Instructables

Modify Your Polaroid Spectra Camera to use Non-Polaroid Film

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Lets face it...Polaroid has mostly abandoned its commitment to analog instant photography.  I understand the hard business facts behind this move, but as someone who bought the camera, I feel a little cheated.  They have stopped making all integral film and the price of the last stocks of fresh film is skyrocketing in price.  For example, Spectra film use to be $1 an exposure but is now $2 and exposure in most markets and will only increase as the supply dwindles.   

A project to restart production  called, "the Impossible Project" (the "p" on impossible is backward for some hip and trendy reason) is restarting production of integral and other Polaroid films, however the cost is still in the $2 to $3 per exposure range.

What is the cheapskate hipster to do?  Well here is one idea.

In this Instructable, we will convert a Polaroid Spectra to operate with regular sheet film. 

>>>Warning<<<

This modification will pretty much destroy your cameras ability to shoot regular Polaroid Spectra or Impossible Project Image film, so there is no turning back!  Also, your camera will no longer be an instant camera!  You will have to develop and print (or scan) the images yourself.
 
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Step 1: Spectra Camera Overview

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After Spectra stopped trying to take over the Earth, its peoples and resources with giant mechanical assault robots in the 70's, it switched to making upscale instant photo cameras in the early 1980's in collaboration with Polaroid Inc.   

Spectra cameras had higher quality lenses and better overall fit and finish than other Polaroid cameras.  The original Spectra came with quite a few photographic controls.  Sadly, Polaroid winnowed those down with each successive Spectra camera model.  The only real tick up in quality was the Spectra Pro...designed (and priced) for professionals.

Its always been expensive to shoot Polaroid film, but now that Polaroid has stopped production and future production will be a boutique film item its time for this camera to modify this camera to use cheaper film.

Hello

Hello, i have one problem with my Polaroid spectra system and you are my last hope. First off all i would like to thank you for helping. Recently, i bought Spetra AF in working order from ebay, and i bought 4 packs of expired original Polaroid film. I did battery conversion like you did beacuse battery on film was dead. I used 4AA batterys but after i take second picture battery get very very low, so i need your help. What should i do that battery at least take 1 pack?

thank you,

Hey Dan just heard you at Photokina on the FPP! I was wondering if you have a new source for the film you used here as Efke isn't available on freestyle anymore. Out of luck? Thanks
Nano_Burger (author)  mattthegamer4631 month ago

Sadly, I didn't take this camera to Photokina. I had planned to take my Fotochome camera complete with peanut bulbs, but time ran out too fast...

Yeah, your right. I've been working through my cached supply of film and didn't notice. I guess you could take 4x5 or 5X7 film and cut it down, but that could lead to some hefty price tags 8-(

I'd go with x-ray film. One 11X14 sheet will get you a dozen shots and can be cut by safelight. The stock is a little finicky, but once you have it down, it is reliable and consistent.

You probably won't get the finest results, but with this hack, that is not what I'm after. Cheers!

You should get lots of pictures of genuine smiles with this camera..

Because it looks like a horrified robot dog chewing a pencil!

Fantastic! :-)

Thanks for letting us see that optics should never go to waste.:-)

kanalav3 years ago
Would it be possible to modify this for the Polaroid One-Step?
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Hello everybody,

I need your help!!!

I am just after buying a polaroid spectra from eBay (it is still in the post) and I, quite naively, thought that I could use the new Polaroid 300 instant film range with it and proceeded in purchasing it.
I realise this may seem stupid but I am 20 and am not nor have I ever or will I ever be a photograper- you see it is a Christmas present for my boyfriend!

Is there any way at all that it would be compatible?

Niamh
Nano_Burger (author)  kanalav3 years ago
Kanalav,

Maybe. The problem is finding a film holder that will fit easily into the film compartment. For the Spectra, a 3x4 film holder fits nicely. There is no standard film holder that will fit nicely into the cameras that take 600 film. The next smaller standard film holder is 2x3. That is small and will not take advantage of the film area of the 600 film.

You can make a film holder that will fit if you like (by cutting down a 3X4), but these would limit the amount of shot you can take. I'd say it is not worth it for the poor optics you will find in these types of cameras.

Other than the problem with the film holders, a conversion would be routine.
ElvenChild3 years ago
Now polaroid has a digital self printing camera called the polaroid pogo instant digital camera
rrrmanion4 years ago
NO DON'T DO IT! PLEASE? I BEG OF YOU! ....
and here's why...
some people, really like Polaroid not for usefulness, but of how iconic it was, to me, it's up there with the Box Brownie, and it was the equivalent of a camera phone, not in features or functionality, but in what it did, and how it set photography free, making it mass market and bringing it to everyone.
Nano_Burger (author)  rrrmanion4 years ago
rrrmanion,

I respect your viewpoint, but do not share it. Cameras take photographs. If I have to modify a 100 year old antique Box Brownie to use modern film formats (and probably destroying its value on Antiques Road show), I will!

