The Impossible Instant Lab Beta Test

In April, I was asked if I would like to beta test one of the new Instant Labs, play with it and discover wrinkles before mass-production and release. Sounded like a good idea, and in early May, I took receipt of one, unit number I106

First impressions: it is a thing of beauty. It feels good and solid, and I love the application of the branding. Particularly cool is the embossed removable top, to keep dust off the lens. And the logo on the USB cable. Mmmmm… Detail….

 Instant Lab

Using it is very straightforward, as long as you follow the instructions. Over the days of use, the app kept being updated, and the released version is very clear – it even includes a video of what to do.

So here are some results and some thoughts…

One of the first things that got me on board with the Kickstarter funding was realising “it doesn’t just have to be iPhone photos – the iPhone is the medium for getting the image onto the film”. This got me excited as I had been dithering about it, worrying that while the iPhone camera is great, I don’t always take my best images with it. Not feeling restricted to the iPhone’s camera opened it up for me, and in to my library I went. These examples originated on iPhone, Fuji X100, Rolleiflex, and Polaroid cameras…

Poseidon

Neptune - Instant Lab test

DSCF1526

Original taken with a Fuji X100, and processed through Silver Efex. Printed on PX600 film.

Albert Memorial

Albert Memorial - Instant Lab test

IMG 0270

Straight from an iPhone pic. Gives a good idea of how PX600 responds to the colour.

In Flight

In Flight - Instant Lab Test

IMG 0206

PX680.

Senate House

Senate House - Instant Lab test unit

0021

Originally taken with my 1948 Rolleiflex on Fuji film. Starting image doesn’t need to be digital…

Sumo

Sumo

DSC 0512

Original taken with a Nikon D90 and 50mm lens.

Lille

Lille

IMG 4694

Wellington Arch

Wellington Arch

DSCF1499

Fuji X100

London Eye

 London Eye - Impossible Project Instant Lab test unit

IMG 3455

Original taken with Hipstamatic (can’t remember the filter)

Canary Wharf

 Canary Wharf - Impossible Project Instant Lab test unit

IMG 0335

This one is being used in the leaflet included with the Instant Lab!

Finally, and why not, here is the first image I took with my first pack of the first Impossible Project film, scanned, sent to iPhone and projected through the lens of the first Impossible Project imaging device. Circularity.

Daffodils

 Daffodils - Impossible Project Instant Lab test unit

20100327 daffs px100023  Version 2

Some conclusions…

Fun! It’s very straightforward to use, and you get into the rhythm of it quickly: set the picture, place the iPhone on the tower, pull out the slide when the light comes on, close it after the click, press the button. The frog tongue keeps the image protected, and you can leave it in place for a while to help the image develop.

Using the Lab is a new experience. It’s not like taking a picture with a camera: you’re not using it to frame and make choices, because you’ve already done that. But it’s not like just printing something with your computer, because it’s much more physical than that. It has more similarities for me to when I studied photography in the 90’s at the London College of Printing, and we had automated developing systems where you put the exposed paper in a slot in a darkroom, and after a couple of minutes the dry print would emerge out the other end. 

And as with any new way of making images, you start to think of how to use the device to its strengths. Don’t expect a straight, Polaroid-framed duplicate of what’s on your iPhone screen – that’s what your regular printer is for. This is a way to explore the individuality of the Impossible films, how it works with colour, light and contrast. And then start selecting images and shooting images for the Lab, think of it as an extension of your photographic process. It will be fascinating to see how people explore the possibilities this new printing process throws up.

To follow: when testing goes wrong, and unboxing the shipping product (it’s beautifully packaged…)

‘Roid Week 2013

Another ‘Roid Week has come and gone. It was a hot one, in fact too hot for this Englishman’s sensibilities, so I didn’t wander in my lunch breaks after getting a bit pink and shiny on Tuesday. My brain felt a bit sautéed all week, not sure I played my A game (or similar sporting analogy I don’t fully understand).

Anyway, here they are:

Monday

Wellington Arch Horses

Wellington Arch Columns

Wellington arch is on my way to and from work. The Black frame was beautifully shielded with a darkslide, which fell out as I pressed the shutter. Result: horses rising from the mists. The Spectra shot of the corner shows what temperatures in the high 20’s (mid 80’s fahrenheit) do with Impossible colour film: they scare away the blues!

Tuesday

Brompton Quarter

Wildebeest

These two shots were taken on Monday, using my untrusty Automatic 250. It’s had problems firing blank shots, the shutter not going off properly, so I recently replaced the battery holder with one which takes 3 AAAs, and re-soldered various bits. Doesn’t seem to have helped – of the five shots I took, only these two appeared, the others being almost nothing except a dark ghost of the subject. Grrr.

Incidentally, these are two different packs of Chocolate film – the building has grey backing and curls in around the image, the wildebeest has white backing, and curls away from the image. The first one has much better contrast. Interesting…

Wednesday

St-Mary-le-Strand Church - 'Roid Week 2013 Day 3

St-Mary-le-Strand Church - 'Roid Week 2013 Day 3

St-Mary-le-Strand church, in the middle of The Strand, near the river. This was the boiling hot Tuesday, and when I got back to work, it was like someone emptied a bottle of warm salty water on my head. Very attractive.

