From smartphone to print, the Impossible Instant Lab can take your photo from digital to analog.

While Socialmatic is offering a print solution using a built-in zinc printer (and smaller prints), The Impossible Project has come up with a different approach to creating hard copies of digital images. The Impossible Project that took on the task of reproducing Polaroid instant film in 2008, has expanded their product line to include the Impossible Instant Lab thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Similar to the analogue Daylab that Polaroid (and Fuji instant film) fans use(d) to create instant prints from 335mm and 120 film, transparencies, snapshot prints and 3D objects, the Instant Lab operates in much the same way using onscreen images from your iPhone as the source using the Impossible Project iPhone app. (The company is looking into developing an Android app.)

The process is very simple: launch the app, choose and crop an image, select the film type, set the timer and open the "shutter" (a small plate that slides out, exposing the film to the iPhone image). When the timer beeps, close the shutter, press the button and, voila! You have a print. You can see a demonstration in this video. You should be able to manually tweak the exposure time manually as well.

The app, which requires 3GS or newer iPhones and iOS 6.0 or later, is usable now, even without the Instant Lab. Images from the camera roll, shot directly with the camera or digital "scans" of prints made with the app can be shared to social media or in The Impossible Project's gallery. You can also shop for instant film directly from the app.

With the new Impossible Project app, you can share images via social media as well as The Impossible Project's Gallery.
A film shop is incorporated into the app, so you can place your order without having to go online.

The Impossible Project announced on July 29  that the first batch of Impossible Instant Lab units were packed and ready to go to some Kickstarter backers. No exact ship date for the general public has been set. Some sites have reported a second wave of shipping by August 29, but we haven't been able to confirm that. The next update to shipping dates should be posted on the Kickstarter page around mid-August. Retail pricing is expected to be $299.

Given the popularity of apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic, many iPhoneographers — and Lomo aficionados — will probably appreciate the soft, muted look that the Instant Lab is likely to produce.  As a long-time Polaroid fan who still owns several cameras and Daylabs (and has a stash of old Polaroid film), I'm anxious to see this new Instant Lab in action. I've no doubt that it will work but my concern, after seeing prints shot with a camera using The Impossible Project film stock, is that the output will be even softer and more muted than Polaroid film. It's certainly possible that even filtered Instagram and Hipstamatic images may look sharper and produce more vibrant colors given that the iPhone screen is used as a source image for the Instant Lab. But the concept is intriguing and if/when we get our hands on a review unit, we'll fill you in on the details.