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Resurrect a Polaroid Land Camera

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The Polaroid Land Camera was named after its inventor, Edwin Land. It introduced the world to the idea of instant photography and, in some regard, paved the way for the modern era of instant digital gratification.

This is a complete guide for getting started with the Polaroid Land Camera. It goes over cheaply acquiring the camera and film, upgrading the battery, basic functionality, timing exposures, photo tips, and using a flash.

It may take a little while to get the hang of it, but you will quickly learn it is a ton of fun. There is a sense of anticipation as the photo develops that you just don't get from digital photography.
 
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Step 1: Find a Camera

Picture of Find a Camera
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This Instructable deals largely with 100 series Land Cameras. This includes all cameras with a model number between 100 and 455. Countless quantities of these cameras were manufactured and sold between 1963 and 1976.

You can still find them at thrift stores, garage sales, estate sales, antique stores, and online (think Ebay).

Your best bet is to find one at a garage or estate sale. Although antique cameras sometimes tend to fetch a little bit of money, most people think you can't buy Polaroid film anymore and will offload these cameras on the cheap.

The current market for Land Cameras is good because no one wants to buy them and everyone wants to be rid of them. This makes your job of acquiring one all the easier.

I got this whole camera kit for $5, and with the warning, "You know, you can't get film for those anymore."
spacevalkyrie made it!1 month ago

I fixed up a Land 440, including the battery modification. It was pretty easy and fast to get going!

Warning if you're going to be doing this with a 440 model: There's a lot of plastic to remove from the inside of the battery area. But you also have to be careful because some of the tabs are connected to the frontal wall of the camera itself, so don't pull it completely apart!

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debbell53 months ago
I just bought my daughter a Polaroid 320 camera and we can't seem to get the pictures to turn out. I was told to buy Fujifilm FP-100C even though the camera says it takes 75 or 3000 speed film. Is that the problem? Please help!!!!!
dgalenv debbell52 months ago

no that should not be the issue, everyone with these old pack film cameras are shooting the same 100 speed film. Please make sure the camera is loaded with batteries and test different types of light to see that the exposure time is varying appropriately. That will at least proof that the camera is getting power to control the shutter speed, a good first step.

Whisper03337 months ago
Do you think the fujifilm would word with a J66 Polaroid camera? :)
zangief8610 months ago
I just got one of these, and its full kit, from a garage sale for $3. I am excited to get shooting with it. Your article will put me well on my way. As a purist I will opt out of the battery conversion but it is a great mod.

Thank you.
boneskully1 year ago
This was helpful thanks. I put mine up on Facebook under The Camera Hut.
I was in the process of converting my Polaroid 240 from the 4.5V battery to three AAA batteries and realized that the white wire is severed and is no longer attached to the inside of the camera battery compartment. Is this repairable?
avatar_i2 years ago
i have several of those Polaroid Land Cameras, and you can still get most of the original batteries from BATTERIES PLUS, so check before you do a conversion. The originals took a battery w/connectors like the 9V transistor battery, so those are very easy to replace.

BUT: Make sure you verify WHICH Polaroid film the camera took, BEFORE you buy it, even if for just a few dollars.

Early Polaroid Land Cameras took ROLL film, which has not been made since about 1970 +/-. The roll film cameras cannot be made to take any modern film without spending a LOT of money on it....

Later models took 'Pack' film, which Polaroid actually stopped making in the USA several [6?] years ago, but which was still made overseas by several companies- England & Japan, among others.

Fuji made the Polaroid 'Pro Vivid', which is still marketed in USA by Fuji. It is the same film under the new Fuji label, FP-10C [colour]. We call it 'FUJI-ROID'. Readiy available at most high end camera stores, and onlne. I think there is also a B&W, and they still make it in the standard film pack & 4"x5" sizes.

** DO NOT BUY OUT OF DATE POLARIOD FILM FROM ANY SOURCE, AS THE CHEMICAL PACK IN THE FILM CRYSTALIZED SOON AFTER THE EXPIRATION DATE AND IT IS ALMOST ALWAYS USELESS/UNUSEABLE**
I *just* used instant pack film that was dated to expire in 2007, and it worked fine. It was a pack of "Fuji-roid" FP-100C. Maybe I'm misinterpreting your warning. Do you mean all instant films that fit Polaroids, or film made by Polaroid?
I am surprised the Fuji FP-100 lasted 4.5~5 years; someone must have kept it refrigerated at a very stable temperature! Fantastic Luck!!!

No, ONLY 'POLAROID' marked film packs, as Polaroid stopped selling film many- perhaps 7~8?- years ago, and it will have gone bad.

If the film was frozen, the chemical packs would have crystallized, and if not refrigerated- which only extended the expiration for about one to three years- the chemical pack would have gone bad about 5 years ago.

Anything marked "FUJI' should be O.K., maybe another year if refrigerated, but NEVER freeze it, as the chemical pack goes bad sooner.
I learned only after spending an entire nine-out-of-ten exposures on my FP-100C pack that Fujifilm manufactures packs entirely in plastic. Polaroid packs had metal casings that could withstand the force of the tough springs inside my Land 450. The plastic in the Fuji pack bent under the pressure, and made it impossible to remove the exposure units. The big tip I found online was to open the back just slightly, relieving the pressure on the film. Unfortunately, I consistently opened the back too far, and the film missed the rollers. I managed to get one developed picture out of the ten in the pack. I found out that it was alright to remove the springs entirely, so I did. Unfortunately, I'm out of film to test with. 

