Do you ever see a pile of Kodak Instamatic cameras collecting dust at the thrift store? They always seem to be in surplus. Maybe it's because people think they're a little too special to throw away, but assume 126 film is the way of the floppy disk. Well, I bought one (Instamatic X-25) and thought I would mess around with it. After a little bit of work, I was able to rig it for use with common 135 35mm film and got some really cool results.
So here are the things you'll need:
1 Kodak Instamatic camera (any model will do)
1 old disposable/one time use camera
1 pair of cutters or dikes
1 roll of black electrical tape
1 roll of 135 35mm film 100-200 speed
1 roll of clear tape
The name of the game here is making a camera work with film for which it was not intended. If you take the 135 film and try to install it in the instamatic you can get an idea of what has to happen to make the magic. You'll notice that the window is too big for the film, the camera has no way of winding the film, and there is no way for the camera to mark the individual frames. The second problem is the only one we're concerned with as the other two are going to make your photos interesting. Embrace the flaws.
First, take the disposable camera, assuming that you've used all the film, and break it apart. Don't worry, the roll of film inside is in its cannister so it won't ruin. At the top right will be a large gear. This is the winder. Yank it out of there because this is what you'll need to adapt the 35mm film to the instamatic. Also, while you're at it, take the roller that probably fell out. You can use that in the instamatic to roll the new film.
Next, that winder gear will have to be shaped down using your cutters. I also used a razor blade and sandpaper in the process. Checkout the pictures for the shape and placement. The important thing is to cut off all but two teeth to grip the 135 film. The two teeth need to be opposite each other.
After you've shaped the gear, glue it to the existing winder gear in the instamatic. You're halfway through!
Now that the gear is installed, the 35mm film cannister has to be modified. Use your cutters to make grooves in the top so the new gear will wind the film.
The hard part is over. Now use the black electrical tape to cover up the window in the back door of the instamatic. Without this your film will be ruined because of exposure to direct light. It will be a good idea when you get the camera loaded to tape all the cracks as well.
Finally, go into a closet, block all incoming light, and get ready to load the camera. Take the new roll of 135 and pull out all the film. Take that roller from the disposable and tape it to the end of the film. This will help steady everything as you roll the film all the way down until you have just enough slack to place the roller in the left pocket of the instamatic. Place the cannister in the right and make sure your gear teeth and the grooves you cut in the cannister have mated. All of this is tricky to do in the dark, so be patient and don't get all crazy if you don't get it the first time. When you get it, shut the back and tape up those cracks.
Now go and have fun. You will get some wild shots because there is no way for the camera to separate the frames. Your subject will repeat in one shot and look ghostly. This is called double exposure or triple or quadruple. You'll also notice the overall texture of the shot will be really old school. That's the magic of the thrift store instamatic. When you're done with the roll, go back into the dark room and remove the film. One other thing to note, it will take more than 24 exposures to finish the film since there is a lot of overlapping. You can try to space it out by winding it more, but there's no way to really tell. You know you're finished when there's increased tension on the winder. So when you're in the dark room make sure that all the film is wound into the cannister. When you take it to get developed, write something like "homemade camera, print everything" on the order form. The developer won't know what to do with it since there are no separations in the film, but i'm sure it will break up their monotony, give them something interesting to work on.