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back to article Polaroid to close instant film plants

The Polaroid Corporation has announced it's running down its instant film business, likely marking the death knell for the technology. The company has two plants in Massachusetts, at Norwood and Waltham, producing professional, large format instant film, as well as a tentacle in Mexico making the same. Consumer products are …

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Not surprised

Surprised its taken so long to be honest.

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Happy

Readers' Wives

Eric (leers, grinning) Your wife interested in er... (waggles head, leans across) photographs, eh? Know what I mean? Photographs, 'he asked him knowingly'.

Terry Photography?

Eric Yes. Nudge nudge. Snap snap. Grin grin, wink wink, say no more?

Terry Holiday snaps?

Eric Could be, could be taken on holiday. Could be yes - swimming costumes. Know what I mean. Candid photography. Know what I mean, nudge nudge.

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Bit of a shame...

I wouldn't mind so much if the digital equivalent of a polaroid camera (digital camera + printer dock) came as an all in one job and didn't cost so much more to buy than it's analogue counterpart. Call me a luddite if you must but every now and then I happily trade mega pixels and crystal clarity (my expensive digital cam) for cheap and cheerful, effortless portability (my battered but still much loved polaroid cam). Let the old fart comments commence...

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@Not surprised

... perhaps we could instead think of the technology differently: it's a photographic medium that contains a /built-in/ printer.

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Coat

Instant digital camera?

Will anyone be able to miniaturise (sp??) a printer mechanism so you could have an 'instant' digital camera? - would anyone want one?

No it's alright, I kept my coat on....

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IT Angle

replacement?

So, when do we see the first mobile camera-phone with built-in inkjet printer?

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Definitely times have changed

I remember the old David Bowie movie "The Man Who Fell To Earth." Aside from being hopelessly weird in an early seventies sense, I remember one of the advanced alien technologies Bowie was bringing to Earth was color film that developed itself in the film spool.

Essentially Polaroid did that with the instant film, but it shows how completely unexpected the digital camera era was. There's still some die hards out there with their 35mm cameras griping about how much better film is supposed to be, but in the end the party's over and it's a digital world.

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Silver badge
Heart

It's because....

those "specialist" home photo's can now be taken with no need for expensive films....

What?

You mean Polaroids had another use?????

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Unhappy

Shame, but...

It's a real shame to see it go, it was a very ingenious and cool (and expensive!) technology in its time, but I agree with Andrew- that time is long past now.

As a mainstream consumer technology it's pretty much dead, and I'm guessing that the vast majority of professionals (who used it for setup and preview prints) switched over to all-digital setups years ago.

I don't expect it to die completely- as the article notes, Polaroid are willing to license it, and there's probably still a niche market among those (very) few remaining professionals still using film (*) and the smattering of diehard amateurs who like it for its own distinctive qualities. But it's dead as far as the mass-market is concerned, and I'm equally surprised that they continued producing it even this long.

(*) Yes, I know that film still beats the living heck out of digital for medium and large-format photography. But even there I'd assume that digital is good enough for preview purposes.

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W

equivalents?

Agreed, it's no surprise, but are there any contemporary equivalents?

Yes, we've got those toster lookalike mobile printers, but are there any all-in-one-gigital consumer devices that let you print a copy off instantly?

I suppose the screen of the digital devices serve the "oooh let's have a look" purpose though...

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Paris Hilton

Time Zero

It's less melancholic than it seems, because the really arty Polaroid film - time zero, the stuff you could manipulate and smear, like on the cover of that Peter Gabriel album - was discontinued a couple of years ago. The remaining Polaroid film is neither fish nor fowl, it doesn't have a practical use and arty people don't want it.

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Anonymous Coward

I need a replacement - help please!

We use them on the ambulance response cars so that a picture of exactly how damaged the vehicle we have just cut someone out of can accompany them to hospital. It gets the medics' attention better than a verbal of "significant intrusion into the passenger comparment".

Given the wide range of hospitals/crews, sending some form of memory card etc wouldn't do the job and its a bit unfair to ask some nurses do cope with IT, so I need to send the finished article. Digital cameras are all very well and I know my requirement is not exactly mass market but does anyone have a relatively robust, portable and inexpensive alternative to suggest for getting the printout?

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RE: Instant digital camera?

It's called Zink and it's already been announced.

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Roll on OLEDs ..