This is a little different as Image film is available from the good folks at the Impossible Project. However, the film is currently too expensive for me to use as freely as I like. I also have some issues with the quality of the film, however that is slowly getting better as the Impossible folks improve their formulas. This modification allows me to use the camera with inexpensive sheet film.

If you want to keep your Polaroids in a non-working state on display behind glass as a symbol of photographic freedom...more power to ya! I'll keep putting Dremel to camera to make the camera work and produce images as a symbol of photographic freedom. Two methods, same goal!
well, think a lot of people may start wanting to use the Polaroid range again, and i know there is a new instant camera, but it's just an instamax that has been re-branded, what i would like to see, is an instructable on how to convert an sx-70 to run on the new 300 film,
Nano_Burger (author)  rrrmanion4 years ago
The camera your refer to is the Instax by Fuji Film. Polaroid has a branded an Instax Mini as a Polaroid camera. More power to both!
yeah, but it's not really Polaroid is it? it's the owners of the brand name polaroid, it's just not the same.
-chase-4 years ago
Interesting Hack of the Spectra for use with with the 4x5 film holders. And nice instructable.

May i ask - What was the issue you were having in the Darkroom that scratched your film? Those are some pretty nasty scratches!

Are you dip processesing your film or using a can of some kind?

I like the write on idea - be nice to have flod up door to do so added on to a dedicated film holder for this hack.

I was looking at a old Kodak folder with the write widow and pen in the back yesterday is why it comes to mind - camera was in real bad shape as the people that had it up for sale didn't know about how to work it - (open and close it) and bent the slide for the lense carrier on the rail.
- might pick it up and use it for a mod if they come down on the price enough.

and since i saw it and you mentioned writing on the lower section of film with your Hack - this came to mind. Now to get it to all come together! lol

Unless you have another easier way to write on it with out expossing the lower half of film?

thoughts on this?
Nano_Burger (author)  -chase-4 years ago
Chase,

     I used 3.25 X 4.25 film holders, not 4 x 5.  4 X 5 film holders are too big to be used in this way. 

     The scratches came from spiral reels that were holding 35mm film.  The normal inversions during this type of developing scraped the film.  I have since used my cut film tank.

     The Kodak cameras you are referring to are called "Autographic" cameras.  They had a light tight carbon paper that you wrote on.  This would allow light to hit the film.  They have not made this film for several decades.  Cool idea, but historical surveys of old negetives reveal it was not used very often.

     WHen I suggested writing on the film, it would be with a sharpie.  The film would make a nice presentation when contact printed on to 5X7 photo paper.  Nice since you don't need an enlarger for that type of print.  You would get a black boarder with white writing.
Thanx for the reply Nano_Burger.

You're kinda loosing me on the film holder with the size you mention.

The image size opening for the 545i [which i have] for instant film and cut film is 3.25 x 4.25. This fits a standard 4x5 camera - [which i also have]

Link to the 545i holder for instant and cut film:

The cut film holder you show - looks to be a standard two sheet holder for 4x5 cameras. or Double cut film holder  as it is refered to.

Link to one here

Are you talking about a non-standard 3x4 holder - quarter plate size holder - which takes the non-standard quater plate size film 3.25 x 4.25?

sorry if i'm missing something...

thanx
Nano_Burger (author)  -chase-4 years ago
Chase,

Sorry for not getting back to you quicker.  The sheet film holders are for 3.25 X 4.25 sheet film.  They are commonly called 3X4 film holders.  They are not as common as 4 X 5 film holder that you have.  They are smaller and used most often in Graflex Cameras.  You can buy them new here:

http://www.calumetphoto.com/item/LS3400/?t=GB01&a=CA01&CAWELAID=36795254

But I would cruise eBay where can get them much cheaper.
LvdH4 years ago
 I'd wait with this mod; the Dutch Polaroid factory has recently started producing again: www.theimpossibleproject.com
Nano_Burger (author)  LvdH4 years ago

Yes, the Impossible Project is starting to produce film.  Right now, they have SX-70 film and will add 600 series film soon.  Spectra film is slated for production later in the year.  Right now I'd say that they have two major problems.

1.  Poor photo quality.  The current batch of SX-70 film is of abysmal print quality compared to fresh Polaroid film.  Perhaps this is an unfair comparison considering the limited resources that IP has access to.  However, some artists have embraced the limitation of this film and have become vocal advocates.  To each his or her own.  I won't be using IP film until it at least comes close to the Polaroid film it is trying to replace.

2.  High price.  As I have said before, shooting Polaroid film has never been an inexpensive pursuit.  However, by my calculation IP film is at about $4 per exposure (this includes shipping).  I would hope that with standardized production costs will decrease and this will be passed on to the consumer.  I'm not so sure though.  Once we are sensitized to paying that much, I don't see IP from giving up that funding stream.

