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New Impossible Instant Cameras in 2013

When Polaroid cancelled its film production in 2008, the future of instant photography looked rather dim. Literally in the last moment The Impossible Project was able to rescue Polaroid’s production facilities in the Netherlands. The company successfully redeveloped the original integral film and launched it in 2010; ever since the film material has been continuously improved. Now that a relatively stable integral film is available again, Impossible went a step further and presented some real novelties at last year’s Photokina.

Impossible Instant Lab for iphone at Photokina 2012 in Cologne new Polaroid

Impossible Instant Lab for iPhone at Photokina 2012 – © Überlicht (AR)

The Instant Lab is a device for printing digital photos from an iPhone screen directly onto Impossible film. After the development was backed by an astonishingly successful Kickstarter campaign, the device shown at Photokina 2012 was working pretty well. Impossible told us that it will already be available from February 2013. Also on show (but behind glass) was another prototype with little news coverage at that point.

Impossible Instant Camera prototype at Photokina 2012 new Polaroid

Prototype of the new Impossible Instant Camera shown at Photokina 2012 – © Überlicht (AR)

In the meantime Impossible has published some information on its own camera and we have obtained additional details regarding their near future camera plans.
Every upcoming camera will be based on a uniform Film Processing Unit (FPU). The construction of this accurately engineered device took some 18 months and was conducted in cooperation with German company DHW at the former Rollei factory in Braunschweig. The concept of the new FPU differs from that of traditional Polaroid cameras like the SX-70. The most striking difference is the inclusion of an own power supply, which makes the battery in every film pack obsolete. New integral films should thus be more environmental friendly but at the same time they will not be compatible with old Polaroid cameras.
The first camera using the new FPU will be a pinhole camera that is due to be introduced in March. Further plans include the first “real” Impossible camera to be available in autumn 2013. It might somewhat resemble the prototype from Photokina and we were told that it would come with a high quality lens made in Japan. Sadly there are no actual plans for a foldable SX-70 type camera. At an estimated price of roughly 1000 € (about US$ 1300) it would be considerably too expensive, as we were told.
Either way, the latest developments indicate that instant photography seems to be looking into a much brighter future than just a few years ago.

How to print photos with an iPad 3 (there’s just one hitch…)

Many users love their iPad 3 for its high-resolution Retina display. With a diameter of only 9.7″ and 2,048 x 1,536 pixels it has a higher resolution than most 24″ displays used with desktop computers. Therefore the human eye is almost unable to make out single pixels.
These days we are quite a bit into experimenting with Harman’s direct positive paper. Which is why we wanted to find out whether it is possible to print photos (on real photo paper!) directly from the iPad’s high-resolution display without using additional accessories.


The single most important tool for printing photos with the iPad 3 is the pre-installed “Photos” app. With its help you can start a slide show in order to control the exposure. For this purpose you have to create several entirely black images with the exact resolution of the iPad’s display (2048 x 1536 pixels). Two of these are fitted with a grey outline around a centred 1,393 x 1,143 pixel rectangle, which is the size of the image that you want to print. Your photo should be of the same size, with a black frame to fit the screen. In fact it is a little bit larger than the 4×5″ HARMAN Direct Positive Paper (UK) now, but this makes it a lot easier to place the paper on your iPad. Set the slide show to a sequence of something like: frame – black – frame – black – photo – black – black. Unfortunately it is not possible to put the images into an individual order; the app always arranges them by date and time. So you have to create your files systematically or change the time code afterwards. Probably there is also a free app available that allows you to arrange the photos as you like, but we could not find it.

iPad 3 photo ready for printing on harman direct positive paper

Photo ready for printing with an iPad3 on HARMAN Direct Positive Paper – © Überlicht

Into the dark room

First you have to set the display brightness to the lowest possible level, then set the slide time to 2 seconds and clean the glass thoroughly. After all, you do not want to have your finger prints imprinted, do you? For placing the photo paper onto the iPad it is very helpful to put on cotton gloves. Otherwise the slightest contact with the touch screen interrupts the slide show. After turning off the light in your dark room, lay the iPad on a plain surface and start the slide show. Place a sheet of direct positive paper within the frame and weigh it down with a book or something similar, so that it does not curl. After exposure turn off the iPad display immediately, take off the book and paper and develop the latter in Caffenol. Obviously any other paper developer can be used as well.