No doubt already patented - but a waffer-thin OLED or electrophoretic (see Motorola F3) display with builtin memory and power (for OLED) could perhaps serve a similar purpose to the Polaroid pic ...?

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Boffin

Evidence

Didn't it always used to be that the important reason for having photographs on film rather than digitally was because digital images can't be accepted as evidence?

In a previous employment, we had a massive vault of paper documents transferred to microfilm because it might be needed as evidence, and scanned versions of the documents wouldn't do. By the same token, the ambulance man above needs to have a photograph, not an alterable digital image. Yes, yes, I know that you could doctor an image and make a new negative, and that digital images can be signed, but in principle a photograph (Polaroid or negative) will always be an analogue optical record rather than alterable digital.

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Bronze badge

re: built-in printer

IIRC, a few years back Olympus offered a rather bulky (quality paperback size-ish) digital camera with a built-in color printer.

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Re: I need a replacement - help please!

>> We use them on the ambulance response cars so that a picture of exactly how

>> damaged the vehicle we have just cut someone out of can accompany them to

>> hospital.

I don't thing it is about to disappear completely, someone somewhere will probably still make film - it's just going to become even more niche and expensive.

You could probably find a photo printer that could be fitted in the cab of the paramedic car, with out too much difficult. It would probably be more temperamental than Polaroid.

Another option might be some sort of WiFi camera that could essentially send an e-Fax to a photo printer in the hospital - I imagine the paramedic cars already have lots of kit which connect to some centralized server.

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Go

Zink

As mentionned by Dan above, see Zink: http://www.zink.com/

Funnily enough, one of their main partners is Polaroid :-)

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Re Evidence

Digital prints are acceptable as evidence and always have been. It has always been possible to alter any wet-film photograph and re-photograph it using a copy stand onto a new negative.

Digital speed cameras are springing up all over London and are about to go nationwide, it is the continuity and provenance of the image that is important.

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Anonymous Coward

Not really equivalent...

"...all-in-one-gigital consumer devices that let you print a copy off instantly?..."

With polaroid the operative word is "a". Singular. There are lots of dinky photo printers which can serve almost all the purposes that just letting someone peer at the screen on the back of the digital camera won't, that Polaroid could, and the digital medium is far more flexible.

Polaroid is not really equivalent to digital snaps.

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at least

it was not on your hard drive

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Happy

Bit of irony....

Over here in 'merca there's a hair shampoo commercial running where bright young things with perfect hair enjoy a picnic, all the while shooting pics of each other with a Polaroid Swinger. Guess the producers didn't get the memo.

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Fuji Instant film still available

for now.

(It's a shame though - Polaroid Type 55 will be missed by many.)

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Bronze badge
Boffin

Re: Time Zero

@ Ashley Pomeroy

"(...). The remaining Polaroid film is neither fish nor fowl, it doesn't have a practical use and arty people don't want it."

Clearly, you don't know the right arty people.

My daughter is a photographer and loves taking shots with her old bellows-type Polaroid, which she's converted to a pinhole camera. The longer exposure times - up to two minutes - gives an incredibly dense and rich image unavailable any other way.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Who cares - the pictures looked like ass anyway

And there's superior technology that does a better job at a fraction of a price. Feeling sorry for Polaroid is like feeling sorry for a buggywhip maker when cars were invented.

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@Joe Hylkema

Worse than arse, actually.

All the Polaroid snaps I've ever seen have had foul colour fidelity ("No, I am NOT that fucking shade of green!")

They were OK for those applications where (like the ambos or on a film set to assist in continuity between takes) the important part was the content of the shot (trashed vehicle, relative locations of props and actors) not how photorealistic it was.

And they're OK for "arty shots" as referenced above, but as a "serious camera" they are a fucking joke. There are far superior cameras and film stocks than the Polaroid and its instant processing film. The only advantage to a Polaroid was the "you don't have to wait 7 days" (as it was back then before 24-hour and (much later) 1-hour processing).

Now, the resolution on even the inexpensive digital cameras these days is such that they surpass most mass-market film stock (modern digital video "handycams" are broadcast quality, something the old "Super-8" film stock and later mini-VHS handycams never were). And that's before you get into the more expensive digital SLRs with the capacity to use the same selection of lenses and filters as the (vastly-superior-to-Polaroid-in-every-way-except-speed-of-processing) professional film cameras and the added advantages of superior resolution and the ability to upload to the net at the nearest Cybercafe.

