Instant film is a type of photographic film that was introduced by Polaroid Corporation to produce a visible image within minutes or seconds of the photograph's exposure. The film contains the chemicals needed for developing and fixing the photograph, and the camera exposes and initiates the developing process after a photo has been taken.
In earlier Polaroid instant cameras the film is pulled through rollers which breaks open a pod containing a reagent that is spread between the exposed negative and receiving positive sheet. This film sandwich develops for some time after which the positive sheet is peeled away from the negative to reveal the developed photo. In 1972, Polaroid introduced integral film, which incorporated timing and receiving layers to automatically develop and fix the photo without any intervention from the photographer.
Instant film has been available in sizes from 24 mm × 36 mm (0.94 in × 1.42 in) (similar to 135 film) up to 50.8 cm × 61 cm (20 in × 24 in) size, with the most popular film sizes for consumer snapshots being approximately 83 mm × 108 mm (3.3 in × 4.3 in) (the image itself is smaller as it is surrounded by a border). Early instant film was distributed on rolls, but later and current films are supplied in packs of 8 or 10 sheets, and single sheet films for use in large format cameras with a compatible back.
Though the quality of integral instant film is not as high as conventional film, peel apart black and white film, and to a lesser extent color film approached the quality of traditional film types. Instant film was used where it was undesirable to have to wait for a roll of conventional film to be finished and processed, e.g., documenting evidence in law enforcement, in health care and scientific applications, and producing photographs for passports and other identity documents, or simply for snapshots to be seen immediately. Some photographers use instant film for test shots, to see how a subject or setup looks before using conventional film for the final exposure. Instant film is also used by artists to achieve effects that are impossible to accomplish with traditional photography, by manipulating the emulsion during the developing process, or separating the image emulsion from the film base. Instant film has been supplanted for most purposes by digital photography, which allows the result to be viewed immediately on a display screen or printed with dye sublimation, inkjet, or laser home or professional printers.
Instant film is notable for having had a wider range of film speeds available than other negative films of the same era, having been produced in ISO 4 to ISO 20,000. Current instant film formats typically have an ISO between 100 and 1000.
Two companies currently manufacture instant film: Fujifilm, with Instax integral film for its Instax cameras, and Polaroid (previously The Impossible Project) for older Polaroid cameras (600, SX-70, and 8×10) and its I-Type cameras.
On March 22, 2010, it was announced they were successful in manufacturing instant film compatible with Polaroid SX-70/600 instant cameras. Two new products were announced — PX100 and PX600. Their PX100 Silver Shade instant film is a manipulable, monochromatic replacement of old Polaroid brand instant film compatible with SX-70 cameras while the PX600 Silver Shade instant film is compatible with 600 cameras. That formulation has since been supplanted by improved films.
The company, renamed Polaroid Originals in 2017, produces 600, SX-70, Spectra and 8×10 color and monochrome film packs with a variety of colored borders. It also produces I-Type film packs that differ from traditional 600 packs in their omission of the battery (thus lowering costs), for use in its Impossible I-1 camera (released in 2016), its Polaroid OneStep 2 camera (released in September 2017), and its Polaroid OneStep+ (released in September 2018).
Summit Global Group, using the Polaroid brand, produced an instant photography camera and film starting with the Polaroid PIC 300, based on Fujifilm's Instax Mini 7.
A company called New55 Holdings, LLC, ("New55 FILM") based in Ashland, Massachusetts, brought to market a black and white 4x5 positive-negative material that is exposed and processed in a Polaroid 545 holder. New55 PN provided a positive print and a 4x5 negative that could be scanned, contact printed, or enlarged. Winding up their proof-of-principle R&D phase, New55 Holdings, LLC, ceased operations in December 2017.
The liquid chemicals for the developing process contained in the more common i
The liquid chemicals for the developing process contained in the more common instant photo sheets are caustic and can cause chemical burns. For such liquid the manufacture recommendation can be to avoid contact with skin and when contact with skin is made wash immediately with much water. Some instant films have used less common reagents and have had differing suggested responses.