A Vintage Polaroid Camera Goes Manual

There once was a time when all but the most basic of fixed focus and aperture cameras gave the photographer full control over both shutter speed and f-stop. This allowed plenty of opportunity to tinker but was confusing and fiddly for non-experts, so by the 1960s and ’70s many cameras gained automatic control of those functions using the then quite newly-developed solid state electronics. Here in 2023 though, the experts are back and want control. [Jim Skelton] has a vintage Polaroid pack film camera he’s using with photographic paper as the film, and wanted a manual exposure control.

Where a modern camera would have a sensor in the main lens light path and a microcontroller to optimize the shot, back then they had to make do with a CdS cell sensing ambient light, and a simple analog circuit. He considered adding a microcontroller to do the job, but realized that it would be much simpler to replace the CdS cell with a potentiometer or a resistor array. A 12-position switch with some carefully chosen resistor values was added, and placed in the camera’s original battery compartment. The final mod brought out the resistors and switch to a plug-in dongle allowing easy switching between auto and switched modes. Result – a variable shutter speed Polaroid pack camera!

Sadly the film for the older Polaroid cameras remains out of production, though the Impossible Project in the Netherlands — now the heirs to the Polaroid name — brought back some later versions and have been manufacturing them since 2010. Hackers haven’t been deterred though and have produced conversions using Fuji Instax film and camera components, as with this Polaroid portrait camera, and [Jim]’s own two-camera-hybrid conversion.

A vintage film camera with a bright light emitting diode shining through it, next to electronic equipment to measure the shutter speed

Clock Your Camera With This Shutter Speed Tester

Camera shutter speed is an essential adjustment in photography – along with the aperture, the shutter moderates the amount of light entering the camera. Older cameras (and some newer ones) use mechanical shutters that creep out-of-spec over the years, so [Dean Segovis] built a handy shutter speed tester.

With just a handful of basic components, this project is a great one for beginners to sink their teeth into. The tester is based around a photoresistor that measures light from another source (a flashlight) that travels through the camera body. When the shutter on the camera is released, the shutter speed can be measured and displayed on the OLED screen. An Arduino naturally handles all the computational duties. The whole thing can be easily assembled on a breadboard in just a couple of minutes.

The original project by [hiroshootsfilm] is over on Project Hub, however [Dean] takes a deeper dive with some code troubleshooting, as well as trying out a variety of old film cameras with the breadboard tester. His testing revealed that the photoresistor was better able to detect shutter speed when the camera lens was removed, which is a hot tip for anyone else that wants to try this.

While it’s not surprising that these older cameras are having trouble with their mechanical shutters, this little tester would be an invaluable tool when it comes time to start tweaking shutter mechanisms. If this project has brought out the shutterbug in you, make sure to check out this brain transplant for a Polaroid 100-series Packfilm camera that we covered way back in 2011.

Continue reading “Clock Your Camera With This Shutter Speed Tester”

Hacking A Dollar Store Bluetooth Device

Hardware hackers are always looking for devices to tear apart and scavenge from. It’s hardly a secret that purchasing components individually is significantly more expensive than the minuscule cost per unit that goes along with mass manufacturing. Bluetooth devices are no exception. Sure, they’re not exactly a luxury purchase anymore, but they’re still not dirt cheap either.

Luckily for [Troy Denton], it seems dollar stores have started carrying a Bluetooth camera shutter for just a few dollars (it was three bucks, perhaps the dollar store actually means divisible-by). The device is designed to pair with a smart phone, and has two buttons allowing you to control the camera from afar. The fact that it works at all at that price is a small miracle, but the device also has potential for hacking that adds to its appeal. Continue reading “Hacking A Dollar Store Bluetooth Device”

Simple Samsung NX Remote Shutter Release From USB Cable

Samsung makes some nice cameras, but they have fallen into the trap of building proprietary controllers. Their NX models, for instance, have a micro USB port rather than the more usual 2.5mm socket for triggering the camera remotely. What’s a hacker to do?

[Niels] did some poking around, and found that it is pretty easy to trigger these cameras remotely, because Samsung simply moved the standard connections for half-press and full press of the shutter onto the USB socket: ground D+ (pin 3) and the camera focuses, then ground D- (pin 2) and the shutter is triggered. In his Instructable, he covers how to build a simple remote from a micro USB cable and a couple of switches.

Don’t feel left out if you have another type of digital camera: there are plenty of ways to build a simple shutter release switch with a few simple parts, or ways to put a microcontroller in control for more sophisticated shoots.