The nostalgia of instant film holds a special place in the hearts of many photographers and hobbyists alike. The immediacy and tactile nature of the medium makes it a unique experience that can’t be replicated with digital photography. One of the most popular instant film brands, Polaroid has a long history in the industry with the largest price tag. 

Despite its popularity, many photographers are left wondering why Polaroid film is so expensive. 

While the answer to this question might not make the reality of the price tag any more bearable, I hope this article will help explain the factors that affect its cost. Secondly, I will cover the different film options available, and tips for getting the most out of your instant film.

What Polaroid film to buy?

If you’ve decided to give instant photography a try, choosing an instant camera/film combination is important. Let’s learn more about what’s currently on the market before we discuss how much each type of film costs.

Current Polaroid Film Options

Polaroid Originals (formerly The Impossible Project)

Polaroid Originals is a brand that produces instant film that is compatible with both vintage and modern Polaroid cameras. The company was founded in 2008 by a group of Polaroid enthusiasts who were dedicated to keeping the magic of instant film alive. 

They acquired the last Polaroid factory in the Netherlands and began producing new instant film under the name The Impossible Project. In 2017, the company rebranded as Polaroid Originals and began producing film under the Polaroid name.

Polaroid Originals offers a range of film stocks, including color and black-and-white options for the 600, SX-70 and 8×10 for both new and vintage Polaroid cameras.

There are other Polaroid film formats available for newer Polaroid cameras such as the i-Type Film and the Go Film which tend to be fairly affordable. 

Fujifilm Instax

picture of a fujifilm instant camera and film

Fujifilm Instax is another brand that produces instant film for modern instant cameras. Unlike Polaroid Originals film, which is compatible with vintage and modern cameras, Fujifilm Instax film is only compatible with Fujifilm Instax cameras. 

However, these cameras are generally less expensive than vintage Polaroid cameras, making them a more affordable option for those just starting with instant photography.

Fujifilm Instax offers several film options, including Instax Mini, Instax Wide, and Instax Square. These film options come in various colors and styles, including color, black-and-white, and even monochrome.

Vintage Polaroid Film Options

If you want to relive the 70s, 80s, 90s and early 2000s in style, and money isn’t an issue vintage Polaroid film can be found for sale online. This Polaroid film is the most expensive of the bunch and it is important to be cautious when purchasing expired film.

While some photographers enjoy the unpredictable results that can come from using expired film, others may find that the film produces unusable or low-quality images.

SX-70 Film

sx 70 polaroid camera and film

SX-70 film was first introduced in 1972 and was designed to be used with the iconic SX-70 camera. This film was known for its soft, dreamy look and was a favorite among artists and photographers alike. However, the production of SX-70 film was discontinued in 2006, making it a highly sought-after and expensive film stock today.

600 Film

guy holding out a vintage polaroid 600 camera

600 film was introduced in 1981 and was designed for use with Polaroid’s 600 series of cameras. This film was known for its vivid colors and was a popular choice for snapshots and family photos. Like SX-70 film, the production of 600 film was discontinued in 2008, making it a highly sought-after film stock.

Spectra Film

Spectra film was introduced in 1986 and was designed for use with Polaroid’s Spectra series of cameras. This film was known for its wide format and was often used for landscapes and architectural photography. The production of Spectra film was discontinued in 2008, making it another highly sought-after film stock.

How much does polaroid film cost?

Type of instant filmCost per shot
Polaroid Originals$2.5 to $3.12 per shot
Fujifilm Instax film$0.75 to $1.00 per shot
Vintage Polaroid films$3.75 to $12.5 per shot

The cost of Polaroid film can vary depending on the type and where it’s purchased. Generally, a pack of eight shots of Polaroid Originals (formerly The Impossible Project) film costs around $20 to $25. Fujifilm Instax film, another type of instant film, can cost around $0.75 to $1.00 per shot. Vintage Polaroid films, such as SX-70 and 600, can be more expensive and harder to find, with prices ranging from $30 to $100 per pack of 8 shots or more.

Which Polaroid has the cheapest film?

If you are looking for the cheapest option to break into instant photography the Fujifilm Instax Mini film is your best option. This instant film is compatible with various Fujifilm Instax cameras. The cost per photo is relatively low compared to other instant film options, making it a popular choice for those on a budget or for casual instant photography. 

If shooting with a Polaroid camera, the least expensive Polaroid film is the Polaroid Originals.

Why is Polaroid film more expensive than Instax?

Polaroid film is more expensive than Instax for a few reasons. Firstly, Polaroid film is more complex to manufacture than Instax film, requiring a greater number of chemical layers and a more precise production process. This higher manufacturing cost is passed down to the consumers, making Polaroid film more expensive. 

Additionally, Polaroid film is produced in smaller quantities than Instax film, which can also contribute to a higher cost. Finally, Polaroid film also has a long history and is associated with a certain level of nostalgia and artistic value, which may allow the manufacturers to charge a premium price for it.

