Up until the recent release of the One Step 2, the Impossible I-1 was the first new Polaroid camera in how long? From the reviews I read, it received a strange welcome into the world of instant photography. On one hand people seemed happy someone was releasing a new film camera but on the other people seemed to dislike its modern aesthetic and features. I won’t go into depth about the features it has and what they do as there are already videos and articles out there which do this perfectly.
By way of summary, here’s what you get:
- LED ring flash
- Exposure compensation dial
- Rechargeable battery
- Bluetooth connectivity + app
- Looks cool (in my opinion)
Using the Impossible I-1
This is what I am more interested in talking about, as there seems to be a distinct lack of chatter about people using the camera in real life. I personally love the camera, though it does come with some quirks to work around.
As I mainly shoot landscapes I will be approaching this with this more in mind. Many instant photographers I see primarily shoot portraits or architecture so this may also explain a little more about why I particularly like it.
The first thing that strikes you when shooting Polaroid is when you load the cartridge – the click into place followed by the ejection of the dark slide. I loved the Impossible Project’s little collection series but as a film shooter when the dark slide is out business can begin!
One of the main things I love about this camera is also its most dividing feature – Bluetooth and app. As I read reviews the general feeling was that the app took away from the core experience of shooting Polaroid and its instant appeal, however, I feel the opposite way. Using the app allowed me to slow the process somewhat and use proper metering to get the most from the scene. I’m sure there will be people tearing their hair out at this thought but at nearly £2 a shot I don’t like to guess on overly complex scenes (anyone shooting a landscape with auto modes on cameras will know the problems they have!) I also like being able to stick the camera onto a tripod and then move around. It grants me a lot of freedom and it’s how I enjoy shooting.
This was proven right to me when I shot manual mode near to where I live. The scene was heavily backlit but I wanted the foreground detail to be the focus of the image. The reading the app (reflective meter) gave me was around 1/60th second at f/32 but my incident meter reading was around 0.5 seconds for the same f-stop. I stuck with my incident meter and got a nicely exposed image. This is when being able to shoot manually can have a huge advantage and just gives that certain level of certainty to an image.
I do love using this camera without the app and shooting freely. It certainly gives a different experience and adds a level of excitement. The viewfinder in this scenario isn’t always the easiest to use as you have to align a blob into the middle of an open circle. This pretty much takes up all the viewfinder so when you’re holding the camera and trying to frame it can be a pain. It is incredibly bright though, which is a major positive.
I’ve found the results relatively sharp when shooting handheld, although this is never a focus of shooting instant film from what I have seen.
There is one quirk you must watch out for and it involves the flash. Leaving the flash on and shooting during the day will lead to washed out results that are incredibly overexposed. I don’t know why the camera can’t compensate for this and read that the scene is bright but it can’t and it makes a huge difference.
What I’ve enjoyed
I’ve found the whole experience of Polaroid brilliant and I’m struggling with where to begin. It goes against all of what I’ve learned as a photographer, especially a landscape one. Where’s my ability to hit hyperfocal distance focusing? How can I check my f-stop isn’t too low to cause diffraction? This is what I’ve loved is that the medium takes me away from that whilst still producing the results I like.
Yes, the app does take away from the idea of instant photos but for me, the journey with Polaroid is the medium your image is printed on. It produces weird tones, it looks rough around the edges, it has colour casts you don’t want but in a world of perfection, and the ability to correct everything, even with the ability to control exposure it is great to have certain elements out of your control.
I’ve also enjoyed seeing other peoples’ reactions to photos. Showing someone an instant image of themselves is something that every photographer should experience. And not in a back-of-the-LCD-screen way but in a hold-the-picture-yourself way.
I’ve also enjoyed the semi-delayed gratification that the new Polaroid Originals film brings. Yes, it’s quite instant but it’s still 5 minutes (for B&W) and 15 minutes for colour. I stand shoving the images desperately in my pocket – whilst trying not to bend them – to keep them warm knowing an image of some sort will come out but not knowing what. I think no matter which Polaroid camera you shoot on this feeling is the same.
As a first-time Polaroider (not sure this is a thing) I genuinely don’t get the dislike for the camera. It’s efficient, relatively accurate, lightweight and, with its current price drop, quite affordable.
I can see people probably wanted a camera that had that retro feel and the link to the past of Polaroid but for me this is everything I wanted: the joy of shooting film in a modern body that doesn’t break randomly with an expensive bill to fix it.
I’d certainly recommend the camera to anyone now and I truly believe that if you don’t like it then maybe instant photography isn’t for you. Shooting handheld is as liberating as you can imagine and after all this I kind of feel that the camera is the smallest element of enjoying the experience.
Get out, shoot some Polaroids and show your friends (in five minutes). You’ll all enjoy it!
~ Russell Jones-Davies
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