Polaroid Instant Film Is Dead

Polaroid has announced that they will no longer manufacture instant film or instant cameras and will instead concentrate on TVs, digital cameras, and printers, says the Chicago Sun-Times:

”We’re trying to reinvent Polaroid so it lives on for the next 30 to 40 years,” Tom Beaudoin, Polaroid’s president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, said in a phone interview Friday.

Polaroid failed to embrace the digital technology that has transformed photography, instead sticking to its belief that many photographers who didn’t want to wait to get pictures developed would hold onto their old Polaroid cameras.

Global sales of traditional camera film have been dropping about 25 percent to 30 percent per year, ”and I’ve got to believe instant film has been falling as fast if not faster,” said Ed Lee, a digital photography analyst.

”At some point in time, it had to reach the point where it was going to be uneconomical to keep producing instant film,” Lee said.

Polaroid instant film will be available in stores through next year, the company said — after which, Lee said, Japan’s Fujifilm will be the only major maker of instant film.

Jessie, the reader who sent in this article says:

Ahh!!! This is so upsetting and yet I absolutely cannot find an e-mail address for ANYONE on their website. I need to revolt. We all need to revolt!! Do you know of any e-mail addresses or anything so I can obsessively write letters?? I would really appreciate any help you could provide.

Google Finance says:

1265 Main St., Bldg. W3
Waltham, MA 02451
USA – Map
+1-781-386-2000 (Phone)
781-386-8588 (Fax)

Sorry, Jessie. This is pretty sad. Polaroid film is pretty cool stuff, and is beloved by art nerds.

Polaroid won’t make Polaroids any longer [Chicago Sun-Times]
(Photo:Tubes.)

Comments

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  1. It’s sad. Future generations will never understand what Outkast meant when they said “Shake it like a Polaroid picture!” in Hey Ya

  2. madrigal says:

    Aw. I haven’t used it in years, but I do have a polaroid camera. They are fun. I liked the one that made stickers.

  3. homerjay says:

    I thought this happened years and years ago…

  4. rockergal says:

    Dang I love my polaroids, there is just something about seeing a polaroid picture vs a stupid 4×6

  5. friendlynerd says:

    You could “revolt” by going out and actually buying some Polaroid film – they wouldn’t be ceasing production if people purchased it

  6. TheUncleBob says:

    Exactly what FriendlyNerd said.

    You best hope is that Polaroid will sell the rights/technology to a smaller company who can produce it and sell it (probably via internet sales) at a point where it’s profitable to the small company.

  7. snoop-blog says:

    some of their tv’s are surprisingly decent.

  8. nlatimer says:

    Not really that sad.

    Unfortunate maybe, but instant film has outlived its usefulness. Defeated by a superior opponent.

    It is an honorable death.

  9. backbroken says:

    @snoop-blog: And some of them are not.

  10. shoegazer says:

    Aw crap.
    For my wedding we bought about 12 packets of polaroid film and my little sister went around shooting photos of the guests. Expensive, but worth it. I treasure these photos more than the 12MP, high res digital photos printed by our wedding photographer.

    The polaroid format just evokes different sensations, those prints seem more “real” somehow.

  11. The Cynical Librarian says:

    I’m upset, but at the same time, that crap was expensive.
    Looks like we’ll have to stockpile all of the clearances and store them in our bunkers.

  12. chiieddy says:

    Apparently the film is really costly to produce, which is what led to this announcement. It’s hardly unexpected. Polariod (local to the Boston area so we get news on it regularly) has been struggling for years and never did get properly into the digital market which usurped their hold on instant photo gratification.

    Now if I want an instant photo, I have my camera and my portable Selphy printer. I’ve used it to print custom post cards while on vacation.

  13. char says:

    There’s some really cool stuff you can do with polaroids, sad to see it go :(.

  14. The Porkchop Express says:

    What will people like Leonard Shelby do? if anyone catches that.

    Really there must still be some need for instant photos, but i guess with portable printers and such…

  15. skeleem_skalarm says:

    I recently started using my Polaroid to prove to my better half that it’s not cursed – guess I was wrong.

