2021 was a crazy year for instant film. On the heels of the pandemic - which continues to linger - we saw a lot of new releases, experiments, collaborations, and news from the “underground” instant community. We also saw the community begin to gather once again at meetups and events.
In this article I want to dive into some of the most notable releases from the past year, and also maybe a few you might’ve missed. I won't be sharing any reviews of the releases, as that will be saved for future articles!
Some of this past year’s biggest instant news came from the mothership itself, Polaroid. With the release of the brand new “Go” film type, multiple cameras, and a handful of film types - it was a good year.
Possibly the biggest news across the instant film industry was the release of the Polaroid Go camera and brand new film format. The palm-sized camera and tiny ~2 inch wide integral film introduced Polaroid into the marketplace of smaller, cheaper instant films which Instax primarily dominates.
I was able to give it a try and while it isn’t for everyone, you can’t deny that it’s a unique offering that is very cute.
Bringing bluetooth functionality to the Polaroid Now camera that was released in 2020, the Now+ was the second camera released from Polaroid in 2021. It brings autofocus, manual controls, and also special modes like double exposures to the prior Polaroid Now.
With the release of this camera it replaces the bluetooth featured OneStep+ that was released by Polaroid Originals (now Polaroid) in 2018*.*
The camera also comes bundled with a 5-pack of experimental lens filters, and houses the typical ~15-pack battery life. Polaroid also launched a redesigned smartphone app to account for the bluetooth features of the Now+.
I haven’t received my camera yet to try it out, but reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. There have been some reports of light meter issues which isn’t unheard of.
Duochrome 600 Film
Once released by The Impossible Project, and then again under “Polaroid Originals,” Polaroid brought back duochrome film in two flavours - blue and yellow.
Duochrome film is similar to their black & white offerings, however it replaces what would usually be a white or grey layer in the film with a unique colour.
There were rumours floating around that more colours would be released, however we may see these in 2022.
It’s not totally clear wether these releases will be a permanent edition to the film lineup, it’s still available on their website and continues to be restocked.
Round Frame 600 Film
Continuing the re-release of films introduced long long ago, Polaroid announced the Round Frame edition film. Round Frame film might possibly be one of the most requested film stocks to re-release since The Impossible Project released it in 2015.
Round Frame was originally discontinued due to the retiring of the die used to cut out the frames. Polaroid seems to have re-made the tools needed to produce the popular film type.
Containing the same chemical formula as the 600 films, the round frame brings back a unique shooting experience that lends itself very well to portraits.
They’ve indicated that this is a more permanent addition to the line up, so we’ve got some time to enjoy this one.
Retrospekt Camera Releases
Even if it’s not directly from Polaroid, Retrospekt deserves a spot in this article for their limited-edition camera releases this year. Collaborating with a number of large brands, they released officially licensed refurbished vintage cameras with brand new paint jobs for enthusiasts and collectors alike.
On that list of brands are the following:
- Killer Acid
- Parks Project
2021 brought a number of new pop-culture and fashion related collaborations.
- Polaroid x Keith Haring
- Polaroid x FENDI
- Polaroid x Teva
- Polaroid x Lacoste
Of the bunch, the most notable would be the Keith Haring collab which brought us a custom Polaroid Now and limited edition I-Type frames.
This is the second time Polaroid has partnered with the Keith Haring Foundation to bring us special edition products, each being a huge hit.
The unsurprising doppelgänger - Ben Fraternale from In an Instant created a fantastic video summarizing the products at it’s launch.
With no surprise Fujifilm released plenty of additions to their instax offerings, but also some unexpected releases. Along with Instax releases, there was also a lot of controversy surrounding Fujifilm’s other film offerings that sparked questions about instax’s presence in the marketplace.
Fujifilm brought two new cameras to their exhaustive Instax mini lineup - the Instax Mini 40 and the Instax Mini Evo.
As you would expect, there really isn’t anything new about the Mini 40 other than a new re-design that echoes the “vintage” looks of the Mini 90. Taking a look at the spec sheet, it doesn’t appear to offer anything different the newest Instax mini cameras.
The Evo however offers a unique take on the Instax shooting experience. This camera is Fujifilm’s second release of a hybrid instant camera (see the Instax SQ10) which contains a digital sensor at its core and bundles a instax printer on the side.
It features a play on the classic analog camera design with film dials to adjust settings and advancement levers to eject the film. The digital side of the camera allows you to preview and add filters to your photo before it ejects.