I have an unmodified Spectra just waiting for good quality and reasonably priced IP Image (Spectra) film if it ever comes.  Until then, it is pretty much a paper weight.  I personally don't like cameras sitting around on their butts and not earning their keep.  I'm giving IP a year to wow me.... if not then out comes the dremel!

snowmonster4 years ago
Just to note, I don't think the 'p' being made backwards in 'impossible' was meant to be hip and trendy. Before it was revealed to the public that the impossible project would be possible, the 'p' was forward. It was probably reversed to signify that the project wasn't impossible.

Nice instructable!
Nano_Burger (author)  snowmonster4 years ago
Ahhh.  That distinction was completely lost on me.  Thanks for the info!
Tom Bucher4 years ago
Don't sacrifice all your old Polaroid cameras just yet.  According to "Wired" magazine several ex-employees bought up what was left of Polariod.  Unfortunately for some reason they were unable to concoct the chemicals for color "Polariod"  or what ever they were going to call it.  Seems that now Polariod has had a change of heart and is willing to jump back into the market.  This if my memory serves me about the article which I cannot put my fingre on at the moment or I would quote from it.
According to the WSJ you can buy sepia film for the Polaroid from the Impossible Project and they promise to have color film again by this summer.
Nano_Burger (author)  Ninzerbean4 years ago
The current impossible project film is for the SX-70 series cameras.  600 series film is promised soon and after that and  Spectra film will follow after that. 

So far we have low contrast, muddy, sepia toned film that is highly sensitive to temperature.  OK, any artist will work within the limitations of the media and likely produce excellent images.  The whole Lomography/lo-fi/toy camera movement has shown us that.  But as a former Polaroid user, this film is just not up to snuff.  If they ever produce quality color film at a reasonable price, I'll be the first in line.
 Oh, I wasn't paying close enough attention, thank you for the clarification.
Nano_Burger (author)  Tom Bucher4 years ago
Tom,

     The project is called the "Impossible" project.  So far they have produced SX-70 film and a promise of 600 film soon.  The film produced so far is of very poor quality when compared to the original Polaroid product.  They blame this on not being able to procure the same materials that Polaroid did.  They want to produce Spectra or "Image" film as it it known outside the US market.  However, it will be later this year before they will dedicate their line to Spectra film.

     Even if they are able to produce a quality film, it is likely to cost at least 4 times the original film cost.  This instructable is designed for the folks who can't afford the film, but still want to use the camera.
Bookmarked!
Eventually I'll need this.
:D
Nano_Burger (author) 4 years ago
It looks like the PX 600 is for the SX- 70 and not the 600 series.  However from what I remember, the 600 easily fit into the SX-70 camera with a little modification.
Nano_Burger (author) 4 years ago
Not really solved...unfortunately.  The PX 600 is for the common 600 series Polaroids not the Spectra (or Image) format and as I mentioned,  the price is approximately $4.00 per exposure.  That is for 8 exposures per pack at that! And...monochrome at that!  Although from what I have seen, it is more sepia than true black and white.

This impossible project is getting a whole lot of hype and (so far) some poor quality and value (read expensive) film in result.  I'm afraid that the Impossible Project is in serious danger of....going Lomo!
zoltzerino4 years ago
Nano_Burger (author) 4 years ago
I had 3 Spectras when I started out.  One was wonky in the first place and I pretty much destroyed it on my 1st attempt at modding the camera.  Taking cameras apart is usually pretty easy, but Polaroid made their cameras particularly difficult to take apart.  The second I did entirely from the outside and resulted in this Instructable. 

The third is being reserved for the impossible project film.  It does not look good though.  They just came out with PX600 (for 600 series film cameras), but $22 for 8 exposures is $2.75 an exposure.  Not even including shipping which will add at least a dollar an exposure to the price.  Also, it only comes in grainy sepia monochrome.  It will take them a while to get around to Spectra (Image) film,

I was thinking that I might just give up and try to convert the last one to 120 roll film.  It is certainly easier to find than 3X4 film....
Doldrum4 years ago
 i have two polaroids at home so one of them is going to be subjected to this  :)
thanks for the great instuctable!
caitlinsdad4 years ago
Nice, I guess you now need to think about hacking on a digital film back or place a gutted digital camera into the Polaroid shell.  They will probably abandon traditional film soon...
I honestly don't think they ever will, there is still a big demand out there for photographers to develop their own film, because some people think digital just isnt "rich" enough.
Digital vs film is two totally different experience for photography and photographers :)
They might take it out of stores eventually for personal use, but somewhere out there there will always be photographers that have their own black room, OR specialty photography companies and stores.
The chemicals by the way, are dangerous to work with
I have a friend that will spend hundreds on finding the right ink-jet printer and archival papers just to get a regular photo-print.  I hear ya, some things are better the old-fashioned way.