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Polaroid Camera Film - How Self-Developing Polaroid Camera Film Works

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Polaroid, the long time maker of “instant photos,” also manufactured film for use within their numerous varieties of cameras. However, Thomas J. Petters, the controller of Polaroid, announced the closing of three Polaroid factories and that 450 people would lose their jobs in February of 2008. At the time of the Polaroid closings, only two other filmmakers remained to supply users of Polaroid and other instant cameras within the United States; The Impossible Project and Fujifilm.

The film itself became a legend, as did the cameras that used instant film. What some do not realize is that the film is what makes a Polaroid photo a Polaroid, not the camera. Polaroid camera film uses a special type of developing sheet of which produces the negative and later, after about a minute of development, the “positive” or finished photo image.

Polaroid Camera Film Types
Polaroid Film developed numerous types of instant film for their instant cameras and each film type corresponded to a specific camera, also developed by Polaroid. Polaroid roll film was the first. Developed in 1948, Polaroid distributed the film in two sheet rolls, one a negative and the other a positive of which they continued manufacturing until 1992. Sheet Polaroid camera film was developed in 1958 of which contained the negative and positive in each single sheet. Polaroid developed pack film in 1963 that contained everything needed to develop photos instantly, the first “real” Polaroid instant camera film. Integral film came in 1972. Polaroid also distributed this film in pack form. Polavision, made for instant “motion pictures,” came in 1978. This film led to the early development of 35 mm film. Polachrome, developed by Polaroid in 1983, came in three forms including color, blue and monochrome.

Instant Film Processing
The process of self-developing film is a combination of the chemicals used within the sheets of film and the act of pulling the film from the camera after taking the photo, which is why when using instant cameras, the user must pull the film out of the camera in a slow but equal movement. Both the color and black and white versions of the film use a diffusion transfer process that uses a form of reagent synthesis.

The development process of the chemicals can seem slightly complicated and confusing to the layman, but both black and white and color versions of self-developing film products used by Polaroid cameras not only makes the developing time very fast, but also makes the photos a bit more vulnerable to lighting.

Self-Developing Color Polaroid Film
The negative of a color self-developing sheet uses three separate negatives of which the negative base of the sheet is coated with emulsion related to the different colors used in developing photographs. These colors are both complimentary and primary including cyan, magenta, yellow, blue, green, and red. The three primary colors are silver halide emulsions and sensitive to their corresponding shade of light. Complimentary colors are then layered underneath each emulsion primary color layer using “dye-developing molecules.”

These chemicals respond to light passing through the sheet and the colors are developed as the opposite color of the light passing through the emulsions. Essentially, the color passing through the emulsions blocks their corresponding colors from developing to produce the color of light passing through to the photo image. For instance, when a yellow light, made up of green and red together, pass through the emulsion to block the complimentary colors magenta and cyan from passing thus producing the yellow color on the positive (the image).
Using almost the same technique used to develop color instant film, integral film simply adds more time and additional layers to the prints of which are contained in a plastic coating, such as those used by Polaroid camera film.

Self Developing Black and White Polaroid Film
The black and white version of the developing process is the same, with the exception of the chemicals used and the fact there is no “color” to speak of. Using two sheets to form the negative that contains silver halide grains, the positive image transfers to a solubilized solution using the same diffusion technique as the color developing does. The unexposed grains are then transferred to the positive image, thus creating the finished print.

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