iPad 3 printed photo on Harman direct positive paper developed in Caffenol

iPad3 with “printed” photo on HARMAN DPP – © Überlicht

In the end there is…

…disappointment. Every photographer knows that a “contact copy” of this kind inevitably has to produce a reversed image. But we did not expect the image to be completely blurred. What happened?
A common deficit of spontaneous inspirations is that you do not thoroughly think through your idea’s details. The iPad display is covered by a thin but still thick enough protection glass. Therefore the light scatters and is diffused when it hits the paper. The result resembles a strong soft focus effect and leaves a picturesque impression.
With this outcome we unfortunately had to give up on our idea – as much as we loved it! Without optical accessories, printing images from an iPad 3 does not really work. Well – at least we tried.

The original German post has been published on Ü September 11th 2012.

HARMAN DIRECT POSITIVE PAPER FB tested – or the new summer fragrance: Caffenol

At the previous Photokina HARMAN already presented their new direct positive papers (DIRECT POSITIV PAPER FB and RC). As the name inherently tells, positive images can be created directly, for example by exposing the paper through a pinhole camera. And that is exactly what we did.

Harman Direct Positive Paper FB 01 pinhole photograph developed in Caffenol, Munich

Müllersches Volksbad in Munich (2012), on HARMAN Direct Positive Paper FB – © Überlicht


Unlike film material the paper – which is available in various formats from 4×5” up to 50”x50ft-rolls – can even be loaded in safelight. This might prove very useful if you have difficulties feeling out the difference between the paper base and photographic emulsion at the first attempt because, as opposed to sheet film, the paper does not have any notches. When loading sheet film holders with HARMAN DIRECT POSITIVE PAPER FB (baryta) we noticed that the sheets were intractable to slide smoothly into every film holder, probably due to the thickness of the paper sheets compared to considerably thinner film sheets. In this case you could either just use holders that can be loaded without resistance or carefully cut off 0,02” on one long side (using a ruler and a sharp cutter) in the darkroom. Either way, you should avoid to squeeze the paper sheets into the film holders as that damages the edges unaesthetically.

Harman Direct Positive Paper FB 02 pinhole photograph of Munich, Caffenol developer

Marienplatz in Munich (2012), on HARMAN Direct Positive Paper FB – © Überlicht


Apart from high contrasts according to the paper’s low sensitivity there is nothing else to pay particular attention to. Even though the dramatic contrast can be softened by pre-flashing the paper (which also affects sensitivity), we did without for a start and instead sought out subjects that work well with a hard gradation, too. Again, we deployed the HARMAN TiTAN Pinhole Camera in order to bring the paper to its appropriate use (and vice versa). As the paper is especially designed for long exposure times it is practically ignorant of reciprocity failures. Nevertheless, we added it to our long exposure compensation charts (PDF), so as to have the right data at hand immediately when taking pictures through a pinhole. Alternatively, the recommended exposure times from the description can be used for various lighting conditions. That also works quite well.
Once exposed, the paper sheets should be processed as soon as possible (within one or two days) because the latent images regress very quickly. Pre-flashing also requires handling without delay, otherwise it will lose its effect on the paper with time. However, the fast regression of latent images can also be of advantage. When accidentally exposing a paper sheet, some weeks (maybe months) in complete darkness should eliminate the mistake.

