When I logged into my Kickstarter account today, I was met by the Impossible Instant Lab, and I was intrigued. The IIL is a way of making real photographic Polaroid prints from photos taken with your iPhone. When I first saw the video, I was wondering; Could this possibly be a joke?
Allow me to explan: The IIL appears to take a square crop from the middle of your iPhone, and turn that into a Polaroid print.
So far so good, but in the mind of a photographer, the science just doesn’t stack up: On an iPhone 4 screen (which has a 1136-by-640 pixel resolution), you are essentially getting a 640×640 pixel crop. That’s 0.4 megapixels.
Now, Polaroid prints have never been known for their astonishing quality, but even the least ambitious of Polaroid cameras has significantly higher resolving power than 0.4 megapixels. In fact, if you have a look at a high-resolution scan of one of Impossible Project’s own films on Wikipedia, you can see that there’s a lot of data to work with.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s definitely a place in photography for the ‘lo-fi’ or ‘toy camera’ styles of photography. In fact, I heartily encourage people to buy a crappy little film-based camera ($30 from eBay), and borrow the darkroom equipment at your local photography club (usually less than $30 including paper and chemicals, for about an hour), to learn more about photography, and to gain a deeper understanding of photography and how it works.
However… If you are using a $400 printing device to ‘print’ photos to pieces of film costing $3.75 per sheet, by using a twentieth of the resolution available from a $600 photography device, you’re probably doing something wrong…
Check out the Impossible Instant Lab on Kickstarter to make up your own mind.