Not long ago Alex Luyckx reviewed Fujifilm’s FP-100C film for Polaroid pack film cameras. I don’t know whether he shared images he made long ago, or whether he bought expired packs and shot them recently. But he surely didn’t buy new pack film as it’s been out of production for almost ten years.
I loved pack film and was thrilled that Fujifilm supported the format. I nearly always shot this film in a Polaroid Colorpack II. I shot a pack or two in a Polaroid Automatic 250, as well, but gave up after a couple of packs. Automatic series cameras compressed the plastic film pack too hard, making it difficult to pull out the first few photographs from any pack. Also, it required a hard-to-find battery. I spliced in a holder for a common battery with the right voltage, but the solution was flimsy and didn’t always work. The rigid-bodied cameras like the Colorpack II had neither problem. Here’s one of the few photos I have from the Automatic 250. Vibrant reds are a hallmark of FP-100C.
The Colorpack II, in contrast, couldn’t miss. It was a terrific camera for this film.
When I started shooting the Fujifilm pack films (which included black-and-white FP-3000B), I originally cropped the border out of my scans. Then I noticed that other photographers left them in, so I started doing it, too. A downside is that any post-processing can discolor the border, and you can’t apply straightening or perspective correction without the border moving as well.
Pack films demand good exposure, thanks to shallow latitude. Uneven lighting leads to mixed results. Here I reduced highlights some in Photoshop to bring out detail in the gable over the fire truck. As you can see, doing so also darkened the border. I feel sure that if I were to invest in learning more about Photoshop’s layers I could have avoided that, but I just don’t wanna.
FP-100C renders vibrant greens, too, although not as vibrant as reds. Blues, on the other hand, come out on the cool side. Light grays take on a slight blue tint.
It was crucial to pull each photograph out of the camera straight and smoothly, at a moderate pace. This let the developer spread evenly across the print. False moves resulted in corners not being developed.
I was always frustrated when that happened, but for many pack-film fans it’s part of the medium’s charm.
Pack film cameras are large — you aren’t inconspicuous when you carry one. The folding Automatic cameras were more cumbersome than the comparatively svelte rigid-bodied cameras. The Automatics offered superior optics, for the most part. The rigid-bodied cameras generally used acrylic lenses, although the Colorpack II in particular was fitted with a glass lens until late in the run. The lens was a little wide, which let me frame this scene.
I don’t pine for pack film, but I feel a deep pang when someone reminds me of it, as Alex did. I wish I had stockpiled more of it when rumors started circulating of its demise. Curse you, Fujifilm, for systematically discontinuing film stocks over the last 20 years!
I’ve tried other instant film formats and none of them please me like pack film. The one instant camera I still own is a Polaroid SX-70. I shoot it about once a year. It’s a marvelous camera, and I enjoy using it. But I’ve never made photographs with it that can touch the ones I’ve shown here.
I’m considering buying a new Polaroid Now camera this year. I don’t expect that it will give me photos appreciably better than those my SX-70 makes, but at least I can buy the I-Type film at the drug store. SX-70 film is mail-order only.
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