Polaroid type 53 vs 52 and 54

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This is about the 4x5 peel apart Polaroid films. Besides 55, so far, I've been using 52 and 54. 52 yields the nicest prints with a smooth and wide tonal range, but unfortunately it requires coating. It's annoying to have to hand out to your subject a sticky print. 54 doesn't require coating, but is not as nice as 52. What's about 53 ? Is it better than 54 ? Polaroid terms 54 "Proofing" while 53 is "General Purpose".

PS: Polaroid's info is at http://www.polaroid.com/products/instant_cameras/peelapart/4x5/index.html

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (luong@ai.sri.com), March 29, 2001


There is a little more information about these films in the pdf spec sheets at :


53 appears to be higher contrast and much more temperature sensitive if that is a concern. Never used it myself though. I have used type 72, but like 54 better actually.

-- Richard Ross (ross@hrl.com), March 29, 2001.

When I compared Type 52 and Type 53 some years ago, I found them to be almost identical, except for Type 53 being coaterless. Despite Polaroid rating one at ASA 400 and the other at ASA 800, I found them to have identical speeds! The contrast also appears very similar.

I don't understand why Type 53 hasn't supplanted Type 52, except perhaps because Polaroid hasn't promoted it very well.

-- Michael Briggs (michaelbriggs@earthlink.net), March 29, 2001.

Polaroid themselves list "fine art" as suggested applications of 52 and 55, but not of 53 or 54.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (qtl@ai.sri.com), March 29, 2001.

One significant difference is that the coated prints have a much greater expected life than uncoated. That is likely why Polaroid limits its "fine art" recommendation to 52/54.

-- Sal Santamaura (bc_hill@qwestinternet.net), March 30, 2001.

Sal, what is your source of the information that coated Polaroid has a longer expected lifetime? I have never been able to obtain any information from Polaroid about the expected lifetime.

-- Michael Briggs (michaelbriggs@earthlink.net), April 03, 2001.

Michael, I haven't seen much published info. on LE of Polaroid films either (aside from a bit in Wilhelm's book), but it's fairly easy to see for yourself what Sal is talking about. Just leave a few uncoated prints lying around for a couple of months, and you can watch them brown out & fade away....we shoot mostly Type 55, but I shoot some 54 from time to time, and it's a great film for proofing TMX, and doing quickie shots that you plan to scan.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), April 03, 2001.

I've the following three sources of information that coated Polaroid has a longer expected lifetime.

First, direct observation, the same as what DK described.

Second, a book (Storing, Handling and Preserving Polaroid Photographs: A Guide) published by Polaroid in 1983. This document has several references to stability. On page 17, it says "While the coaterless prints are particularly convenient for certain applications, they are somewhat more susceptible than properly coated prints to damage by chemical contaminants. Thus, special care should be taken to protect them from exposure to excessive light and from harmful chemical and environmental influences...For improved longevity, prints can be carefully washed under cold running water for about 30 seconds, and then hung to air dry." I suspect residual reagent - - which coaters neutralize - - is the culprit here. Further, on page 41, under the subject of restoring damaged photographs, one finds "A soiled print made with coaterless black and white film should be washed in water and allowed to dry...Sometimes print coating, using a regular Polaroid print coater, will help to improve the appearance of a print that has been slightly soiled. (Note: While coating a print of this type may improve image stability somewhat, it will not give the same high image stability that is associated with prints for which the coater is intended.)"

Finally, in late 1998, wondering whether there were any changes to materials which might make the 1983 book obsolete, I called Polaroid's technical support people. They advised that information provided in that book was still current, since the materials it covers were unchanged.

So, in addition to the different curve shapes and differing D-Max capabilities of these films, which might argue against the coaterless versions on aesthetic grounds alone, Polaroid clearly admits that 52 and 55 are the films to use for long life expectancy.

-- Sal Santamaura (bc_hill@qwestinternet.net), April 03, 2001.

My experience with the longevity of Polaroid 53 has been good. This is, of course, no guarantee that the Type 53 will continue to last or that it will last as long as Type 52. I just carefully examined the Polaroids that I made in 1987, when I used both Type 52 and Type 53. (I think 1987 is about when Type 53 was introduced.) All of the prints look excellent and no one examining any of them would think that they had deteriorated. Some of the Type 53 prints are slightly warm-toned; I don't know whether this is original (from the fine-grain) or incipient deterioration. The slight warm-tone looks better for some of the subjects.

-- Michael Briggs (michaelbriggs@earthlink.net), April 04, 2001.

I have never seen warm tones on a fresh 53. It's most likely evidence of deterioration.

-- Sal Santamaura (bc_hill@qwestinternet.net), April 04, 2001.

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