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