More than a decade after the announcement that Polaroid's abandoned instant film would stay alive, The Impossible Project did the … Unlikely: It has officially become the brand that wanted to save it. And to commemorate this occasion, there is a new camera, the Polaroid Now.
The convergence of the two brands has been in progress for years, and in fact Impossible Project products already had the Polaroid brand. However, this marks a final and satisfying change in one of the foreign relationships in startups or in photography.
I first wrote about The Impossible Project in early 2009 (and apparently thought it was a good idea to take a Bionic Commando screenshot as the main image in Photoshop) when the company announced the purchase of some Polaroid instant photo production equipment.
Polaroid was little more than a shell at the time. After the company had declined since the 1980s and more or less closed in 2001, it was restarted as a digital brand and film sales were discontinued. This was unsuccessful and in 2008 Polaroid filed for bankruptcy again.
This time, however, the film production factories were abolished and a handful of Dutch entrepreneurs and Polaroid experts took over the lease as The Impossible Project. But even though the machinery was there, the patents and other IPs for the famous Polaroid instant film weren't. So they had to reinvent the process from scratch – and the initial results were pretty rough.
But they held out, backed by a passionate community of Polaroid owners who were constantly supported by curious movie-goers who want more than a Fujifilm Instax but less than a 35mm SLR. Over time, the process matured and Impossible developed new films and distribution partners that became more successful, although Polaroid continued to apply its brand to random, never particularly good products besides photography. You even hired Lady Gaga as “Creative Director,” but the devices she uploaded to CES never really came into being.
In 2017, the student became a master when the Impossible CEO acquired the Polaroid brand and intellectual property. They restarted Impossible as "Polaroid Originals" and released the OneStep 2 camera with a new "i-Type" film process that is more similar to old Polaroids (avoiding the expensive cartridge battery).
In the meantime, Polaroid continued to release new products – presumably projects that were under contract or under development before the takeover. While quality has risen since the beginning of the renamed point-and-shoot, none of the products have ever really caught on, and instant digital printing (Polaroid's last redoubt) has been overshadowed by a wave of nostalgia for real film, Instax Mini posed specifically.
But finally the fusion dance is over and Polaroid, Polaroid Originals and The Impossible Project are finally one and the same. All devices and films are released under the Polaroid name, although there may be new sub-brands such as i-Type and the new Polaroid Now camera.
Speaking of which, the Now is far from a complete reinvention of the camera – it is a "friendlier" redesign that follows the popular OneStep, but offers improved auto focus, a flash sensor, a better battery, and some other nips and tucks. At $ 100, that's not too hard on your wallet, but keep in mind that the movie costs about $ 2 per shot. This is how they get you.
It was a long, strange journey, but ultimately a satisfying one: Impossible relied on the core value of instant photography, while a number of owners relied on the Polaroid brand to sell everything they put it on. The riskier long-term game ended up prevailing (although many kept getting rich and running into Polaroid), and with a bit of luck, the brand that started it all will continue to succeed.