Focusing on the one feature smartphones don’t offer yet, Polaroid’s new Lab instant photography device creates hard copies of any digital photo on your phone without the need for wires or fiddling with wireless settings. Instead, light from your smartphone’s screen is projected and used to directly expose Polaroid’s instant film.
Think back to the many, many times you’ve lost or accidentally destroyed a phone and in the process lost hundreds of photos. Most of us are embarrassingly bad about backing up our data and are too cheap to pay the monthly service fees that ensure everything gets properly synced and stored in the cloud. Simply printing your digital photos is the easiest way to create a backup of memories that will still be easily available to future family members, and the new Polaroid Lab simplifies the process. If you can successfully place your smartphone face down on a table, you can create Polaroid copies of your favorite photos.
The Lab looks vaguely reminiscent of Polaroid’s iconic instant cameras, but it lacks an eyepiece and a front-facing lens. The eyepiece has been replaced by a bed on top that users can safely place their smartphones face down on, and the lens exists only inside the Lab where three of them are used to focus the projected light from the phone’s screen down onto the Polaroid film, which creates the exposure. It works alongside a free accompanying smartphone app which allows users to specify the framing of their shots given Polaroid film’s square aspect ratio which is much smaller than the photos taken by a mobile device.
There are some trade-offs. If you’re hoping for a crisp, 8x10 recreation of a beautiful portrait photo you snapped on your smartphone, this isn’t the solution for you. Polaroid film is still known for its lo-fi aesthetic (which some photographers still prefer) and the analog approach taken here will soften and desaturate images in the process.
If you want a perfect copy of a photo, you’ll still need to connect your smartphone to one of those photo-printing kiosks that can be found at drug stores and big-box chains. But if you’ve got a handful of fun shots you’d love to slap on the fridge and share with anyone who passes through your kitchen, the $130 Polaroid Lab will be available starting on October 10. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to feed the Lab a steady diet of Polaroid instant film which, at roughly two bucks per photo, can quickly get pricey.