Can you really get High Quality Analogue Prints from an iPhone?

From the year 2000, digital photography began to eclipse traditional analogue ways of taking and recording a photograph. Today, less than 1% of all images taken are recorded on film and only 5% are printed using darkroom papers. Last year, for the first time, more pictures were taken using a Smartphone or Tablet than with a conventional camera. As a specialist analogue distributor, this milestone does not fill us with dread because we know (as does any enthusiast) that the best images are still recorded using analogue technology. The reasons for this statement are threefold. 1)    Posterity. Once saved as a negative or printed on silver halide papers, pictures are archived for when you wish to view them in the future. With a lifespan in excess of 100 years, this is the main reason why most museums today insist on archiving their images in film format. 2)    Cost. Printing an image on darkroom paper is up to five times cheaper than using an inkjet printer. 3)    Aesthetics. The look and feel of a true silver halide print, particularly in monochrome, is justifiably recognized as fine-art printing at its best. It’s no surprise then that Instagram and many other software solution providers offer a digital “makeover” when outputting images to resemble analogue clones of yesteryear. So having acknowledged that analogue is best for printing and storing your images, how about the question everyone is asking right now – can I really get quality traditional prints from my Smartphone? Until now, the short answer was no, but there are two new entrants to this field that aim to change our perceptions and expectations.

The Impossible Project, famous for its purchase and reinstatement of the last Polaroid film plant, has recently launched a device that transforms any digital image into a real instant photo from an iPhone or iPod. Their Instant Lab, sold through our sister company, OnPoint, works by taking an instant photo of your iPhone screen. The design of the lab includes a cradle that holds your iPhone or iPod while focussing the Retina display onto the film plane. It also has an extendable bellows which keeps the exact distance between the phone, the optical system and the film. The resulting prints, although £2 each, offer a dreamy and wonderful rendition reminiscent of classic Polaroid SX70 pictures from 35 years ago. While the Instant Lab is available now and definitely worth putting on your Christmas List, the second development is more radical but not available until February 2014.

Enfojer, is an innovative development from Croatian company Foto Pogon that literally lets you make real darkroom prints from your Smartphone. In effect, it is a portable enlarger that lets you turn all those digital snaps caught on your smartphone to traditional photos and comes with specific holders for the more popular Smartphones, such as the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4. It will come with a kit of developing dishes, 5x5 printing paper and all chemicals needed – making it a truly portable iPhone enlarger. We are yet to test the new Enfojer but will undoubtedly be one of the first to do so. However, images are made by "projecting” the images from the 1 MegaPixel screen and we wonder, even with Retina display, whether High Quality prints will result even though the cost of such a print will be much less than the Instant Lab? It does vary in offering larger prints but only in monochrome.

Finally, playing devil’s advocate, a dye sublimation offering for Smartphones is also available from Canon. Their Selphy is a wireless printer that simply needs the Canon iEPP App from iTunes and you can produce lovely looking home prints in under two minutes for less than 40 pence each. The one thing that all these individual devices share is immediacy. Never before has it been so simple and quick to get “instant” prints of High Quality from your iPhone exactly when you want. Your thoughts and comments would be much appreciated in this pioneering phase of photography.  

24th October 2013

Back to news