not for the added depth of McKell's subjects, who penetrate many of the images in a most successful way. If you are astonished you are not alone, as this much-appreciated artist continues to influence nearly everyone.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Good subject

I dislike the "dead yet?" titles we see, but anyway, this is a good production. Nicely written, a bit nostalgic with the Satie theme, but anyway...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Ilford's Steven Brierley audio interview

Tobias Feltus and I visited with Steven Brierley and several others at Ilford in Manchester UK back in May.  Since that time New55 has made substantial, even unexpected progress with a true PN design, but we still look to Ilford to supply certain materials. Ilford supplies some of TIP's sensitive materials and of course has a lot of silver on hand, which is now worth double what it was a year ago or so.

The portion of this podcast with Steven's remarks is on the site "filmwasters" which I know little about, and starts about 15 minutes in. I think it is worth a listen, here.

From Ilford's site:

"The demand for traditional monochrome films and papers remains strong. With Agfa no longer in the black and white photographic market, and Kodak pulling out of manufacturing black and white papers the future of ILFORD PHOTO products looks good for years to come. "

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Silver of a certain size

I had not heard of Carey Lea, or his silver, but now find the term refers to a fine 500nm or so silver or reduced silver complex with this peculiar and recognizable red/yellow tint to it.

But nanoparticles and rods, and their effect on lightwaves and color are something that I have studied and even built nano antenna arrays described here.

In this image are two FP-100B negatives, and Fuji's low silver negative, cheaper to produce, is apparently filled with silver halide grains that are quite tiny, and probably much smaller than a micron, maybe half or even a quarter that.  Mie scattering and nanoparticle size analysis with spectrometers show that in general there is a direct relationship between size of a scatterer (or the average sizes of scatterers) and the average wavelength reflected and transmitted. If this is the case here, we can say there is some distribution around yellow, and it looks a lot like the same hue we achieved with our recent DTR, below, and monochrome images from TIP, below that. It also looks like the color of iodine.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A word on comment spam

Blogger is better than some at detecting and preventing comment spam - unwanted or random ads, messages and other "junk" that is directed to the comments sections of blogs and other groups. Normally there is no spam, as google has done a good job with blogger's spam detection system. It is one reason I prefer blogger, but it isn't perfect, so occasionally (like when I am doing another project or taking time off) I switch off "allow anonymous comments".  That's what it is set at now, and an anonymous comment may go through, or be directed to the filter - it is hard to tell.

Most of the comments are not anonymous and so should not be a problem. If you are an anonymous commenter, I still welcome your comment, but please give yourself a name of some sort (there are several ways to do this, including gmail, flickr, etc.) and use it so it can clear the settings and be published as fast as possible.

If you have commented and got lost in the spam filter, try again. Sometimes the spam filter thinks real comments are spam. I'll try this for a while and see how it works out. About a year ago I had to do the same thing and made various remarks here, then spam settled down (or blogger changed something) and I reopened anonymous comments.
Trade school students adjusting spam filters at St. George's, Mobberly

Monday, August 15, 2011

Clip Cleaning

All those old clips you have sent in have been used at least once, and possibly several times now that a recycling method has been developed.

Shown is New55 assembly tech and music producer Jack Willard, out of New York and here for the Summer, in an FP3000 shot.

Listen to  Santa Clara by Jack Willard

Monday, August 8, 2011

New55 of the day

Under the bicycle seat and seeming like a puddle in front of our inscribed box, lurks reagent spread artifact, invisible in the black sky, only seen in the deepest shadows.

Significant for being our first DTR and negative set (this is a scan of the negative above) using nothing from old Pol, but materials from China, India, and Connecticut, the positive, below it,  is like a relic, sepia-toned, and contrasty,  a flea market find.

 And there is evidence of another experiment, painted as a curve on the receiver. Jack and I expected to see a dark area there and little image elsewhere, so we are surprised.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Old product shots

I was asked recently if I did product photography. Well, I used to, when I was designing and developing microphones and manufacturing them here in Ashland MA. Realizing I had not saved many of the sell sheets and other microphonography generated over the course of a couple of years of production. Fortunately, had saved some for me.

