Fujifilm instant photography

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Origins

Polaroid, the pioneer of instant photography, had launched a subsidiary in Japan in 1960[1]. After Polaroid released the SX-70 in 1972, Fujifilm started preliminary research on instant films. Meanwhile, Kodak also released their competing instant photo products in 1976.

Yet instant photography was not as popular in Japan as expected: By the late 1970's, Japan had less than 5% market penetration in instant film cameras compared to western markets of 25% or more. Sales of instant cameras improved and there was 500,000 instant cameras sold in Japan during the fiscal year of 1980. 70% of them from Polaroid and 30% Kodak.[2] While that is a improvements, Fuji determined that Japanese people were not entirely happy with the results of Polaroid and Kodak instant prints. They felt the images were inferior in quality, and generally preferred images with less red/orange cast and a more realistic look compared to Polaroid. They also felt that Polaroid's square image were unusual and made images hard to reproduce. Consumers preferred Kodak's rectangular instant prints, but the desired print quality was still an issue. In light of these concerns, the cost of instant prints was also seen as high (when imported into Japan). This caused many to initially invest in an instant film system and abandoning them soon after. Fujifilm wanted to change that.

Fotorama

Fujifilm introduced their own line of instant photographic products in 1981 starting with instant film products catering to the consumer market. Industrial, medical and scientific products started testing at the same time, but were released a few years later. In Japan, integral films, packfilms and instant cameras have all been branded as Fotorama (フォトラマ). The name Fotorama came from photograph and panorama. I can't find any definitive reason why its spelled with a F. Most likely F for Fuji, as they did not want their instant product to start with a P like Polaroid.

Addressing the research conducted years earlier, the film is a rectangular format compared to the square Polaroid SX70/600 films. Producing the film in the same dimensions as Kodak's system made sense. They were trying to produce a less proprietary instant film system compared to Polaroids and following Kodak has always been the standard. Their network of photo labs were updated to make it easier for consumer to make reprints. In regards to photo quality Fuji decided to have electronic flash standard on every camera, as well as producing a film and chemistry with results that the Japanese preferred. Unlike Kodak, all their cameras were to have automatic electronic film ejection. The Fotorama F10 and F50s were the initial cameras released.[3]


F Series film ISO 160.

Discontinued in the mid-1990s.

  • FI-10 (91x69mm)
  • FI-10LT (91x69mm)

4x5 instant for MS-45 back (6.1984)

  • FI-160 ISO 160 (89x114mm)
F series instant cameras
  • Fotorama F-10 (10.1981)
  • Fotorama F-20s (12.1982)
  • Fotorama F-50s (10.1981)
  • Fotorama F-51s (6.1982)
  • Fotorama F-55v (12.1982)
  • Fotorama F-60AF (6.1982)
  • Fotorama F-62AF

Polaroid vs. Kodak and Fujifilm?

Kodak Instant and Fuji's Fotorama systems are very similar in physical design and appearance. Along with their own patents Fuji obtained a nonexclusive licencing agreement with Kodak for their instant film and instant camera patents. Fuji uses their own unique films and chemistries and are somewhat compatible, with Kodak being 150 ISO, while Fotorama was 160 ISO. In a majority of the original Kodak and Fuji cameras, exposure controls were able to compensate for the different ISO speeds, but was generally not necessary for such a small difference. While not 100 percent identical, the technology of Fotorama integral films developed similar to Kodak's with the back layer first. This presented a major problem for Fujifilm because of the ongoing litigation between Polaroid and Kodak. Polaroid also had a separate suit with Fujifilm over their instant film patents in Japan. When Kodak lost, Fujifilm entered into a formal technology-sharing agreement with Polaroid, allowing their cameras and films to remain in the market.[4] This agreement was made because Polaroid was interested in branching out to magnetic media in the boom of the video tape era and had acquired a company called MagMedia Ltd. Fujifilm has a long history in magnetic media dating to the mid 1950's. This led to Polaroid having access to Fujifilm's extensive R&D with electronics, magnetic tapes for audio, video and computer storage media.

