Impossible Project’s I-1 Analog Instant Camera Revives a Nostalgic Art

Impossible Project’s I-1 Analog Instant Camera Revives a Nostalgic Art

By Paige Alexus
When I heard that Impossible Project’s instant I-1 camera was being launched at this year’s New York Design Week, I knew I had to test it out for myself. There’s nothing more fulfilling than snapping a photo and holding it in your hands soon afterward—or to be able to pass it along to an eager friend.

With a name that’s actually quite fitting, Impossible Project started out in 2008 after resurrecting the last original Polaroid factory that was being shut down in Enschede, Holland. They saved over 200 million instant cameras that were on the verge of being forgotten. They began a journey to revive the culture by creating a variety of different types of instant film that would work with the original cameras. Because of this, you can now continue to use your favorite old Polaroid with the confidence that you’ll be able to refill it. Meanwhile, their ultimate goal was to build their own camera, which leads us to the I-1.

Besides keeping it old school by letting you snap and print a photo, the I-1 gives you the option of connecting to your smartphone with Bluetooth to control your aperture and shutter speed. In their app, you’ll also find creative tools including a remote trigger, light painting, and double exposure. You can then directly upload your shots to your favorite social channels. 

As the first newly produced camera that’s been built in the classic instant photo format, the I-1 was co-designed by Jesper Kouthoofd—founder of Stockholm-based Teenage Engineering—and is available exclusively at the MoMA Design Store. What makes this camera unique is how it’s brought the experience to the modern age. With the corresponding app for iOS and Android, you can control, edit, and share your photos from any smart device.

Take a look at this diagram that outlines the mechanics of the analog instant camera. When the flash is turned on, the flash ring (made up of eight LED lights) emits diffused light with slight shadows and adjusts distance and light automatically. The LEDs indicate how many shots you have left in the film. The magnetic viewfinder can be detached and collapses flat when desired. 

When I put the camera to the test, this is what I found. I decided to focus on the analog side of the camera since its classic nature is what really pulls me in… 

When I first opened the box, I noticed how nicely designed the packaging was, which cradled the camera perfectly. I quickly learned that the film is easy to load and the camera is simple to use. However, it can get pricey if you’re going to be flying through the film. A couple of film sheets had slight imperfections to them, though some users might welcome quirks like this. Though the detachable viewfinder allows for the camera to be updated with new technological advancements in the future, I found that it easily pops off if you’re not careful. Still, the way it folds down and clips into itself is indeed satisfying and adds an extra quirky detail. 

The smooth matte finish feels great in your hands and the lightweight build makes it easy to take around with you. However, you do have to be careful what gets on the camera since the surface does smear and stain easily. Though the placement of the fire button looks and feels natural, it’s somewhat difficult to keep it steady when taking a photo. It also would take some practice to be able to line up your shots completely straight. On the other hand, it’s surprisingly entertaining to just point, fire, and leave the final result to chance! 

I found that the black and white film was my favorite to use, as the results came out quite interesting and unique. They really do resemble vintage photos and the shadows make everything look edgy and mysterious. My color film results were a little less vibrant than I expected, which I’m assuming could have been edited or boosted with the new digital tools. One thing you have to remember is to keep the film in a dark space so that it develops fully. The brewing anticipation is really what brings the nostalgia to life.

The modern version of the classic Polaroid silhouette is finished in a matte black surface with subtle yellow details. Impossible film packs are available in either colored or black and white and cost $19.99 for a pack of eight.

Try the camera out yourself by taking one home for $299 from the MoMA Design Store.


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