Harman Direct Positive Paper FB 03 Ilford pinhole camera photograph developed in Caffenol, Munich

Residenzstraße, Munich (2012), on HARMAN Direct Positive Paper FB – © Überlicht

Harman Direct Positive Paper FB 04 baryta developed in Caffenol, Residenz Munich

Residenz in Munich (2012),on HARMAN Direct Positive Paper FB – © Überlicht

Development in Caffenol

We developed our exposures in Caffenol as that slightly reduces the contrast. You can find many recipes online for making a developer of basic household remedies (washing soda, vitamin C and instant coffee). While mixing in the last ingredient the unmistakable scent of this homemade developer fills the air: Caffenol somehow smells like aging moist food for cats. This takes some getting used to it but luckily the smell does not stick to the paper after the development. The colour of Caffenol is rather unfamiliar, too. Whereas customary developers are translucent, washing soda and coffee granules taint the mixture very cloudy and dark. Yet, in the darkroom the dull broth is a good indication of the development time: As long as the dark image areas are still brighter than Caffenol, the image contains no proper black.
The development in Caffenol, which takes about 2.5 – 3 minutes at 20° C / 68° F, is followed by a short stop bath (approximately 10 – 30 seconds) and fixing afterwards (1 – 8 minutes depending on the fixer). At last the FB-paper spends one hour in (ideally fresh running) water. After this the remaining water on the photographs can be removed carefully using a film squeegee or drying roller.

Harman Direct Positive Paper FB 05 Odeonsplatz Munich with camera obscura, Caffenol developer

Feldherrnhalle at Odeonsplatz, Munich (2012), on HARMAN Direct Positive Paper FB – © Überlicht


Although the DIRECT POSITIVE PAPER FB can be dried back-to-back, a baryta print drying press like in the good old days is still the first and probably most elegant choice to prevent wavy photographs. Besides, blotter paper along with some heavy books can also be used for waveless drying.

Harman Direct Positive Paper FB 06 Caffenol developer, pinhole camera, Munich nostalgia

Old Town Hall and Alter Peter (Church of St. Peter) in Munich (2012), on HARMAN Direct Positive Paper FB – © Überlicht


Not only the colour impression of Caffenol-developed images, also the look and feel of the baryta paper prompt wondrously nostalgic feelings. Furthermore, every picture exposed directly in the camera is unique and the laterally reversed orientation is reminiscent of bygone times.


There are obviously many other (more experimental) possibilities apart from exposing the DIRECT POSITIVE PAPER by means of a camera obscura. Some of them are explained within the technical information fact sheet. As the first test exposures have not completely satisfied our curiosity, we might refer to the paper once again (when we find time) in the future.

Harman Direct Positive Paper FB 07 Caffenol development test, Munich Olympic Stadium

Munich Olympic stadium (2012), on HARMAN Direct Positive Paper FB – © Überlicht

The original German post has been published on Ü August 29th 2012.

Impossible revives 8×10″ Polaroids

Less than 40 years after its introduction and only few years after its discontinuation 8×10″ instant film has just been revived. In 2009 the Dutch company Impossible bought the last intact 8×10″ Polaroid production machine and transferred it from Waltham (USA) to their factory in Enschede (Netherlands). Since that time they have been working on a remake of the original large format instant film.

Impossible PQ 8x10 Silver Shade instant film

Impossible PQ 8×10 Silver Shade – © Impossible

A first collection of photographs taken on the new material are on exhibition at the Impossible Project Space NYC from August 23rd until September 24th. The new film named „PQ 8×10 Silver Shade“ can be preordered at Impossible’s online shop since Augist 30th and will be available at selected partner stores from the mid of September. It is fully compatible with Polaroid film holders and processors for the 8×10″ format. A pack of film contains 10 sheets and costs € 169, £ 133 or $ 189, depending on your location.

8x10 Impossible by Thom Jackson Instant Photo

Photograph on Impossible PQ 8×10 Silver Shade – © Thom Jackson

Today is Pola-Day

How time flies! The Pola-Day has its anniversary once again today. Everybody who loves instant photography and has not yet picked up an instant camera on this Saturday, September 1st, should get started straightaway. It does not matter whether you use Polaroid, Fujifilm, Fuji Instax or Impossible film. You can send your instant pictures (i. e. scans of them) to the initiators of the world day of instant photography within a week and thus become part of the global picture gallery 2012.

Find more information on the Pola-Day Website.

Poladay 2012 Ship Denmark Polaroid 600 SE

Ships at Jammerbugten, Denmark (2009) – © Überlicht