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.
With a quarter-century of more of consumer digital cameras behind us, it’s easy to forget that there was once another way to see your photos without waiting for them to be developed. Polaroid Land cameras and their special film could give the impatient photographer a print in about a minute, but sadly outside a single specialist producer, it is no longer a product that is generally available. [The Amateur Engineer] sought an alternative for a large format camera, by adapting a back designed for Fuji Instax film instead.
Lomography, the retailer of fun plastic cameras, had produced an Instax back for one of their cameras, and to adapt it for a Tachihara large format camera required a custom 3D-printed frame. Being quite a large item it had to be printed in three pieces and stuck together with epoxy. Then a series of light leaks had to be chased down and closed up. The result is a working Instax back for the camera, which appears to deliver the photographic goods.
We’ve seen a few digital backs for larger cameras produced with scanners, but we rather like this linear CCD one.
The Instax SQ6 and Fujifilm’s entire range of instant cameras are fun little boxes that produce instant photos. It’s a polaroid that’s not Polaroid, and like most instant cameras, the lenses are just one or two pieces of plastic. A lens transplant is in order, and that’s exactly what [Kevin] did to his Instax camera.
The key to this lens transplant project is to make it not look like a complete hack job. For this, [Kevin] is keeping the number of custom mechanical parts to a minimum, with just two pieces. There’s a lens shroud that screws down to the current flange on the camera’s plastic chassis, and should blend in perfectly with the rest of the camera. This demanded a significant amount of 3D modeling to get perfect. The other mechanical part is just a plastic disc with a hole in it. These parts were ordered from Shapeways and bolted to the camera with only a few problems regarding spacing and clearances. This didn’t prevent the camera from coming back together, which is when the documentation becomes fast and loose. Who could blame him: the idea of putting real lenses on an instant camera is something few can resist, and the pictures that come out of this modified camera look great.
The current state of the project with a single lens leads the camera to have an inaccurate and tunnel-like viewfinder, but a huge modification brings this project into twin-lens reflex territory. There are more modifications than camera here, but all the printed parts are documented, there are part numbers for McMaster-Carr, and the camera has full control over focusing and framing.
Professional or amateur, doing things the hard way doesn’t always make for better results. Take photography as an example. Once upon a time, the success or failure of what happened during the instant that the camera’s shutter was open was only known hours or days later after processing the film. Ruin the shot with bad exposure or suboptimal composition? Too bad. Miss a once-in-a-lifetime moment as a result? Ouch.
Once instant photography came along, pros were quick to adopt it as a quick and dirty way to check everything before committing the shot to higher-quality film. Camera manufacturers made special instant film cartridges that could be swapped for roll film, and charged through the teeth for them. Unwilling to shell out big bucks, [Isaac Blankensmith] hacked his own instant film back for his Hasselblad medium-format camera. The unlucky donor camera was a Fujifilm Instax, a camera that uses film packs similar to those used by Polaroid and Kodak instant cameras from the 70s and 80s. Several of these cameras were dissected – carefully; those flash capacitors pack a wallop – and stripped down to the essential film-handling bits. An adapter was fabricated from laser-cut acrylic to mount the film back to the Hasselblad, with care taken to match the original focal plane. The shots are surprisingly good; despite a minor light leak from the adapter, they’re fine for the purpose. The best part: the whole build took just 48 hours from conception to first shots.
Speaking of Polaroid, we’ve featured quite a few hacks of Edwin Land’s venerable cameras over the year. From replacing the film with a printer to an upgrade to 35-mm film, instant cameras in general and Polaroids in particular seem to have quite a following among hackers.
Thanks for tipping us off, [macsimski].