  16. sleze69 says:

    Was it big news when 8-tracks and records stopped being produced?

    It’s OVER, Johnny!

  17. BugMeNot2 says:

    @backbroken:
    most are not

  18. B says:

    Quick, let’s mimeograph a bunch of protest letters! We can send them via pony express.

  19. chilled says:

    I wonder how many great private porn shots have been taken with those things..I’ve taken a few myself.

  20. RustysNailed says:

    Us photo nerds saw this coming a few years back when they almost went bankrupt. Fortunately, Fuji Film already makes most of the same instant films for the Asian market, so we might see them importing it over here.

  21. Angryrider says:

    Aw. I liked the Polaroid technology. It was a bit less cumbersome than those “instant” photo printers we have now.

  22. IrisMR says:

    Awwww! That sucks. I still have my polaroid…

  23. @nlatimer: I concur.

    Fun Polaroid Fact: Tom Sholtz of the band Boston worked as an engineer at Polaroid before breaking big.

    Great product in it’s day, superseded by a better product.

    I knew this was going to happen when I saw William Wegman talk in DC and he was talking about shooting with a digital now (he gets 32 mega pixels with the one he rents) instead of giant polaroid.

  24. bdgbill says:

    Watch for pretty much the same thing to happen to regular film. 110 cartridges will be first, then 35mm film will available in specialty shops only and likely very expensive.

    I am surprised that Wal-Mart and the drug chains can still support the expensive equipment and personel for developing regular film. It already seems that the only people still shooting on film are the computer illetirate (old people) and serious photographers (artists and prefessionals).

  25. Propaniac says:

    Man, I’m going to have to buy like a case of it for my grandfather. He always uses Polaroids. I haven’t used my Polaroid in a million years but I’d like to think I’d be able to.

  26. Ayo says:

    I thought they were just cutting back production.. not TOTALLY canning it. :(

  27. yesteryear says:

    this is sad news indeed. i do think it will probably end up with a
    smaller company, as someone pointed out earlier… just like super-8
    film. you can still purchase and develop it, its just not widely
    available. im definitely setting aside enough cash from my next
    paycheck to hoard a few 10 packs, which last time i checked were
    ridiculously expensive, like $16.95 or something.

  28. Chaosium says:

    @snoop-blog: Are they actually engineered by Polariod or rebadges (i’m assuming the latter.)

  29. bluwapadoo says:

    @Lo-Pan: Remember Sammy Jenkins.

  30. RokMartian says:

    The people still using Polaroid are still shopping at Best Buy. What will they do NOW?!? :)

  31. CaliforniaCajun says:

    Unfortunate maybe, but instant film has outlived its usefulness.

    Maybe for snapshots. Digital rules there, although there’s a comelling argument that people shoot more and print less with digital, leading to a real decline in the number of semi-permanent images we will enjoy throughout our lives.

    However Polaroid is still useful for artists (do a google search on 24 inch polaroid) and for medium and large format photographers who make test exposures, where Polaroid’s near-instant results meant that you could make test shots with instant results before nailing the exposure on large-format photographs. (Type 50, if I recall.)

    Polaroid SX film is treasured by many photographers who noodled around with the emulsion to make some compelling one-of-a-kind art through one-of-a-kind prints or emulsion transfers.

    Some Polaroid emulsions (Type 55) were also useful for making prints and negatives from a large format camera simultaneously. This was invaluable and one branch of the emulsion-based photography family tree that will be sorely missed.

    I hope Polaroid sells the intellectual property to a Chinese firm – where some decent emulsion films are being made now – and that we can continue to buy Polaroid’s Land-era films. If it goes away completely, the value of some artists’ SX emulsion transfer prints will go up.

  32. m.ravian says:

    NOOOOOOOO!

    *rushes to website buy up polaroid film*

  33. SuperJdynamite says:

    Polaroid is actually still used by photographers. When you’ve set up your medium format rig you pop on a pack film back and take a few test shots. When you’re satisfied with your setup you put a 120 back on the camera and go about your merry way.

