I shot something totally different over this weekend - a polaroid camera (a camera using instant film - you get prints straight out of camera, no sensors/computers/postprocessing, even no negative nor development). And I have totally mixed feelings now :) My thoughts just don't form nice sentences by default so I'm going to throw them at you in a bulleted list:
- I like the fact that there's black and white medium (or should I call it film?) available. You don't think about shooting BW polaroid into sunset. And it's just fine to shoot during harsh midday contrast. After a few frames contrasts are the only thing you think about.
- I like the format - it's very close to 4x5 which I've used for some time now. Just that until now I've cropped my digital files to 4x5, while this camera shoots it natively. Remark: this was Image/Spectra camera, the usual 600 and SX-70 cameras shoot square, which I prefer not.
- I like the physicality of the out outcome - you get nicely finished prints in about 10 minutes.
- I like the random defects at the borders, it's so analogue.
- It is what it is - there's nothing to adjust after the picture is taken, you don't crop, you don't retouch a polaroid.
- If you just have 8 frames in a pack (that costs 22€ - which should be part of the not-so good-list) it makes you slow down and think, consider different compositions, not just shoot 20 rather random frames hoping to get one so-so photo in post.
I like the restrictions it forces - they make you think towards specific pictures, not try to capture anything aimlessly. I was totally fine shooting just 7 frames during a day trip, while the usual digital mileage is in the order of few hundred.
OK, there's a lot things I liked, now about the not-so-good things:
- Contrast is poor, like really poor. I'm not sure if this was due to the film being old or kept in improper conditions or that's the way it should be. Need more testing here. Version 2.0 of the Impossible film had a bit more contrast and deeper blacks, but for now it's only available in square format (Polaroid 600 cameras). As I said before, I prefer not to shoot square.
- Although you get your prints immediately, the prints are small and resolution is non-existent. At this size you'd need a lot of resolution if you'd like to scan and print these images bigger.
- There's no fine detail - it's a mixture of non-existent resolution and poor contrast.
Why I still want to shoot polaroid is that it teaches you to convey your idea to the viewer in a very basic form, you don't have all the arsenal of photographic tricks at your disposal, all you have is something just barely better than a pencil drawing.
A pencil drawing - now that I think about, it seems very good comparison. It's so basic it first teaches you visual alphabet of it's own, you'll get to the language later.
Why I'm a bit reluctant to use polaroid for anything serious is that there's almost nothing you can do with the picture after it's taken, in a sense that you can't enlarge it, you can't print it bigger, you can't do an exhibition of polaroids (or maybe you can if you matt them?), you can - maybe - put them into small book. Makes me give another look to the polaroid books like Helmut Newton's and Mike Brodie's.