Introduction: How to Make a Psycheldelic Camera

Picture of How to Make a Psycheldelic Camera

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.

Step 1:

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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
super glue
sanding paper

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.

Step 2:

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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.

Step 3:

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After you've shaped the gear, glue it to the existing winder gear in the instamatic. You're halfway through!

Step 4:

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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.

Step 5:

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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.

Step 6:

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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.

Step 7:

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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.

Comments

velojym (author)2011-05-25

http://www.frugalphotographer.com/cat126.htm
You can still get the film, but it ain't gonna be around very long. I think the website talks about reloading the 126 cartridges with more commonly available film, though. I grew up with an Instamatic, and drove my parents nuts with it.

An idea I had thunking around in my head: How about someone (with a lot more chops than I have) mounting a digital sensor on the film plane of a 126 cartridge? The electronics, I would think, could be mounted in the now-empty spool ends. Sure, it wouldn't have a display screen, but just for novelty and art use, I don't think having to wait to upload the images would be necessarily a bad thing... heck, it'd kinda bring you closer to the old days when you had to wait to see how your shots turned out.

rcarr6 (author)velojym2011-08-29

I had the exact same idea, except with 110. Ive done the 35 mm film in a 126 cartridge, and the results are pretty interesting. I'm actually going to attempt to do the digital thing in a few days. I'll post back here how it works

rav3nus (author)rcarr62014-05-10

I would love to hear how you got on with this. I have some russian cameras that I would like to try turning digital. But I have no idea how to begin.

mrmerino (author)2012-07-05

What's that purple thing?

I'm kidding.

sjoobbani (author)2010-03-04

 can't find the camera anywhere! tips?

kittywitty (author)sjoobbani2010-03-11

I actually have one for sale on etsy but I dunno if it work, but u could try etsy.com  - its for handmade stuff, but there is a fantastic vintage stuff.... I know they have the same cameras from original owners - although I cannot phantom how one of these simple cameras can break aside from dropping it on top of a roller coaster.

brassclams (author)kittywitty2011-09-29

Sorry,

It's cannot FATHOM, not phantom. (Of course, maybe you intended phantom due to some personal agenda!

kittywitty (author)brassclams2011-09-30

Thank you Brassclams,

I can only say that I have been spoiled by the gammar police on word processors - shifting the responsiblity - at least I am not texting the comments. It irks me that I read advertisement billboards while on the road, and am ignorant to what the abreviations mean.

brassclams (author)kittywitty2011-09-30

That's ok. I guess my excuse is tthat I wanted you to get your msg across and not be misunderstood.

dixyee (author)2010-04-06

 i don't understand this part....... i need clearer explanation

el_wombato (author)2009-01-20

Cool trick, and I'm so looking forward to trying it - I just scored an Instamatic X35F at a thrift store for $0.10! Original groovy box, even. I like the crazy overlaps/multiple exposures, but if you actually want separate images you can fully cover the lens (like with your pant leg) and shot 5-6 pictures. Since 126 has only one perforation per image you have to shoot several times to advance 35mm a full frame.

beehard44 (author)el_wombato2010-02-19

BINGO lol

katmckee (author)2010-01-06

I liked the inventive way you adapted the unusable camera to be usable and experimental, cool.  I like the unpredictableness of the photos too.

ssgdpw (author)2009-11-09

Great block of instruction...the process of finding new ways to utilize old things is beautiful...thanks for sharing...;)...

iectyx3c (author)2009-10-11

This is very good.
I like how you can use the camera to get cool experimental images.
My Retro Instamatic i'ble is completely different. It tells how to reload old 126 cartridges with 35 mm film.
I will have to try your clever method.

sees (author)2009-09-29

just got one today, so stoked to try this thank you very much

mohnjanning (author)2009-01-05

To update, I've been buying more of these cameras and have found that almost every model is a little different regarding the gear. I found an X-35 and saw that nothing even needed to be done except notching the film cannister. So whatever you find, you may have to monkey around with it in a different way than that above. But hopefully you get the idea of what may be involved in this project and see that it is very possible to keep these cameras in use.

Jack of Most Trades (author)2008-12-18

Cool! I have an Instamatic "Reflex" (yeah, a SLR that took Instamatic cartridges) That I'd love to see what it can do.

Sweet! I'm gonna do this. Looks like fun!

mbudde (author)2008-12-12

Cool. Maybe you could prank the "ghost hunters" with this. Although, a ghost of yourself might make them think that you're pranking them. Which you are. Anyway, I'll have to try this sometime.

jimihendrix4753 (author)2008-12-11

By the way, will an instamatic 400 work? This is the link. Thanks in advance. Instamatic 400

damn, that's a cool looking camera. Yes, this will work. Any camera that originally used 126 cartridges will work which means any instamatic. good luck.

crapflinger (author)2008-12-11

"It will be a good idea when you get the camera loaded to tape all the cracks as well." DON'T TAPE THE CRACKS! small light leaks make for GREAT picture effects....

jimihendrix4753 (author)2008-12-11

That's crazy.

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