    Anyway, this has been a long time in the making. Polaroid dropped SX-70 film a year ago. They also quietly dropped the square pack film.

    “Polaroid,” as a company, doesn’t really exist any longer. When they went bankrupt they were purchased by a holding company and the original Polaroid corporation remained as a shell company (with no real employees). The holding company puts the brand name on things from time to time and is ostensibly sawing off the unprofitable arms of the original Polaroid (like the instant film divisions). You’ll note that they’re eager to license out the technology — something that will actually make them money.

  34. STrRedWolf says:

    The Instant Polaroid’s demise is unfortunate, but as you get more companies who are producing 4×6 photo printers that interface to cameras, plus cheap photo handling software, and decent resolution on the photos themselves… you got to wonder.

  35. guspaz says:

    This is indeed sad news. Art types aside, I’m sure many of us have fond memories of taking a Polaroid (or having one taken of us), and giving it a good shake. Heck, the fact that their company name became synonymous with instant photos (as I just did above, “taking a Polaroid”) should show you how much of an influence they’ve had.

    Hopefully someone will come up with some sort of digital camera with an onboard printer in something similar to the same form-factor that can fill this gap in the market. It won’t be the same (quality-wise or aesthetically), and we won’t get to shake it, but at least we’d still be able to take Polaroids as easily as we do now.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I heard this a couple days ago! ahh!
    I have a polariod (two actually) which I have used for years… and use OFTEN! My fridge is covered in polariods, my bedroom wall is covered in polariods, my trip albums and journal (yeah, so what) are filled with polariods. I am devastated! I am going to attempt to stock up, but since it doesn’t take long for the film to expire, I know it’s a futile attempt.

    I’m going to be sending a letter to Polariod!
    Although, There was a month or so last summer that polariod film was NO WHERE to be found. I looked and looked and no one had it. Everyone told me their shipments didn’t come in. Knowing that polariod has been suffering for a long time, I thought that was the end then. Then film showed up again. Here’s hoping they don’t follow through!

    I’m going to go get some… right now.

  37. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    Does anyone know how long Polaroid film lasts? If places start to clearance, I’ll start to hoard. There’s something about Polaroid pictures that tug on my heart strings.

  38. CPC24 says:

    @sleze69: Actually, vinyl records are still being made.

  39. BoC says:

    @B: Quick, let’s mimeograph a bunch of protest letters! We can send them via pony express.

    (Sniff), ahhhhhh!

  40. ? graffiksguru says:

    R.I.P. Polaroid :(

  41. cmdr.sass says:

    @RustysNailed: You didn’t have to be a photo nerd to see the writing on the wall years ago. The only surprising thing is that they managed to hang on as long as they did.

  42. Andy S. says:

    The article states that Fujifilm will still be producing instant film, so it’s not like it’s completely going away.

    Yet.

  43. CurbRunner says:

    I remember when the Polaroid snapshots first came out.
    It was a big deal then to be able to see a picture develop within a couple minutes of it being shot. Everyone would hang around whoever was holding the film, to watch the image slowly appear.

  44. 3ZKL says:

    one of the crisper drawers in my fridge has been full of discontinued polaroid type 80 film for over a year. i guess its time to fill the other one up with 600.
    kind of a bummer, but most of us photonerds have known it was coming for a while.

  45. KJones says:

    Everybody seems to have missed the key first statement:

    “We’re trying to reinvent Polaroid so it lives on for the next 30 to 40 years,” Tom Beaudoin, Polaroid’s president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, said in a phone interview Friday.

    A company that’s talking only of “30 to 40 years” sounds like it’s on its last legs if the next five years don’t get better.

    The suddenly announced (but not suddenly made) decision to drop instant film cameras sounds very similar to Sega’s unexpected decision to depart the console gaming industry. Speaking of console gaming, rumour has it that Sony will bail out after the PS3 is no longer profitable.

