View Full Version : Polaroid Type 52: ISO and general advices

Marco Frigerio
24-Feb-2004, 12:42
Ciao I've just purchased a box of Polaroid Type 52 and I'd like to hear your opinions on manufacturer's ISO 400 indication...I'm asking this because Steve Simmons (in his book Using the View Camera) suggests an ISO 600 value for daylight and ISO 400 for strobe and tungsten...any other kind of advices about this film will be appreciated...thank you and ciao

Bruce Barlow
24-Feb-2004, 13:39
I have found the ASA of Type 52 to wander all over. I have shot it under constant lighting and had it range from ASA 200 to ASA 1600 within the same box of 20 sheets! I can't say that I have found any reason for the wandering, either. I just think the stuff is haunted. My best procedure: try it, and expect to adjust. Ultimately, you'll want to be within 1/3 stop of dead-on, if you're making pictures with it that you want to keep. That's achievable, and pretty easily, since all you do is look at it. Great training for your eye ("just how much IS 1/2 stop?").

Having said that, I now prefer Type 72, which I think looks better, and requires no evil-smelling coating. ASA for Type 72? Polaroid rates it 400. I have used it from 200 to 1600 within the same box... It, too, is alive, or something like alive. Or haunted.

Polaroid is fun, though, especially for portraits. Good luck!

Bruce Barlow

Philippe Gauthier
24-Feb-2004, 13:55
I've had better luck with type 54, ISO 100 and no coating needed. Still a bit tricky to expose, but mainly because I work in low light. While standard modern film will tolerate at least half a second, or even several seconds, without compensation, Polaroid material, according to the data sheet, suffers from reciprocity loss from 1/10th of a second or so.

24-Feb-2004, 14:51
I recently bought a box of Type 52, after using Type 55 for many years. I have found it so contrasty that I can't really pin down an appropriate speed for neutral results. It's just horrible stuff!

bob moulton
24-Feb-2004, 16:08
If you test type 52 for EI you may find it capable of producing quite decent prints. i have used it as part of a class and was pretty happy with the results. Bob

24-Feb-2004, 23:46
It's been a while since I've used Type 52, but I really do like its "look". It was about twenty or so years ago I attempted to test it for speed and found that quite frustrating. I recall that it showed a pronounced blue sensitivity, responding to blue skylight as if it was as bright as direct sun. Of course my meter responded differently, so exposure was always a guess. But once I nailed it, it was marvelous - especially with high values.

Moneyplant (http://wfwhitaker.com/gallery/moneyplant.htm)


Michael S. Briggs
25-Feb-2004, 00:16
I've found Polaroid Type 52 to be consistent. Actually, I prefer Type 53, which I find to be identical, except that Type 53 is coater-less. Polaroid rates them at different speeds. However, some people have asserted that the coater-less materials will have a shorter lifetime than the prints that are coated.

Polaroid Type 52 (or 53) is much more contrasty than conventional B+W film/paper. As a positive material, exposure controls the highlights and varying the development the shadows. Only fairly small changes in development are possible. I prefer to use a spotmeter to meter the brightest area that I want rendered in the print -- for this I use an Exposure Index of 800 -- this is very different from the defining an Exposure Index/ASA for average metering or metering middle grey. Depending on your meter and light, you might need to use a very different value -- you will just have to experiment. Because of the high-contrast nature of the material, exposure needs to be fine-tuned to 1/2 or 1/3 of a stop (as Bruce said). If you also want to try some development variations, it can take a bunch of sheets to home in on the optimum exposure/development.

I highly recommend Ansel Adam's book, "Polaroid Land Photography". You want the "first revised edition" of 1978, not the "first edition" of 1963. This terminology for the editions is silly because they are very different -- the revised edition is much longer. The book is long out-of-print, but can be found at internet used book sites such as www.bookfinder.com.

Marco Frigerio
25-Feb-2004, 05:37
Thank you all, very useful advices...Michael, I've just found the Ansel Adam's book, I'm going to order it...btw, does anyone use the 52 print as a final fine art "product"? I'm asking this because after shooting colour chromes for 2 years, I'd like to experiment with Polaroid films and I'm fascinated by the idea that there will always be one, and only one print, of that particular shot...

Christopher Nisperos
25-Feb-2004, 06:02
Marco, you're right about the excitement of a unique print. A couple of years ago at the Paris Photo show I saw an exhibit of Adams' Polaroids for the first time.

The prints were of course beautiful and there was a definite thrill in knowing that, before my eyes I had a "one-and-only" (though I understand he usually took more than one). I could even see the coating marks!

But heck, if it's rarity you're looking for, why not just take a nice shot and throw away the negative once you have a print? (just joking....)

25-Feb-2004, 22:02
"...btw, does anyone use the 52 print as a final fine art "product"?"


Absolutely. (The link above is a scan of just such an image.) If you can locate a copy of Ansel Adams' Singular Images, you would enjoy that.


Marco Frigerio
26-Feb-2004, 06:08
William, really nice shot...I'll look for Singular Images too, thank you...

Ciao Marco