Polaroid Perfection & Tools of the Trade: Impossible Instant Lab, Fujifilm SP1 and SP2

Given my current inventory of 12 integral film compatible Polaroid cameras and 4 Instax mini compatible Fujifilm cameras, I’ve had my share of hits and misses in my efforts to capture the moment on film. Sometimes I’ve achieved fantastic results and other times I wish I had taken a set of backup pictures with my digital camera because I completely missed the opportunity.

Well, I’ve come to the realization that not all integral cameras are created equal–my Mint Camera SLR 670a is my all time favorite followed by my Polaroid 690 and Polaroid SX70 Sonar. On the Fuji side, I want to love my Lomography Instant Automat and Automat Glass but I’m still learning these cameras and it’s too early to tell whether I’ll become as proficient and predictable as I’d like to be longer term; maybe that’s enough of a tell in and of itself. My Fuji Neo 90 Classic and Mint TLR 70 are fun to use but my overall results have been mixed with the Neo 90 providing the most consistent keepers.

I really want to enjoy owning and shooting with integral film cameras but I’m becoming increasingly concerned with the cost of film and the lack of predictable results. My Polaroid-a-day project last year was an expensive undertaking with 1 of every 3 shots being useful in the project. As much as I love the look and tangible results of both Impossible Film and Instax film, I need greater consistency in results to justify the ongoing investment. That’s where the Impossible Lab and Instax SP1 and SP2 printers come into play.

The Impossible Lab allows my to take pictures with my phone or with a WiFi compatible camera to transfer images to my phone which are then ‘printed’ to Impossible Project film loaded in the Impossible Lab. I can make edits to the photo prior to printing if I like, but what I see on my phone screen will be printed on the film with very little to chance. The Instax printers work the same way with the added benefit of printing directly from Fuji cameras and eliminating the need for the a phone as an intermediate device (you can also use a phone for edits of you choose). In either case, I use a digital picture to make an analog print where I eliminate the chances of not getting a good shot.

It’s a nice cost compromise but I don’t use these tools exclusively. There is still no better feeling that using an analog camera to capture that singular, unique photo opportunity. Sometimes it feels a bit like cheating so I reserve these tools for my most artistic shots where the print is used to further highlight the artistry of the image while I continue to chase the ever-elusive, perfect analog moment by mastering the use of my favorite integral film cameras.

My plan is to narrow my number of cameras from 16 to something more like 5, selling off those that I can’t rely on or just find too inconsistent to use on a long term basis. More cameras drives more mistakes and more money tied up in film with fewer solid images as a result. My current camera inventory has me shooting way too many film formats to include Instax Mini, Impossible Spectra, Impossible 600, Impossible SX-70, and Impossible I-Type film. It’s time to separate my emotional attachments to my cameras from the practical realities of the cost of ownership by reducing what I need to what I enjoy using most efficiently. The Instant Lab and SP1 and SP2 printers are among those tools that provide some of that joy.

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