View Full Version : Solving Polaroid PN 55 Secret

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Mustafa Umut Sarac
05-10-2008, 11:08 PM
Ron , As you remember , I had been started a thread on polaroid emulsion making here.
Finally , you said , kodak had been secretly developed the emulsion recipes.
50 years ago , there was not todays spectrometers and I believe PN 55 developer and thin film formulas can be reverse engineered.
I worked 22 years on zildjian and published the secret at www.cymbalholic.com under zildjian secret thread.
Some people visited me from France and started to cymbal business at there with my recipe.
I think I can again make it for PN 55.
Ron , you know the technology , how can this film and developer be analysed ?
I read some whiskey manufacturers at Scotland started to spectrum analysis their alcohol to match all future production to a single formula.
Liquids ...
I did not use PN 55 but I saw some nude pictures taken by rodenstock land at polaroid com gallery and they were the best bw pictures i have ever seen.
How Kodak test their films chemical contents ?
Is there a special method ? Can Kodak be hired to analyse the films as Land hired the Kodak ?
Or are there same instruments at USA elsewhere cheaper ? University labs ?
Nowadays dollar is so low and its time to import knowledge from USA .
I think England and Europe costs 3 times more !
Can Russian technology be hired ? Is there anyone knows Russia ? David may be ?
Ron , you know the patents of Land , Can you collect recipes here belong to PN 55 ? If I know some portion of the mix , it would be easier to extract unknown.
I read Davids monobath experiments. Is Polaroid monobath formula inside of little pockets which opened and spreaded with rolls.
I think I will start from there , is there a polaroid monobath patent just for PN 55 ?
Is there still factory fresh PN 55 at the market ?

Best ,

Mustafa Umut Sarac


Alex Hawley
05-10-2008, 11:33 PM
Hi Mustafa,

I can't speak for Ron, nor do I have any of his wizardy in my brain, but perhaps I can offer a couple things to the discussion. I've used several boxes of Type 55 so I have some familiarity with it.

You're right. It is/was an absolutely excellent film. I've said many times that I could have been happy just using Type 55 for everything.

One problem I see with reverse engineering it is with the film base material. The stuff that was used was pretty unique. It was a lot thinner yet stronger than conventional film bases. To my meager knowledge, Type 55/665 and Kodak Panatomic X were the only commercial films that used this base material. All of those films are out of commercial production so I would suspect that the base material is nearly impossible to find. Could it be reverse-engineered? I'm sure it could, but producing it would take a full-scale plastic/chemical sheet production facility.

The second problem I see is one that Ron has wrote about before. The most difficult thing to manufacture on the instant films was the chemical pod. Not that the chemistry was hard, it was the pod itself that was very difficult to do.

My suggestion is to experiment with monobath developers. David Goldfarb has been writing about them lately. No chemical pods required.

You may be able to still find some retailers with a small stock of Type 55. Be prepared to spend at least $100 per box for it. I checked Polaroid's web store and they are no longer listing it.

Type 55 and 665 were stunning films. Its a shame they are gone but that's the unfortunate reality.

Mustafa Umut Sarac
05-10-2008, 11:54 PM
There are hundreds of companies at china and india which seeks customer like crazy. They can manufacture the base and the pods. At Intota site , there are many experts who are ready for help.
But it coasts 500 dollars per hour but they have 40 years of experience.
I think pod is the easiest thing to do but I want the image quality , we dont need to imitate the pod. May be customer distribute the monobath at home . It would be decrease the manufacturing cost also. We are not running after instant photography but the quality.
Market is 4 x 5 . I think after the chemical analyses , Ron can change the formula with cheaper newer chemicals without altering the result.
I am after writing a manual of inside chemicals.
I need patent numbers exactly for PN 55. And a analyser company , may be Kodak Labs.
Ron , can you reach inside of labs today with your connections ?

Mustafa Umut Sarac
05-11-2008, 01:00 AM
I found 46-52 patents from land

05-11-2008, 01:15 AM
Somewhere I read the paste had triethanolamine in it.

But that's about as helpful as saying D-76 has water in in after it's mixed.

05-11-2008, 01:53 AM
But that's about as helpful as saying D-76 has water in in after it's mixed.

so that's what i've been doing wrong

Jim Noel
05-11-2008, 11:49 AM
If I remember correctly, originally the film used was Panatomic X.

05-11-2008, 12:14 PM
Mustafa, I don't think there is any problem figuring out what's in the pods... certainly, we can break open a pod and do spectroscopy and tell you exactly what's in there and in what proportion. We probably already can guess the most important ingredients based on others' monobath work.

Even deciding which film best approximates what was used may not be such a challenge- there are so many rumours about it being panatomic x that we could just say, fine, close enough, let's call it that. No need for me to throw it on a TEM or whatever and prove it so.

But then what?

The issue is the reliable production of the packed and podded film with QC at the level of Polaroid... or better yet, the level of Kodak or Fuji. Based on what reading I've done, I would conclude that getting the polaroids to shelf at reasonable cost, in mass quantities, and with acceptable shelf life and QC is by far the hardest part. The formulas have been known for a very long time by two, maybe three companies.

