I acquired three packs of Impossible Project B&W Generation 2.0 600 film earlier this year and decided to test them out in a recently acquired Polaroid 600 Business Edition.
When the Expired Film Day winners were announced in April, among them was a photo by Jerry “PhotoJeeper” Hutchins. Hutchins’ win was in the category sponsored by The Impossible Project, and the prize was set to be three packs of any Impossible film of his choice.
Jerry’s pretty serious about roll film, though, and doesn’t own any instant gear at all. I offered to send him my Spirit (I’m done with it), but he said the honor of being chosen was enough for him.
Not content with him being the only one to not get a prize, I worked with Impossible’s Amy Heaton to get his prize film sent to me for review, and I in turn sent Jerry some 35mm film to pump through his Nikons. (Three rolls of basically-still-fresh Kodak Plus-X 125 and one very expired one, and a recently-expired roll of Fuji Neopan SS 100.)
So in May and June of 2016, I stuffed the three packs of Impossible Project B&W Generation 2.0 600 film (two square-bordered, one round) and the camera into a bag, and carried them around a few times. After I made a (blurry) test shot of my dog, Batta, of course.
The 600 Business Edition is almost identical to the Polaroid Spirit 600 I used for #InstantApril, with two additions: it has an internal flash, and a built-in close-up filter.
As for focus, it’s like a box camera. Fixed focus from four feet to infinity. The close-up lens is a little magnifier that you slide over the lens, and which is marked for two to four feet. It also slides a little framing guide over the viewfinder, which appears to correct partially for parallax error and helps you align faces for a typical passport-type photo.
Being marked the “Business Edition,” it was my assumption that this Polaroid is meant for that kind of thing — employee of the month photos and the like. According to the Impossible Project, it was a sister to the Job Pro camera, which had the same features, except in a ruggedized yellow casing that would look at home in a pickup truck with a utility bed.
It appears to have been available from the early 1990s until somewhere close to the end of Polaroid production in 2008. Mine is in impeccable condition, looking very much like it spent nearly its entire life in a file drawer or supply closet. And everything about it seems to work great.
I won’t kid myself, you’re here to see what I thought of the film. After the rather disappointing results I got with very expired Impossible Color Protection film for #InstantApril, I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the second generation black and white product.
The Generation 2.0 film, as I understand it, was supposed to suffer far less when exposed to light after processing (when the film comes out of the camera, bursting the chemical pod and spreading the chemicals across the film). You still want to slip the new photograph into a dark pocket or camera bag right away, but even with genuine Polaroid film that was a good best practice. Or, at least, laying it face-down on a table or something.
In order to shield the film in those crucial early seconds, The Impossible Project sells a Frog Tongue accessory for Polaroid box-type cameras — although it’s not really new. Old Polaroid integral film cameras already have a frog tongue, but it’s only designed to shield the film only for the milliseconds that the photo is being ejected through the rollers. The Impossible version stays extended until you remove the processed film, shielding your new photograph from light for much longer.
The Impossible version was much more crucial with earlier versions of the film than the Generation 2.0, or the new Generation 3.0 versions. It’s cheap and easy to install yourself, so there’s little reason not to add one to your box camera if you plan to keep shooting integral instant film. That said, my original frog tongue worked just fine for me with the Generation 2.0 film, as long as I made sure to slip the photo straight into my camera bag.
There are only eight frames in an Impossible Project film pack as opposed to the ten frames Polaroid used to load up, so the frame counter on your camera will register a “2” when you’re actually out of film. The film packs still include the 6-volt battery your camera needs to function, and which also powers the internal flash.
The first thing I noticed when looking over my full 24 frames was that only a single one has any imperfections caused by incomplete development, and it’s just a tiny little corner that appears to be the victim of inadequate chemical spreading. That’s a huge improvement over the prior generation all by itself.
Second, I think this generation is sharper than the last. It’s also possible that this is due to the differences in monochrome versus color films, and the fact that Impossible has been working on the black-and-white version a bit longer. It could also have to do with the lens in the Business Edition camera vs. the lens in the Spirit.
Lastly, the contrast is good. I had to crank the exposure adjustment toward the Lighten side a little bit to get an exposure I liked, but that’s just as likely an issue with the camera as the film. And, who knows, maybe I just like them overexposed a little.
I wound up with two packs of normal, square-framed film, and a third pack of round-framed film. The round frames feel like they cost you a lot of surface area (technically it’s a little less than one fourth of the surface of the finished image), but they seem ideal for portraits. The square format frames feel just like good old Polaroid.
On the whole, I’m very impressed with the progress Impossible made with the Generation 2.0 monochrome film. The third generation film is available as of mid-2016, and I feel confident that it will be the best version yet. You can order some directly from Impossible USA if you’d like to try it out before I do.