At one time, deep back in the swirling mists of time, Polaroid was like the Apple of photography, not only making the best stuff but also inventing new ways to do things. Now, the brand is nothing but a label slapped onto a bunch of crap by the current owner.
But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing amazing going on in the analog instant film world. Take a look at the Impossible Project’s FPU (Film Processing Unit), an amazing gadget that marries your iPhone to real, instant analog photos.
You can easily get your iPhone photos printed via any number of services, but none of them are instant, in the way that Polaroid photos are instant (well, with Polaroids you waited a minute or two, and with Impossible’s film stock you really need to stash the print in a lightproof box for a half hour or so, but still). The FPU (which puts the “p” in “FU”!) is a contraption which snaps pictures of the retina screen of your iPhone and prints them onto Polaroid film.
No waiting for the postman, no crappy, embarrassingly bad digital prints from the official Polaroid “ZINK” printers, and no need to add Instagrammatical filters beforehand.
Impossible will launch the project on Kickstarter sometime today, and you might want one just to get ahold of what looks to be an exquisitely retro piece of mechanical hardware. The unit opens up with a bellows to keep the iPhone the correct distance from the film, and there’s a specially-designed lens to focus on the screen. A dark-slide “shutter” is removed before exposure, and the companion app calculates the correct exposure time, powering on the iPhone’s screen to send the exact amount of light needed.
Then the film is processed as it would be in any real Polaroid camera, leaving you with a weird-looking print. This seems to be a perfect marriage between the analog and digital worlds, letting you snap away with your iPhone — as usual — and only commit the best of your results to color-shifting paper.
The project is looking to raise $250,000, for a February 2013 launch. If the individual price is right, I might very well be pitching in.