Hands-on: The Impossible Instant Lab review

How many pictures do you have on your iPhone? 10, 100, 1,000, maybe more?

The Impossible Project, born out of a desire to continue making Polaroid film, has created the Impossible Instant Lab, a mobile printing/scanning station, if you like, that lets you create Polaroid-esque pictures from your iPhone for keeps.

The device is simple. You fire up the Impossible Lab app, select and edit the photo you want to print, load your phone into the dedicated loading bay, press a button on the device, and then move a mechanical shutter tray. The machine - which is actually a camera - then takes a picture of the photo on your phone's screen and prints the end result on the film that you've loaded in.

We say prints, but in reality it's letting the photo paper do all the work. There is no whirring, or moving parts in the printing process. With multiple film types now available that could mean full colour, black and white, or others.

Finding a quiet coffee shop in a hotel away from the hustle and bustle of CES, Pocket-lint was demoed the new gadget to see if retro really is as nostalgic as it sounds.

Currently available for only iPhone 5 and 5S users - a more inclusive mount is due for launch later this year - the results are mixed, but fun each time as you learn to not only choose the right image to print, but also the speed at which you open and release the shutter.

We tried with a picture of the Las Vegas sign and it failed to work, but a close-up snap of a Lego Minifig we had shot previously worked a treat. 

Of course, like Polaroid of yesteryear, the real fun is to be had in waiting for the print to appear on the paper that's been spat out of the Impossible Instant Lab seconds after you've done your bit.

The process, in a world where most things are instant if not quicker, is a charming and sentimental experience. After all for most people nothing says "I love you" more than giving someone a physical object and this, like the millions of Polaroid snaps before it, fulfils that goal.

Of course those counting the pennies will no doubt baulk at the price, especially when they notice that it's £22 for a pack of eight film and £214 for the Lab itself.

But it's not about that. It's about reliving the moment, a moment that for most born in theSsixties and Seventies provides some of the fondest memories, a time before photography got all snap, snap, snap. 

Like the Lomography products that also play on the heartstrings of retro photographers, this will appeal to a certain type of photographer or photography fan, and for those who put themselves in that pigeon hole, they will love what the Impossible Lab does, and how it does it.



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