Resurrect a Polaroid Land Camera




Introduction: Resurrect a Polaroid Land Camera

About: My name is Randy and I am a Community Manager in these here parts. In a previous life I had founded and run the Instructables Design Studio (RIP) @ Autodesk's Pier 9 Technology Center. I'm also the author of t…

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.

Step 1: Find a Camera

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."

Step 2: Get Film

While it is true that Polaroid stopped making film for their camera, it is also true that other companies historically have made instant film, and have continued to do so. While no company continues to manufacture it, as of today (1/30/2018), you can still buy film online.

The last company to manufacture film for Polaroid Land Cameras was Fujifilm who discontinued 4.25" x 3.25" instant film ("pack film") in 2017. While there is demand and interest in seeing pack film continue, there has yet to be anyone willing to take on the challenge. The technology for making this type of film would have to be invented from scratch, and this is both costly and tim consuming.

Nevertheless, for the time being, you can still purchase unexpired FP-100C pack film from various vendors (while supplies last!). This is a color film. All black and white pack film was unfortunately discontinued a couple of years ago.

Note that the product number correlates directly to ISO film speed.

Also, please note that some of the links on this page may contain affiliate links. This does not change the price of the item for sale.

Step 3: The Camera and Its Accessories

The camera I found was a Polaroid 250 Land Camera. This is one of the higher-end models and boasts a Zeiss-Ikon rangefinder, all-metal body, and 3-element glass lens. It was manufactured between 1967 and 1969.

Along with the camera I got:
- the #322 Polaroid Camera Case
- an instruction manual
- a Cold-Clip
- the #128 development timergg
- the #268 flashbulb unit
- (x5) M3 flashbulbs
- obsolete print ordering cards

I will go more into detail about all of these accessories later (except the ordering cards).

Step 4: The Battery

The battery used by this land camera is the #531 4.5V alkaline battery. This battery is expensive and kind of a pain to get a hold of.

Instead, I highly recommend converting the camera to work on AAA batteries (see the next 5 steps).

To find out what type of battery your land camera needs, check out the Land List.

Keep in mind that every A-series battery is 1.5V and this voltage adds up when you put batteries in series (such as in a battery holder). So, if you need a 4.5V battery, that will be three AAA batteries and a 3V battery would translate to two AAA batteries.

Step 5: Battery Upgrade

To upgrade the battery pack you will need:

- 3 - AAA battery holder (3V cameras require a 2 - AAA holder)
- A few inches of wire
- Soldering setup
- Wire strippers
- Phillips screwdriver
- Electrical tape

Step 6: Out With the Old

Remove the old battery if it is still in there. Then, remove the battery holder by unscrewing it.

Finally, break away any plastic tabs that were supporting the old battery holder.

Be careful not to cut the battery connector wires.

Step 7: In With the New

The battery holder pictured here is a modified 4 x AAA battery holder, which was not quite right. The linked 3 X AAA battery holder is better. However, to make it work, a red wire must be soldered to the metal bump on the top of the battery holder, and a black wire to the flat tab on the bottom.

Once these wires are soldered, trim away the ground (black) connector from the camera, leaving as much wire intact as possible. Strip a little of this wire's jacket away to expose the conductive core. Solder the black wire from the camera together with the black wire from the battery holder.

Repeat this process with the white wire and the red wire.

When you are done, insulate each solder joint separately with electrical tape.

Step 8: Power

Install the new AAA batteries and close up the battery compartment. These batteries should last a long time. You will take hundreds of pictures before you need to worry about replacing them.

Step 9: Remove the Cover

Removing the camera cover is simple.

First lift the top up over the viewfinder and rotate it forwards to expose the front of the camera.

Next, to detach it completely, press up on the silver tab keeping the cover connected to the bottom of the camera.

Step 10: Inspect and Clean the Rollers

Before you load the film for the first time, you want to inspect the rollers on the inside of the camera that are used to disperse the developer.

First, open the back door of the camera all the way. There should be a switch on the bottom right-hand side to release the door.

You should then see the rollers right next to the door where the film is pulled out of. The rollers can be released for inspection by pulling the red metal tab located on their side.