System 800 and InstantACE

By the mid 1980s Fujifilm introduced the higher ISO Fotorama System 800 series [5] followed by the Fotorama InstantACE series in the mid 1990s. The introduction of the System 800 broke compatibility with Kodak's instant system because of a slightly re designed cartridge as well as a higher ISO film that made it hard for Kodak instant cameras to expose the film properly. Instant ACE is nearly identical to System 800, the only difference is the design of the plastic cartridge in the ACE do not contain the spring mechanism, the spring is in the camera. [6] Most of these products were available only in the Japanese market, that is until the Instax series.

System 800 film ISO 800

(discontinued June 2010)

  • FI-800GT (91x69mm)
  • FI-800G (91x69mm)
  • FI-800 (91x69mm)
System 800 cameras
  • Fotorama 800AF (1984)
  • Fotorama 800S (1984)
  • Fotorama 800x (5.1984)
  • Fotorama 850
  • Fotorama 850E (1989)
  • Fotorama 880 (1988)
  • Fotorama MX800 (1993)
  • Fotorama Mr. Handy
  • Fotorama Mr. Handy AF
  • Fotorama Mr. Handy MF
  • Fotorama Mr. Handy MF Date
InstantACE film ISO 800.

(discontinued June 2010)

  • InstantACE film (91x69mm)
InstantACE cameras
  • Fotorama 90ACE (7.1996)
  • Fotorama 91ACE (1997)
  • Fotorama Mr. Handy ACE
  • Fotorama MX900 ACE (2.1996)
  • Fotorama Slim ACE
  • Fotorama Robo ACE


Instax series

In 1999 the Instax series of cameras was released. [7] Fujifilm originally wanted to release the Instax series worldwide including North America and Europe simultaneously,[8] but decided to work with Polaroid on the mio camera based on the Instax mini 10/20 for the US market. The mio product was released in 2001 and was not a success. It was discontinued after only a few short years. The Instax Wide format was also available initially, but saw very limited distribution in the US. Instax was officially a dead product in the American consumer market, but flourished in the Japanese market. Instax did not return the US market until 2008.[9] Two camera film formats of Instax became available with the wide format and the mini format. The picture quality is similar to the System800 and InstantACE but in different sized formats. The film cartridges work similar to the instantACE system with no spring in the cartridge.

Introduced as a crossover product was the Digital Instax Pivi line. The original plan was to produce a series of digital instant cameras. The idea was similar to the Olympus C-211, a digital camera with a built-in Polaroid 500 film printer. Fuji ended up with a FinePix PR21 digital camera with built-in film printer,[10] but the market moved in other directions with the availability and popularity of mobile telephones with camera capabilities. While a stand alone printer was planned, it was not originally the primary focus. The release of Instax pivi was made available for those who wanted to print from their mobile phone via IR and later models supporting USB. Instax pivi film looks physicality identical to Instax mini, but it takes a different formulated film producing an inverted image when used in a mini camera.

Instax series films ISO 800.
  • Instax Wide (99x62mm)
  • Instax Mini (46x62mm)
  • Instax Digital Pivi (46x61mm)
Wide cameras Mini cameras Digital pivi printers
  • Pivi MP-70
  • MP-100
  • MP-300 (6.2006)

Instant pack film

Polaroid-compatible 3¼ x 4¼" (85 × 108mm) and 4x5 (102 x 131mm) "peel apart" films are made by Fujifilm. They can be used in all compatible cameras and holders as well as Fuji's PA-145 holder which mounts on 4x5 cameras and is similar to Polaroid 405 holder.

No legal issues arose with Fuji's peel apart instant films as Polaroid's patents had expired. Fujifilm made pack film for their passport camera systems, available since 1984. Fuji packfilm was generally not too well known outside Japan, until the disappearance of the the films made by Polaroid under their better-recognized brand.

Over the years Fuji revised their black and white instant pack films with the label Super and Super Speedy. Super is an improved version with a development time of 30 seconds, while Super Speedy can develop as fast as 15 seconds. In many markets these terms were not used or advertised on the boxes; but they are often mentioned on the inner foil packs. When faster revisions become available they replaced the slower films. In 1994; a "Super Speedy" FP-3000B was released. In 1995, FP-500b45 was released and designed specifically for SEM and CRT.

