In the age of the Instagram filter, it seems like there's more to be said than ever before about the virtues of analogue photography. The Impossible Project, makers of re-engineered Polaroid film, are now striking a balance somewhere between those two worlds with Instant Lab, a new hardware prototype that will offer a "convenient" way to get real Polaroid prints of your iPhone's digital images.

Currently being funded on Kickstarter, the prototype is basically an instant camera specially designed to capture images from the iPhone's retina display. A cradle mounted atop an extensible bellows helps line up your screen with the Lab's optics, while an accompanying app crops the image, sets a countdown timer, and adjusts exposure settings before printing from the film processing unit below.


What's interesting is that this essentially separates the picture-taking from the picture-making: your fancy, modern smartphone does the dirty work of actually capturing the image, while the Instant Lab (in a roundabout and decidedly meta way) re-captures and processes the results — the actual "photography" is digital, making the print almost like the product of applying an "analogue" Instagram filter.

While a novel and perhaps gimmicky mash-up, Instant Lab does seem to preserve two treasured aspects of analogue photography: the distinct and often unpredictable chemical processes of the film (for which I maintain algorithms are no substitute), and the physical artifact of a moment in time. However, it also takes the analogue camera and its various idiosyncrasies out of the picture, and of course removes the risks associated with limited exposures, both of which dramatically alter the way a photograph is taken.

The Impossible Project plans on revealing the prototype for the first time at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco later this week.