Digital what? Instant photos are making a comeback

  • TECH
  • Sunday, 20 Oct 2019

The Rollei Rolleiflex is a modern instant photo camera, even though it looks much older. — Rollei GmbH & Co. KG/dpa

It wasn't so long ago that digital cameras were incredibly cutting edge. But now that everybody's got a high-definition camera on their smartphone, having a separate camera is kind of passe.

But in the age of iPhones, Photoshop and deepfakes, instant film photos are making a comeback. The cost and permanence makes each image precious, the pictures can't be manipulated, and to younger generations, the technology is mind-blowing.

An instant photo is made of a special paper layered with chemicals that are light- or temperature-sensitive. After it's exposed with a click, the paper gets rolled through the camera, the pressure starting the development process to reveal the picture. That takes anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. (If it’s colder outside, the developing process will take longer.)

"The major advantage, of course, is that the image is immediately available," says Pantea Khaledpour of Germany's Photo Industry Association. The result can be shared immediately by passing the image around. The almost childlike curiosity as to how the photo turned out is a major driver of this new trend, she says.

The simplicity of taking the photo is another strength, says Sophia Zimmermann of trade magazine c't Fotografie. "The cameras are very simple. Often you can't do much more than click."

It's a playful way to capture your environment in unique pictures.

The disadvantage is the comparatively high cost: If the shot doesn't turn out, there's no reset button. Every instant image costs considerably more than a digitally printed or traditionally developed photo, Zimmermann says. "Just to compare: One of the largest German print service providers currently offers prints from around US$0.10 (RM0.42) per unit. An instant photo costs at least US$0.70 (RM2.93) per piece."

And the quality of instant photos don't come close to what digital cameras are capable of, though the imperfect aesthetics are actually part of the appeal.

If you want to get into instant photography, you don't need much, just a camera and the instant film. Manufacturers include Canon, Fujifilm, Leica, Polaroid and Rollei, which offer instant cameras for €100 (RM468) to €280 (RM1,311).

Classic instant camera models have just a lens and maybe a viewfinder. More modern hybrid cameras have a monitor, flash, SD card slot and an internal memory. With those, you can see and edit the image before developing it or deleting it. Some models even communicate with smartphones or can be controlled via app. – dpa

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