April ‘21 Community Letter

Polaroid Month, Fujifilm Price Hike, Bit Rot, and an Editor’s Enquiry

7 min read by Dmitri.

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What’s new?

This month, both Polaroid and Fujifilm announced new cameras, with the former shipping a new instant format and the latter following up with a price hike on emulsions. Plus: Fstoppers are suggesting digital photographers use the analogue medium to save the images from bit rot.

Meanwhile, I wonder: how can I make Analog.Cafe better for you?

Image courtesy of Polaroid.

Polaroid Go.

Polaroid sells the largest instant film sheets on the market — not counting Supersense. While the good ol’ SX-70 and 600 packs’ image area is marginally smaller than Instax’s largest offering, Wide, Polaroid’s 8x10 film is almost 10x as massive. This time, however, it seems the race is heading in the opposite direction:

Image courtesy of Polaroid.

Polaroid Go has just been announced as the “The World’s Smallest Analog Instant Camera” [system] in the world. With it, a new line of film, measuring 216cm² for the image area (even smaller than Instax Mini’s 285cm²), is being released on their website exclusively for $119USD.

The camera itself is 10.5cm long, 8.4cm wide, and 6.2cm tall, weighing 242g. That is 5.9” ✕ 3.3” ✕ 2.4” and 0.53lb, which is so very tiny, compared to what you’d get with the ubiquitous Polaroid 600’s 17.8cm ✕ 17.8cm ✕ 17.8cm and 1.5lb.

Polaroid Go features a 34mm (full-frame equiv.) 𝒇12/𝒇52 plastic lens with circular apertures that look remarkably similar to those of the incredible Minolta TC-1 28mm G-Rokkor. Its shutter will fire anywhere between 1/125 and 30s, and the integrated automatic flash unit will let the user override itself. The camera will be using an integrated rechargeable battery that should last about 15 packs of film, each fitting 8 frames totalling 120 photos.

Update: I’ve requested additional information regarding the lens’ focus abilities. Looks like, as I suspected, it is a focus-free system, meaning that it is it’s meant to have the entire scene in focus at all times — possible thanks to the small apertures. Here’s the complete response from Polaroid customer service:

The Polaroid Go has 1 Single lens with 2 element hyperfocal while the now has 2 Lenses portrait/ landscape. Polaroid Now has autofocus so it switches between two lenses, but the Polaroid Go has a single lens so essentially yeah it's focus free system, meaning the user never has to worry about focusing.

You could also control the double exposure feature on this camera. But the most interesting bit that distinguishes Polaroid Go from Instax nobody is talking about is not its size: it’s the emulsion lifts. To confirm my excitement over this, I spoke to Ruth from Polaroid PR, who was kind enough to clarify:

I asked internally and the consensus is it [emulsion lifts with Polaroid Go film] should be possible! We haven’t tried ourselves so I can’t guarantee results, as it’s a smaller size film so it will likely be a bit tricky and delicate.

The launch date for this camera system is April 27th, the day this letter goes live — as it always has, every last Tuesday of every month.

 ☝︎Further reading:Building an Instax Pinhole Camera In a Chocolate Tin” — in case you’d like to make a truly pocketable instant film camera yourself.

Let’s chat.

This website has served over half a million pages to readers from all corners of the world. Ad-free, featuring over a hundred individual contributors on a hand-coded, meticulously designed, fast, privacy-oriented platform. It’s a labour of love that’s been a huge part of my life since day one.

Today, I’d like to start a conversation on how to grow and improve this community project with you. I’ve been working on it with my head down for way too long, and I’m afraid I’m beginning to lose sight of what matters for the reader. I need your help: please drop me a line with your thoughts, suggestions, advice, and criticism. How could this platform be improved? Should I add more gear and chemistry reviews? Perhaps improve the Guides catalogue or build new apps/tools/calculators for your daily use? Or maybe there’s something else I haven’t yet imagined? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If anything, I’m happy to just chat about art and photography.

New Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 and “Contact Sheet” frames.

Fujifilm happened to release their new instant film camera in the same month as Polaroid. In their case, it’s a hardware upgrade for a camera that’s been enjoying massive popularity since its release: Instax Mini 90.

Image courtesy Fujifilm Japan.

Instax Mini 40 is undoubtedly larger than Polaroid’s Go, measuring 10.4cm ✕ 12.1cm ✕ 6.5cm and weighing 330g. However, it has a faster top shutter speed of 1/250, going down as low as 1/2 seconds with a similar maximum aperture of 𝒇12.5 on a 60mm plastic lens (35mm full-frame equiv.) that can focus as close as .3m with an even tighter 30cm close-up/selfie mode. Instax film is also slightly cheaper and is known for better chemical stability and development speed.

Mini 40 boasts “automatic exposure,” by which I believe the company means that the camera will use the flash in the subdued light to illuminate the subject and keep the shutter open for longer to get the background details filled in. Other changes are an AA battery compartment instead of the rechargeable port and a clever design that lets you shut the camera off by pushing the retractable lens barrel in when you’re done.

And if a new Instax camera isn’t in the cards for you, there are new frames which, other than the decor/gimmick, neatly add a number to each shot — could be useful.

The camera should be shipping to your favourite store around May 7, 2021.

The new Instax “Contact Sheet” frames with frame numbers. Scans courtesy of Fujifilm Japan.

Fujifilm emulsion price hike.

Unfortunately, the new instant camera and film frames are followed by a massive price hike on Fujicolor C200, Superia X-Tra, and the rest of the portfolio in the UK (and presumably the rest of the world), according to Kosmo Foto.

These are dealer price increases, which aren’t always reflected on the consumer in the same way. The best way to know where all of this is going is by following the real-world price analysis using the Film Prices web app, built specifically for that purpose.

Archiving digital photos on film.

Fstopper’s writer Michael Ernest Sweet has recently suggested a service, Gamma Tech, to convert digital photos to archival 35mm film. His reasoning is bit rot — data loss due to damaged medium, transfer errors, and misplacement; and, as suggested by someone in comments, a loss of support for certain formats. Though film can still very much be lost or degraded over time, it certainly won’t become an obsolete medium since there isn’t any encoding happening; it’s just a picture, only smaller, with colours inverted and masked — if it’s a negative.

Gamma Tech uses specialized machinery to charge about $5 per frame (!) on 35mm film, up to $80 per frame on 8✕10. They use Provia for slides, Ektar for C-41, and T-Max 100 for monochrome. Looks like digital photography can get incredibly expensive if it is to have the same archival quality as a film camera. Of course, this process may be approximated using contact printing off a monitor but the screen resolution isn’t nearly as high as that of film — even with the “Retina” or high-density displays. Besides, according to their website, film can reproduce a much larger gamut of colours than a screen or a printer may.

I found it to be a fascinating archival strategy, which seems to make sense despite the complex and expensive process. Provided that what you’re saving is worth all the dough.