Digital cameras are great, because you can take thousands of pictures without running out of film. But there’s something to be said for having a tangible image you can hold in your hand. The Polaroid cameras of yesteryear were great for this, but now they’re hard to find and the price per photograph is ludicrously expensive.
Over the past few years, a few people have sought a way to create printed photographs at a lower cost. One of the best ways to do this is to find something much cheaper than Polaroid film — like thermal paper.
[Fabien-Chouteau]’s thermal printing camera isn’t the first — you’ve got the Gameboy Camera/Printer and a few others to thank for that. But it’s a great example of the form. The camera combines an Adafruit thermal receipt printer with an OpenMV camera, both easily sourced, if not exactly cheap. It even adds a ST7735 LCD for live display of the camera’s image, just like consumer-grade cameras!
It’s not just a slapped together kludge of parts bin components, however. While the thermal printer is only capable of printing black or white pixels, its resolution is much higher than the image from the camera. This allows the camera to use a 3×3 block of printed pixels to represent a single pixel from the camera, and with some fancy dithering techniques, can emulate shades of grey quite effectively. It’s tricks like this that really add polish to a project, and make a big difference to the picture quality at the end of the day.
It’s not the first thermal printer camera we’ve seen – [Ch00f]’s woodgrain instant camera build highlighted the issues of careful camera selection when pursuing this type of build.
Instant film never went away – Fujifilm has been producing instant film for decades before Polaroid ceased production. Yes, cries of a lost photographic heritage were all for naught, and you can still buy an instant camera. [Dan] picked up a Fujifilm Instax Wide camera – an instant camera that produces not-square images – and figured some electronic tinkering could vastly expand the capabilities of this camera. He took it apart and made some modifications, giving it a bulb mode for long exposures and multi-exposure capability.
[Dan] began his tinkering by figuring out how to put multiple exposures on one frame of film. The Instax Wide camera has an eject sensor, a wire for the shutter button, and a few wires leading to the motor. By adding a switch to turn off the motor and a pushbutton to bypass the ejection sensor, [Dan] can stack multiple exposures on a single frame of film.
Multiple exposures are one thing, but how about longer exposures for light painting and all those other cool things you can do with microcontrolled LEDs? Modding the camera for that is pretty easy. All you need are a few mini toggle switches. It’s just a simple matter of opening the shutter for as long as you need, painting a scene with light, and flipping a few more switches to eject the film. [Dan] is getting some pretty respectable exposures with this – somewhat impressive considering the camera’s fixed aperture.
Several decades ago, the all the punks and artsy types had terrible lenses with terrible camera that leaked light everywhere. Film was crap, and thus was born the fascinating world of Lomography, with effects and light leaks unique to individual cameras. Now, everyone has a smartphone with high-resolution sensors, great lenses, and Instagram to replicate the warm look of filters, light leaks, and other ‘artististic’ photographic techniques. The new version of this photography is purely in the digital domain, and wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to make your digital selfies analog once again? The SnapJet team has your back.
Instead of adding filters and other digital modifications to smartphone snaps, the SnapJet prints pictures onto Polaroid film. Yes, you can still buy this film, and yes, it’s exactly how you remember it. By putting a smartphone down on the SnapJet, you’ll only need to press a button, wait for the film to be exposed, dispensed, and developed. What comes out of the SnapJet is an analog reproduction of whatever is displayed on your phone’s screen, with all the digital filters you can imagine and the option to modify the photos in the analog domain; eac Polaroid can be turned into a transparency, with backlit LEDs being an obvious application:
As part of their coursework at ITP New York a group of students developed the Polaroid Catcher. It’s a way to make your digital experiences more permanent. When you have something on-screen that you’d like to keep as a memory you can print the screen on this old Polaroid camera. Of course you’re not going to get the chemical-filled container you may remember from ages past. But we thing you’d agree the nostalgic camera makes a nice enclosure for a modern image printer.
The workings of the system are shown off quite well in the clip after the break. But we’re always interested in the particulars of how they pulled it off. The system uses a Google Chrome extension to capture what is being displayed in the browser. Before the image is sent to the printer the user has the opportunity to frame up the subject of the photo. Once decided, the image is pushed to a Bluetooth photo printer using some scripts written by the team.
[Georg] wanted to modify his old Polaroid land camera so he could have control over the exposure time. The resulting project is a neat hack, if we say so ourselves.
The stock electronics in Polaroid 100-series Packfilm cameras were a simple analog computer that integrates current through a light-sensitive resistor. This is a simple, low tech way to make sure the exposure time is correct. The usual mod would be to replace photoresistor with a potentiometer, but [Georg] had little success with this modification. After tearing the old hack out of the camera, [Georg] replaced the ancient electronics with a a PIC microcontroller, and is now able to control the shutter in increments down to 1/512th of a second.
Shutter timing is read by a PIC12F629 μC with a BCD encoder. [Georg] kept the shutter magnet setup, and also added a ‘BULB’ routine that holds the shutter open as long as the button is held down. The test photos are quite nice, even if from a 1960s Polaroid Land Camera. Check out the video of [Georg] running though the shutter settings after the break.
[Adam] sent in this cool project. He has modified a Polaroid J66 camera to use modern film. Most of the initial modifications look fairly simple, but things get a little more complicated when they also convert it to a fully manual camera. There is a section that explains a neat little trick of using a cheap solar panel attached to your computer sound card to figure out what ISO the camera is shooting at.
The impossible has happened. While that may sound a bit over dramatic, the project itself was titled “the impossible project”. What is it that is so impossible? The revival of Polaroid instant film. This is not a newer, digital alternative, this is film you can actually buy and plop into your old Polaroid camera. What’s the big deal? All they had to do was start producing it again right? Not really. They’ve completely re-engineered it from scratch. That’s pretty impressive. We had heard, early last year, that they were going to attempt it, and we’re pleased to see that they’ve succeeded.
That being said, a handheld, home hacked digital instant picture device sounds kind of cool. It would probably be an easy one to build too.