Will We Ever Shake The Polaroid Picture?

Today, most of us carry supercomputers in our pockets that happen to also take instantly-viewable pictures.This is something that even the dumbest phones do, meaning that we can reasonably draw the conclusion that photographic capability has become a basic feature of everyday carry, a necessity of 21st century life.

Despite the unwashed masses of just-plain-bad photographs clouding the digital landscape, photography itself remains as important as ever so we can retain and disseminate information as history unfolds. In a sense, the more instant, the better — unless it comes at the cost of image quality. The invention of photography is on par with the printing press or with language itself in that all three allow us to communicate within our own time as well as preserve The Way Things Were in frozen silence. And no invention made vivid preservation more convenient than the instant camera.

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Old Polaroid Gets A Pi And A Printer

There’s nothing like a little diversion project to clear the cobwebs — something to carry one through the summer doldrums and charge you up for the rest of the hacking year. At least that’s what we think was up with [Sam Zeloof]’s printing Polaroid retro-conversion project.

Normally occupied with the business of learning how to make semiconductors in his garage, or more recently working on his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, [Sam], like many of us, found himself with time to spare this summer. In search of a simple, fun project that wouldn’t glaze over the eyes of people when he showed it off, he settled on a printing party camera. The guts are pretty standard fare: a Raspberry Pi and Pi cam, coupled with a thermal receipt printer for instant hardcopy. The donor camera was a Polaroid Pronto from eBay, in good shape on the outside and mostly complete on the inside. A Dremel took care of the latter, freeing up space occupied by all the plastic bits that held the film cartridge and running gear of the film handling system.

The surgery made enough room to squeeze in the Pi Zero and a LiPo battery pack, along with a buck converter. Adding in the receipt printer and its drive board and mounting the Pi cam presented some challenges, but everything fit without breaking the original look and feel of the Polaroid. The camera now produces low-res hardcopy instantly using a dithering algorithm, and store high-resolution images on an SD card for later download. As a bonus, [Sam] included a simulated time and date stamp in the lower corner of the saved images, like those that used to show up on film.

[Sam]’s camera looks like a ton of fun. We’ve seen other Polaroid conversions, including a stunning SX-70 digital upgrade, but this one shines for its simplicity and instant hardcopy.

[via Tom’s Hardware]

3D Printer Revives Large Format Camera

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 Digital Polaroid SX-70

What do you do if you own an iconic and unusual camera from decades past? Do you love it and cherish it, buy small quantities of its expensive remanufactured film and take arty photographs? Or do you rip it apart and remake it as a modern-day digital camera in a retro enclosure? If you’re [Joshua Gross], you do the latter.

The Polaroid SX-70 is an iconic emblem of 1970s consumer technology chic. A true design classic, it’s a single-lens reflex design using a Polaroid instant film cartridge, and its party trick is that it’s a folding camera which collapses down to roughly the size of a pack of 1970s cigars. It was an expensive luxury camera when it was launched in 1972, and today it commands high prices as a collector’s item.

[Joshua]’s build is therefore likely to cause weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth among vintage camera enthusiasts, but what exactly has he done? In the first instance, he’s performed a teardown of the SX-70 which should be of interest to many readers in itself. He’s removed the mirror and lens, mounted a Raspberry Pi camera behind the lens mount, and a small LCD monitor where the mirror would be.

A new plastic lens in the original lens housing completes the optics, and the electronics come courtesy of a Pi Zero, battery, and USB hub in the space where the Polaroid film cartridge would otherwise be. Some new graphics and a fresh leather cover complete the  build, giving what we’d say is a very tidy electronic Polaroid. On the software side there is a filter to correct for fisheye distortion, and the final photos have a slightly Lomographic quality from the plastic lens.

We like what he’s created with his SX-70 even if we can’t help wincing that he did it to an SX-70 in the first place. Maybe it’s less controversial when someone gives the Pi treatment to a more mundane Polaroid camera.

Swedish Front Plus Japanese Back Makes For Useful Hybrid Camera

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].

Polaroid Gets Thermal Printer And Raspberry Pi

Despite what you may have read in the comments, we here at Hackaday are not unaware that there’s something of a “Pi Fatigue” brewing. Similar to how “Arduino” was once a dirty word around these parts, projects that are built around the world’s most popular Linux SBC are occasionally getting dismissed as lazy. Hacker crams Raspberry Pi into an old electronic device, applies hot glue liberally, posts a gallery on Imgur, and boom! Lather, rinse, repeat.

We only mention this because the following project, despite featuring the Raspberry Pi Zero grafted into a vintage Polaroid camera, is anything but lazy. In the impeccably detailed and photographed write-up, [mitxela] explains how the Pi Zero and a thermal camera recreated the classic Polaroid experience of going from shutter button to physical picture in seconds. The workmanship and attention to detail on this build is simply phenomenal, and should quell any doubts our Dear Readers may have about Raspberry Pi projects. For now, anyway.

The video after the break will show you the modded camera in operation and goes over a few highlights of the build, but for this one you really should take the time to read the entire process start to finish. [mitxela] starts off by disassembling the Polaroid camera, complete with plenty of fantastic pictures that show how this legendary piece of consumer electronics was put together. If you’ve never seen the inside of one of these cameras, you might be surprised to see what kind of interesting hardware is lurking underneath that rather unassuming exterior. From the screw-less construction to the circuits with paper substrate, a lot of fascinating engineering went into getting this camera to a mass-market price. Frankly, the teardown alone is worth checking out.

But once the camera has been stripped down to the bare frame, the real fun begins. At the conceptual level, [mitxela] replaces the camera optics with a cheap webcam, the “brains” with a Raspberry Pi Zero, and the film mechanism with the type of thermal printer used for receipts. But how he got it all connected is why this project is so impressive. Nearly every decision made during the design and construction of this camera was for the purposes of reducing boot-time. Nobody wants a camera that takes 30, 15, or even 10 seconds to boot. It has to be available as soon as you need it.

Getting this Linux-powered camera boot up in as little as 2 seconds took a lot of clever software hacks that you’ll absolutely want to check out if you’ve ever considered building an embedded Linux device. You can’t just throw a stock Raspbian image on an SD card and hope for the best. [mitxela] used buildroot to craft a custom Linux image containing only what was needed for the camera to operate, plus a bunch of esoteric tweaks that the Junior Penguin Wrangler would likely never consider. Like shaving a full second off of the boot time by disabling dumping kernel messages to the serial port during startup.

[mitxela] brought his camera to show off at the recent Hackaday London meetup, but it was far from the first time we’ve come across his handiwork. From his servo-powered music box earlier this year to his penchant for tiny MIDI devices, he’s consistently impressed our cold robot hearts.

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Stunning Fake Polaroid Camera Performs Magic

It’s high time us Muggles got our hands on the hardware used to take Magical Photographs as seen in The Daily Prophet. The first pioneering step in that direction has been taken by [Abhishek] who built this moving picture taking polaroid-ish camera, which he’s calling the “Instagif NextStep”. It’s a camera that records a short, three second video, converts it to GIF and ejects a little cartridge which displays the animated photo.

This amazing piece of hardware has been painstakingly built, and the finished product looks great. The nice thing about building such projects, in [Abhishek]’s own words, is that “it involves a bunch of different skill sets and disciplines – hardware, software, 3D modeling, 3D printing, circuit design, mechanical/electrical engineering, design, fabrication etc that need to be integrated for it to work seamlessly.”
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