Impossible Project Instant Lab review

The Impossible Project Instant Lab prints old-school snaps from your phone

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Great concept

  • +

    Easy to use

  • +

    Great results

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    No Android/iPhone 5c support

  • -

    Tower feels too plasticky

  • -

    Bit pricey

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Want to turn your smartphone snaps into actual Polaroid-style instant photos? Yes? Then check out our Impossible Project Instant Lab review

The Impossible Project Instant Lab turns your iPhone images into to instant photos. Why? Well, it's obviously not a product for everyone, but there are often occassions when you might just wish you had a hard copy of the snaps on your smartphone.

And for those that were less than impressed with the slightly ropey Zink prints used by the Polaroid Z2300 and Z340 cameras and the old Polaroid GL10 photo printer, rest assured that the Instant Lab produces actual Polaroid-style photographs.

The Kickstarter-funded Instant Lab is produced by The Impossible Project - a canny bunch of photo experts who bought up Polaroid's remaining production plant a few years back and began to develop their own brand of instant film.

While Fujifilm continues to make instant film for its Instax cameras (and also makes the Polaroid-badged Polaroid 300), Impossible Project's film is designed to work with older Polaroid cameras, (plus the Instant lab, of course).

Impossible Project Instant Lab: Size and build

The Instant Lab sports a sturdy, black, metal base with a distinctive, bellows-style extendable tower made from slightly flimsy plastic, which has a cradle for your phone at the top with a removable cover to protect the lens.

Controls are pretty simple - there's a latch to open the film door to pop your film cartirdge in, plus an eject button for ejecting your picture once the shot has been taken. You can use the brand's colour and black & white film and also older Poloroid 600 and SX-70 film (if you can find it).

The Lab is supplied with a USB charger which hooks up to your laptop, along with a carrying pouch to keep it in safe from nicks and scratches when you're not using it.

Impossible Project Instant Lab: Setup

Currently only available for iOS phones - the Lab works with iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, and iPod touch 4th-gen onwards. It doesn't work with the differently sized iPhone 5C just yet, while Android support is due to arrive in 2014.

Firstly, you'll need to download the free Impossible Project app, then take a pic or choose one from your gallery - if you want you can crop and adjust the contrast, gamma and hue - then select the film type. Next, the app will instruct you to put the phone on the cradle (there's also a handy video tutorial that you can choose to watch at this point).

You need to make sure that you take your phone out of its case, if it has one, otherwise it won't fit the cradle properly.

When the phone's flash light goes on you simply need to pull out the shutter slide at the back of the base unit and push it back in as soon as the light goes off. Then you press the eject button on the base unit to get your snap.

The picture is ejected with a protective, papery 'frog tongue' that pops out with it. This is because the new-gen Impossible Project film isn't exactly the same as old Polaroid film - it needs to be protected from the light as soon as it comes out and then left face down for around half an hour to develop properly.

And there's no need to 'shake it like a Polaroid picture'. That won't help - it'll just expose it to the light and spoil the picture.

Once you remove the photo, the protective sheet rolls back up, although you need to be a bit delicate with it. It's a nice touch as this is something that makes Impossible Project film slightly difficult to use on vintage Polaroid cameras - as the photo needs to be covered with one hand as it comes out - which is not ideal.

Impossible Project Instant Lab: Picture quality

As you'd expect, picture quality isn't pin sharp - edges are nostalgically soft and colours are slightly bleached. We got the best results from pictures that were taken with no filter, although pics taken on Hipstamatic also turned out ok.

The better photos were from images that were taken on a DSLR, uploaded to Facebook, screengrabbed on iPhone and then printed via the app - possibly the most long-winded process known to man, but without this nifty gadget, we wouldn't have had the chance to make a hard copy at all. Pictures taken on film cameras and then captured from Facebook also turned out well, as did pictures taken on our iPhone without any filters.

Impossible Project Instant Lab: Verdict

While this is certainly a niche product, the Instant Lab is a great idea. It's easy to use, with good results - far better than we've seen from any of Polaroid's Zink printing products.

It's not the cheapest way to get your photos printed from your phone, but if you like the idea and you've got the cash then you're unlikely to be disappointed.

Impossible Project Instant Lab release date: Out now

Impossible Project Instant Lab price: £219,