You Can Now Build Your Own Polaroid-style Pack Film Cartridge

Instant photography was one of the twentieth century’s coolest-to-have consumer inventions, but when the digital photography revolution came it had few answers. It survives as a niche format thanks to Fuji’s Instax line and a group of Dutch entrepreneurs who revived a defunct Polaroid works, but what hasn’t made it are the earlier pack and roll film formats for which the picture is revealed by peeling apart a negative and positive side. All isn’t lost though, because a small Austrian company has been producing pack film cartridges as a handmade artisan product. To reduce the cost per print they’re now available as a DIY self-assembly kit, and it’s this which [In an Instant] is taking a look at in their latest video.

The kit has enough components for eight shots, and where the original cartridge would have held multiple exposures this one can only hold one at a time. The cartridge itself is cleverly formed from folded card as opposed to the plastic and metal of the original, and the components are a relatively straightforward assembly task. It’s a fascinating window into how the Polaroid pack film process worked, with the light-sensitive layer behind a pull-away black light screen, in front of the white positive sheet and with a pouch of developer chemicals to one side. It’s in no way cheap at somewhere about 10 dollars a shot, but it’s amazing that pack film can be recreated and for enthusiasts it’s a lifeline that keeps their cameras useful.

This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at revitalising a pack film camera, but it’s a lot easier than hacking a Fuji cartridge to do the job.

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Veteran Polaroid Camera Lives Again, With Film Conversion

Browsing the thrift stores will net an amazing array of old cameras for dirt cheap prices, meaning that a film enthusiast can have plenty of fun without wasting money they could spend on the film itself. Unfortunately many of the more interesting cameras are those which use film long out of production, leaving the photographer with a need to improvise using a more modern film that’s still in production.

[Nicholas Morganti] has just such a camera, a Polaroid Big Shot, a 1970s instant camera designed for portrait work, for which the Polaroid 100 film packs are sadly a distant memory. Leave it on the shelf? Not likely, he’s adapted it to work with Fuji Instax 210, a readily available and cheap instant film.

Polaroid 100 and Instax 210 are almost the same size, but are not close enough for a direct fit. An Instax cartridge can be persuaded to fit into the Big Shot, but it’s a tight fit that puts strain on the aged Polaroid hinges. Even then the Polaroid rollers and photo ejection system are very different from those in the Fuji, so it involved a workflow in which the cartridge had to be unloaded in a darkroom between shots and processed through a real Fuji camera for the final picture.

His eventual solution takes a less camera-straining tack, still requiring a darkroom but taking an individual unexposed frame from an Instax pack and placing it in the Big Shot on an adapter plate. The result is a usable if a little cumbersome workflow for vintage Polaroid pictures, something plenty of instant photography enthusiasts will be thankful for. If you’re one of them, you might like to read our look at the process.

Improving A Modern Instant Camera

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.