The various Polaroid instant cameras were understandably popular in the days of film cameras. Getting your photo immediately was a big deal in a time when you’d normally have to drive down to a store to have your photos developed — sometimes waiting days. More surprising is the fact that they remained fairly popular even in the early days of digital cameras, which was probably because there is something cool about holding a physical picture.
Mitxela’s Thermal Printer Instant Camera project takes that in an interesting new direction by printing photos onto thermal receipt paper. Operating the camera is simple: just snap a picture and the photo is printed out on some receipt paper. The quality of the prints is fairly low, and they’re black and white. But, they still look surprisingly good and possess a sort of lo-fi charm that make Instagram filters look subtle in comparison.
Building the Thermal Printer Instant Camera was no easy task, of course. Inside the Polaroid camera enclosure is a Raspberry Pi Zero, a cheap webcam, and portable battery-powered thermal receipt printer. After a photo is taken, it’s processed on the Pi to make it more suitable for the grayscale printing, and then sent via serial to the printer. Remarkably, the entire device is packaged seamlessly inside the original Polaroid, and printing the photos is quick and easy.