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.