Enschede, Holland: June 2008. Polaroid shuttered their last factory, and a team from Berlin started fundraising. It was a nostalgic, grandiose dream, but the crew of the Impossible Project believed they could buy that defunct factory, save instant film from becoming nothing more than rotting chemicals, and build a new instant-camera empire. Impossible? Likely — especially considering the world was just sinking into a global financial collapse.
The team raised the money, bought the factory, saved and then replicated instant film (they sell their own, updated version now). And now, eight years later, they’re coming straight from the chemical ashes to announce that the thrill of getting a negative developed is getting that much easier. This is the Impossible Project’s I-1 Camera.
The I-1 resembles the classic Polaroid, but comes in a sleek matte black and is infused with rejiggered technology. There’s still a direct-to-negative exposure, with light carrying through the camera’s aperture, reflecting off a mirror and then down onto the film. But the new body is Bluetooth compatible, features a ring flash and is equipped with a detachable, magnetic viewfinder that rests on a port capable of receiving future Impossible tech integrations.
It’s simple, and it’s smart. In auto mode, the camera has an automatic focus and exposure and one-button shooting. The body holds eight pieces of film and the photo count is shown by how many LEDs are illuminated in the ring-flash. When connected with the companion app, the camera can be entirely manually operated — controlling aperture and shutter speed and allowing for tools like double exposure, remote triggering (like sound) and light painting (triggering an extended open exposure, or “bulb” mode).
In a brief test here at GP HQ, the camera was simple to use, felt sturdy in hand and captured a series of compelling black-and-white negatives that exposed in about 30-45 seconds (no, you don’t shake them). The camera is fun, features a clean design, and packs all the intrigue of instant photography, with levels of execution on par with Polaroids of times past. And, as CEO Oskar Smolokowski notes: “It’s magic.”
The I-1 instant camera retails for $299 and will be available exclusively at the MoMA Design Store as well as on impossible-project.com.