It was inevitable: a polaroid that spits out GIFs. Meet the Instagif NextStep, a handheld camera designed by creative coder Abhishek Singh that snaps three-second GIFs and pops them out in an instant to hold in your hand.
The images loop infinitely on a screen that’s part of a custom-built cartridge, giving you a frame that’s a tad too thick to slip into your wallet, but one that still holds a nice and very unique memento. It’s powered by a lithium polymer battery, so your internet-era polaroid can theoretically last forever — unless you want another GIF, in which case you simply pop the cartridge back in and take another short video, which will replace the former GIF. You could also use another cartridge, although that’s easier said than done.
Singh — whose previous projects include a daily hydration tracker and a personal desktop robot that expresses itself through GIFs — built the camera entirely from scratch. He recently shared the results on Imgur, complete with a generous and detailed DIY guide to build one and that is illustrated, of course, with GIFs. The process involves altering a Raspberry Pi, building circuits, and 3D-printing parts for the camera’s body, so it’s not a project for everyone. But Singh has made it as accessible as possible, providing everything you’d need, from a list of materials (and links to find them) to all the coding files.
Named to reference the classic Polaroid OneStep, the Instagif NextStep runs on two Raspberry Pi computers — one built into the cartridge and another into the camera body — that communicate with each other via an ad-hoc WiFi network they form upon bootup. After you record a GIF by pressing a “shutter button,” the faster device compresses and converts the file for download by the one in the cartridge. The camera then pops out the cartridge for your viewing pleasure. As an extra nice touch, Singh has programmed the digital images to slowly materialize just like a polaroid develops when ejected, by first playing a copy of the original GIF with a fade-in from black, before playing a regular version on loop.
Sure, it’s not the most practical camera out there, nor is it one we necessarily need, but it’s fun and sure as hell captures the cultural zeitgeist. Plus, Singh notes that if you place a sheet of acrylic mirror on the camera’s front, it helps you take selfies.