photoblogography - Just some stuff about photography

Instant Colour

Polachrome emerges into the light

in Film , Wednesday, April 11, 2012

So, onto Polaroid Polachrome. This was Polaroid’s instant colour slide film, and a bit of a strange(r) beast. Rated at ISO 40, in terms of colour and saturation it looked surprisingly good on the light table, a bit like a cross between Kodachrome and Velvia. And as far as I can tell from what few slides I still have, taking into account that I never shot it seriously, it seemed to have reasonable dynamic range too.  But the really weird thing about Polachrome, which I’d forgotten but have now rediscovered, is that if you look through a loupe you see that the image seems to be made up from series of thin horizontal lines, a bit like a old raster display. This really throws my film scanner:

Polac lines

I couldn’t really get anything sensible from the film scanner, but the Canoscan 9000F managed a little better, being unhampered by high resolution.


This is totally unprocessed, a direct TIF from the scanner. It looks far better on the light table, and it might be possible to extract a far better file from it if I could be bothered, but there’s not much point really.

Here are a couple of shots which hint and what might have been possible way back then. Both direct from the scanner, nothing changed except downsizing to fit.


I seem to be permanently attracted by off-beam, marginal and downright eccentric solutions. So I guess I’ll never own a Canon or a Nikon DSLR. Polaroid instant slide film was fun, albeit most of the time totally impractical. At least the monochrome stuff was almost unique, but Polachrome had to compete with 24 hour or under E6 lab processing, and frankly it was never going to stand a chance, except in very particular situtations, such as a when living in a tent in the Antarctic. No, really.

Tomas Webb wrote more about Polachrome a while back.  The comments on his article are a bit painful: I threw out my apparently worthless Polaroid processor… seems I should have put it on eBay!



Many thanks for posting this and the previous article - I’ve seen these films mentioned in pre-digital books on photography, but this is the first-ever first-hand account of how they worked in action. Fascinating stuff, although I’m glad I stuck with K64. The colours of the images you show are strangely reminiscent of the faded yet enchanting hues of the colour pictures that Frank Hurley took on the Endurance voyage to Antarctica. How appropriate…

By Project Hyakumeizan, on April 12, 2012

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