Polaroidland visitors almost certainly know about New55 by now. Bob Crowley’s Massachusetts startup, just a short drive from Edwin Land’s vanished Cambridge mothership, got started with a Kickstarter campaign to make single-shot black-and-white instant film, akin to (and in some ways improving upon) Polaroid’s old Type 55. Despite some significant production problems at the beginning, New55 has been making and selling a solid and usable peel-apart product, improving it along the way. Given that black-and-white Type 100 film was my single favorite instant-photography product, I have been very, very pleased to see something like it return to the world.
Amazingly, Crowley and his team have not been worn out by the bumpy ride they’ve had so far, and last week opened a second Kickstarter campaign, for a color New55 film. Color, of course, brings extra complexity, and requires new chemistry, but more than that, New55 needs modern machinery to get into this game in a big way. Its development pods are made on an old Polaroid machine that gets balky and requires adjustment between runs; the reagant is made with legacy equipment as well. A ridiculous-looking (though quite sophisticated) homebrew machine has done a lot of the coating.
The Kickstarter goal is $400,000. We’re about a week in, and about $60,000 has been pledged: good news, but not good enough yet. If you care even casually about the future of instant film, this is something you need to get behind. (Disclosure: I am contributing some signed copies of my book as Kickstarter rewards, and also backing the project with a pledge of my own.)
Nobody wants to oversell this based on future products that may or may not happen: New55’s aim right now is to make single-sheet instant film, to be used in 4×5 view cameras. However, if you are one of the many, many photographers who are unhappy about the end of Fuji’s FP-100C Polaroid-compatible packfilm, this campaign is important. The New55 folks, bolstered by some enthusiasm and publicity from Florian (Doc) Kaps and his new company Supersense (“home of analog delicacies”), are pretty clearly thinking of this as a test for the future production of film packs. Such a product line is a long way off, to be sure, but if the single-sheet version does not get off the ground—allowing for refinement, field testing, and development on a modest scale, to justify investment in the huge build-out required to make ten-shot packs—there is very little chance that we’re ever going to see a Type 100 product again. This is a way to preorder some film and also a way to make your enthusiasm known. Send ’em some money.
UPDATE, December 2016: Sad news. Kickstarter campaign did not meet its goals, and development of new color peel-apart will most likely not go forward, unless some other entity picks up the torch.
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