The idea of pressing a button and seeing a photo pop out and develop in front of your eyes may be an old idea, but it's recently been introduced to a new crowd thanks to The Impossible Project, which began three years ago after Polaroid announced it was ceasing instant film production. I caught up with their founder Dr. Florian Kaps this film week to discuss future products, and to find out why their film isn't as expensive as everyone thinks it is.
With their average price for eight instant film frames coming it at around £17, you've got to be pretty confident of your shooting abilities (and your vintage Polaroid's ability to stand the test of time) to indulge your hobby. It's something I've always been keen to try out, but each time I find my finger hovering over the checkout button on The Impossible Project's site, I get too scared off by the price.
But Dr. Kaps from The Impossible Project doesn't think we should be put off by the price, telling Gizmodo UK that "polaroid photography has never been cheap and taking inflation into account the current films are in fact more affordable than the original Polaroid time zero film of the 1970s."
The SX-70 Time-Zero Supercolor film that he refers to was first produced in 1980, and continued on its merry way until 2005 when Polaroid discontinued it. While I can't find any trace of how much the SX-70 "time zero" cost back in 1980, its older brother the SX-70 film seemed to retail for $6.90 (£4.40) sometime during its eight year-long life-span prior to 1980. I'm no expert on market inflation and conversion rates, but I do think what Dr. Kaps told me next bore a lot of relevance to the films' marked-up prices:
"The sales price of our films are a direct result of the research and development as well as production costs. Every single cent that customers pay for our films is reinvested in our factory and the development of our products."
The film-shooting community may be small, but it's a loyal community -- rather than see The Impossible Project go the way of Polaroid, they're aware that buying the films helps keep their hobby alive. Without films, the Polaroid cameras are just plastic paperweights -- and an important piece of history will be lost forever.
Speaking of lost history, Kodak's Kodachrome, which threw out its final death-rattle last December, is an obvious choice if The Impossible Project ever wishes to expand its wares from Polaroid film. Unfortunately though, it's something they're just not interested in, with Dr. Kaps telling us that while they are "getting approached on a regular basis with requests to bring back other analogue materials such as Kodachrome film," it's not possible as "our financial and personal resources allow us to only focus on one topic of this kind."
They are however still soldiering on with creating a new instant camera model, which I imagine will be a damn sight better than the digital instant cameras Polaroid is creating nowadays. This camera has met several hitches along the way, which has seen its original pinpointed release date of late 2010 put back to the Autumn of 2012. It is however benefitting from input from Polaroid's former head camera designer Henny Waanders; a nice gesture to fit alongside the employment of Polaroid's original packaging designer Paul Giambarba, who designed some of The Impossible Project's (wonderful) packaging.
However much your nose may turn up upon hearing of The Impossible Project's steep prices, many are seemingly happy to pay through the nose for their instant memories, with sales of the company's film packages rising from 50,000 annually in 2009 to one million film packs in 2011. Whether The Impossible Project can reach their lofty 2012 sales target of two million film packs remains to be seen, but at least we know that it'll be many years (if at all) until we have to panic-buy the world's last remaining stock on eBay.
Image Credit: Gorilla Vs Bear