The Unexpected Return of Instant Photography

By  |  Thursday, November 13, 2008 at 11:27 pm

Back in February, the modern-day Polaroid company announced that it was ceasing production of instant film, thereby bringing an end to the business that made Polaroid Polaroid. It was a sad day for what was once one of the coolest consumer technologies going, and when I blogged a heartfelt tribute a lot of folks chimed in with their own memories.

Polaroid photography is, I’m sorry to say, still dead. Permanently, probably. But I’m tickled to report that instant photography is back, in the form of Fujifilm’s Instax 200 camera. Yup, a camera of the sort that takes film and spits out photos that develop as you watch.

Fuji says that its heard from police officers, real estate agents, healthcare providers, and others who have grown panicky over the dwindling supplies of Polaroid film, and so the company is rolling out the Instax in the U.S. for the first time. Fuji’s system isn’t Polaroid-compatible, but it’s very much Polaroidesque. The camera is $69.99; a 20-pack of film is $28.99. Both will be available in December.

I’m curious just what sort of  cops, realtors, and doctors are still using  Polaroid cameras, and whether they have rational explanations for ignoring the digital photography revolution which has been underway for a decade or so. If they’re merely hardcore luddites, that’s okay with me. But I was reminded of one virtue of instant photography recently when I had a passport photo taken: The photographer used a digital camera, and it took him ten minutes to download the photo, process it, and print it out. For all of digital photography’s profound usefulness, it’s not as instant as instant photography is.

One side note: Fuji’s Instax announcement comes just days after Japan’s Tomy announced a digital camera with a built-in photo printer. The Tomy product sounds intriguing–but it’s no more magical than the original instant camera that Polaroid founder Edwin Land released back in 1948. This is probably sacrilegious in the extreme, but I think it’s possible that Dr. Land would be happy to know that Fuji revived instant photography after Polaroid did its best to bump it off.



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6 Comments For This Post

  1. Otis B. Driftwood Says:

    Even deader than Polaroid are the Polaroid imitations produced in the Soviet Union. There were two of these, one copied from the original Polaroid technology, and one from the mature form. These were not compatible with Polaroid film merely because the sizes were slightly different. You had to use Soviet film. Unfortunately, no Soviet film was ever produced. Camera production was under the Ministry of Light Industry, and film under the Ministry of Chemistry. These two operations did not talk to each other, at least about matters photographic. One of the two models never saw more than a few prototypes, but the other achieved several thousand exemplars, not one of which ever took a picture.

  2. Weasle Says:

    cops and I think maybe one of the lunar dust labs use Polaroid just because it is what is done (i.e it’s tradition)… while some cops have a problem not having some kind of film or tangible object to hand… something that can be stuck into a paper file.

    I know, you could put it on a DVD or thumb-drive and put *that* in the file, but these are hard-copy, all paper Luddites we’re talking about here… the ethereal nature of digital images doesn’t feel like evidence to a older cops.

    Then when you take the larger justice system into account, you have to remember that evidence will hopefully be used in some sort of trial proceeding at some point in time. This means that cops are gathering evidence and data that has to go before a jury… and some juries are so dumb that they can be told by a slick defence attorney that if it’s digital it could be “easily altered” whereas film is somehow more “real” – which is just because juries are usually 12 dumbasses getting $2.59 a day to sit in a court room and act out their favourite t.v. crime drama.

    On a totally different note, if it wasn’t for Polaroid, Veronica Leuken wouldn’t have gotten her magical Polaroid messages from Mary… which is just insulting to the B.V.M. and Polaroid manipulation art, both of which I’m into. 😉

  3. Mitchell Burt Says:

    NICE bit of history/trivia, Otis! Thanks for that.

  4. MacHobbes Says:

    Really great bit of history. “Ministry of Light Industry” takes on a whole new meaning…

  5. Snafu Says:

    I think it’s not so much ludditism as reliability. For example, we still send faxes from my workplace: we know that if we get a receipt okaying our sent fax it means the receiver machine has produced a printout and there is no way its owner can deny it is there, as opposed to all the usual email snafus we go through daily.

    Having an instant photo print means no chance of error, malfunction or misplacement happening after taking a digital snapshot and before producing a hardcopy, which is rather important in situations such as CSIs. Certainly, there is nothing more straightforward that taking a Polaroid.

    That Tomy thing is intriguing :).

  6. nikky Says:

    I would like one they make people react different when you take their photograph with an isnatnt camera

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    […] Technologizer laments the loss of Polaroid but shares new hope for instant photography in the form of the Fujifilm Instax 200 in The Unexpected Return of Instant Photography. […]