Film Photography

Goodbye Fujifilm FP-100C

The last instant pack film is dead. Fujifilm has discontinued FP-100C, a color film.

fp100c

I’m sure this is old news to some of you, as Fujifilm announced this at the end of February. Prices immediately jumped on remaining inventory. I bought three packs before prices shot into the stratosphere.

I’ve shot Polaroid packfilm cameras off and on since the 1970s, when my grandparents bought me one new for Christmas. I was charmed that I could get a print in 60 seconds, but wasn’t impressed with the the prints themselves. The colors were weird, and worse, they darkened with time.

In comparison, the Fuji films were wonderful. The black-and-white FP-3000B, which was discontinued in 2013, had good tonality and range. The FP-100C’s appealing candylike colors made it a go-to film on a bright spring day. Better still, the prints stay bright for years.

And both films yield great sharpness when used in a camera with a capable lens. Photographers who put instant backs on their medium-format cameras got stunning results. My old folding Polaroid Automatic 250, with its decent lens, returned solid results. It was such a pain to use, though, that I gave it away and bought a rigid-bodied Colorpack II to replace it. I loaded one of my last packs of FP-100C into the Colorpack II recently and took it out to shoot spring color. I started with my freshly bloomed daffodils.

Daffodils

Up close on a bright day, the Colorpack II even creates a little bokeh. It’s not great bokeh, but that this lumbering brute of a camera does it at all pleases me greatly. The film does lose detail in the highlights, though, as you can see where the sun hits the top of this fire plug.

Plug

I took the Colorpack over to Holliday Park one afternoon. The Ruins, a huge art installation on the grounds, is being renovated and somewhat reworked. This is where they’re washing out concrete.

Wash Out

The Colorpack also came along with me to work one day. It’s conspicuous camera and it attracted a lot of attention around the office. Many of my young co-workers had never seen a packfilm camera before. This orange Vette in our parking lot doesn’t belong to any of them.

Vette

The callery pear trees have all finished blooming now, thank goodness, because the flowers smell like rotting shrimp.

Pear trees in bloom

One morning’s sun lit my living room well, so I tried an available-light shot of my bookcase. On the middle shelf are my Pentax ES II, Spotmatic SP, and H3; and my Yashica-D and Yashica-12. My Canonet QL17 G-III is hiding on the top shelf. The camera and film don’t give much shadow detail. I couldn’t even bring any out in Photoshop. Sharpness is off, too. If I had to guess, the camera probably went wide open (f/9.2) for this shot, and that’s when the lens is probably at its softest.

Bookcase with cameras

Finally, on an overcast day I finished the pack by shooting my house. I think this print’s flat colors show well that FP-100C is born for a sunny day.

My home

I’m going to miss the Fuji pack films terribly. I shot two or three packs a year and always really loved the experience and the results. I know I can always buy (crazy expensive) Impossible films for my Polaroid SX-70, but the hard reality is that image quality just isn’t very good. The pack films and associated cameras truly were the pinnacle of instant photography. It’s a real shame that their era is ending. Yet it’s remarkable that their era lasted as long as it did.

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Polka-dotted chair

Polka-dotted chair
Polaroid One Step 600, Polaroid 600 film (expired)
2012

Film Photography
Image
Film Photography

My last pack of instant Fujifilm FP-3000B

Spring and summer pass right by without me ever thinking about instant photography. But come autumn, I start dreaming of Polaroids. I don’t get it, but I go with it.

I’m also on a jag to shoot up the expired film chilling in my fridge. That film wasn’t expired when I bought it — I’ve just been slow to shoot it. It’s in the fridge; it’s fine. But some of that film are last rolls of stuff you can’t buy anymore, such as Kodak Plus-X, Arista Premium 400, and my last pack of Fujifilm FP-3000B instant pack film. Can you see where this is going?

