Polaroid Film Shield a.k.a. “Frog Tongue” Review

Does It Work and Is It Worth It?

6 min read by

Once exposed, Polaroid film is ejected from your camera and immediately exposed to the daylight; this would ruin any other kind of film. But miraculously, Polaroid frames develop within minutes to reveal the image before you — a process that other emulsions require longer times and in complete darkness.

The reason Polaroid frames are able to withstand the initial burst of light is an opacifier layer that shields the chemicals below until it is dissolved or becomes transparent by the process.

However, this layer is prone to some issues that a Polaroid Film Shield should be able to help solve. In this review, I discuss and demonstrate its effectiveness at preventing opacification failure and improving overall contrast.

Blue streaks on Polaroid film.

Opacification failure appears as blue streaks on mostly colour Polaroid frames. Over time, I got used to seeing them in my photos and no longer mind too much — it’s part of the appeal for me. However, that may not be the case for you, especially if an important part of your photo gets affected.

Opacification failure (and other issues) appearing as white/blue streaks.

Opacification failure can be caused by dirt and old, dry chemicals stuck to the rollers in the camera that squeeze and spread the packet of the developer, located at the bottom/thicker part of the frame. When those materials interfere with the precise spread of the chemicals, the opacifier layer can get affected in some areas and fail to protect the light-sensitive layers below from the bright light after ejection.

However, opacification failure isn’t the only issue you’ll see on your frames if your rollers are dirty. Uneven surfaces on the rollers can affect many layers in your Polaroid and thus should be taken care of gently with a moist cotton swab — you can see the rollers when you open your camera to load or unload your film pack. Let your rollers dry completely before shooting again.

Polaroid Film Shield, sometimes called “Frog Tongue,” can help avoid opacification failure by covering your frame as it’s being ejected from the camera. But, as mentioned, it won’t save your images completely from dirty rollers — you can see a few streaks in the photos I uploaded with my Polaroid Now camera review that has a built-in Film Shield (due to other layers being affected).

✪​ Note: From here on, I’ll be using lower-case “film shield” and “frog tongue” as nouns rather than product names.

Loss of contrast.

Clean rollers can prevent opacification failure, but they won’t make the opacifier layer work better than it’s designed to. Photographic film is extremely light-sensitive, and there’s only so much a thin layer of chemicals can do.

As I scoured the internet for info on how to improve the quality of my Polaroids, I came across a theory that adding a film shield to the camera can improve the overall contrast. This made sense to me: aiding the opacifier layer in hiding the light-sensitive layers from light; we should get deeper blacks — they said — and maybe brighter whites.

To test this theory, I devised a simple test: I took a photo on my Polaroid SX-70 monochrome film (without frog tongue) and immediately covered one side of the frame with a piece of cardboard while keeping the other side exposed to direct sunlight.

Can you guess which side of the frame was covered and which was exposed to the sun without seeing the answer below?

Polaroid opacifier layer sunlight exposure test. One side of this photo was shielded from direct light immediately after exposure — other wasn’t.

The difference is surprisingly minute yet present. A stronger effect may have formed if I didn’t let any light onto the side of the frame I was shielding as the film ejected and let the other side of the frame eject straight into the sunlight. Instead, I covered it as soon as I could while letting some light hit the entire frame in the second after ejection before covering up (the frame was shielded from direct sun until I placed it on a table to develop).

The right side of the above frame was shielded from direct sunlight.

But contrary to the internet folklore, the blacks saw no improvement from being shielded, although the highlights appear noticeably brighter. The shaded side of the picture seems to have slightly more contrast which is important for Polaroid frames since, being finished physical prints, they can’t be edited in post. But I wonder if the difference would be noticeable at all if I didn’t try to highlight it in the image above (as mentioned above, the experiment could be improved).

Installing Polaroid Film Shield on SX-70.

Despite its imperfections, I love Polaroid film, and I want to give it the best chance as I experimented with the Duochrome Green edition frames in my Polaroid SX-70 (using the backlit exposure method). So I bought mine.

Polaroid Film Shield/frog tongue installation manual for Polaroid SX-70 film cameras.

Installing Polaroid Film Shield isn’t tricky at all; the instructions printed at the back of the package made it plain:

Stretch the rolled-up plastic with a piece of cardboard or a Polaroid frame and insert it into the slot where the camera ejects the photos while laying on top of the rollers.

The result is a bit awkward, to be honest. The rolled-up shield sticks out from the bottom of the camera, which means that when you place it on a table, your SX-70 will rest on top of the frog tongue. Not ideal, but given that the shield is surprisingly rigid not a significant issue.

I’ve also found that closing the camera requires bending a part of the shield inside of the camera slightly, which adds some resistance. This took a little time to get used to, but I don’t think it affected my fifty-year-old camera in any way.

How much does Polaroid Film Shield cost, and is it worth it?

The film shield costs around $12-15 across various retailers for both SX-70 and 600-type cameras — sometimes more for the “vintage” versions branded with Polaroid Originals. It was out of stock for the longest time but should be available when you read this article.

I’m glad I’ve got mine, and I plan to use it for important shoots and limited-edition Polaroid frames to squeeze the most contrast out of my images. But I’m also happy that it’s easy to install and uninstall, as I will often prefer not to have it stick out from the bottom of my SX-70.

❤ By the way: Please consider making your Polaroid Film Shield purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!