Make certain that they are not badly scratched or dented. If they are, they will need to be replaced as this will cause the photo to come out corrupted and/or the film to jam and leak into the camera.

If they are merely dirty, this is a bit easier to deal with. They will simply need to be cleaned with a soft damp rag. Do not use any solvents or cleaning products when doing this.

When you are certain the rollers are smooth and clean, then you are ready to move on.

Step 11: Load the Film

Loading the film is easy.

Simply drop the pack in such that the notched side is facing up and the black tab is sticking over the side of the camera. The pack should be lying flatly in place.

Before you close the case, make certain that the white tabs are not stuck under the film pack.

Make sure the black tab is coming out of the small slot on the side and then close the case by pressing firmly on the top and bottom.

Pull on the black tab until it is entirely out of the camera. This should advance the white tab labeled "1" through the small slot. This indicates that the film was loaded right and the first picture is ready to go.

Step 12: Film Speed Settings

Setting film speed is accomplished by adjusting the round knob below the lens on the front of the camera.

If you are working with 3000 speed film, you will want to set this to 3000.

If you are working with 100 speed film, you will want to set it to 75. This will let in a little too much light for the film speed, but can be compensated for by adjusting the aperture to be darker.

Step 13: Lighting Selector

The lighting selector specifies to the camera what type of film is being used and how large the aperture should be.

It is important to set the Lighting Selector correctly.

Unless you are using 3000 speed film outdoors or with a flash, you will always want the 75,150, and 300 Speed column to "Bright Sun, Dull Day and Also Flash" (this will also set the 3000 speed column to "Indoors without flash").

Step 14: Adjust the Exposure Settings

The camera's aperture can be adjusted by turning the ring around the lens. If you want to darken the film, move the dot towards "Darken." It goes to follow that you would move the dot towards "Lighten" if you want to lighten the film.

I recommend setting the aperture to neutral until you know how your pictures are coming out.

Step 15: Extend the Bellows

To extend the bellow, press upwards on the focusing button that is labeled with a "1" and an arrow pointing upwards.

While pressing up on this button, pull the camera front outwards until it locks in place.

Step 16: Timing the Film

Timing the film is critical when working with pack film. The development time for each particular film is specified on a chart on the packaging. This chart will give the proper development time based on ambient temperature of your environment.

If you have a timer, set it according to the development time specified on the film box.

For instance, at 86 degrees, FP-100C has a 75 second development time, at 68 degrees it drops to 120, and at 50 degrees, it recommends 270.

It is generally recommended that you don't shoot below 60 degrees using color film, or if you do, use a Cold-Clip (more on that later).

Also to note is that black and white film (FP-100B and FP-3000B) have considerably shorter development time than color film.

Lastly, if you are shooting below 60 degrees you will want to move the aperture dial slightly towards lighten and if shooting over 80 degrees, you might want to consider moving it a notch towards darken.

Step 17: Focus on the Subject

Look through the viewfinder and push/pull the focusing bar back and forth until your subject is in focus.

As a general rule, if your subject is between 3-1/2 to 5 feet set it to the portrait. If the subject is between 5 and 10 feet, set it to the group setting. If it is greater than 10 feet, set it to landscape.

Step 18: Arm the Shutter

Push down on the shutter lever until it locks in a "down" position. The shutter is now armed and ready to take a picture.

Step 19: Take a Picture

To take a picture, press down on the big red button labeled "2". This will release the shutter.

Step 20: Expose the Film

To start exposing the film, first pull firmly on the white numbered tab until it is completely out of the camera.

This should then expose the picture tab from the long camera slot.

Hold the camera horizontally with your left hand and pull the film tab firmly and at a moderate speed with your right hand. Pulling it should take no more than a second or two. Make certain that you pull the film straight out of the camera. If you pull it at an angle, you risk damaging the picture and getting gunk on the rollers (which can damage additional pictures). Additionally, if you pull it too fast, you will get white specks all over your image. Next time, pull it slower.

Once the picture has passed through the rollers and is outside of the camera, development has started. Immediately start the timer if you have one. If you don't, start counting in your head or aloud.

When the development time is up, peel apart the development sheet from the image sheet. Be careful not to get any of the developer chemicals on your hand. If you happen to, wash your hands off with water.

