Let's turn a vintage camera into a decorative web cam and light!

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Picture of Let's turn a vintage camera into a decorative web cam and light!

I was at my father's house recently and he had a box of stuff that he had cleaned out of his garage. Knowing that I'm a sucker for junk, he offered it to me as my wife shot him dirty looks. There was a couple of old Sony three way speakers with crossovers, an old cast aluminum ice bucket, a collection of shot glasses, a broken CB, a rats nest of wall warts and a Polaroid 250 Land Camera. I loaded the loot in my car while the wife fumed and dad chuckled at conning me into saving him a trip to the dump.

The speakers were stripped from the cheap chipboard cabinets and put in the speaker bin (I have a speaker wall project that I'm saving them for), the ice bucket became the new cat dish, the shot glasses found a home on the art shelf, the CB got stripped for useful parts and the wall warts got bagged and labeled and put in the power supply bin. The camera was cool looking but I had no immediate use for it so it ended up on the junk shelf (I mean one of the junk shelves... OK... in the junk room... no really, it's organized, I swear... mostly).

When I saw the Vintage contest I knew I had to come up with something cool so I went to raid the junk room, err, 'Inspiration Zone'. I came across an old Logitech web cam. I have been wanting to hook it up in a permanent place on my work bench to record time lapses of builds, so I decided to mod it into something cool and retro for the contest. Then I remembered the old Land Camera and everything clicked. I'd put the sensor and lens assembly from the web cam into the Land Camera and wire some LEDs into the flash unit as a video light.

Be sure to read the notes on the pictures for additional details. Let's dig in and see what we have!


I have received a few comments about ruining a valuable vintage camera. While I appreciate the concerns, I assure you this was not a valuable camera. The lens was scratched and a battery had been left in it and leaked in the battery compartment. It had been stored for who knows how long in a shed in the woods and it was on its way to the dump. I rescued it from the tip and made a fun project out of it. Relax.

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nickivan7 months ago

Great idea! As concerns the question of value: I think your approach is spot on. I have a similar aversion to chucking stuff out. However, one must be realistic when assessing the value of "collectable" stuff. In your case an unrepairable camera has got a second life and retains its authentic looks (not a replica).

Freddy_1007 months ago

Does this mean I should not use my Kodak 3-A Autographic Kodak Jr.

I have not been able to find film for it or what film it uses. and not sure what else it could be used for.

I have been wondering what to do with it.

Chuck Stephens (author)  Freddy_1007 months ago
Ebay has become the defacto price guide for collectibles. If you are into photography, many old cameras can be converted into pinhole cameras. If it's not a valuable antique and you have no use for it as-is do whatever you want with it. Things are just things- they're only real value is in their use.
mammo3007 months ago

Why would you destroy a Polaroid 250, that's one of the nicer Polaroid cameras with a glass lens and a metal body. Should have used one of the cheaper models that are like 5 dollar cameras instead of a 50-100 dollar camera. Also a quick tip for people, don't do this to a Polaroid 180,185,190,or 195. Those are $200 cameras that are the nicest Polaroid cameras Polaroid ever made except for the 600se.

Chuck Stephens (author)  mammo3007 months ago

I actually went on line to check the value of the camera before I started this project. With the shape it was in it was no where near being worth $50-100. It had been 'rode hard and put up wet' and the lens was scratched. Plus it was free where as a $5 camera would have cost $5. At the end of the day it's just an obsolete instant camera- it's not like a butched a Hasselblad or something.

While the median final sale price (not asking price) of Polaroid 250's on that well known auction site is $60. The maximum for working units is $299. The maximum for broken/parts units is $40, which is what you're describing your camera as.

As far as them being obsolete. A camera for which film is still being manufactured can hardly be called obsolete.

As far as you have to pay $5 for a similar camera. I'd have gladly traded you one of my beautiful, but lower end, Polaroid Automatics to modify instead. I'd even have picked up the shipping for both. Many Polaroid aficionados would do the same.

That Ziess viewfinder would be worth an entire lower end Automatic all by itself. So anyone else considering this 'ible, if you're looking at using a 250, 350, 360, 450, or any of the models mentioned by mammo300 above, please check around. Even if the film should ever stop being manufactured, these are quality cameras that can still be modified for other photographic purposes.

Willie Kruger7 months ago

This is very cool! I love the humour especially the part where you say your wife 'shot him dirty looks'! Classic! Maybe a few photo's or even an Instructable on how you organise your 'makers junk'?

Chuck Stephens (author)  Willie Kruger7 months ago
Hmmm... an organized chaos Instructable- that's a challenge. I'll have to work on that.
techie547 months ago
You are a man after my heart, you pack rat! My wife does the same look thing when I accept gifts of maker gold!! Great job on the camera and the instructable.

I love this! Turning an old camera into a new camera!