How to Modify a Polaroid Land Camera to Take 35mm Film




Introduction: How to Modify a Polaroid Land Camera to Take 35mm Film

About: Hi I am a sculpture major at VCU Arts and I love to create functional art pieces. Whether its wood, metal, or 3d printing I love to be challenged.

Yes you are probably wondering why I would do this, but It all started when I bought this camera off of Ebay for 20 bucks. I was buying it as a collectors item, but when I saw it i was dying to use it in some sort of way. It is too bad that polaroid stopped making the specific film for this camera around the 90s so I modified this camera to take normal 35 kodak roll film. 

I apologize if I have offended people by modifying this camera I am not trying to "Destroy history" I'm just trying to have fun with it. Thanks.

Step 1: Tools and Materials, What You Will Need:

Camera: a Polaroid land camera (mine is a model 150) 

1 piece of leather about a 1/16''
1 sheet of sticky foam paper
1 sheet of tin foil
2 sheets of plain paper
2 decorative knobs of your choice ( to advance and rewind film)
1 dowel: 3/8
1 piece of hard wood 2x2'', 8''
Saran wrap
polymer clay
black silk fabric
white glue (Elmer's or tacky) and old brush  to apply it with
strong glue (Gorilla, Wood glue)
1 roll of film (for measuring purposes)

sand paper
an awl (or something sharp and strong you can hit with a hammer[nail, screw])
a semi course round file
drill and pilot bits: 1/4, 3/8,  5/16,
1 small flat headed screwdriver
a fine ruler (goes up to 16th of an inch )
a squaring tool of some kind
a dremel and a bit to cut and sand metal 
safety glasses
X-acto blade 
1 sharp hand saw
air compressor or something to blow away metal shavings

Step 2: Figuring Out Your Design

Depending on the model of your land camera, you might have to modify  this design to work. I made a quick basic design of the main parts in this camera showing the additions to the camera and the basic principle of how it works. 
If you would like to explore a different design, there are a couple things to keep in mind:

making the camera totally light proof
blocking off all unwanted light
pressure plate is flush and pushing against the film to achieve a crisp picture and prevent leaking light
easy and efficient way to advance and rewind the film
otherwise go crazy

Step 3: Taking Out Unnecessary Pieces

First of all we need to get rid of the parts are not going to use. There are two pieces, one in the body and one on the door. 1st piece comes out simply with two little screws. Throw away the piece but Save The Screws! Light will leak through them when the camera is open. Once you take off the piece, screw the little screws back into their hole nice and tight.

The next piece isn't so easy, there are two brads in the center of the piece of metal that are holding it down. To remove this piece shove a thin screw driver under one side and twist it while applying pressure. Work your way around the brad until it pops off. Please be careful and Don't Shove The Screw Driver Through your Hand. After the tops of the brads have come off, you need to sand them down with sand paper or a dremel so they don't scratch the film.

The last part is to widen the spool holders to accommodate the spool we will make later. Make the opening 5/16" and 1/2" down from the edge of the camera using the dremel..(picture 7)

After both sides have been drilled, take the camera outside and blow it out with an air compressor to get the shavings out like in picture 8. Wear Safety Glasses!

Step 4: Making the Leather Piece

Next you need to section off the 4" by 5" inch hole to a 7/8" by 1 5/16" hole. Yes yes I know that this will cut off around 70% of the shot, but some is better than none. As long as your center the subject when you take the picture, it will come out fine.

So I am using leather because it is stronger and more light tight than paper, and more flexible than plastic. In order to prevent little pieces of leather getting in the camera all of the time, glue(with the white glue) the paper to the sued side of the leather. (it helps if you dilute the glue a bit with water so it goes on easier).
Then Put some heavy books on top of the leather so it doesn't curl up on itself and get wrinkly.

While it is drying, take 2 pieces of paper and cut one to fit over the hole to the edge.  Then cut a little piece of paper to be 7/8" tall by 1 5/16" wide. On the first sheet draw a strait line diagonally across the paper from corner to corner making an x. do the same on the little piece. after you have both x's poke a hole right where the two lines intersect (the center) on both sheets. Put them on top of each other and there you have it!. Trace around the outside of the small rectangle so its on one piece of paper. Now you have the standard negative size and it will be centered behind the lens.