For the purist, the digital nature of the camera is will make it immediately undesirable. For someone who doesn’t own an Instax mini printer and would appreciate a slimmer Instax camera, I personally am excited to give the camera a try to see if it lives up to a true analog shooting experience.
It ships to customers in Feb 2022 (pending further shipping delays), so we’ll see the first reviews of the camera then.
Contact Sheet Film
One of the more unique Instax announcements this year was the contact sheet themed borders for Instax mini. There isn’t much to say about this one as the film box says everything you need to know, but I know a lot of people had fun shooting this one.
In 2021 we finally saw some much needed attention brought to the Instax Wide format.
Fujifilm launched the first Instax Wide printer and a new wide monochrome film type - which I’m very excited to shoot - that completes their monochrome lineup.
While these two releases aren’t much, it might be a hint that there’s more to come in 2022.
Personally, Instax Wide grew to be my favourite Instax film type in 2021 so I’m hoping there’s a new Wide camera in the future.
Lomography Lomograflok 4x5 Instant Back
The Lomograflok was in very high demand this year, as it is the world's first readymade Instax wide back for 4x5 systems.
Whether you shoot 4x5 film and want to proof your large format shots before hand, or you just want to bring an even more unique shooting experience to Instax Wide - with the addition of Slide, Rise, and Fall.
Lomography is still working through pre-orders, and with the most recent ETA being Spring 2022. If this interests you, order sooner than later!
Discontinuation of Fujifilm film stocks
Possibly the biggest film news of all of 2021, we saw a handful of popular Fujifilm film stocks get discontinued - wether it be for financial, supply chain, or environmental reasons. Of the stocks discontinued, the most notable was the loss of Fujifilm Pro 400H which was the main competitor to Kodak Portra 400.
Although the announcements weren’t directly instant film related, it did bring discussion and speculation about Instax’s lifespan. It’s easy to compare the announcements to Instax film, but Instax continues to be one of the most profitable divisions for Fujifilm so I don’t believe it’s going anywhere anytime soon.
Other than DIY camera builds, the NONS SL42 is one of the most unique production cameras to be released for instant film.
Based on Instax mini film, the SL42 offers an SLR shooting experience and allows you to mount EF, Nikon F, m42, PK, or CY lenses to the body with their respective adapters.
This incredibly cool concept doesn’t come without some catches though. The one main con many users report is that depending on the lens you choose it will introduce mild vignettes to the edges of the frame. This is due to most lenses not having the ability to cover the entire Instax frame.
One Instant/Supersense hit multiple milestones this year by fulfilling all of their pre-orders for their P7 colour film, and also releasing a brand new black & white film.
Some of the first retail batches were available through Brooklyn Film Camera and sold out immediately. It may be hard to purchase at the moment, but it’s great to see great progress being made on the project.
An Impossible Project Documentary
The highly anticipated “An Impossible Project” finally was released to the world via multiple streaming platforms after multiple delays due to the pandemic.
Shot on 35mm film, An Impossible Project follows Florian Kaps (founder of Supersense) in the re-telling of the story about saving the last remaining Polaroid factory - which led to revival of Polaroid as we know it today.
Of all the instant film and Polaroid related films that exist today, this might be the most accurate, informative, and entertaining of them all.
Sometimes extravagant and exaggerated, it still does an excellent job of describing the story and the man behind it all.
Unless you’re deep into the instant film community, this one may be flying under your radar.
NewLandCamera is a camera project with the goal of giving unused Land Cameras a new life by converting them to use new Polaroid Integral film.
With the discontinuation of Type 100 film, the small amount of stock that does exist on the secondary market is driving up prices further and further - out of reach for most photographers. This was one of the main driving factors for developing the conversion.
Although the project Initially launched in 2016, they recently grew a stronger following. Having developed their final prototype, they launched their Pioneer program which invites Polaroid photographers to help develop and provide input on the conversion project.
There is no ETA for when the project will be available to the public, but it’s been an interesting one to follow and I can’t wait to receive my upgrade kit.
Looking to 2022
As always, there are always rumours floating around the instant film community - some positive and some negative. The only thing we can do is think about the things that we’d like to see in the next year.
Here’s a list of things I hope to see in 2022:
- BFC x Negative Supply Instant Film Processor
- US distributor for Supersense One Instant film
- Kodak packfilm
- A new first-party Instax Wide camera
- More Polaroid Duochrome film colours
While none of these are guaranteed, one thing for certain is that I plan to keep Polagraphic up to date this year with news from the instant film world, and connect with more of you throughout the year. It’s the community around instant film that is driving this platform, so I look forward to meeting each of you!
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