Friday, August 12, 2016

R5 Monobath exposure and temperature array

For those who use R5 Monobath here is a chart that you probably already know.  The center panel is the most accurate or "correct" however for scanning you can elect to make a lighter negative. One reason to do that is if you think there will be a lot of hot spots and dense highlights in your negative which may not print or scan well. One the big advantages of scanning over optical printing is the ability to collect all the tonal range from negatives that people who only print might consider underexposed. For a scanner, with a sliding and long tone scale available and the ability to set any curve, that isn't a limitation.

It's the best of both worlds: The quality of film with the latitude of digital.  Let me know what you think. This is Ilford HP5, 135mm, but is typical of all black and white negative films used with R5.
New55 R5 Monobath processed at various temps
and exposures. This is just a guide. The center is the
 "correct one " by the gray scale. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Do you want a really good negative?

Typical New55 PN when done correctly
Copyright 2016, Robert J Crowley
A superb negative, and a positive print too. That's what we've said from the beginning, and why all New55 PN users have to clear the negative in Ilford Rapid Fixer (IRF).  This is a typical New55 PN negative, scanned on my Epson 750 scanner and NOT photoshopped in any way. Notice the good deep blacks, the sharp sharp details, the wonderful mid grays, and the crisp whites. This has it all. What you might not see are the subtle edge effects caused by the monobath processing that makes a sharp negative even sharper. So if sharp is your thing, this is it.

Surprising chemical reactions that are essential

The reasons for all this may surprise you. This is a story about the origins of type 55 and what had to be done by Polaroid, and how New55 FILM overcame a big problem with the Polaroid method and made it all so much easier.


Polaroid made Type 55 PN from the early 60s up until 2008. The product was unusual because it used a Kodak-produced Aerecon film that was also used for aerial reconnaissance. This negative film was a single layer, cubic-grained emulsion similar to Kodak's well-known Panatomic-X, but on a thinner base and with other small changes. Kodak supplied this material to Polaroid over many decades and it was labeled SO-139, which is a special order number among many others that Kodak produced in smaller amounts. SO-139.

The purpose of Polaroid Type 55 was to produce an instant negative. The positive print, which plays a role in the development of the negative, was secondary.

When processed and finished correctly, Polaroid Type 55 produced a sharp and permanent negative with very high acutance due to the static nature of the monobath reagent (or processing goo, or paste as some call it) used. The chemical process is too complex to get into here but suffice to say that this method of developing a negative film had several important advantages in negative quality over traditional wet baths.

Removing the goo - the old days

Users of Polaroid Type 55 had to treat the negative in a clearing bath for it to be both sharp and permanent. The clearing bath was sodium sulfite - a solvent that was hard to get - necessary to remove the goo that would otherwise fade the negative if not removed. Endless questions and gripes over the source, availability and cost of the sodium sulfite and the clearing process continued throughout the nearly 50 years of production.

Sodium sulfite worked in two ways: The first was by dissolving the goo so it went into solution, then as a fixer to remove the residual silver halides present in the freshly developed negative.  Polaroid even went as far as suggesting that users further fix the negative in standard fixer to assure permanence, but they gave up on that as too complicated for an instant film.

Polaroid also sold clearing buckets for the sodium sulfite so you had a convenient place to keep your negatives. If you have one you can still use it today, with sodium sulfite or Ilford Rapid fixer. They are quaint reminders of the old days, which are now gone.

Fast forward to New55 PN

When I started New55 in 2010, one immediate concern from users was the un availability of the sodium sulfite. They complained that it was hard to get, expensive, and always a problem.  I said I would look into that problem among several others.

Getting rid of the new goo

After several months of experiments I discovered that instead of dissolving the goo, I could get it to curdle and peel off as a sheet. This was far better and quicker than the old way. It turned out that shocking the goo with a low pH further polymerized the goo and caused it to shrink and separate. Lucky breaks sometimes come and this was clearly one of them, but how to implement it was not immediately clear.

Reviewing all the fixers including the fixer that was once used in a monobath designed by Donald Qualls, I noticed that Ilford Rapid Fixer  (IRF) was not only the more desirable ammonium sulfite, known for very quick action, but also came mixed with a generous dose of acetic acid which has a very low pH. Ilford Rapid Fixer is also available worldwide, and is inexpensive.  A series of experiments showed that a 50/50 mix of IRF and water was acidic enough to curdle the goo, cause it to float off, and it fixed the negative extremely well. All of the series of New55 PNs seen on my flickr feed were processed that way except one which we will talk about later.

Please look again at the example of a properly processed New55 negative that I want you to take a close look at. I've uploaded a large file so you should be able to zoom in if you like to see the incredible detail available. It's at the top of the page.

Contrast this with a badly processed negative kept down here on purpose. I see these things posted on flickr sometimes and though we do need to share our failures too, there is no need for this kind of bad result. Some of the reasons this looks so bad could be:

There can be artistic merit to weird
results. But better to know how
to do this intentionally rather
than accidentally. 
-No washing or rinsed with water. Obviously a disaster.

-Peeling too soon. Wait 2 full minutes

-Not getting the negative into the fixer right away. That is necessary.

-Wrong fixer. "I alway use Kodafix" means a bad result.