Now that you have the measurements you can transfer it to the leather. Once you are confident with your measurements then you may cut it out. Use the X- acto knife and try to make the corners and lines as crisp and clear as possible.

For added pressure and better light proofing, stick a pice of the foam paper over the hole then cut out the excess to fit the hole. It only needs to be around a 1/2". Then its done!!

Step 5: Making the Film Holder

I thought for a long time about what I could use to make the film stay in place and then I finally thought to use polymer clay. 

First tape on the leather piece you just made for reference. Role out a long strip of Sculpey about 4 1/8" long and 2 3/4" wide and 1/2" thick. Then lay saran wrap into the hole so the clay doesn't stick to the metal and loose its shape when you pull it out. Once the saran wrap is in there, then lay the sculpy on top of it and fold the saran wrap back over the sculpy and push down using the film cartridge. Before you push! Pull out the film and make sure the cartridge is centered By using the film cartridge it creates nice spot for it to sit later on. Do not push the cartridge down to far! If you do then the crank won't fit or spin into the cartridge.

When everything fits like a glove Carefully pull the clay out by the saran wrap. Set on a balled up piece of tin foil so it doesn't loose its shape in the oven when you bake it. Put the tin foil on a baking pan and put it in the oven for 20 min.

After you have baked the clay put it in the camera and make sure it still fits. If it does great and if not you can shave parts down with the X-acto knife. It should sit snug but not too snug when you cover it, it won't fit. 

After the piece fits nice and snug cover it with fabric. Apply glue with a brush and start with the inside where the film sits. Use the cartridge  to push down the fabric against the clay so it sticks nicely. Let that dry then pull it around the back. When it is all dry trim the excess to fit. 

Step 6: Making the Left Side Crank

This is probably one of the most important parts we are going to add to the camera, the crank. Start off with the 3/8" dowel and cut it to 1 3/4". In order to turn the film, the dowel needs to be able to fit inside the cartridge. With a hand saw cut about 1/4" down the middle of the dowel to get a slot. Clean the cut up with sand paper and then you are good. 
Get the knob of your choice and with the 3/8" bit drill a hole in the center of the knob so the dowel can fit right in. Do not glue it yet.

Step 7: Left Side Hole

This is a very very very tricky step and you can misplace your hole very easily. First thing to do is measure the hight off of the top of the dowel if it were to be sticking out of the bottom of the cartridge. I made a little piece just to measure from. once you have the hight measure it down from the top on the other side. Then use a square to split a line down the center of the dowel and strait down the bottom of the camera.

Once it is all measured Take The Clay Piece Out or you might catch it with the drill by accident. After thats out take an awl or something sharp and strong you can hit with a hammer. I used a screw because t hat's all I had.  I believe that the body is made out of aluminum so it is not terribly hard to drill a hole if you have the right bits. Now you have a small dent so you can see where to drill. Shut the camera and stand it up on end when you drill the hole.

Wear Safety Glasses! The metal shavings fly and you don't want one to go in your eye. 

After you break through, clean the hole with the round file to make it neat and smooth. Put the dowel in the hole and make sure it fits and spins with ease. If not file some more its ok if the hole is too big you can fix it later.

Step 8: Light Proofing the Left Side Hole

So after you drilled the hole cut a piece of leather about 3/4"x 1/2". You can either cut the hole before you glue it to the camera or after it is up to you they both work. Cut the hole about a 1/16 too small so that it stretches around the dowel for a tight seal. After the hole is cut glue the same black fabric to the back of the leather. once it dries force the dowel through the leather like in pictures 6 and 7. Make Two of these, one for the inside one outside.

Because the metal has a funny bend and gets thinner for some reason we need to put a little piece of leather there so the other inside piece is flush and tightly sealed.
When you are happy with your piece dampen them lightly put the gorilla glue on them and clam away. Do Each  Piece of Leather Separately Be Patient! This part needs to dry fully! it takes the most stress of anything on the camera and its a weird glue, leather to aluminum. when it is dry put the clay piece back in, force the dowel in and you are almost ready to get cranking.

