Picture of Upgrade Your Time Magazine Promotional Camera

It was an incredible "TV" offer!  Simply buy a one year subscription to the venerable Time magazine for a low, low price and receive a free, high quality 35mm camera!

Boy Howdy did it work.  Thousands of subscriptions and thousands of high quality cameras flew from Time magazine’s warehouses.  Soon other magazines followed suit with their own incredible offers and incredible cameras.  Eventually, you got one of these cameras for enduring a high pressure timeshare pitch, opening a savings account at your local savings and loan, and maybe for filling up your tank at the local EXXON station.

Like all bubbles, this one burst.  Word of mouth got around that these promotional cameras were not the high technology wonders being cranked out by Canon and Nikon.  Although they looked similar, these cameras were simple plastic cameras hardly worth what you had to endure to get one! 

A massive wave of buyers’ remorse swept the country and the Time magazine camera and its many clones began to flood thrift shops around the world....along with bundles of lightly read magazines.


At this point in our story, we should say that the cameras were discovered by young hipsters, artists and Lomographers for the unique images the camera can produce.  Then they would fly off the shelf once again.  But sadly…no.  They still stink up second hand stores, thrift shops and landfills at exceptionally low prices.




The Time Magazine Camera (TMC) and its many clones are the Rodney Dangerfields of the toy camera universe.  Don’t get no respect!  You can blame the glass lens that renders a sharp, quality image on your film for this sad state of affairs.  The TMC did not have the “dreamy” Diana styrene lens or the flare prone Vivitar Ultra Wide and Slim wide angle lens to attract the artsy types.


In this instructable, we’ll try to move your TMC a little closer to high quality camera you expected in the first place by adding some photographic capabilities.  Specifically, we’ll add:


1.     Multiple exposure capability

2.     Extra shutter speeds

3.     Filter capability

4.     Lens shade

5.     Cable Release Socket


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i found mine at a local Goodwill for $2 :-)
halimaw964 years ago
Great instructable on a cool camera. I would try these but I converted mine to a pinhole camera ^^ Is there any place where I can get these? My local thrift stores don't seem to have them right now.
I did the multi-exposure mod with a "Drakkar Noir" I picked up at Goodwill. Only real difference was that the viewfinder had walls in the inside. Instead of drilling through them I used a bobby pin I cut in half with pliers and superglued to the outside of the "wall" as close to the front as possible to have the floss loop around inside it to avoid the metal tabs the flash uses and then drilled a hole in the back next to the viewfinder. Works great.
Nano_Burger (author)  gamemasterful4 years ago
Drakkar Noir brings back memories from high school. Never realized they produced a promotional camera as well. Sounds like another great way to mod this type of camera!
Rofl, I'd never heard of the cologne, I just thought it sounded cool. So when I googled it after I bought it I was like, wtf, it's a camera! Not a cologne! C'mon google. Then I put two and two together and remembered that a lot of places jumped on the Life Magazine camera band wagon.
Nano_Burger (author)  gamemasterful4 years ago
Drakkar Noir has the sour smell of defeat and humiliation due to my lack of talent with the ladies in High School. A whiff of it still brings back the shame and frustration I felt. Probably not what the marketing folks were dreaming of when they named the stuff. I think my luck improved when I stopped wearing it!
Bluemini4 years ago
 Where can I buy the camera today, I can't find one on ebay
Nano_Burger (author)  Bluemini4 years ago
 If you have a burning desire to try this, e-mail me and I'll send you one.
this looks to be the same camera:
AT4 years ago
That is a very cool project.  The sad thing is that you can go buy a Minolta SRT-201 for about $20 or less these days and have a real SLR with self timer, shutter release, multiple exposure, etc...

What what looks more professional than a TIME magazine camera with these modifications.  Now if you can invent digital film!  ;-)
Nano_Burger (author)  AT4 years ago
 AT, I hear ya!  For me, the fun is getting inside technology, understanding it and improving it.     I own plenty of high tech cameras, but some of the most satisfying images I have produced are from these simple "toy" cameras.  I find the "craft" part of photography is half the fun.
AT Nano_Burger4 years ago
You are totally right.  Most of the fun in photography is how you get the picture vs. the picture itself.  Pinhole cameras, processing your own film and prints.  Can't do all of that with digital.

I purchaed my first camera in DC from a street vendor.  It was very tiny but it had real film in it.  I took some pictures and then we pulled the film out in a dark bathroom.  Mailed it in with the money and got back nothing.  No pictures.  But the camera was a good toy for many years.  It was about 1-1/2 inches wide and looked like a tinny SLR. Had an old Brownie that took 127.  A couple 110's.  A few 35mm's.  And the odd Polaroid, Canon, Olympus, Ricoh, etc...

Nothing like the smell of rotten eggs in the morning.  ;-)
minky884 years ago
 To AT:

in 1999 there was a proposal to introduce "digital film"

the model was called the EFS-1, if you google digital film EFS-1 it should come up, it looked like 35mm film canister and fit in the back of any 35mm camera.

pretty cool stuff, it would be nice if they re-released it for all of us manual types who still like to occasionally break out the old clunker camera, 

pretty fun project if you have the stuff lying around, 

keep having fun

Nano_Burger (author)  minky884 years ago
While searching for digital film I came up with this link:

It made it onto the top 15 technology disasters list for this magazine.  Stick with film...its a known and mature technology.
ak088204 years ago
Who shoots film anymore? This one is a little out of date!

Me, and I sell what I shoot when I do, too. Granted, I'm not making a living selling photographs, but hey. . .

mdeblasi14 years ago
This is one of the finest and  most cogent Instructables I have ever come across.  My hat is off to you.
Nano_Burger (author)  mdeblasi14 years ago
 Thanks!  I've been cutting up cheap cameras for years.  I'm glad that Instructables is here to share my misadventures with the "community."
Danielk4 years ago
For some easy lead weight, go to any tire shop and ask about acquiring yourself some stick on lead weights. they will probably give you a couple sticks for free.  
Nano_Burger (author)  Danielk4 years ago
 Even tire weights are going to zinc these days!  Probably a good thing.  But I'm sure there are a lot of lead weights out there so I'll try at the local tire shop.  Thanks for the tip!
SWV17874 years ago
wow it's like a disposable with lens attachments... I like it. plus if you damage it or loose it your out $2...
mrka4 years ago
Well done! Good to see the TMC gettin' some TLC.
fruitkid1014 years ago
Hey nice job! I'll try one or two of these with mine. I'll tell you the results!