Here is the link Click

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

R3 (and other monobaths) are so easy, cheap, and virtually instant

I was just playing with a Pentax 67 and the 105mm f2.4 lens the other day with some KODAK 400TX and tossed it in the R3 monobath for 10 minutes. Afterward it got washed in too-hot water, so it reticulated a bit.

What could be easier, and cheaper, than this? A digi? You get a 6X7 negative that takes 10 minutes (and costs about 50 cents). I would like those who are concerned about costs to show me their results with this process.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Impossible Project Integral 4X5

We've had a difficult time with our under development 4X5 version of The Impossible Project's integral monochrome material, but some progress has been made. We did many, many tests of rails, spacers, pod configurations, sleeves, how to position the negative and more to try to get it to work with the 545 holder. While this result is not spectacular, it does show good promise. Especially interesting to me is the high apparent sharpness in the details, such as the book spine.

Shot with the Speed Graphic, of course, and scanned and flipped so the image reads the right way around. Like a Daguerreotype, integral images are reversed unless shot through a mirror.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Silver prices expected to continue up

Since the times when the Hunt brothers cornered the silver market near 1980, sending silver briefly to $50 an ounce, metals buyers have watched silver descend to nearly $5 an ounce at times, and now today up into the $35+ range. Much of the silver speculation has to do with gold. Gold is very high and tends to pull up other precious metals such as silver, platinum, palladium etc. but these metals have their own demand-side pressures. Palladium and platinum are used as catalysts and are in high demand. Silver solder is in greater demand now that the RoHS so-called "lead free" initiative is law. This draconian ruling attempts to bureaucratically eliminate lead and a few other materials in certain consumer products - reason, to keep them out of landfills mainly - and yet mostly fails to encourage innovative, safe and responsible use of the many other toxic elements that also end up in the trash. RoHS could have long term consequences that are unforeseen.

Silver is highly biotoxic (it is antibiotic, used to prevent infections in bandages and catheters) and though not very dangerous to humans as we use it, changes the land around any silver mine, where nothing will grow. Silver is an excellent, if not expensive, weed killer. Silver is not the only ground-toxic metal: Copper mines are usually surrounded by large areas of sterile terrain, and there are many others.

Even if the lead free manufacturing world was the reason for silver's high price, wouldn't the descent of silver used in photographic manufacturing offset that demand? You would think so. Kodak owned their own silver mines at one time, and brought in tons of silver daily for their production needs.

Last month Shanghai film doubled the price of their product. This 2X increase, which will be followed by other film makers eventually, brings the cost of their 4x5 material from about 23 cents per sheet wholesale to 45 cents a sheet. That means a retail price of about a dollar per sheet is the lowest price you will soon find for even this cheapest sheet film. There may be older stock on ebay you can get for less, for a while. Shanghai is a state-owned enterprise and being state-owned may have internally inelastic pricing that fluctuates rapidly with material costs.

Companies such as Ilford depend on a lot of silver and at any day when the price is high may be worth more in silver than anything else, and they may also buy silver contracts as a hedge against price fluctuations. Many businesses, such as oil dealers, do this to even out the price as it fluctuates. The trouble comes when prices spike, then it is too tempting to sell the material and take the sometimes big profit, and then go do something else. Such a scenario played out with certain larger oil dealers who sold their oil contracts right after hurricane Katrina, making huge profits, though we do not expect this in the smaller, less intensely greedy photo industry.

Silver and all material prices affect what we do here of course. The Impossible Project is also affected by silver's price, and so is 20X24. Mitigating the cost of silver can be done by using less, which is what Fuji does in their FP series of instant films that make use of the amplification of the DTR process, or by buying low and warehousing, which is what some film makers do today.

