Some time ago, whilst researching the idea of building an instant pinhole camera, I saw a photograph of a Polaroid packfilm camera which had been gutted, and converted. Ever since, it’s been something I’ve wanted to try for myself, but the price of the cameras is often high, even for non-working models, and recently, they’ve been few and far between.
A couple of months ago, completely by chance, I found a model 104 on Ebay for super cheap. The battery compartment was corroded, and despite the battery being unecessary for this project, it needed a good clean to remove stray debris and prevent any of the corroded material from getting anywhere inside the camera.
There are plenty of tutorials to be found regarding the process, so I won’t repeat it here in too much detail.
The basics are:
– Lift the metal front plate away (it’s just glued on, so that’s not a major job).
– Unscrew the screws holding the front parts in place. On mine, those are here, at the back of the front. (If that makes sense.)
A tutorial I read appeared to indicate that the screws were here, behind the bellows, so whether I just misunderstood, or the placement of the screws varies between models, I don’t know.
– Cut the wires and ribbon connecting anything electronic.
– Pretty much remove everything. Lens elements, shutter mechanism, the lot. You’ll want to keep the lens board itself, though, since that provides the light seal between the front of the camera and the film. You could just wrap the whole front in black tape afterwards, but I wanted to keep it looking Polaroid-ish.
I’ve also kept the sliding mechanism which previously selected film speed. I taped up the hole on the sliding door, and it now functions as a lens cap/very clunky shutter.
Originally, I places the pinhole on the rear of the lens board, in the aperture space where the shutter once was. I was dubious, though, about whether the gap between that and the camera front would create vignetting in the photograph. So, I moved the pinhole plate forwards, to the very front of the camera.
Obviously original Polaroid film for these cameras is no longer available, but Fujifilm produce film packs (this is the peel apart stuff labelled 100C/100B/3000B, not the Instax variety) which fits any Polaroid camera or film back originally intended to accept Polaroid Type 669 peel apart film.
I ran a few tests with FP100C, since I have a huge pile of it getting more and more out of date.
These were a few of my favourites from that pack of film.
What’s really got me hooked now, though, is working with high speed black and white.
Pretty much the whole pack was used experimenting with using the camera indoors, under artificial lighting (so, fairly low, useless lighting), with a high powered Metz hammerhead flash triggered remotely with radio triggers.
These are two of the shots from that setup. The wonderful thing about this film is that the ‘negative’ side also scans beautifully. I think I actually prefer the images I got from the negative side.