  46. superflippy says:

    What is the modeling industry going to do now?
    Because technology has made it so easy to manipulate photographs, they use Polaroids to take quick pictures of models that they can verify are not retouched. I’ve also seen them used backstage at fashion shows to keep track of which model is wearing which clothes – when he or she comes to the fitting, they snap a Polaroid.

    I guess you could use a digital camera with a printer dock to get pictures almost as quickly, but that’s still not as easy.

  47. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @3ZKL: Refrigerating film slows it from deteriorating?

  48. RustysNailed says:

    @Diet-Orange-Soda: Polaroid has a very short shelf life, which you can usually double by putting it in the fridge. Just don’t freeze it, it will damage the chemistry.

    Fuji already makes packfilm for medium and large format solutions worldwide, and there are rumors they will fill the gap in the rest of the polaroid line here in the US.

  49. MercuryPDX says:

    One of my fondest memories was a company wide photo contest/exhibit with their PopShots cameras.

    I also remember an Art Ed Class I took that taught us how to do emulsion transfers.

  50. Buran says:

    @SuperJdynamite: These days, you slap on a Leaf digital back and take those medium-format shots digitally, also.

  51. stuny says:

    I hear there is a new way to transmit images and documents using phone lines!

  52. evilhapposai says:

    On one hand I see the many uses of them and sad to see them go. On the other hand JESUS H CHRIST them things were heavy to carry around! Many a unpleasant memory of childhood carrying that heavy ass camera all day long at Disney World, Ceder Point, fairs, etc. So much easier now to just carry a pocket sized digital and not see a chiropractor when the day is over.

  53. econobiker says:

    Polariod cameras are used as proof of task completion for the Iron Butt Motorcycle rallies (like cross country – 10,000 to 11,000 miles in 7 days or such). This is a format that cannot be altered.

    I wonder if there is a way/hack for someone to make an insertable digital unit to be able to reuse polaroid cameras…

  54. SecureLocation says:

    The SX-70 camera and TimeZero film were great fun. You could manipulate the image as it was developing. Sadly they stopped making that film several years ago. Now the camera is a pretty paperweight.

  55. ppiddyp says:

    @SecureLocation:The insertable digital back you’d need would have a HUGE sensor area and cost a hundred to a thousand times the value of the poloroid camera…

    There are digital cameras that insert a checksum to make sure the file isn’t altered. Police use them for gathering evidence, so that’s one possibility for the motorcycle nuts and modeling agencies.

    You want the poloroid look in your digital images? Desaturate, vignette and blur my friends. You can make ‘em look as “real” as you want. :)

    I’m 99% sure that there’ll be a niche product available for the niche art student market that feels the need to use poloroid cameras.

  56. Diet-Orange-Soda says:

    @ppiddyp: “I’m 99% sure that there’ll be a niche product available for the niche art student market that feels the need to use poloroid cameras.”

    When you put it that way, it sounds so ridiculous.

  57. namram says:

    Are they done with the 4×5 stuff as well? What a shame.

  58. t-spoon says:

    Meeeeeeeemories….

  59. laddibugg says:

    @superflippy:
    Heh, that was honestly my first thought. Too much America’s Next Top Model, I guess.

  60. ohgoodness says:

    @friendlynerd: I’m the Jessie who sent in the article and I do buy Polaroid film. LOTS of it. All the time.

    I will be hoarding. :-/ I’m just super bummed.

  61. ohgoodness says:

    @nlatimer: It’s not about “usefulness”. It’s about beauty. It’s about art.

  62. Polaroids are the staple of good teachers everywhere. Take snaps of the kids on day one, day 50, day 100, day 130, day 180… you have a year-long art project. So sad.

  63. Szin says:

    What a jip. I always loved my Polaroid Camera.

  64. dantsea says:

    From the blogpost we’re all commenting on:

    Polaroid failed to embrace the digital technology that has transformed photography, instead sticking to its belief that many photographers who didn’t want to wait to get pictures developed would hold onto their old Polaroid cameras.

    All other arguments aside, if this was truly part of their strategy then Polaroid has some idiots in its executive suite.