When silver spiked three decades ago, a lot of new silver mines opened. The prospect of high profits faded when the price of silver, then a bubble, fell and kept falling. This is still within memory of silver mining companies. Is the current metal price spike a bubble? I doubt it. The value of the dollar, much less than before, is a big factor. As long as world trading of precious metals continues in US dollars, I think we can expect prices to climb, or seem to.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recent Results: New55 PN materials

Collection of some quick test shots done at our Ashland lab over the last several weeks using a Speed Graphic, a 150mm f2.8 Xenotar, and a 545 back. All shots (except one with hand lettering on it and another integral shot just uploaded) were processed in the sleeve and the negative cleared in ordinary fixer, and washed. Expect the content of this post to change as more images are uploaded.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Frog Tongue

What is the right length of a frog's tongue? It depends on the film if you ask The Impossible Project. Their opacifier - the built in mask that protects the image while it is being developed - is made of earth friendlier materials these days, and needs a little extra time "under the tongue" so to speak, to work.

FROG TONGUE from Impossible Project on Vimeo.

Some users simply slide a sleeve into their SX70s or SLR680 cameras,but not everyone finds this convenient, so, intrepid engineers at The Impossible Project have now made a new tongue kit, that you can install yourself!

It is great to see The Impossible Project evolving into a model of innovation in both films and camera technology. Lots of small steps add up to breakthroughs. The world has changed and is a tougher place for art sometimes - music is free now, for example - so it is encouraging to see a willingness to adopt practical solutions, even if they are just a little tongue of frog.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

275 Posts

It still isn't the 680 posts of the other epic blog called Microphonium, but hey, in between experiments and ebay, 275 posts are a good amount.  About 70 posts are about monobaths, three are about reclaiming negatives, and the rest are generally about Polaroid, film manufacturing, history, and diffusion transfer reversal.

The most visited post is about reclaiming a fuji negative.

Friday, July 15, 2011

'roid week on Flickr

I don't know if you were aware, but today is the conclusion of the much-anticipated "roid week" on Flickr, where 'roid aficionados get two post two new images to the group on each of 5 weekdays in what has become a contest of sorts. Any instant film can be used but this year a lot of the entries look like The Impossible Project film, which is a very good sign.

Not to miss out, I grabbed a Flickr account and tossed up some of this week's images that I concocted from whatever was lying around, some that you may not have seen. Here is the link.

Don't forget about R3

All of the attention on NEW55 is good, but what about Ilford PanF+ processed in a nice warm R3 monobath? Or what about R4?  It's easy to do, and about the lowest cost high quality field processable negative result you can get. Photo credit DF.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Meeting of Positive, and Negative

A still life shown as a Diffusion Transfer Reversal print  (with a  reagent streak) above its companion, a scanned and reversed negative. Two-minute processing time, ISO 100, shot on a Speed Graphic fitted with a Xenotar 150mm f2.8 set to about f11.

This image was made with a NEW55 single PN assembly having a target retail of $6-7 exposed and processed in a Polaroid 545 holder. After exposure, the assembly is pulled normally through the rollers and timed, after which it is opened and peeled apart, revealing the positive print, above.

The negative is separated from the assembly and dropped in ordinary hypo for a few minutes, which makes the spread reagent curl away, and separate from the surface of the emulsion, and also clears any uncleared, unexposed edges where the reagent may have missed. Normally, the reagent covers the entire negative.  The negative is then washed and dried in ordinary water.

This process is quite similar to that of T55 except no sodium sulfite bath is required, and easy to get hypo (fixer) is used. We used Ilford Rapid Fixer, but any solution of sodium thiosulfate will work fine. 
Two aspects are apparent and important: The first, both positive and negative have the same effective speed, though the scanned appearance and dynamic range of positive and negative are different, as expected. The other is that after the two minute process, there is still some residual development activity available on the negative side. This does not affect the positive but results in some solarization of the negative if exposed to room light. We expect to reduce this by optimizing the processing time and the balance of chemicals in the reagent, so they will be essentially self terminating, while still allowing artistic control of the negative, especially the prized delicate edge effects, if the user wants.
We do not know what the archival properties will be from this process but expect with reasonable washing, the negative will last as long as any other conventional negative.

