Instructables
Picture of Instamatic Retro
Want pure lomographic goodness with a pawn shop camera? Reload that funky Kodak Instamatic with 35mm film, and get the retro images you crave.

You could use a Holga or a Diana, but the almost pinhole camera Instamatic gives velvety cool photos.

Develop the film for US$1.49 at a local photo lab.

To reload you will need an Instamatic Kodapak cartridge. The best place to buy Instamatic film is The Frugal Photographer.

Special thanks to Mischa Koning of Kodak Classics, and David Francis of Instamatic Central for their excellent web sites.

This photo gear Instructable is about the mid-format 126 size still cameras. See my other Instructable Pocket Instamatic for the sub-miniature style still camera.
 
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Step 1: Cameras and Cartridges

Picture of Cameras and Cartridges
The fastest way to get an Instamatic to reload is to ask your family and friends. Chances are someone has an Instamatic in a closet or drawer.

The most common models are the Kodak Instamatic 100, 104, the green Instamatic Hawkeye models, and the last of the line, the X-15 and X-15F. They are also the easiest to find online and in junk stores and yard sales. The Instamatic 500 is probably the coolest and best Kodak 126 camera ever made. Beautiful classic style, great German optics.

Many cameras still have an old Instamatic 126 cartridge in it you can reload.

Frugal Photographer sells the excellent Solaris brand 126 film.

Hold the cartridge and twist the ends gently. When you hear cracking, stop, check your progress and keep working at it until it falls apart.

The cartridge is sealed at the seams on the ends, but once the middle weld points are cracked, the ends usually open easily.

Some 126 cartridges are harder to open. For these, I use a thin flat screwdriver to pry the film cartridge apart.

It helps to start in the middle. There are two weld or glue spots on the bottom edge. Pry these first.

Do not worry about crooked seam cracks. You can use black tape to seal the cartridge after reloading it.

You can always use plastic model glue to repair any broken pieces.

Glue a short length of black backing paper to the inside of the cartridge back. This covers the film number window. It also helps keep the film tightly in place and gives more even reflection off the pressure plate.
TAZMPictures9 months ago

This is a very nice article - thanks for posting and including all of the low-tech solutions (like the no-frills changing bag!)

ndanielp4 years ago
When I take my film out of my 35mm canister I save the canister and then reload it in a darkroom and its good to go. when i go to the lab i let them know that the film inside has been shot in a different canister then reloaded back into the 35mm can
squarecat4 years ago
Just found this camera at a Goodwill store today. Original-sized battery installed and working (no flash currently). Now to get a cartridge or 2... (http://www.frugalphotographer.com/cat126.htm)
davidfoy4 years ago
After removing the exposed film from the plastic 126 cartridge in a darkroom or dark bag, it's probably a good idea to put it into a standard 35mm metal cassette, with the tongue hanging out, to take it to the photofinisher. That's the only way you can be really, truly sure that someone there won't open the plastic can in daylight, which is what they normally do. Also, as noted below, some systems in common use expect the film to arrive in a standard 35mm cassette, and handing them bare film invites problems. It might be worth sacrificing a roll of outdated 35mm. Just pull the sacrificial film out all the way and cut it off, then rewind the stub back into the cassette. You should be able to stuff a two-foot length into the cassette without popping the end caps off. Also, consider leaving some of the stub, taping your film to it, and rewinding -- you'll need to rig up a tool to turn the cassette hub. Be sure to insist you get your empty cassette back.
Really fun seeing all the old instamatics - thanks!
yeah, I don't quite follow how the film goes into the developer without being exposed when it's just in the canister like that. Normally film processing machines feed in the dark directly from the metal casing...it would be easy if you were processing your own film but otherwise..
Ravenxl75 years ago
what size button cell is a good replacement for the PX-35 3 volt battery?
Soupraok5 years ago
what do you tell the people at the developing lab? that the film is in the 135 can by its self?
SWEET INSTRUCTABLE!
iectyx3c (author)  iamthemargerineman6 years ago
Thanks! Let me know how it works out for you. You might also like the flickr and yahoo Instamatic groups I have recently joined.
skegger6 years ago
I have an instamatic but can't find any 126 film o_0
iectyx3c (author)  skegger6 years ago
A good source is The Frugal Photographer or this eBay search.
gmoon6 years ago
Nice ible! Love the "flash bars." Something you might enjoy: received this underwater instamatic housing as a birthday gift (9th or 10th.) Yes, a few years ago.... yes, it worked!
instacam.jpg
iectyx3c (author)  gmoon6 years ago
Cool Dive housing and cool instructables patch too!
gmoon iectyx3c6 years ago
Thanks...what happened to your reply below? (there wasn't anything at all controversial about it...) I like the railrd photo...that looks like old-school reticulation effects to me. Also--126 film is great stuff. I recall one of my profs in college extolling the virtues of Verichrome Pan -- it was a much better emulsion than Plus-X. And never available in 35mm...
iectyx3c (author)  gmoon6 years ago
You are right. It is a bug I have seen mentioned in the -ible forums. Oh well :) That railroad photo was pure luck. I was shooting ancient film from an Instamatic I bought at a junk store for $1. And that is what came out. No clue why, but I like it ! I just bought another Instamatic for $2 and it has an ancient roll of VP in it. Will shoot and post the images. I never liked Plus-x much either :)
iectyx3c (author)  gmoon6 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
gmoon iectyx3c6 years ago
The blue tape's not waterproof, right? But whatever works...works.

