View Full Version : Using Polaroid 55 as a learning tool

Don Miles
2-Apr-2004, 10:58
I do not yet have 4X5 sheet film developing equipment for the darkroom, but I have borrowed a 4X5 Calumet view camera with a 150mm Schneider lens. Can I use Polaroid 55 as a learning tool, cleaning the negatives and printing them? Most of what I have read talks of using the Polaroid only to check exposure, etc.

mark blackman
2-Apr-2004, 11:09
The -ve from type 55 is pretty wonderful, and as a learning tool it's invaluable, remember to rate it around 25 - 40 ASA (the variation is a personal thing).

One other tiny thing, I think you'll find that the camera you are loaning takes 5x4 film, in English anyway.

Chris Mallison
2-Apr-2004, 11:22
I'm using it and wash it with PermaWash which contains the sodium sulfate required to get the yucky purple stuff (tech slang) off the negative. No need to mix chemicals. Finish with a rinse containing FotoFlow. Scan, adjust in Photoshop, print. Great stuff.

steve simmons
2-Apr-2004, 11:47
To get a good neg use a speed of 25-40. The print will be overdone but the neg will be good to print. To get a good print use a speed of about 80. The neg will be too thin to print but the print will be fine.

Another way to go is to use the 100 speed black and white insant film. There is no neg but a very good print.

Since you are new to large format here are some resources that might be helpful to you

www.viewcamera.com there are several free articles

here are some books

Using the View Camera that I wrote for Amphoto

User's Guide to the View Camera by Jim Stone

Large Format Nature Photogaphy by Jack Dykinga

good luck

steve simmons

mike rosenlof
2-Apr-2004, 12:45
I agree with Mr. Simmons. For _learning_ large format, Polaroid is great stuff. You may find that for the learning process, a Polaroid print film makes a lot more sense. The feedback is more instant. Of course, you can always expost type 55 just for the print, and not worry about the neg.

Polaroid prints can be sharp, but the type 55 negative is much sharper! If you're trying to evaluate that you are focusing well, or using movements correctly, you'll get better feedback with a strong loupe on the T55 neg than on any polaroid print. For this, you don't even need to clear the neg (if you never intend to print it, of course).

Bruce Barlow
2-Apr-2004, 12:49
A slightly contrary opinion. Try Type 72, a print-only film with a speed of at least 400 (you may find it higher under some conditions; I've had it vary from 400 to 1600 in the same box and, I thought, same conditions). The speed is nice when it buys depth of field.

If you're going to learn, there is value in the immediate feedback from seeing the image and then changing something - composition, exposure, development time of the packet. With Type 55, if you're exposing for the negative the print will look lousy, and vice versa, forcing you to make 2 exposures (at twice the cost) if you want to both evaluate the print and have a "keeper" of a negative (and if you're learning, you should be hard enough on yourself to have few "keepers"). Feels too complicated to me. If your Polaroid looks great, make a negative on "real" film, and either figure out a way to develop film in total darkness, or store exposed film in a film box (use a changing bag to unload and reload) until you can get to a darkroom to process. Exposed film will keep well enough.

I used only Polaroid for the first year I used a 4x5. There is one image that's a keeper, and there's no negative. It is proudly framed and hung on my wall, and it may be the best picture I have ever made. It's uniqueness adds to its preciousness, which is something else to consider.

Good luck!


Andy Eads
2-Apr-2004, 13:10
I would recommend using Type 55 for its slow speed. You will be able to do depth of field experiments outdoors with this film. The higher speed films are nice when you need the speed. But as a learning tool that will teach the disciplines of focus and vibration control, the speed of Type 55 is best. I hope you enjoy your time with the camera.

Ralph Barker
2-Apr-2004, 14:19
Polaroid films are, indeed, a great learning tool. For experimentation, I, too, lean toward the use of the positive-only Polaroid films for the instant feedback. They produce a slightly smaller (3 x 4 ) image, however. So, you have to anticipate that when composing. In contrast, the Type 55 gives a normal sized 4x5 neg. Note that the Type 55 negs are a bit on the fragile side, though, so treat them gently.

The positive films are great for test shots (to check lighting, exposure, etc.), too, even after you're well into your learning curve.

2-Apr-2004, 14:54
Mark said: "One other tiny thing, I think you'll find that the camera you are loaning takes 5x4 film, in English anyway."

To think by calling it 4x5 I have been speaking a foreign language. Which language is it by the way?

Don: as one foreign language speaker to another 4X5 T55 is fun. I love the total lack of grain. I found-when I used it-that if I got a good print on the positive side the neg sucked and if the print sucked the neg was really good. I can't find the notes I took but it was a long time ago.

Has anyone else noticed this with T55

steve simmons
2-Apr-2004, 15:26
lean toward the use of the positive-only Polaroid films for the instant feedback. They produce a slightly smaller (3 x 4 ) image, however>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Are you talking about the pack film or the sheets of film?

The sheets of film are much closer to 4x5 than this.

steve simmons

Andre Noble
2-Apr-2004, 22:18
Chris Mallison (or any others) What concentration of Permawash do you mix to use for clearing your negatives? I'm not very satified with having to mix and then reuse the Sodium Sulfite from powder form because I yuck it up trying to soak the whole shebang in order to get the FULL negative out of the steel end clip. This makes for an interesting full frame polaroid neg, but the solution get very yucky quickly. I Would like something that clears, but is also disposible. A dilute solution )If that's what you use) just may fill the bill. Thanks.

Ralph Barker
3-Apr-2004, 01:49
Steve - I'm using Type 54, Polapan 100 4x5 single sheets. The image area does indeed measure 3 x 4 . The pack films used with the 405 holder are even smaller (3 x 4 ), but often sufficient for exposure tests.

Jean-Louis Llech
3-Apr-2004, 05:58
you can also read the "holy bible" of Polaroid : Polaroid Land Photography by Ansel Adams (New-York Graphic Society editors).
Can still be found used on this site (http://www.camerabooks.com/) for $49.