Choosing Polaroid Film for Instant Cameras
Polaroid film is available in numerous formats supported by several camera manufacturers, including Fujifilm, Leica, Lomography, and Polaroid Originals. The term Polaroid refers to the way film develops and not to the original Polaroid cameras. Two main types of instant film exist: those that self-develop and those that use a small printer built into the camera.
What's Polaroid Film?
The name Polaroid refers to the way instant film develops. Each sheet of film has three layers sensitive to blue, green, and red light, as well as other layers including developer, timing, fixing, and backing layers. When you take a photograph, light reacts with each color, causing chemical changes. As the film leaves the camera, pressure rollers release a reagent that reacts with the exposed film and developer dyes to generate a color image in a process that's remarkably similar to that used to print sheet film. The process takes a little time, which is why the image appears gradually.
Printed Ink-Free Instant Film
Some instant cameras use another type of film known as zero ink film (ZINK). This special type of paper contains heat-sensitive dye crystals. It's printed on a tiny printing device using a thermal head built into the camera. Whereas instant film responds directly to light, instant cameras using ZINK technology have digital sensors and print the image onto heat-sensitive ZINK paper.
Instant Film Sizes
Instant cameras produce square or rectangular prints. Square prints vary between 2.4 and 3.1 inches in size, while rectangular prints go from credit card-size to just over 4 inches wide. Popular Fujifilm Polaroid film is available in three sizes. The smallest, Instax Mini Polaroid film, produces a rectangular credit card-sized print. Next up is a slightly larger Instax Square format, followed by the Instax Wide film that's slightly larger than 120 film. Other formats include LG and ZINK-printed film as well as several original Polaroid sizes including a large format film for standard 8 x 10 cameras fitted with a Polaroid holder.
Instant Film Compatibility
Most instant cameras on the market use Instax Polaroid film or its equivalent. Apart from ensuring the film is the correct size, it's possible to use film from Polaroid, Fujifilm, and Leica in Fujifilm Instax, Leica Sofort, and Lomography instant cameras. The same concept applies to cameras that use ZINK paper. However, it's essential to select the correct type of film for older classic Polaroid cameras, even when the cameras produce the same size prints.