I’d not been to this church before, and it’s very near where I’ve been working for nearly three years. Must explore more on my lunch hours.

Thursday

Green Park Jogger - 'Roid Week 2013 Day 4

Green Park - 'Roid Week 2013 Day 4

Keeping with images taken the day before posting, these two of Green Park were on my ride to work at 7.30 in the morning. The film and I are more appreciative of the cooler temperatures. Cycling through the dappled light of the plane trees, looking through the haze of the park is a pleasure.

Also, I appear to have deliberately allowed a person into one of my images. Must be the heat.

Friday

The Royal Society - 'Roid Week 2013 day 5

St Martins in the Fields - 'Roid Week 2013 day5

Columns. The Royal Society’s building is very smart, and the golden morning light is lovely.

And I thought I’d better get the Holgaroid out. St-Martins-in-the-Fields looks like it could have been taken any time since the dawn of photography (except that until about 30-40 years ago, it would have been thick with the black soot that covered all the old buildings).

So there it is. Do visit the ‘Roid Week pool of over 3000 images, and thanks again to the amazing * cate * and gardengal for organising it.

Spectra

A few years ago I bought a Polaroid ProCam from The Impossible Project. Actually, to be correct I bought a ProCam from Polapremium, as they had yet to assume the name. Because the Enschede factory made the Spectra film as well as the square formats for SX70 and 600 cameras, I thought it a good idea to have a go.

The ProCam is strangely shaped (it opens from the side), and I tended to find it somewhat unergonomic to use – it felt to me like holding a loaf of bread in front of my face. Not entirely for me, but I’d persist.

Firstly I had some Image film for it.

Love - Hope

Very nice, but it didn’t pluck at my heart the way ‘real’ (SX-70) Polaroid shots did. They just seemed a bit normal in tone. Like ‘normal’ film photos. I guess the non-square aspect added to that feeling.

Well let’s try some mystery white box film that they found at the factory…

Clouds

Branches

Hmm. Still not quite doing it for me. I’m not keen on the way the expired 600-type films turned yellow and faded. Grumble grumble.

At last! The Impossible Project started to produce Silver Shade PZ600 film

Charing Cross Road

That’s the most success I had. I wasn’t terribly happy with any of the shots I took with the ProCam, so eventually I decided to sell it, and put the whole Spectra thing behind me.

And then a few weeks ago I found a regular Spectra camera for cheap in a charity shop. How could I resist? My thinking was “if it doesn’t work, I’ve not broken the bank. If I don’t like it, I can give it back to the shop for someone who will like it”. I ordered some PZ680 Color Protection film.

I like it.

Arcade

Alice's

Floral Street/James Street

I think it’s a combination of the ergonomics and the wonderful new film. I’m won over. In fact, I think I may take just this camera to France with me next month, rather than pack the SX-70. Funny how things turn out…

Blue Saturday

A friend of mine was having a bit of a photographic block, not having picked up his camera for a while. I suggested he needed a project; he was keen. I suggested he pick a colour; he picked blue. Seemed like a good idea, so on Saturday I joined in, and took three blue pictures on the amazing Impossible Project PX70 Color Protection Formula film.

Blue Egg

An egg from the Big Egg Hunt

Blue Edge

Blue Door

Newton’s Rings

Neptune

Way back in the mists of time I blogged about whether one should crop a Polaroid (no Impossible film then) shot to correct the framing. Looks like that old entry has fallen down the back of the sofa in one of the many moves. Anyway, I think the general conclusion was yes, why not/no, absolutely never. The main issue I was confronting was whether to crop into the shot. If you look at my flickr stream you’ll see that I usually crop away the Polaroid frames: this is for both artistic and pragmatic reasons. Artistic, because I’m not so worried about the frame itself, mainly about the image. Sure the frame is there on the real image, but once it’s been scanned, it’s not the real thing any more, and my focus is on the picture.

But sometimes the frame is part of the image, particularly with films such as PX600 Black Frame. And I’ve generally avoided scanning the whole frame because my scans suffer terribly from dreaded Newton Rings. Those rings are hateful rainbow interference patterns caused by contact between the shiny surface of the print and the shiny surface of the scanner. My solution has been to pop the print back into an empty cartridge and scan, thus raising the print just above the surface of the glass. But inevitable that covers up most of the frame. Sigh.

But sigh no more! The magnificent Dave Bias, Impossible America’s Vice President, founding member of Save Polaroid, designer of the original website for my favourite band in the universe, Medeski Martin and Wood (design since sadly replaced), wearer of hats and beard, has come up with a solution, which has been manufactured, bought by me, and it works!

The Impossible Project Scan Adapter

Really simple and straightforward, and as you can see from Neptune above, no rings.

So, thank you Dave!