August 31, 2018

CEO Q&A: In Conversation with Oskar & Pierre

We can hardly believe it’s been nearly a year since we introduced the world to Polaroid Originals. Our new cameras and film reached more people than ever before, and the results we’ve seen have been stunning. It’s moments like these make the whole endeavor worth it. Plus, we’ve also been working on a lot behind the scenes. One major topic for us has been how we imagine and build a long, healthy future for the Polaroid brand, and for analog instant photography in general. Oskar will become the CEO of Polaroid BV, leading us through what will be a short transition phase and beyond into the future. Pierre Darnton, who we’re excited to introduce to you, will replace Oskar as the CEO of Polaroid Originals. We chatted with them both for the Polaroid Originals Magazine to share the first steps of this next Polaroid chapter with you.

Can you tell us more about the thought process behind the new camera? This is the first analog/digital hybrid from Polaroid Originals. Why did you decide to release this now instead of when you launched the brand?

We wanted to start with a camera that was very straightforward and easy to use. The OneStep 2 is a great point-and-shoot, and it’s affordable. Now that we have that available, we wanted to give people the option for more creative control. The OneStep+ was the logical next step.

You say that you plan to imagine and build a long, healthy future for the Polaroid brand, and for analog instant photography in general. Can you talk more about what that looks like?

If we told you everything it would ruin the surprise, wouldn’t it?

In all seriousness we have some big plans for the Polaroid brand, both within the analog world and outside of it. Within Polaroid Originals, we are constantly working to improve the film quality, and the quantity that we can produce. The steps and time it takes to create the film is eye-watering: it takes over a year for us to get many of the components from suppliers. We watch the silver markets every day, since silver goes into every frame. We cannot stress enough how complex this all is.

We are super excited about the OneStep+, as it gives you the best instant experience available. And with the new Polaroid Originals app, we can connect directly with photographers out there, and achieve even better results with our cameras and film. Because if there’s one thing people should know from this launch, it’s that we are developing more cameras. As far as what they will be, and when they will be available, you’ll have to wait and see.

Spectra film has been out of stock for a while now, what’s going on there? If the old cameras aren’t working so well, would you ever consider building a new one?

We love Polaroid photography. We are fans who live and breath this medium all day (and for some of us, nights too). The Polaroid Originals team are passionate about keeping this format alive. Especially at the factory, there are employees who have dedicated most of their working lives to this.

Spectra film is part of that family, and we are trying to nurse it through some difficult times. Last summer we started to notice that the film wasn’t always ejecting correctly from some Spectra cameras. This was brought to our attention by feedback from the community. We asked our quality assurance team to start an extensive investigation into the film and the cameras. The initial results were troubling, as we could see no differences in thickness of the film or the size of the film. It just made no sense. We tried to adjust the shape of the cartridge to allow more room for the film to be ejected, and tried multiple other things to make it easier on the aging cameras.

None of this proved really fruitful, and after working with our vintage camera supplier to test across hundreds of cameras, we found it randomly happening to some cameras and not others. The report we received back from the experts was that the Spectra cameras were not made in the same robust way as the less advanced 600 and SX-70 cameras. Once we took the cameras apart, we found that the more complex electrical circuits were degrading, which we thought meant the power from the battery in the cartridge just needed to be boosted. So we spent 3 months working with our battery supplier to source a more powerful battery that would still fit into the cartridge. This again gave only sporadically successful results.

So the long and short of it is that we are doing everything we can to supply a stable product that works. And we have scheduled in another batch of Spectra film, since we know people want it. But it will have to be sold with a warning that we know it may jam. We will, of course, see if we can come up with some other solutions, but how the vintage cameras function is somewhat out of our control, and it’s going to be difficult to resolve.

Will you continue to support vintage cameras from a film perspective? Most of your recent developments have been focused on i-Type, which is great, but there’s a lot of interest about the research and design process for original cameras and film.

We have no plans to stop producing 600 or SX-70 film as long as there is demand for it. We all have a load of these cameras ourselves, so we have a personal stake in it too. We have various projects and a team of chemists dedicated to research and development of the film, and we will always push forward as much as possible.

What about pack film? We would like to hear more about the real reasons why you don’t make that instead of focusing on new cameras.

Pack film is beautiful stuff, but it really comes down to the fact that we just don’t have the machines to make it. We have, of course, looked into investing in new machinery, and we also supported various recent plans to try to buy some old machines, or make the product by hand.

The reality is that the investment required to build new machines is in the tens of millions of Euros. That investment cost and the demand for the film sadly just do not match up. Our focus is on the long-term future of the company, and that means the original format integral film.

Do you plan to continue supporting 8×10? This film has also been out of stock for a while now and it’s an important format for many of the professional photographers out there

8×10 is a great product, and we will continue to support it. The current delay comes down to pod material performance. It will be back in stock as soon as we solve this issue.

There was a lot of passion around Impossible special edition film, as well as being able to beta test new film chemistry and give feedback. Do you plan to reopen a program like this to get closer to customers and get more feedback to put into R&D?

We will once we have some significant updates for people to test and give feedback on. We have various R&D projects on the schedule, but most are about stability and shelf life. We have always appreciated the support and feedback of the community.

Now that Polaroid BV will unite Polaroid Originals and all Polaroid activities, what can we expect to see from the company in the next few years?

We’re very pleased to announce that we’re establishing a new overarching global headquarters of the entire Polaroid company called Polaroid BV (BV means it’s a Dutch company) in Amsterdam. Polaroid BV will unite Polaroid Originals and all Polaroid activities officially under one umbrella, ensuring that we’re all working effectively together toward achieving the same goals. You’ll just have to wait and see what develops!