Throw away the development sheet and let the film dry off for a few minutes before you handle it. As general practice, it is good to avoid touching the picture's surface even when dry.

Step 21: The Cold-Clip for Color Film (optional)

As the temperature goes down, the developer chemicals slow down and development time increases (especially in color film).

If the temperature drops below 60 degrees and you are using color film, you will want to use the Cold Clip.

The Cold Clip is basically a metal clip that you keep in a inner pocket to keep it warm.

When you are developing a color picture in a cold location (or you have been in a cold location for a while and have recently moved to a warmer spot), you will want to use the cold clip to warm up the photograph as it develops.

Basically, pull the photo out of the camera as you normally would then, within 10 seconds, fold it inside of the cold clip with the tab sticking out the top. Then, simply, place it back in your pocket and wait about 60-90 seconds. Actual development time depends on how hot you are. I'll leave this up to you to decide.

*Note: The Cold-Clip should never be used with black and white film.

Step 22: Compress the Bellows

Press down on the bar labeled "Press to close".

Simultaneously push the front panel of the camera back towards the body of the camera until it is locked into place.

Step 23: Common Photo Errors and Solutions

White image - This probably means that you are shooting with 3000 speed film at too slow of a film speed. Try setting it to 3000 speed and see if this corrects the problem.

Black image - This means no light got to the film. The typical cause for this is that the shutter did not open. Perhaps the camera batteries have died. Try replacing them and see if that helps. If this does not help, check to make sure the battery pack connection to the camera has not come loose. If still no luck, set the film speed to 75 and the environment type to indoors. Trigger the shutter and listen for it click. If it does not click, then the shutter is broken and needs to be repaired.

White specks - You have pulled the picture out of the camera too fast. Slow down.

Too dark - The aperture needs to be rotated towards lighten.

Too light - The aperture needs to be rotated towards darken.

Undeveloped U-Shape - This is caused by pulling the film too slowly, dirt on the rollers, or the white tab being folded over the film pack. Next time pull the film faster and make sure the white tabs are not pushed into the camera (but don't open the film compartment!). If it persists, clean the rollers when the pack of film is used up.

Muddy print - You did not let the film develop long enough.

Undeveloped edge - The film was pulled out of the camera at an angle and the developer was not spread evenly. Next time pull the film straight out of the camera.

Edges very dark - This is caused when shooting in bright sunlight and using 3000 speed film with the lighting selector set to "Indoors without flash." Simply change this to "Outdoors or flash."

Step 24: Flash Photography

The Land Camera is an m-sync camera and was designed to be used with M3 flash bulbs. It even has a state of the art (for 1967) electronic light meter for sensing the flash and timing the shutter for optimal exposure.

Unlike later Polaroid cameras, it was not at all designed to be used with electronic flashes. However, with a little bit of an ingenuity, you can get it to work with manual electronic flashes.

Step 25: Flash Bulbs

The flash unit for this camera uses M3 flash bulbs and it is recommended that you use the clear tinted M3 bulbs and not the blue tinted M3B bulbs, as the #268 flash unit already has a blue plastic shield and this will under-expose the film. However, you can compensate for this by setting the aperture towards lighten.

Other flash bulbs should also fit into the #268 flash unit, such as M5 and M2 bulbs. Keep in mind that they produce different amounts amount of light than M3 bulbs and you should adjust the aperture to compensate.

All of that said, no one manufactures flash bulbs anymore, but you can buy them online or find them at garage / estate sales. Unlike Polaroid film, you don't need to worry about flash bulbs expiring. However, you do want to check old flash bulbs for dents or scratches because surface damage will make it more likely to break when you use it.

Keep in mind that flash bulbs are one-time use only because the filament burns out after the first exposure. So, every time you want to take a flash picture, you will need a new bulb.

Needing a new obsolete bulb for every picture is what makes electronic flashes so appealing, but they have their own set of problems (which will be addressed a little later).

Step 26: Replace the Flash Battery

The #268 flash unit uses a single AA battery.

To replace the battery, remove the two screws from the bottom and take off the lid.

Pull out the old battery, stick in the new one, and close it back up.

