The image makers are at it again:

* Eastman Kodak Co. has altered the key chemical in photography to develop a "faster" 35mm film that can take flashless pictures with less available light, stop-action shots with less blur and clearer long-distance photos.

* Polaroid Corp. has created film that fits any 35mm camera and produces ready-to-view slides in less than three minutes.

Kodak says that its researchers in the United States, England and France developed VR 1000 print film by altering the shape and structure of crystals of silver halide--the material that makes film sensitive to light.

The new "t-grain" film is more sensitive to light than Kodacolor 400, previously the company's most light-sensitive film for color prints, because the silver halide crystals are flatter. So-called film speed is a measure of relative sensitivity to light, and Kodak's VR 1000 requires two-fifths the light of Kodacolor 400.

The company says that VR 1000 makes possible good pictures without the distractions of using a flash so long as there's enough light to see by. But professional -- and amateur -- photographers will have to wait until some time during the first half of 1983 to test the new film, according to a Kodak spokesman, who noted that photo labs won't need new equipment to process VR 1000. It probably will be available first in a 24-exposure roll. Retail prices haven't been set.

Although neither any VR 1000 slide film nor VR 1000 print film for other kinds of cameras such as the new Disc cameras are planned at this time, "We expect that this new technology of t-grain film will find applications in other Kodak products down the line," the spokesman added.

The Polaroid Autoprocess 35mm system consists of special film sold with its own pack of processing chemicals, a manual processor about the size of a compact electric adding machine, a slide-mounter a bit larger than the older pocket calculators, and slide mounts.

Color film will be available in 12- or 36-exposure rolls with a 40 ASA speed, while black-and-white film will be in a 12-exposure roll with an ASA film speed rating of 400 and in a 36-exposure roll of continuous-tone film with an ASA of 125.

The company noted in a press release that the color film produces slides with "somewhat higher base density and graininess than conventional films."

Once the roll of film has been exposed and rewound in its cartridge, it is loaded into the processor. So is a processing pack. The ends of the strip of film and proccessing sheet are attached to the same take-up spool, the processor is closed and latched, and the processing crank is turned clockwise. This deposits processing fluid onto the film.

After a one-minute wait for the film to develop, the crank is turned the other way. This strips the processing sheet from the film and rewinds the film into its cartridge.

The dry processed film then is removed from the processor and threaded through the mounter. A slide mount is inserted and, when the frame is centered in the mount, it is cut and mounted.

A Polaroid spokeswoman admits that this "is not a push-button process," and notes that it is going to be targeted for business use and for advanced amateurs, but she says that it takes about three minutes from the time the camera is unloaded to the time the slides are ready to be mounted.

She said that the cost of a 36-exposure roll of color film and processing pack should be comparable to the cost of buying a roll of 36-exposure specialty color film such as Ektachrome and having it processed. A starter set consisting of the manual processor, slide mounter and 100 slide mounts will carry a suggested retail price of less than $100. The system will be available in selected U.S. markets starting in the first quarter of 1983 and nationwide by the end of the year, Polaroid said.