In 2000; Fuji made some improvements to FP-100c, they also decided to change the way they manufacture pack films, by making the entire pack out of plastic instead of a metal plastic combination. This also reduces the weight of the pack by 15%. This decision was not the best for usability as it caused many jamming issues as the pressure of the springs caused the plastic to bend more with the first exposures on older Polaroid cameras. Newer backs generally don't have this issue. A new FP-100C was released in 2002[11]. The newer revision has better long exposure performance in low light with improved color balance, along with a more stable fade resistance print. Usage temperature has also been lowered to 10 degrees C from 15.[12] Fujifilm announced at PMA 2003 that pack film would be made available to the North American market. [13] In 2006; a 15 sec "Super Speedy" version of FP-400b was released.

Instant packfilm

3¼ × 4¼" (85 × 108mm)

  • FP-100C, ISO 100, color glossy finish
  • FP-100C Silk, ISO 100, color
  • FP-100B, ISO 100, black and white (Discontinued)
  • FP-400B, ISO 400, black and white (Discontinued)
  • FP-3000B, ISO 3000, black and white

4x5" (102 × 131mm)(Discontinued)
For use in the Fujifilm PA-45 or Polaroid Type 550 series film holders

  • FP-100C45, ISO 100, color glossy finish
  • FP-100B45 Super, ISO 100, black and white
  • FP-500B45 Super, ISO 500, black and white
  • FP-3000B45 Super, ISO 3000, black and white


Professional Series instant cameras

Passport

  • FP-14 (4 exposures at once)
  • FP-14 II (4 exposures at once)
  • FP-12 (2 exposures at once)
  • FP-41 (4 exposures at once)
  • FP-452 (2 exposures at once)
  • FP-UL (2 exposures at once)

Recent History

With the discontinuation of Polaroid instant film in 2008, Fuji started to export more of their instant film product to overseas markets. They started with having more variety of pack film available. In November 2008 the Instax Wide format was introduced in the US with the Instax 200 camera. Instax mini series of cameras and films were reintroduced and became available in the US during the second half of 2009, with the mini 7s, also an updated Instax 210 replaced the Instax 200. Fujifilm's FP-100b45 was announced in Sept of 2009 for the US market. Discontinuation of FP-100B, FP-400B and FP-500B in 2009, with the last shipments in March. FP-3000b45 arrived in the North American market in Jan 2011, after Fujifilm Japan stopped manufacturing FP-100b. Fuji announced in September 2011, that FP-3000b45 will no longer be manufactured and discontinued in mid-2012.[14]. As of 2013, all 4x5 instant packfim has been discontinued. The last batch of FP-100c45 has an expire date of July 2014.

References

  1. Polaroid Access Fifty Years; Richard Saul Wurman; Access Press 1989
  2. Google Archive: Instant Camera Debuts, Associated Press via Reading Eagle - Oct 12, 1981 page 25
  3. History of Fujifilm 1980: Fotorama: The Birth of Fuji's Instant Photo System in Japanese
  4. Los Angeles Times July 25th 1986
  5. History of Fujifilm 1984 in Japanese
  6. Fuji and Kodak, together again! moominstuff blog
  7. Development of a New Instant Photo System Instax - (PDF, 111 KB) - In Japanese
  8. Fuji may enter US instant film market New York Times October 31, 1998 Retrieved 2011-04-04.
  9. Fujifilm brings Instax 200 instant film camera and film to U.S. market
  10. Fujifilm Princam Press Release (in Japanese)
  11. Fujifilm RD: Development of New Peel-apart Color Instant Film FP100C - (PDF, 215 KB) - in Japanese
  12. Fujifilm New FP-100c Sell Sheet - (PDF, 15.6 MB)
  13. Fujifilm unveils its latest "smart solutions for tomorrow" at PMA 2003
  14. FP-3000B 45 discontinued at Fujifilm Japan press release
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