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Impossible Project's instant camera catapults Polaroid into the modern age

You can have your Polaroid film and keep your digital perks, too. A fresh take on the vintage Polaroid concept hopes to lure in photographers with old-school film.

Impossible Project I-1
The I-1 is bringing instant back.
Impossible Project

Polaroid instant cameras have been around since the 1940s, but really hit their stride in popular culture in the '60s, '70s and '80s, documenting the rise and fall of bell-bottom pants and feathered bangs.

Digital cameras and smartphones may have been the death knell for Polaroid, but a group of enthusiasts called the Impossible Project swooped in to continue manufacturing the film in 2010.

On Monday, the Impossible Project announced the I-1, a new Polaroid-style camera, at Bloomberg Businessweek's annual design conference. It's not a reproduction of an old camera, but rather a reimagining of the form complete with a digital toolbox.

The most important feature is still intact: You can snap a photo and instantly spit it out on a Polaroid film sheet that develops right in front of your eyes. It has a fancy-looking, auto-adjusting flash ring and autofocus, but things get even more interesting when you crank up the companion Apple iOS app.

The camera itself is extremely simple. It has a rechargeable battery (old Polaroid cameras used a battery included in each pack of film) and very few buttons to fiddle with. Connect it via Bluetooth to your iOS device and you get access to complete manual controls for setting the flash, shutter speed and aperture. It also includes effects like double exposure.

The I-1 is due out May 10 and will cost $299 (about £210, AU$390). At that price, the camera may appeal mainly to enthusiasts and artists, especially when you consider the $23.49 (about £17, AU$31) price for eight photos of the Polaroid 600 color film.

Polaroid may be a niche market, but it still has appeal. There's something very enjoyable about holding an actual photograph rather than consigning an image to the great black hole of digital storage.