Step 27: Using a Flash Bulb

Make certain your flash unit has the plastic cover still intact. This is important because flash bulbs (especially old flash bulbs) have a tendency to burst and you wouldn't want to send glass flying everywhere. If the cover is broken, consider covering the bulb with a clear sheet of plexiglass. Do not use the flashbulb if there is not a solid cover.

Attach the flash bulb unit to the camera by hooking it to the top of the camera and pressing the button in to extend the the gripping edge. When pressed down atop the camera, release the button and the gripping edge will hold it in place.

Plug in the PC adapter to the front panel of the camera.

Fold down the protective cover and insert an M3 bulb into the socket. Fold the protective cover back up.

Set the lighting selector appropriately for flash photography based on your film speed (this is the yellow selector boxes on the top of the front panel of the camera).

Once everything is set, take a picture as you normally would.

When you are done, press the red button on the flash to release the bulb from the socket. Check to make sure that the bulb hasn't broken, then open the protective cover, and then throw the bulb away (if it is broken, obviously be more careful).

Unplug the PC cord when you are done using the flash. If it is left plugged in, all subsequent pictures will come out over-exposed.

Step 28: Electronic Flashes

Electronic flashes don't particularly work well (or at all) with Polaroid Land Cameras. The reason for this is that the camera has a 0.26 second (26 millisecond) delay between the flash being triggered and the shutter opening. This delay accounts for the time it takes for an m-series flash bulb to illuminate. This is called m-sync.

However, electronic flashes do not have delay. This means that as soon as you press the photo button, the flash goes off, and then, 0.26 seconds later the shutter opens. By the time the shutter has opened, the flash has already began to decay (or left town entirely).

This is particularly a problem if you are using the specialty PC adapter designed to work with the camera's flash unit. The PC adapter for Land Cameras have a special plastic tab which push a cover inside of the camera out of the way to expose a special photo meter. This is used by the camera for metering the intensity of the flash, and adjusting the exposure of your picture. If you use this option and flash goes off right away, the shutter will remain open too long because it is waiting for the flash of light that has already occurred. Obviously, this will over-expose the picture.

The two ways to get around this is to:

1) Not use the special PC adapter that activates the light meter and just use the electronic flash as-is. This might work with some flashes, but is not a perfect solution, as the lighting from the flash may be unevenly distributed throughout the picture.

2) Modify the flash to have a slight delay to account for the delay in the shutter. You can then use the specialized PC adapter. In my opinion, this is the best solution.

Step 29: Electronic Flash M-sync Hack

If you are going to want to properly use an electronic flash with a Land Camera, you will not to hack the flash to be compatible with m-sync.

A full guide to doing this can be found in this Instructable.

Step 30: Electronic Flash Mount

Land Cameras do not have any sort of native electronic flash mount.

You can build an electronic flash mount as specified in this Instructable.

Step 31: Using the Electronic Flash

To use the electronic flash, mount it to the camera as you would the flash bulb unit.

Make sure that the cable from the flash is connected to the mounting base by the 3/32" cable, and plug the special Polaroid adapter cable into the camera.

Turn on the electronic flash and take a picture as you normally would.

When you are done, don't forget to unplug the flash from the camera, or this will keep the light meter and/or flash active and ruin further pictures.

Step 32: One Step Beyond!

I have taken you as far as I can and you should by now be able to competently operate the camera.

It is now up to you to go out into the world and use it!

So... go forth into the world and start taking pictures. Keep track of what you are doing. Learn from both your accomplishments and mistakes. Most importantly, have fun!

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Reply 6 weeks ago

hey you the man i need to talk to

iv got one in mint condition imean better then mint like just from the factory condition
bellows.. wat can i do to keep them in this condition .... if you dont open them when u do they crack ... not even shure wat they made of any suggestions tips .. pls and thanks in advance...


Reply 6 weeks ago

- Keep your camera in a room that has a fairly consistent, cool temperature.
- Open, close, and work through the mechanicals at least once every two weeks (I call this "exercising" my collection)

I hope this helps

Der Fürst
Der Fürst

7 months ago

Great tutorial!