Here's a very helpful link for those of you with the affected camera models.
uhclem2 years ago
This is a good alternative to paying $$$ for a Fuji Instax. I hope I can snag a nice used Polaroid camera before the local used camera store gets hip to what's going on here.
uhclem uhclem2 years ago
Auuugh! Too late! The manual exposure packfilm cameras are expensive (on eBay). The auto exposure cameras are still cheap.

I found a Polaroid 210 locally that was cheap and in excellent condition. It needed a new battery, of course. A cr123 lithium fits perfectly. I soldered the leads directly to the battery. The drain on the battery is such it will probably die from exceeding the shelf life than be worn out by the meter.

I find the exposure is very easily dominated by bright spots. If there's a patch of sun or a bright lamp you really have to lighten the picture or it will come out too dark. Otherwise the quality is excellent.

I only wish I could use the ASA 3000 film with the f/8 aperture and still get a correct exposure. Keep in mind that on most packfilm cameras, setting the speed to 3000 means using f/45 - there is no gain in exposure vs 75 or 100/

I recently saw the "king" of packfilm cameras - the Mamiya 600. Interchangeable lenses, viewfinder focusing, can shoot 120 film etc... costs more than $600.
You soldered the leads directly to the battery?! Shame!
neuropol2 years ago
Love Land cameras. Thanks for the great instructable. I'll be using that battery hack.
Update. I've now done the battery mod on a couple cameras. The first was a 360, which sadly appears to have some major issues. The second is a 450 which works great.

One issue with the 360 and 450, and any other model with an electronic timer bult in. These models take two batteries of the same type, one for the timer and the other for the exposure control. Performing this mod will disable the timer. What I haven't tried yet is using a 4 cell holder and separating it into two, two cell holders to be able to still use the timer. Next time.

The parts and batteries needed to do the mod are less than the cost of one original spec battery. A no brainer imo.
nnichraith2 years ago
Do you think that these fujifilm instants would be compatble with Polarois spectra ?
randofo (author)  nnichraith2 years ago
Not really sure. There is this:
http://www.instructables.com/id/Packtasticor-How-to-use-100-Series-Film-in-an-/

...which is not quite right, but demonstrates that you can sort of use it in other Polaroid series film cameras.
kosherbacon2 years ago
Awesome instructable!
I'm a photo student, and love using old cameras to take picture. I'm SO excited to try this out, best of all, the camera is cheap on ebay.
Thank you SO much!
_Billa_2 years ago
Amazing instructable. The final effect is pretty cool.
Great Instructable. Makes me think, "I am not that old." but I do remember being excited when my dad said I could use a whole pack of film to take any photos I wanted. It took two days for me to take eight photos. It was winter, so I had to "develop" the film under my armpit. A far cry from taking three hundred photos without hardly thinking about composition, lighting, focus.

Thanks for the flashback,
Charles
You're right Charles,

Digital photography is great but we tend to rely on quantity with the hope that well get quality with a few of the takes : this goes against common sense and the need to progress and get proficiency with a medium…

I must be about the same age age as you and I guess this instrusctable also says a lot about the pace we should give to our projects and our lives.
vincent75202 years ago
FANTASTIC INSTRUCTABLE !!!…
Everything is here, crystal clear, comprehensive and no fuss.
Makes me wish to go Polaroid again.

Moreover is is very useful as this type of equipment is due to vanish and we need such testimonials as yours to revive our memories and leave as 20th century technology legacy to future generations.

Thanks a lot.
On a film photography video podcast, I found out that you can actually save the negative from the instant film. From there you can scan it in and do whatever digital people do. If you want.

So don't throw it away! You can always use it later.
beaubolique2 years ago
Resurrecting memories of working at the camera store "back in the day"...

Those numbers on the film packs actually correspond to the ISO (ASA) film speed, rather than shutter speed. Yes, that is an ISO 3000 B&W film. Great fun at night with the goblins...
crazyg2 years ago
fuji make the film , great heads up!! i will have to reconcider what i do with my cu5
I think I have a working polaroid land gathering dust in my storage room - time to brush it off and get to picture taking!

-excellent- instructable! You really covered all the bases.
dsmith682 years ago
As a kid I was fascinated with photography and had many different cameras but my favorite was always my Polaroid camera. I had several of them w/ all the accessories including my last the SX-70. The old Land cameras would allow a person to double expose the film and make "ghost" pictures...lol So much fun and so many memories...
Very well written and illustrated, thank you.

Most flashbulbs contain a chemical dot to show they are undamaged. This little indicator should be blue if good. Pink means it's gone bad and will be unlikely to fire properly.
marcintosh2 years ago
Yes the battery info is great and I"m sure I'll be working on that shortly as I have a PLC 360 gathering dust- as an aside Polaroid had (as far as I've been told by those that should know) the very first Electronic Flash and used it on the 360.

Fuji is still making this film! I had given up on buying film for it. I had no idea this was in production. I can't thank you enough for showing this.

I can't wait to get to work on this - Thank you muchly!
knife1412 years ago
Very nice job! Thanks for posting this.
mikeasaurus2 years ago
Awesome job, Randy!
I love the vintage effect of the old Polaroids, and the battery hack shown is genius.
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