I had an idea for a photo essay. I loaded that FP-3000B into my Polaroid Colorpack II and started shooting. A couple shots in, I realized my photo-essay idea was terrible and that I wasn’t getting very good exposures. Sometimes, things just don’t work out. So I just shot the rest of the pack around the yard, enjoying my camera and the last of this film.

I have a one-car garage. During the warm months, it’s full of bicycles and lawn-care gear, and I park my car in the driveway.

In the driveway

I inevitably get lazy about storing things, and a bunch of junk accumulates on the garage floor. So one of of my late-autumn rituals is to put the bikes and yard gear in the shed and to properly store or pitch the accumulated junk so I can park my car in the garage during the cold months. Here’s this year’s mess.

Garage mess

This was a year of home projects. I hired many of them out, first and foremost the removal of my 21 dead ash trees. But I also had my windows and shutters scraped, reglazed, recaulked, and repainted. I rolled up my sleeves, too: I did a lot of landscaping in the wake of the tree removal, and I also repainted my front door. The previous owner had slapped a careless coat of white paint onto what had been a finished wood door, and it always looked pretty bad. I stripped all the old finishes off and painted the door in a copper color, which harmonizes with browns and oranges in my house’s bricks. In the spring, I’ll have that old aluminum storm door replaced with one of those great white vinyl doors with a rollaway screen.

Entry

One of my landscaping projects was to finally do something about the dead patch right behind my house. A vast patch of English ivy lay here when I moved in. It was a great ground cover, but it was also laced with poison ivy. There was no way to kill the poison ivy without also killing the English ivy — and it took years to do it, as both are hardy and persistent. But I succeeded, and for the past couple years I’ve had a big patch of dirt back here. The soil eroded, and I ended up with a negative grade — ground sloping toward the house, which risks water getting into the foundation. So I bought a ton of topsoil and got a bunch of help. We spread the dirt to create a positive grade, and then we planted nine boxwood bushes and spread some mulch to help keep that soil from eroding. I had all these big rocks in another spot in the back yard from some landscaping a former owner did, landscaping superseded by a later owner. I moved those rocks here to create a border.

New hedgerow

With all of this work around the house and yard this year, it’s no wonder I managed just one road trip this year, my October trip down the National Road in eastern Indiana.

Just for fun, I wanted to see how the Colorpack II and the FP-3000B would handle a double exposure. Here are my bikes, ready to go into the shed.

Double exposed shed

If you want to see the rest of the shots from this pack, check out my Polaroid Colorpack II gallery. There you’ll also see some wonderful spring-flower shots I made with this camera on FP-100C color pack film. The Fujifilm pack films are just great. I daresay I like them better than the old, long-out-of-production Polaroid pack films.

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Film Photography

Shooting Polaroid 600 film

I’ve decided I’m done with integral-film Polaroid cameras. Pricey film and meager results — not enough pleasure for the cost.

Polaroid OneStep 600

So I listed all of my integral-film cameras on eBay —  except for my SX-70, which I still find enormously fascinating, even though I will almost certainly not shoot it again.

One last pack of expired 600 film lurked in my fridge, so I put it into my OneStep 600 (pictured) for a final hurrah. I burned through the entire pack in an hour.

Despite storing this pack cold, it deteriorated heavily over another pack I got at the same time but shot in late 2012. Much more of the photosensitive material had pulled away from the corners, and colors had shifted badly. Compare these photos to photos from the other pack here.

My favorite shot from the pack is this one of a Panera Bread store, because the green corners frame the building so well.

Pantera

I was out for a haircut; the fellow who cuts my hair works in this strip mall.

TJ's

I shot the rest of the pack close to home. Here’s my front stoop. We’ve had a little snow.

Stoop

My neighbor’s gable isn’t truly the same color as the sky, but this film sure couldn’t tell it.

Neighbor's gable

Meet my front door. I really dislike the sailboat door knocker. You’d think that after living here 7½ years I’d’ve done something about it.