Frank Ockenfels

Nice quality video, very well produced. Visit at

Friday, July 8, 2011

On the Edge

If you have been reading along you know that one of the magical things about old T55 was its tendency to produce light solarization and edge effects that were sometimes a lot of fun.  Well in this case we messed up on the timer and pulled this New55 at only 30 seconds, and here is what resulted.

Not shopped, not tweaked in the slightest.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Byron 4x5 Camera

I am fortunate to own one Byron 4x5 folding camera and use it with a 90mm Symmar and the stock Rodenstock lens very frequently.  Unlike other Polaroid model 110 modifications that use an adapter, Byron holds various 4x5 film holders such as double dark slide, Horseman, Fuji PA-45 etc. natively, and closer to the original focal plane, without an adapter, making use of wide angle lenses like the Symmar and some even wider, possible. It is also lighter and more compact.

Click here for an excellent blog about Byron cameras, with lots of technical information. Of the several other 4x5 conversions of the 110s, this one is singularly special, and truly innovative.  Next to the Speed Graphic, it's my favorite camera.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Yellow Dot Sale for Aero Ektar Owners

In order to raise some money we have a sale going on and we are offering a special price on Yellow Dots for Aero Ektar lenses at only $100 each.

These are genuine Yellow Dots, not reproductions, and can be applied to the rim of Aero Ektar lenses and other lenses if you choose.

Strict limit of one per customer please. These are scarce and we only have a few. If you live in Massachusetts, we have to charge sales tax of 6.3%.

Acoustic Nanofilm

Amazing what can be done with new materials plugged into old fields, in this case, the field of ribbon microphones. We developed this material that made "foils" obsolete, and today this type of film is in mass production, being sold to a new market that appreciates the dose of analog this material puts back into the digital workflow.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Graflok back conversion for a Super D

Here is a link to an old post from 1995 describing a procedure that allows a trimmed graflok back to drop into a revolving Series D or Super D frame, preserving the rotating feature.

Daylab SX-70 film processor with Impossible film

Thursday, June 30, 2011

New55 Pricing

There are a lot of people who are new to the site who may have not looked at the comments on production costs and potential sales prices of a possible New55 PN product.  We estimate a best case retail price of $6 per sheet.

Just thought you needed to know. That's the reality of it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Black Hat

 Can P/N balance be achieved?

Not satisfied with mere negatives any longer, researchers at New55 have been intrigued that we might for the first time control the DTR positive, shown here, and the negative, below it, without having to choose between them.

Click on the images, especially the negative, as that is just a thumbnail, until you select it for a closer view.

A virtual display print from the negative can be seen by clicking here.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

We need more clips

Kodak, Fuji or Polaroid - doesn't matter. The clips are all the same and we now find we need more, please! You can leave the paper on them. In fact if you leave an inch or so it makes it easy for us to reclaim them.


72 Nickerson Rd
Ashland MA 01721

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Projection Plane Photography Challenged

Digital and film are the same, at least as we know them today, and differ only in one small detail - the image capture device. Both use a lens to project an image on a planar surface and then that image is captured as a charge. In film, the charge is a precursor to a chemical reaction. In digital, the charge is a precursor to generating an electrical signal. Otherwise it's pretty much the same process, and very lens-dependent, which is why lens prices continue to climb.

And while this new technology still uses a lot of the language and technique, including lenses, that look like our familiar projection plane photography, it really has more in common with holography, or optical coherence domain reflectometry, confocal imaging, phased array imaging, synthetic aperture, and lenticular array imaging techniques brought together in a more conventional format so you can take "a picture" that is a file that can be read and reprocessed in many different ways, sometimes simultaneously.

Do not overlook this innovation, which will impact displays as well as capture devices on all of our appliances, and eventually back onto planes, such as paper. It's cool and frightening at the same time, as we enter a period of highly accelerated change, unprecedented in human history.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rachel Rayns' Magi Trak E6 processor

I like magnetic drives, and Rachel Rayns has this new video showing her Magi Trak E6 processor that apparently uses magnets to propel the mechanism, probably to keep the dry parts dry and wet parts wet, once and for all. Watch this wonder object of photo-robotic geekdom of the highest kind get baptized, and make a nice noise while doing so. Some of Rachel's work can be found at If that isn't working, try this instead. Well worth a look!