Film is going the way of the Dodo, it is only fitting that the crappiest film stock should be the first to go.

As to replacing it for the ambos: A portable memory-card-capable printer in the back of the ambulance would probably do quite well - I'm sure it could spew out all the relevant pics of the crash scene on the trip between scene and hospital - and the trashed car will only look green if it was actually painted green.

As to digital being "alterable", yes it is - for a *competent* digital artist. Just as film stock has been alterable by competent photographers for years.

Incompetent artists/photographers are not going to convince anyone, irrespective of the medium. Despite what the average PHB might think, you can't just "Photoshop this image to make it show my rival committed the murder" with ease. We have not yet got "You have opted to replace person 1 in image A with person 3 from image B. Please click OK to continue..."

The Photoshop tools are digital equivalents - cut, paste, draw, airbrush, smudge etc - of real tools used for years by film photographers - but you've still got to know how to use them properly.

And the same methods of detection (and probably others specific to digital media) still apply - a keen-eyed forensic examiner checking for tell-tale signs that the image has been manipulated (shadows are wrong, traces of extra bits from the merged photo etc).

Digital media is just as reliable as evidence as film - that is: "not very, use with caution and bear in mind it can be faked."

Digital signing would be harder to get around than merely faking a negative.

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Linux

Polaroids

Isn't that what penguins get it they sit on the ice too long?

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Coat

"consumer" polaroid cameras were crap...

But definitely not as crappy as "consumer" digital ones. Same for all the field: you can have a good digital cam, but to get it you'll pay twice the price of a medium-quality silver sulfate kit. Not to mention the price of a good (I mean, REALLY good, able to compete with fine-grained analog techniques) printer. But I guess that the market is driven by people who just want crappy portraits of them in a random holiday location... or pics of a pal throwing out on Time Square. Too bad, as nothing can render the subtle nuances of green bile in a drunk guy's belch as a 400 ISO film mounted on good Leica optics!

Yes, mine is the trench coat with fancy green stains on the lower parts, thanks

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Silver badge
Happy

@ Ambo guy

I know that here in Aus ive seen printer docks (where you hook up a digital camera straight to the top of a printer and print out your image without need for a comp) for only about A$50 (thats about £20). And there usually only about the size of a shoebox or even smaller so space isnt a huge worry. They may take a bit more time since obviously its not the same speed as a polaroid (which is instantaneous) but hey as your driving to the hospital sit your camera on the dock press go and booyah by the time your at the hospital you'll have a nice printed digital image of the gory scene to pass on to the medicos.

Problem solved...

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Alien

Film and digital

Digital is great but until, as Anonymous said, they get to quality of good Leica optics and good film or even better, 4x5, digital is still not on level(with the price). Digital is where Polaroid was, even 20+M pixels, there is a difference. And I don't think this will be end of Polaroid - digital is too perfect for some artistic situations, even Photoshop can't hide the source in most cases. Now, for public, amateurs, weddings, news, sports, vacations, etc digital is great. And if you just like TV style pictures it is perfect. Some of us like a little more artistic creations (think pinhole, perfect for film) than what we see with our own eyes every day. And no fancy technicolour, please. If I hang a picture on my wall, I want it to be something I will like the rest of my life.

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Someone think of the children!

I thought it was the law or something for midwives to take pictures of newborns with polaroids to give to the parents.

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The 60 Second Disappointment...

... as Mad Magazine put it. With dull, yecchy muddy colours. "Which is why we always use a Nikon loaded with Ektachrome."

The main reason why professional photographers are sticking with film is response time. Press the shutter button on a film camera, the shutter opens, the shutter closes, and your image is captured. With digital cameras, there is always a delay of some sort. The other problems - white balance, resolution, accessories and so forth have largely been fixed.

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Well

I'll be sad to see it go. End of an era and all that, plus my GF just bought a (n old, used) polaroid, she loves it, and I have to admit, the pics are kinda cool, looks like I was alive in the 70's.

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Jim
Boffin

@Lukin Brewer

If the only reason that pros stick with film is shutter response then film must be dead. The Canon 5D (not even the pro range) sports a turn on time of 200ms and a shutter lag of 75ms - a good human response time is around 150ms so the camera is adding less lag than the user.

There are still some reasons for using film but shutter response stopped being one a few years ago...

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