What disappoints me is that polaroid has yet to step up and say, fine, we hereby discontinue the film as a packed product, but we will release the emulsion formula and the goo recipe... I mean, formulary could probably make up a goo and sell it in nothing flat, for use with a variety of films and processable by relatively simple rolling mechanisms. It disappoints me that polaroid didn't see that the true value of the product is definitely not in the positive image- it is in the quickly developable neg. For this they will face the wrath of St. Ansel himself on Judgement Day. ;) And Ansel's gonna be pissed. I think he's going to place them on zone 20 or so.

05-11-2008, 06:40 PM
If the goal is to make a film that acts like 55, NOT necessarily to make an INSTANT film that acts like 55 (and the prints themselves are not what makes it so great), one needs to keep perspective.

Do people who use and love 55 think that there is really nothing that can provide comparable results? Have the other film companies really never matched or exceeded 55's capability?

"What is the best...?" questions pop up here daily. There is no such best ANYTHING in subjective interpretation.

I don't think a patent or even a list of ingredients makes something manufacturable (we would be lacking the specific processes), and what incentive do people who work 9-5 have, to research this to assist film lovers on the Internet? I don't see how the time and resources can be procured for the research on a charity basis. As Mustafa noted, people ARE available for hire, but who is going to cough up the money?

Then, how close is "close enough" in reverse chemical engineering? There are generic pharmaceuticals and cosmetic products that mimic 'name brands'. Some are functionally equivalent (speaks highly for the reverse engineering), but many have slightly different minor differences like odor, texture etc. (I'm speaking more about non-medicinal product copying).

If the goal is to make the film only, for home development, I really have to wonder whether people shooting film in formats other than 4x5 and 8x10 suffer the indignity of feeling the film they use will never be as good as Polaroid 55.

This sounds like more effort than even getting Polaroid to start making it again. At least that has a yes or no result that isn't subjective.

Ray Heath
05-11-2008, 07:10 PM
g'day all

so the experts who made and marketed these products could not find a viable consumer base, why should any other manufacturer even bother?

maybe it's time you all got over your attachments to various materials, good photography is not about what you use, it's about how you see


05-11-2008, 07:19 PM
OT. but Zildjian cymbals were fantastic!

05-11-2008, 07:19 PM
Mustafa, that French company, if they were successful, should have paid you for your expertise. :)

Photo Engineer
06-16-2008, 07:45 PM
I did not see this post when it went up over a month ago. I was in Montana at the Formulary.

I can say that Kodak did develop some products for Polaroid, because even though Land was a genius at inventing, his engineers did not have production coating machines nor did they have emulsion formulas and so Kodak developed a series of products for him including some B&W and color products. I do not know which ones.

The pod contains either KOH or NaOH as alkali along with restrainer and carboxymethyl cellulose (Unflavored Citrucel to US people :D ). There are also some developers and silver halide solvents. The film sheet is a film sheet but the reciever sheet is a special thing which forms the positive print. The whole thing is like a monobath.

In addition, the package contains rails to keep the distribution of pod goo even over the width and length of film, and the pod has dividers to promote even spread and burst when pressure is applied.

Filling a pod is a very exact and complex process and assmbling a pack is very expensive with some rather complex equipment involved.

Hope this helps.


06-29-2008, 05:30 PM
Take a look at US Patent 3615438. It's a Polaroid patent with a lot of discussion of monobath developer recipes and various negative films (Kodak and other).

It doesn't seem to address Type 55 specifically, but the information covers a good bit of what I think you're interested in.


06-29-2008, 07:47 PM
OT. but Zildjian cymbals were fantastic!

pssst - still are ...

John Shriver
07-02-2008, 07:28 PM
Polaroid T-55 data sheet is still available here:


You want a fine grain film with a similar HD curve.

Of Kodak films presently available, it looks a lot like Tri-X Pan Professional (TXP320). Long toe, long straight line section, no shoulder. Very much like the classic (but discontinued) portrait films like Ektapan and Royal Pan. Or even like Verichrome Pan.

Ilford's Delta 100 is very straight line, no shoulder, but but as much toe.

Photo Engineer
07-02-2008, 08:13 PM
The Polaroid film shown has poor red sensitivity and almost resembles a Tungsten film in speed distribution. The dmax is very low and the latitude only covers about 1/2 of that seen in most modern films.

Try here: http://kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/f4016/f4016.pdf?id=

About half way down the page they show the technical specifications of a typical Kodak B&W film and you see that this film has about 2x the latitude and a lot more red sensitivity. This is typical of Kodak films and is quite different than the T-55 data in the Polaroid link.


John Shriver
07-04-2008, 07:47 AM
The MTF falls off impressively fast on T-55.

The sensitivity curve of another film could be adjusted by a color balancing filter, like a blue one meant for shooting daylight film under tungsten light.

Photo Engineer
07-04-2008, 09:12 AM
Yes, that MTF has been what makes me suspect it was none of the earlier Kodak emulsions. IIRC, they were better, unless the MTF was ruined by something done in coating, again something Kodak would not do.


07-04-2008, 10:02 AM
Well, how would one measure MTF in the case of T55? Seems to me the most honest way to do it would be to shoot a chart, pod-process the sheet and then take measurements off the cleared neg. Is that what they'd do? If so, then it seems to me that this could account for some deviations between T55 and panatomic x. I would expect pod processing to introduce a sort of Gaussian falloff in MTF simply because of the way the components mix and are distributed. Only the centermost regions of the film see truly optimal development, I'd suspect.

Make any sense?