Solarized, or not, it's a matter of time and balance

Pulling a negative - stopping short of complete development - is a common way to control density and contrast, at least in regular darkroom technique. Things were different in a P/N situation such as old T55, and also New55, of which two examples are shown.

The top negative was pulled before the reagent had a chance to run to completion, leaving as-yet undeveloped and fixed silver halide a chance to see the light as we pulled the negative from the positive in room light, providing enough exposure to seriously solarize it.  It's kind of fun to see both ends of the gray scale show as black here!

A more conventional result occurs when the reagent has time to complete the development to the point where a little room light has little effect. Actually, under the bill of the cap, there is that one very unexposed portion of the negative that still had a bit of development to go, and it did, as you can see if you look closely.  Both of these negative are denser than we might want in a finished product, but we think we can fix that.

None of that has much bearing on the tonality of the DTR image, except of course the scales slide up and down, but the tones don't completely reverse.

In designing a P/N product, one has to consider the need for a negative vs a positive and try to achieve a balance. Polaroid never did, as the correctly exposed and processed negative produced a print that was a stop, at least, lighter than it ought to have been. Today we have a chance to correct that, and produce both positive and negative with the right characteristics, if that matters much. I think the negative is far more important and would be content with a positive that was lighter or darker, same as before, but it is tantalizing to think we might solve the longstanding balance problem that T55 had.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Yellow Dot Clue for Aero Ektar Aficionados

Put this post in the arcane category: You have to be one of the possessed people who have latched onto the Kodak Aero Ektar and other big eyes to appreciate the meaning of this. Here is a plate for a very large aero lens, a giant 48 inch f6.3 mass of glass too heavy to even lift.

But the label with its dot is interesting. If you read it normally, left to right, it almost looks like you could read it as "48 inch f/6.3 for 9 inch X 18 inch camera telephoto type I-class B DAY NIGHT temperature compensated USAF spec No..."

Notice that the dark dot is violet or purple. The two in this context seem to me to indicate the use of the lens, in this case day and night. Sunny/Cloudy? I don't think so, and cannot come up with another plausible interpretation of the dots.

Therefore, the famous yellow dot, so cherished by those who pay extra for it in their Aero Ektar hoods, might indicate "Daylight Use".  What would be different from night use? In darkness, the Aero Ektar was used with flash bombs to illuminate the scene of night bombings.

Do we now know that the yellow dot means? Comments please.

I grabbed this image and cropped it, taken from some other online post that I cannot find, to provide a proper attribution, at the moment. Here is another Aero Ektar and some earlier speculations about the meaning of the dot.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Great deal on FP100C45 on Amazon

I don't know how long this will last, but Amazon has FP100C45 for only $18 a pack. That's the cheapest I have ever seen it. Even if it is short dated, it will produce a good negative I think.

Here is the link. We don't get anything for this.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Price tag is biggest obstacle to New55 commercialization

While many of the technical hurdles for a new P/N material using an available emulsion have been overcome, the nagging problem of per-sheet price continues to be an obstacle to commercialization. We planned to introduce first a field processable negative material called DN-1, and a field processable direct positive material known as DP-1. If you have been following along you already know these are intended for rapid processing using monobaths and daylight tanks that accept a readyload format film. In the past, a readyload sheet cost about $3 each and today we expect it to be about $4, but with the added utility of insertion into a tank.

The price doubles with a P/N material. Plenty of pros insist this isn't really too much and is much less than one would pay to have a 4x5 negative developed and then contact printed.