Step 9: Making the Top Dowel

This dowel can really be a piece of anything. I used some old wood I turned for fun. Put the cartridge in and measure from the top of it the to top of the camera and cut the dowel to fit. Once again there is the weird bend in the metal at the top of the camera this time. So we need to compensate by cutting half of the dowel a 1/16" shorter like in picture 2. Gorilla glue it to the aluminum and clamp it for a strong fit.

Step 10: Making the Right Side Spool

I started with a 2x2  6" long  piece of hard wood and turned it down to 5/16" on the sides the middle 1/2" and the thickest parts  5/8". If you don't know how to turn wood and need this piece maybe get a friend to do for you or teach you how.

sorry I don't have a picture of the finished project until its in the camera i was in a bit of a rush and experimenting.  go by the last picture for the final look.

once you have the spool turned and finished make sure it fits in your groves you made.

Step 11: Right Side Hole

This hole is practically the same in how you drill it, but it is in a different place. Because we measured earlier that from the side of the camera to the top of the grove it is 1/2" measure down and make it. After measure across the groove find the center and trace it up and over until it intersects the other line you drew. 

Thats how u measure it just drill the hole and hopefully it will come right in between the bottom groove.

When the hole is drilled and cleaned shove that spool right on in there and make sure it fits.
To make the knob do the same exact thing except use a 5/16 drill bit. 

Once the top fits securely, light proof the hole the same way with the leather and fabric,  Except only put leather on the outside of the hole not the inside there is nowhere for it to go.

When it is all dry cut the hole put the spool in and glue the knob on and you are done!

Step 12: Conclusion

I am very happy with how the camera came out I have tested it and it does work with the correct exposure settings. It was a lot of fun to make and I love using it. It'll bring a lot of attention when you pull out this camera for a shot.

I hope you liked and found my intractable helpful its my first so please go easy on me. Thanks for reading! 
Happy Shooting!

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    11 years ago on Introduction

    Very cool. I have an old 800 I was thinking of using for cyanotypes, but I might try this instead. I would really love to see some examples of pictures you've taken with this rig.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    I'm currently doing some thing similar only going the way of 120 film and pano(ish) format :D

    How do you count the frames?


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Cool! Post an instructable when you are finished! What I did was after I developed film from my nikon film camera, I didn't cut the negative into strips instead I left it long to measure the frame's distance. I then put the negative back in the canister and into the camera. I pulled the film across and attached the negative to the spool using as little of the negative as possible (because the distance is much greater in this camera than most average film cameras so it won't be exact.) I then found a certain amount the knob needs to be turned for it to advance almost exactly. I drew a line on the knob so I knew how far I was turning it. Because there is no sprocket it is difficult to get the same distance every time. I just keep turning until it’s taught and the knobs don’t spin anymore.
    ps sorry for the late response


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    If this is late, you should see some of the forum replys I'we gotten :P (2 years after the original post)

    Your measuring method is much the same i used for my (failed) lomolubitel 120-135 conversion.

    I'm just wondering, why frame it as a normal ish 35? the lens should cover a good bit length wise on a 35mm at least 12cm on the role at a time, my lomo gave me about 6cm.
    Then again i suffer form a major pano fetish ;)



    12 years ago on Introduction

    Very nice conversion! I'd like to see some output though, should have some interesting optical effects with the smaller filmback.


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Makes me wonder what it takes to convert one of these to digital.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    thanks, but probably an image processor and a lot of brains


    12 years ago on Introduction

    Nice project. FWI, they actually used to sell 35mm adapters for 2 1/4 (70mm) roll cameras, although I've never seen one for a polaroid. The adapters were probably marketed because Kodachrome was such a big hit initially, and wasn't available in the larger format at first...

    I certain used to use a polaroid back for my medium format cameras, so it's fun to see something in the opposite direction.

    It will be interesting to see where the 35mm format goes in the 10-20 years, given that it's rising cost and shrinking availability means it's likely to be used mostly by artists, rather than commercial photogs or consumers...