Front door

Here’s another entry into a small collection of “Why didn’t the shutter fire….Drat” photos of my forehead. Unfortunately, this used up the remaining bulb in the flashbar that came with the camera.

Why didn't the shutter fire?...oh.

So long, integral-film instant photography. From now on, when I have a hankering for pronto prints, I’ll put a pack of FP-100C into my Colorpack II. I’ll save money and get better images.

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Film Photography, Stories Told

Getting ready for winter, a photo essay on Fujifilm FP-3000B instant film

The last leaves fall the first of November, just in time for cold days and freezing nights. Let the calendar disagree with me, but I say this is where winter begins, bleak and down and lonely.

Bare Branches

Through October I spend every Saturday mowing up the trees’ prodigious leavings, just me and my old tractor. I cling to this ritual, which readies me for the closed-up months to come.

Tractor and Bagging Attachment

Most years I mulch the leaves back into the lawn. Some years I bag the shreddings. This year I dumped them behind the low fence in a corner of the back yard; the years will turn them into dirt. It’s mindless work: mow for a few minutes until the buckets fill, drive around back and dump, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Leaf Dumping Grounds

But in November, after the trees are bare and the yard is clean, a ceremony of sorts: the putting away. Unclutter the garage so the car can go in, clear the deck to protect summer things from rust and decay. Into the shed go the yard tools, the bicycles, the patio furniture.

Open Shed

As I move each piece, a summer’s events project on my mind, idyllic like color slides: the new brown bicycle I couldn’t ride after foot surgery, the dirty red wheelbarrow I used to spread fresh and smelly mulch, the new green electric cultivator that leveled and mixed compost into my front yard all torn up after the new sewer connection. My whole family worked an entire Saturday with me to do that and plant new grass. What a good day.

Electric Cultivator

The patio furniture went in next. I hardly used it this year thanks to the thick, relentless mosquitoes! The citronella candles on the table didn’t help at all.

Patio Furniture

All secured, it was time to run the gas out of the mower and tractor and put them away, too.

Push Mower with Tractor in the Background

While I waited, I walked around the yard, clear of leaves and still green, especially the new grass. That color will dull and fade through November; now is the time to enjoy it.

House at the End of Autumn

I noticed the work I didn’t get done this year. The driveway’s cracks need filled, dead limbs need cut from the maple, the windows need scraped and painted. Next spring, for sure.

Bare Tree Reflected

The motors soon shut off, one and then the other, out of gas. I pushed the tractor in first, the mower in next, and then locked the shed. One more job, which I hired out: haul that brush pile away. It was gone the following Tuesday. It feels good to have all those overgrown trees and bushes cleared out back. I worked at it here and there all year, sometimes alone, sometimes with one son or the other, once with my parents newly moved to my town and eager to do normal family stuff. Good memories.

Shed and Brush Pile

Good memories indeed. It was a summer well lived. Okay, winter, I’m ready for you now.

Photographed the afternoon of November 9 with my Polaroid Big Swinger 3000 on Fujifilm FP-3000B instant film.

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Camera Reviews

Polaroid Colorpack II

I’ve been drawn to Polaroid photography since I was a kid in the 1970s. I get excited over holding a developed print in my hands a minute after pressing the shutter button. So I’ve tried any number of Polaroid cameras looking for the one that balances cost and ease of use with the best possible quality photographs. It’s been a frustrating and expensive journey, but I think I may finally have found The One: the 1969 Polaroid Colorpack II.

Polaroid Colorpack II

I’ve tried every kind of Polaroid camera for which you can still get film. I really hoped I’d find joy in an integral-film camera, the kind where the print shoots out of the camera and develops before your eyes. No luck; they all yielded soft, muddy results.

I got sharper photos with truer colors from the older packfilm cameras, the kind where you peel the backing off after the print finishes developing. I started with the big, folding cameras, but found them to be complicated to use and take a hard-to-find battery. Also, they tended to put too much pressure on the plastic Fujifilm film packs, making it very hard to pull the first few prints out of the camera.

