You’ve all heard about (and maybe even read) the Impossible Project’s press release (FAQ) explaining that Impossible includes only 8 integral pictures per film pack because they can no longer source the thin negative material once produced by Polaroid’s famous, now shuttered, New Bedford Massachusetts factory. Yes, the incredibly sophisticated multi-million dollar factory which took Kodak out of the equation and prompted Dr. Land to say to plant management, “Let Me Know If It Works.”
The Impossible Explanation makes sense — no reason to disbelieve it — and the fact that the post was written by a young man nicknamed “Dr. Love” makes questioning it seem, well, hateful. But one day I opened up a pack of Impossible Film and noticed that the Impossible battery — their updated version of Polaroid’s Polapulse — was much thicker (taller, fatter) than Polaroid’s.
And so naturally I began to wonder: is it 8 pictures because the film is thicker, or 8 pictures because the battery is too fat (thick, tall), or some combination of both? After all, if the film were TOO thick, it wouldn’t fit through the rollers, and there would be frequent if not incessant jams. But the film seems to fit through those closely-machined rollers just fine. So how thick is it, really…how thick CAN it be and still function?
Thick enough to account for two “lost” pictures in every Impossible film pack?
Looking into this matter has me thinking a lot about Polaroid, Impossible, the so-called Hipsters who buy this often-temperamental product, and Public Relations — a field in whose vineyards I toiled for many years. If Impossible says “we could do it but we can’t obtain the material,” that’s different than saying “we could do it if we could build a thinner battery, but we can’t.”
So, I’ve assembled some original Polaroid film slices and batteries, along with similar products from Impossible, and have now posted the following measurements and calculations, along with my own analysis.
Polaroid Integral Film
Developer Pod Thickness: .58mm
Top Trap: .66mm
Side Frames: .33mm
Polaroid Polapulse Battery
Thickness (Height): 3.80mm
Combined Thickness of 10 Polaroid Film Slices + Polapulse Battery: 10.4mm
Impossible Integral Film
Developer Pod Thickness: .54mm
Top Trap: .85mm
Side Frames: .39mm
Impossible Project SP-11 Battery
Thickness (Height): 4.65mm
Combined Thickness of 8 Impossible Film Slices + Impossible Battery: 11.45mm
In the existing packaging, 8 Impossible Film Slices plus the Impossible Battery are a bit taller than 10 original Polaroid slices plus the Polapulse Battery.
If Impossible were able to produce a battery the same size as Polaroid’s, the combined thickness of 10 Impossible Film Slices plus battery would be 12.3mm — still taller than the existing packaging, and perhaps too thick to work. 9 Film Slices plus a Polaroid-Sized battery would be 11.45mm, the same exact size as the existing 8-pack plus Impossible battery — meaning that it isn’t just the film thickness that limits Impossible, it is also the size of the battery.
The Bottom Line?
Impossible’s film is much thicker than Polaroid’s…and so is their battery. The existing Impossible technology does indeed limit the company to a maximum of 8 pictures per pack, although it is the battery as well as the film that is limiting them.
If they could slim the battery down to 1974 Polaroid dimensions, they could probably squeeze nine pictures into a pack, and if they could slim down the film a little, too, a 10th picture wouldn’t be too tough.
Fuji’s wonderful Instax film has the benefit of not requiring a battery in the pack, but battery or no battery, it is also quite thin:
Fuji Instax Wide Integral Film
Developer Pod Thickness: .50mm
Top Trap: .68mm
Side Frames: .32mm
Had enough? Pour some coffee, and take a gander at Polaroid’s plucky attempts to make the most of their massive investment in (and massive headaches related to) Polapulse — a Polapulse-powered, Polaroid-branded Flashlight, and likewise, a Polapulse-powered, Polaroid-branded AM/FM radio! Just insert EMPTY film packs!
Wasn’t Polaroid Amazing?