Recent discontinuation of Fuji's FP100B material, which is (was) superb, was due to poor sales. That was only $3 a shot or less. Of course Fuji did a terrible job telling the potential market about their packfilms and then getting them into the hands of users in the US and Europe. Technical success does not mean market success and this is a perfect example. By the way, FP100B in the smaller size is still in stock just about everywhere but not moving. So go out and buy it!  Want to see what it looks like? Click here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Night Vision Assembly Station

Over in one corner of the lab, the night vision station sits, eerily dark and shrouded in black drape, its cascading arm sleeves falling lazily, and one blue eye peers back.

an experiment in perspective

John Chervinsky's an experiment in perspective is guaranteed to interest anyone attuned to the power of the singular point of view presented by lens and film, all the more fascinating in its use of Type 55 on technical but whimsical subjects that challenge the eye.

John has been a great supporter of New55 and provided us with critical scanning electron microscope images of vintage materials that added to our understanding of the Diffusion Transfer Reversal technology we expect to continue to apply to imaging and elsewhere. John's website is here.

Here is a link to a pdf - but not an ordinary pdf! This one fills your screen with the images from an experiment in perspective, and you must look at it.

An aside: The images presented in an experiment in perspective are highly characteristic of certain qualities we admire in Type 55, and in some ways John's images provide a benchmark for New55.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fine Arts in Maynard, MA

A nice little art theater in nearby Maynard, MA thrives because it has focused on a narrower audience.

Chemical focal plane photography is thriving by directing its resources toward those with the desire to create and not just document using lenses and capture media.

Along the way new techniques, tools and ways of working are being adopted. Like the music production field of the last decade, there are winners and losers, with many large studios (maybe all) failed, and closed, meanwhile, millions of "amateur" musicians can now afford their own studios that have sound quality as good as any large studio of the 20th Century. All they need is a PC and a converter to manipulate sounds. But to generate sounds, they still needed microphones and then preamps.  Companies with names like "Front End Audio" (they were one of our best microphone dealers when we made ribbon microphones) arose to fill the new market demand for that portion of the creative flow.The democratization of music-making obliterated the old mainstream and sent incumbents searching for new enterprises, and more, not less, music is being produced and delivered at an even greater rate by anyone with the inclination to do so.

A decade later we are witnessing the analogous replaying of that crash and rise in imaging, not just songs.The ubiquitous continuous instant connectivity-with-pictures we enjoy is a given even though it did not exist at all ten years ago. The document picture taking is done to fill Facebook and soon Twitter and of course those serious enough to consider the images as art go to Flickr to share and discuss them. One can expect this frenzy to accelerate since it is so easy to look at a picture, much easier than listening to a whole song, something we hardly do.  Meanwhile, sub groups have discovered the "Front End" makes all the difference, and variations are everywhere: Dianas, Aero Ektars, Lensbaby, and The Impossible Project's products, weird films, Lomography, and even the serious traditionalists with finely crafted mahogany boxes and little holes.  All seem destined to be delivered to the Epson, or the Canon scanner, then on to whatever and whoever suits us.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Making KODAK Film

 Just got my copy (barely, as the mailmauler folded it in half) of this very interesting book straight from the author, Robert L Shanebrook, and you can read it too, if you order it here.

After just touring two European photo film making plants I now have a greater appreciation of the immensity of the KODAK plant, and the pioneering process development that went on there over the course of a century. Much of the equipment reminds me of milk and cheese processing equipment. There is a certain agricultural quality to KODAK that I never noticed, but it is not surprising, as upstate NY is dairy rich, too.

Last week we heard that KODAK was mothballing its largest factory. Being over capacity isn't good for business and right-sizing is a necessary step to continued operation. It seems that there are other processes that might be well suited to the big Kodak coaters, such as making next generation high efficiency solar cells. Wouldn't that be appropriate! Let's hope business leaders and not bean counters make the decisions to retain some knowledge base and capability in the US. Apparently, Mr. Shanebrook isn't so confident so he has carefully documented the process equipment and flow charts for key components used to make photographic film.

Industrial archaeology will some day be a distinct profession as technology intensive industries come and go through inevitable growth and obsolescence cycles. Only when it is too late to salvage will other investors do what they can to dig up the past and look for any gems of knowledge they might newly employ.

Get this book!