Monday, January 7, 2013

Impossible Revives Instant Print Magic

Impossible Instant Lab, Copyright by Impossible
There are plenty of people who lament the decline of analog photography, especially the SX-70, which was produced by Polaroid from 1972-1981. The camera, responsible for one of the few projects to earn a perfect score here and which sparked Instagram, is still around but hard to find in the digital photo age.

Film was equally hard to find. When we wrote about the photo-a-day project a few years ago, we pointed people to the Impossible Shop because it makes replacement film for the SX-70 and other cameras. What we weren't sure about at the time was how long the company might be around.

We're not so concerned any more. Three years later, the Impossible Shop created something cool.

The Impossible Instant Lab Bridges Polaroid And Possibilities.

The Impossible Instant Lab transforms digital iPhone photos into an analog medium, using the new film formula it originally created as a replacement for Polaroid 600 and SX-70 models. The lab promises to bring together the best of two worlds, giving creative and throwback photographers the freedom of digital photography and the allure of instant analog film production.

The innovation marries the camera base with a telescopic cradle, allowing someone to attach the iPhone 4/4s or iPhone 5 (and Android soon). Then, after choosing a library image already transferred to a special Impossible Lab app, the lab apparatus chirps when the photo is finished. Push one button and the picture ejects, with the exposure slowly appearing much like it would if it were taken by the SX-70.

The transference isn't electronic. The design captures the light of the iPhone to make an exposure, using a base that the Impossible Shop was already producing. It's a smart solution to reinvigorate the medium.

One of the most comprehensive overviews of everything the Impossible Shop is doing was recently covered by American Dreaming Magazine. The audio isn't great, but the story is worth a look.

The concept itself isn't new. There have been several methods of converting 35mm slides, digital photos and even Polaroid pictures into various print formats. But where the Impossible Instant Lab works is that it revives a unique medium, an instant image created by a surprisingly involved chemical process.

In fact, this was one of the reasons the Impossible Shop chose its name. Believe it or not, it is still impossible to recreate Polaroid film the same way that Polaroid made it. Impossible Shop reinvented everything from the ground up, with a keen eye on exposing a new generation to this unique art form.

Does the Impossible Instant Lab detract from the impossible instant shot? 

The lab makes it possible to produce what appear to be instant shots without an instant print camera. Not everybody gets this, mostly because it removes the spontaneity of the instant shot that used to accompany instant print.

SX-70, copyright by Impossible
The instant shot process was especially true with Polaroid cameras because even when the film was mass produced, there was always a greater sense of waste. Film packs were more expensive than the photo rolls that could be dropped off at the store. You had to get the one shot right (or make sure any wrong shots still looked interesting anyway). There was no editing. There were no do-overs.

The Instant Lab removes the impossibility of the instant shot because  smart phone pictures are virtually limitless. With the Instant Lab, you can resize and crop image before printing, and only process those prints you want without blowing a pack of film.

Our take is a bit different. The real magic of the medium is unique for other reasons, ranging from color saturation to the familiar square format. As it stood just a few years ago, even with the five-year journey that the Impossible Shop has taken to revive the magic of it, the demand for film was diminished. This innovation just might help save it.

The Impossible Instant Lab Hits A High Mark At 9.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Simply put, we like the idea that the Instant Lab could help broaden the market for the 8-shot film packs made by Impossible, perhaps lowering the price but, more importantly, ensuring that there continues to be a need to make it. This could also be the right stepping stone to jumpstart production on a new instant shot/instant print camera, based on the beautiful craftsmanship of the SX-70.

The Impossible Shop plans to have the Impossible Instant Lab in stores sometime in April (Kickstarter backers are expected to receive the first run in February). Impossible is currently collecting emails from anyone who missed the Kickstarter run, with plans to notify them when the lab is available. You can find all the Impossible products online or visit Amazon for the Impossible PRD2442 PX 70 Color Protection Film for SX-70 CamerasImpossible PRD2441 PX 680 Color Protection Film for 600 Cameras, and other film products (including black and white).
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