View Full Version : Favorite B&W Polaroid film?

Ellen Stoune Duralia
30-Jan-2005, 18:45
Hi everyone! I am getting ready to order some b&w polaroid film in anticipation of the arrival of my Horseman. There are SO many choices that I'm having a hard time making up my mind. Can you tell me what your favorites are and why?

One more question specific to Polaroid 55.. I've seen 'clearing tanks' advertised as a popular accesory to this film. Why? What the devil is a clearing tank? Do you need one?


Michael S. Briggs
30-Jan-2005, 18:56
My favorite B&W Polaroid films are Types 52 and 53. These have suitable contrast for pictorial use. The difference is that Type 52 requires coating, while 53 doesn't. This makes Type 53 more convenient, but some assert that it won't last as long.

To use the negative from Type 55 you have to treat it in a sodium sulfite solution. You don't have to use the purpose-made container.

I highly recommend the 1978 edition of the book "Polaroid Land Photography" by Ansel Adams. Try some of the internet used booksites, e.g., www.bookfinder.com. Polaroid film for 4x5 cameras hasn't changed much since 1978 -- checking out the listing of films on Polaroid's website will bring you uptodate.

Ellen Stoune Duralia
30-Jan-2005, 18:57
Coating? What kind of coating?

Jim Rice
30-Jan-2005, 19:12
There us a little applicator that come with the film. You brush it across the developed print. It stinks too until it dries.

30-Jan-2005, 19:54
Not only does it stink, it also sticks to everything and is a general mess. Until you have some experience, you should probably go with Type 53. (You also need to coat the prints from
Type 55).

Marie Dohoney
30-Jan-2005, 20:00
Why 53 and not 54?

Ellen Stoune Duralia
30-Jan-2005, 20:13
Ok, I just looked at the info for type 52 at polaroid.com and it doesn't mention anything about coating... Confusing! How's a person supposed to know which films need coating or not?

What about color polaroid films? Do they require coating too?

Ralph Barker
30-Jan-2005, 20:20
I think a lot depends on what you're using it for, Ellen. For checking composition and exposure, I like the ISO 100 Type 54 (PolaPro 100), as I find it easier to convert from 100 to the speed of film I'm using. For color, PolaColor 100. If I want a Polaroid negative, obviously Type 55. Note, however, that the speed for a good negative is slower than that for a good instant print, so you don't really get both.

The clearing tanks are convenient if you're clearing multiple Type 55 negs, but not absolutely necessary. It provides a multi-sheet film rack, similar to those used in the 4x5 daylight tanks, that fits inside the plastic tank. A small tray (or, a Tupperware container, suffices if you're doing one or two.

Michael S. Briggs
30-Jan-2005, 22:54
Re which B+W films require coating: the datasheets provide the answer. For films which do not need the coating, the "Description" states "Coaterless". For the films which need coating, this is stated under "Special Treatment". You can find the datasheets from a horribly long URL: http://www.polaroid.com/products/product_list.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302023690&bmUID=1097195658689&bmLocale=en_US&PRDREG=null&sc=Sheetfilm (http://www.polaroid.com/products/product_list.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302023690&bmUID=1097195658689&bmLocale=en_US&PRDREG=null&sc=Sheetfilm).
Click on the particular film, then on the datasheet link. The datasheet for Type 55 also describes how to make the sodium sulfite solution.

AFAIK, none of the color films require coating. The coating serves two purposes: it is more mechanically durable, and it protects the silver in black-and-white prints from attack by certain gases. Since the images in color prints are made with dyes, this second reason for coating doesn't pertain.

Another resource: http://www.polaroid.com/service/userguides/photographic/4x5filmguide.pdf (http://www.polaroid.com/service/userguides/photographic/4x5filmguide.pdf).

mark blackman
30-Jan-2005, 23:54
Type 54 (which doesn't require coating!) is supposed to produce a postive image with a similiar contrast range as transparency film - I tend to agree. With careful handling it is possible to scan the print and produce enlargements upto 10x8 with no obvious loss of detail.
Type 55 produces lovely negatives, which are usually rated at around 20-40 iso. Personally I don't process the film in situ (unless checking exposure etc), but do so when I'm somewhere dust free with running water. Polaroid recommend you wash the film in a solution of 15% sodium sulphite. This is a messy liqued (leaves a nasty white residue on anything that gets splashed). I find gently washing the film in warm water removes the anti-halation layer and chemical residues.
As with all things LF, the best advice is to try things for yourself, don't rush- give yourself plenty of time and space. Once you find something that works for you stick with it!

John Berry ( Roadkill )
30-Jan-2005, 23:57
If you do not carry the sodium sulfite with you remove film without developing it and do it when you have the solution there. Procedure is peel apart picture dump neg in solution THEN look at the positive. It has to get in there that fast or it will fog, especially if your outdoors. Rule of thumb is expose for the positive then open up one stop for proper negative density. John Berry

31-Jan-2005, 03:59
Polaroid Type 72 works well for me, ~400 speed, and coaterless. Scan the developed print as soon as you can and keep the prints sealed in sandwich bags in a dark place to reduce fading. Regards,

Ellis Vener
31-Jan-2005, 09:41
My favorite is type 55. It yields a negative and a print. The negative needs to be washed ("cleared') of the gooey and potentially clothes and furniture staining chemicals if you want to use the negative to print from or just to examine very closely. If you are making a viable negative to print from expose at an ISO of 20 or 25 to get better density; If all you are interested in is the print , expose at around ISO 50 to 64 .

The negative is extremely useful even if all you are going to do is examine it. Mostly I use the negative to check my accuracy in focusing -- to make sure that everything I want to be in focus is actually in focus. But I also examine it and the print closely to look for details that I have missed by just eyeballing the scene and the groundglass. There is something about being able to look at a photograph of what is in front of me that lets me pick up on extraneous details that that I might have taken for granted. This is always true in archtectural photography and especially in photography of interiors.

For learning how to use a 4x5 camera there is simply no better aid than Polaroid Type 55, especially if you are workin by yourself!

Ralph Barker
31-Jan-2005, 10:44
Ellis said,"There is something about being able to look at a photograph of what is in front of me that lets me pick up on extraneous details that that I might have taken for granted. This is always true in archtectural photography and especially in photography of interiors."

Couldn't agree more. Like the camera case in the corner of the frame, or the light meter on the table. ;-)

Reducing the scene to two dimensions on the Polaroid makes it much easier to see the little details.

R.J. Fox
31-Jan-2005, 18:29
Just last week I purchased from a used dealer on the web the "Polaroid Land Photography" book by Ansel Adams -- great book to learn from! Did you know that Ansel did some really neat images with the then brand new SX-70?

Anyway, I think Type 55 is awesome, and the Polaroid clearning bucket, which you can buy with solution from B&H, makes handling everything in the field much easier.


31-Jan-2005, 20:30
I got confused about the numbers. Type 54 is your best bet for starting out.

Jay Wolfe
31-Jan-2005, 22:05
There' was a terrific article in the November issue of Black and White Photography (British magazine) on the use of Polaroid Type 52. It included a lot of good information on adjusting exposure and development similar to zone system controls.