The O-rings are still intact on my housing, even though it dates back to the late 60's / early 70's. Not sure how intact they are, tho... (won't be diving with it any time soon...)
Kiteman6 years ago
Woah, flashback! My first camera was an Instamatic, and the first ten or twelve years of my life were documented on my mother's Instamatic. Grand old cameras, great to see them getting a new lease of life like this - good ible.
iectyx3c (author)  Kiteman6 years ago
Some of the best Instamatics are the UK only models. Though in my opinion the all out best is the German made Instamatic 500.
static Kiteman6 years ago
I must be old. I remember when the Instamatic came out. My first camera was an inexpensive cheapo roll film camera, that didn't have a flash option. Mom's camera was a roll film camera from the late 40s or early-mid 50s. Most of the snapshots of my youth where B/W and or outdoors. Color film and flash bulbs where luxuries. Now I have a telephone that's way smaller than the Instamatic's and take "good enough" color snapshots and short color video to boot.
Kiteman static6 years ago
Yeh, photographs used to be precious things, that you took care of in an album and showed people only after they promised to be careful about fingerprints and crease. I've just worked out that I take an average of 15 photos a day. We spent a couple of hours on the beach yesterday, I took about sixty photos. I've just made an ible this afternoon (it'll be up this evening) and took 23 photos. On holiday, I'll take 150 a day, at a wedding I'll take 300-500. I'm drowning in photos...
ransom636 years ago
I'd like to try this 35mm into an instamatic, but I have a question. How do you keep the film flat enough on the film plane to make a decently focused image? Is there some way to keep the film tight so it's not slack & loose?
iectyx3c (author)  ransom636 years ago
The secret is the backing paper glued onto the film plane. This keeps the film flat, not slack, and your image in focus.
jeaper996 years ago
I found out quite by accident years ago, and old Brownie's can be had for about 5 bux at yard sales. Without coated lenses, they're no good for colour, but perfect for black and white. A Y2 filter will help some. Enjoy.
jeaper996 years ago
For those who may be interested, you can also backroll 120 film onto 620 rolls to use those older "point and shoots". Either in a black bag (or a dark closet in a dark room at night), unroll the 120 from it's spool, then starting from the end that came off last, re-roll it onto the 620 spool. The paper backing has numbers which will help you determine where you are on the roll as you are shooting.
Uncle bruce! very cool indeed