The Science Behind Polaroid Film

Polaroid film is a type of instant film that uses a chemical process to develop the image. The film is made up of several layers, each with a specific purpose. The top layer is a clear plastic sheet that protects the film from outside elements. 

The second layer is the negative, which captures the image. Below the negative is a layer of developing chemicals that are activated during the development process. The final layer is the positive, which creates the final image.

The development process of Polaroid film is unique compared to other types of film such as 35mm film. While 35mm film has to get developed in a darkroom, when Polaroid film is exposed, a chemical reaction occurs between the developing chemicals and the negative layer, and it self-develops. No need to get the film developed. 

The negative layer contains light-sensitive silver halide crystals that are activated by the light, creating a latent image. The developing chemicals then spread across the negative, causing the crystals to release the silver ions, which form the image. As the developing process continues, the positive layer is activated, creating the final image.

It is important to store Polaroid film properly to ensure the chemicals remain active. The film should be kept in a cool, dry place and away from direct sunlight. Exposure to heat and moisture can cause the chemicals to degrade, resulting in poor image quality or no image at all.

Why is Polaroid film so expensive?

The cost of Polaroid film is determined by several factors, including research and development costs, manufacturing costs, limited production, licensing fees, and marketing and distribution costs.

  1. Research and development: R&D costs refer to the resources required to create a new film formula or improve upon an existing one. Polaroid film is a complex product that requires significant research and development to create. This can result in high costs that are passed on to the consumer.
  2. Manufacturing: These costs also play a role in the high cost of Polaroid film. The manufacturing process is intricate and requires specialized equipment and facilities. The film must be produced in a clean environment to prevent any contamination that could affect the final image. This level of precision and attention to detail adds to the overall cost of the film.
  3. Limited production: Polaroid is a niche product, and the demand for instant film is not as high as it once was. This limited demand means that the production runs are smaller, resulting in higher costs per unit. 
  4. Licensing fees: These costs are also a significant factor in the cost of Polaroid film. Polaroid is a trademarked brand, and any company that wants to produce film under the Polaroid name must pay a licensing fee. This fee adds to the overall cost of the film.
  5. Marketing and distribution: Lastly these costs also play a role in the high cost of Polaroid film. Polaroid film is a specialty product that requires a specific target audience. Marketing efforts are targeted toward this audience, which can be expensive. Additionally, the distribution network for Polaroid film is limited, which can increase the cost of the film.

How to handle and store polaroid film?

Proper handling and storage of Polaroid film is crucial to ensure its longevity and the quality of the images produced. The following advice may help you in handling and storing your Polaroid film properly:

  1. Keep the film in its original packaging until you’re ready to use it. This helps protect it from light and moisture.
  2. Store the film in a cool, dry place. Avoid exposing it to high temperatures or humidity, as this can damage the film.
  3. Keep the film away from magnetic fields to prevent magnetization, which can degrade the image quality.
  4. Make sure you carefully follow the directions when inserting the film into your camera to prevent damaging the film.
  5. Avoid bending or creasing the film, as this can also damage the film and affect the quality of the images.
  6. After taking a photo, shield the film from light and let it develop in a cool, dry place. Don’t touch the film or attempt to peel the image apart until it’s fully developed.
  7. Once the image has fully developed, store it in a dry and cool place. Don’t expose it to direct sunlight or high temperatures.

You can make sure that your Polaroid film stays in good shape and creates high-quality photographs by paying attention to these suggestions. To get the most out of your Polaroid film, keep in mind that it is a delicate medium and should be handled carefully.

In addition to proper storage and handling, it’s important to consider the recommended cameras for Polaroid film. While any instant camera can be used with Polaroid film, some cameras are better suited for certain types of film.

For example, the SX-70 and 600 cameras were designed for specific types of film, and they often produce better results when paired with the appropriate film. The SX-70 camera was designed for use with SX-70 film, which has a lower ISO rating and produces softer, more muted tones. The 600 camera, on the other hand, was designed for use with 600 film, which has a higher ISO rating and produces brighter, more vibrant tones.

It’s also important to consider lighting when using Polaroid film. Since the film has a relatively low ISO rating compared to other types of film, it performs best in well-lit environments. Natural light is often the best option for Polaroid photography, as it produces a soft, diffused light that complements the film’s unique look.

wall of polaroid photos hanging

Wrapping up

Finally, it’s important to embrace experimentation and creativity when working with Polaroid film. Unexpected outcomes are one of the most thrilling aspects of Polaroid photography, and playing with various shooting methods, lighting setups, and camera settings may produce some incredibly original and captivating vintage photographs.

However, it’s important to consider the cost of each shot. Polaroid film is a relatively expensive medium, and each shot can cost several dollars. Hence, it’s crucial to carefully frame and compose each shot and to only shoot photos that you genuinely believe are worth the money.

While Polaroid film may be expensive, it’s vital to keep in mind that the price reflects the special features and traits that make the medium so special. Photographers can choose when and how to use Polaroid film to enhance their outcomes and produce amazing, one-of-a-kind photographs that capture the magic of Polaroid film.