  65. MBZ321 says:

    There is absolutely no way that Polaroid will be around for even another 10+ years if their direction is to keep producing junky Chinese digital cameras and leasing their name out to no-name TV companies. (Polaroid electronics are absolute junk…just read the online reviews)

  66. JMH says:

    @bluwapadoo: Sammy JANKIS, if I’m not mistaken. Good reference.

    As much as I love my digital camera, I think at some point (and apparently at some point soon), I’m going to buy a Polaroid. There’s something pleasantly visceral about that print coming out of the camera and fading into view.

  67. Erasmus Darwin says:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: Take digital snaps on day one, day 50, day 100, day 130, day 180… print them out for the in-class art project, email copies to the parents (which have a good chance of getting forwarded to the grandparents), burn copies to a CD to include with the school yearbook, etc, etc, etc.

    It’s scary just how easy and convenient digital cameras are. I’ve got a bit of a nostalgic soft-spot for the old Polaroids just like everyone else who grew up with them, but I can’t feel all that sad given just how great the replacements are.

  68. This story should be cross-posted to Wonkette. “Polaraoid Liz” Glover’s going to need a new shtick. Anyway:

    @ceejeemcbeegee: I can’t believe there are teachers still using Polaroids. (I spend a fair amount of time visiting elementary schools for work. I see teachers using digital cameras now.) Isn’t the cost-per-print a bit high for the average public school budget?

    @econobiker: Actually Polaroid photos are manipulatable, if you’ve got the time (which I assume you wouldn’t during a bike rally). Back around 2000, Polaroid marketed a digital printer that used instant film packs instead of paper. Just take a picture with a digital camera, photoshop it on your PC, and print it on a Polaroid — voila, a fake photo that everyone assumes couldn’t be photoshopped. I always wondered why nobody used that thing for a faking bigfoot photos or some such hoax.

    I was actually working in a camera store in 2000. Even then, it seemed like the only people who bought Polaroid cameras were little kids (who thought the photo stickers were neat) and really old men (who didn’t have the patience for photo labs). I’m not surprised the format’s going away, but I’ll miss it a little. I have an irrational soft spot for clumsy and archaic photo formats. In fact, my backup backup camera (the one I keep in case the digital and the 35mm fail me) is a 110 camera. I love it because every photo is blurry and grainy — it doesn’t matter what I’m photographing, every photo taken with that camera looks like it came straight from 1974.

    Hell, if 110 goes away next, I may have to break down and buy a Lomo just to keep a toy camera in my rotation.

  69. highpitch_83 says:

    New direction of Polaroid according to Tom Petters (he spoke at a luncheon this morning that I attended):

    [www.zink.com]

    Pretty cool idea but if you thought the old polaroid “film” was expensive… imagine what this is going to cost!

  70. Posthaus says:

    I shall weep, just as I weeped when Kodak’s final slide projector rolled of the line.

  71. themediatrix says:

    This is so SAD!! I have a few Polaroid cameras, including the awesome Polaroid Barbie Camera. I’ve taken some great stuff with them, including two amazing shots on b&w at the Warhol museum in PA.

    I would definitely be willing to hoard.

  72. PølάrβǽЯ says:

    @backbroken: I love my 37″ Polaroid. Not the best black level, but other than that, it looks great for the price.

  73. HOP says:

    this is sad…i had the model 87 and it was a trip to use, but neat…..

  74. HOP says:

    it is sad…i still have a couple of those cameras including a model 87…..

  75. morsteen says:

    It’s even sadder that outkast said that because you haven’t needed to shake a polaroid picture since it first came out. Back then it peeled apart so it was exposed and you needed to shake it a little to help it dry faster. Ever since then it’s all contained inside the polaroid so shaking it actually can mess it up now. Leave it up to someone looking for a catch phrase to sell records to totally be 50 years too late lol.

  76. nlatimer says:

    @ohgoodness:

    Unfortunately art that requires a high level of capital for manufacturing can’t be profitable and sustainable unless useful.