-Letting the negative dry. This makes it very unsharp and likely to fade in weeks.

-Scratched. Handle more carefully to avoid it.

There you have it. It is simple. We've worked very hard to bring back the look of T55 which I achieve every time, and so can you.

As always, I welcome your comments.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Heat Sealing is an important part of instant film

In all instant films there are components that are heat sealed.  "Heat Sealing" is joining or sticking parts together so they form an assembly. A good example of a heat seal is the chemical pod that spreads the developer in all instant films. The quality of this heat-sealed seal affects how the chemicals spread, or not.

Other parts are heat sealed too. For instance, the air tight bad that the film is wrapped in is heat sealed. This is a simple operation compared to the pods, which is more complex.

The distribution of heat, how long it is applied, and pressure on the seal greatly affects how well the seal performs. In our case, we produce a frangible seal. This is a special type of seal designed to break open at just the right pressure, and requires very precise pressure and temperature.

Various industries are trying to make tools to measure sealing performance and sealing tool quality. Here is such a tool: It produces a color-coded map of pressure, which could be useful.  One thing that is shown here is an acoustic horn, which is part of the business end of an ultrasonic welder. Instead of just being hot, ultrasound waves are transmitted into the material to heat it up by just the right amount.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Log Slitting Film for New55 COLOR

So-called "log slitters" are used in the paper industry to cut wide rolls of paper, and tape, into thin rolls. That roll of gaffer's tape you have was once a big wide roll that was sliced up into smaller rolls and then sold.

We have to cut color negative stock, which comes in a wide roll, down to about a four inch width after which the roll goes into a dark chamber to be cut into individual sheets.  I had looked for a reasonably priced commercial slitter but all I could find were machines in the $10,000 and up range.

A trip to Home Depot yielded a little circular saw which was almost toylike. This was mounted on the South Bend Heavy 10 lathe we have in the lab (this is a special NASA owned lathe bought surplus from the Apollo Program).  A mandrel made of a broomstick and a "pool noodle" was used to spin the roll while it cut.

The impromptu "log slitter" on an old (but very fine) South Bend
lathe. The log rotates a big roll of color film. The yellow part
is a "pool noodle" used in swimming pools.

The strip of red tape was straight but now each
small roll can move independently. This
small roll goes into a sheet making tool
that operates in the IR dark chamber.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The long and short of it (receiver sheet)

Our never-ending quest for efficiency led us to cut down the length of the receiver sheet, which reduces paper waste and nearly 30% of precious image layer fluids.   There is still a small margin (behind the shakuhachi) to write notes or place a refrigerator magnet over.

Now that we have your attention on receiver sheets, notice how good and smooth the coverage is and how much better the tonal scale is. It is an achievement.

It find it hard to believe that this very obscure but critical chemical process, which was so costly to develop and learn how to make, is finally something we have firmly in hand, and am amazed when the photograph is peeled. It is unique in all the world; We are the only company on earth who manufacture instant peelapart films, and it is now becoming apparent that we need to expand to color and other formats, too. I would expect we can use this in an instant 8x10 system, but we'd have to make a wider coating machine.  You can see the scanned negatives of these photographs on flickr at this link.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Chemical mixer for New55 COLOR

The stainless steel mixer (AKA "the reactor") is a pressurized and vacuum container that allows precise mixing of developers and thickeners, under controlled mixing speed, temperature, pressures and time. You could go out and buy one new, but we can't do that so a beer making fermenter is being pressed into service and it looks like it will do fine.
Prepared for brazing out on the loading dock

Additions are the extra filling port seen being prepared for silver brazing and the rather scorched looking aftermath. This is normal.

A special rotary feedthrough goes on the top and gets connected to a powerful motor, as the color reagent is thick and requires a lot of mixing.

New55 has to do a lot of its own machine building and some of it is improvised. These make good starting points and allow us to make valid predictions about cost and yield if and when high speed production machinery is ever available to us.
The rotary seal is upside down and has four
separate pressure and vacuum ports
You can buy beer making equipment that looks
like this and then drill holes and braze on more
fittings if you have the tools.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Beware of fake yellow dots on Aero Ektars

For no real reason,  an Aero Ektar with a yellow dot sells for more than one with no dot.

Here is a drilled, counterfeit dot!  Not only is the Testors yellow paint slopped over the edge unlike a real dot, but the depression is incorrectly shaped and poorly centered. A genuine dot is flat, perfectly centered, and shows shallow grooves of the ring engraving tool.

You've been warned.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Pack Film Meeting with Doc Kaps AKA Type 100

A marathon session with Doc Kaps here at Ashland/New55 to talk about the future of analog instant photography.  One important topic is the status of the famous type 100 film, also known as "pack film" which makes a convenient frame for the last photo of the pack as shown here. 
Many ideas and possibilities were discussed and some formative discussions about the status of New55 PN, and New55 COLOR, which might be put in other formats that use peelapart instant film technology. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

ShopNEW55: TILTING 150mm f2.8 Xenotar

ShopNEW55: TILTING 150mm f2.8 Xenotar: For those who previously asked to be notified you may be pleased to know that this lens, tilting mount, spare Pacemaker Graflex board with r...

Friday, June 17, 2016

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