Rigid-bodied packfilm cameras don’t have these problems, but almost all of them come with plastic lenses that lead to soft results that distort in the corners.

But then I learned that most Polaroid Colorpack II cameras came with a three-element, 114mm f/9.2 coated glass lens. The Colorpack II was the first rigid-bodied packfilm camera to accept both color and black-and-white films. It cost $29.95 when introduced in 1969, which is about $190 in 2014 dollars. That may seem expensive, but it was a bargain compared to the folding packfilm cameras, most of which cost more than $100 new. Colorpack IIs are plentiful and eBay overflows with them. Right away I found one for twenty bucks shipped.

Here are all of the Polaroid cameras I’ve reviewed: the Automatic 250 (here), the Big Swinger 3000 (here), the J66 (here), the One600 (here), the OneStep 600 (here), the Pronto! (here), the Pronto Sonar OneStep (here), and the SX-70 (here). You can also see all of my camera reviews here.

I inserted two fresh AA batteries into the Colorpack II, for without them the shutter won’t fire. Then I loaded a pack of color Fujifilm FP-100C and started shooting. I shot the entire pack of film around the house, as the snowiest and coldest winter in my 20 years in Indianapolis severely curtailed my photography. But I was pleased. The colors are decent and the details are reasonably sharp. The corners are soft, but not unacceptably so.

The view from my front door on a snowy day

I missed my Automatic 250’s wonderful rangefinder as I twisted the Colorpack II’s guess-focus ring. The camera focuses down to three feet. But I was glad for the Colorpack II’s automatic exposure system, which is coupled to an electronic shutter that fires from about 10 sec to about 1/500 sec.

Blinds

My Colorpack II came with a few flashcubes, so I took a couple shots with them. In this photo I focused on the basket of bulbs on the coffee table. The flashcube properly lit only ten feet or so and led to lifeless colors.

Christmas tree flash

I tried again on an early spring day, shooting colorful flowers. This is where the Colorpack II and the FP-100C really shone.

Polaflowers

The actual prints look far better than these scans – they’re sharper and more colorful. I punched them up as best I could in Photoshop. Perhaps with more practice I’ll learn to scan my Polaroid prints without losing their essence.

Polaflowers

I tried a pack of the black-and-white FP-3000B in the Colorpack II. I’ve loved this film every time I’ve used it in other packfilm cameras, but on this overcast day I got nothing but muddy grays. (I also started scanning the borders of the prints, as that appears to be the convention among packfilm shooters around the Internet.)

Car

So I went back to the color FP-100C and kept on getting wonderful results.

Wash Out

You never know just how a packfilm print will turn out. The jelly might not spread evenly across the print, leaving undeveloped corners. You might not manage to pull the print out smoothly, leaving overdeveloped streaks behind. But that’s part of the fun.

Vette

And then the party was over: Fujifilm quit making packfilm. I had two packs of FP-100C in the fridge. I shot them up to say goodbye.

The new Broad Ripple

Naturally, by this time I’d shot this camera enough that I fully had the hang of it, and got a bunch of prints that satisfied me deeply. The candylike color and the almost-but-not-quite sharpness remain deeply appealing to me.

Shoe repair

As of this writing, you can still buy expired Fujifilm packfilm on eBay. But at $30 and more a pack, I’ve decided to let packfilm go. Farewell; it was a great ride while it lasted.

Qdoba

See more photos from this pack in my Colorpack II gallery.

The Polaroid Colorpack II is, to my mind, the best Polaroid camera in modern use. It was, anyway, until Fujifilm quit making the film. The Colorpack II gave pretty good image quality with almost no fuss.

These results are better than you’d get from a Kodak Instamatic, which was 1969’s typical point-and shoot camera. But even the most entry-level 35mm SLR of 1969 can blow the pants off any Polaroid camera.

But so what? Only a Polaroid camera could give you a good print in a minute. That will always be deeply charming.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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