SUPERSENSE is currently manufacturing the only Type 100 Packfilm in the world these days - called ONE INSTANT. There is both color and b&w. They're using old Polaroid materials from the 20x24 Studio and hand-assembling paper cartridges. SUPERSENSE is in Vienna, Austria and is the passion project of Impossible Project founder Florian 'Doc' Kaps.

Check it out here ->


Question 9 months ago on Step 32

HI! Anyone know any place to get film these days?
Thanks in advance!

Der Fürst
Der Fürst

Answer 7 months ago


SUPERSENSE in Vienna, Austria is currently manufacturing the only Type 100 Packfilm in the world these days - called ONE INSTANT. There is both color and b&w, and they're using old Polaroid materials from the 20x24 Studio and hand-assembling paper cartridges.

Check it out here ->




5 years ago

I was a camera technician for Strauss Photo Technical Service in Norfolk, Va. the year this camera came out. I specialized in all polaroid, eastman kodak an 35 mm camera's. One major thing was left out when explaining operation an upgrade on this camera that is extremely impotant if ur going to take pictures after ur purchase. Before buying this camera or any other camera with BELLOWS, you must open it up with bellows extended out, open up the back of camera and hold up against light to make sure there r no light leaks coming thru. the corners of the bellows. This is a common problem with age an use of camera. Light leaks will affect the quality of picture. If buying just for a collectable it doesn't matter. I'm a big fan of analog photos and would advise anyone who can get their hands on a polaroid to grab it while it is cheap. keep analog alive, it's a lot of FUN!!???


Reply 5 years ago

If anyone needs help with advice or repair on their polaroid camera, i can help. Will send you my e-mal address!!?analog??


Reply 4 years ago

I'm very impressed that you actually worked at Strauss Photo Techenical Service! They were for MANY years one of the Polaroid factory authorized repair centers. My question is: do you know of anyone who does service on SX-70 and Spectra cameras who is trustworthy (that means someone from the old days who REALLY knows what they're doing). The last place I knew of was PhotoTech in NYC, but their Polaroid technician recently retired so I need to find another.


Reply 2 years ago

Retrospekt is the company Polaroid Originals refers you to for repairs. My SX-70 Model 2 in currently en route to them for a complete rebuild & refurbishment. They have great reviews, and good prices.


2 years ago

Hello, friend.
I just bought a Land 420 to use it with photo paper instead of pola film. I am having trouble with the .26ms delay of a very little but effective Panasonic PE-145f lash (it fires).
Would the Neewer TT560 Speedlight Flash be suitable to do the job without hacking?Or can you recommend me a specifica flash to do the job nowadays? I love this camera. It's indeed a Large Format one.


Question 3 years ago

I recently purchased a 180 and when I checked the battery compartment the battery holder and wires were completely gone. Is it possible to rewire them and how would I do so?


Answer 3 years ago

Yes. It is possible, but I do not entirely know how. You would need to disassemble the camera and find the two spots on the circuit board the initial wires were attached to and rewire them.


Question 4 years ago

Now I’ve got a problem. My second click is not here, but I see something strange with the aperture. My 103 land camera looks like the photo i’ve attached. It’s correct or something is missing? Firt ones: from the interior, shoot prepared and after shutting.last one: after shooting.

Moreover, when I turn the darken/lighten dial nothing changes. I HEAR how something is moving in the interior, but I can’t SEE nothing (note that I don’t have paper and I try to do comprovations before buying it). How does it work that?

In some sense, I feel like the shutter opens and close very fast. It seems that the electronic eye don’t run properly and close inmediatly when I press the shutter button.
It’s because when I do a photo, with the paper door open and the face very near of the camera, i think I can look some kind of light for a moment, but it’s so fast to get sure about what appens...



Answer 4 years ago

I can't check what my shutter looks like on the inside because I have film in it. However, I took a picture of what it looks like from the outside.

You should be hearing two clicks. One when you press the trigger, and another when the shutter closes. As you mentioned, a good way to force the shutter to stay open is to cover the light meter with your finger. On the first click, the shutter should open, and when you remove your finger, on the second click, the shutter should close.

If the shutter is not opening, you have a problem that I am honestly not 100% sure how to debug. That said, the first thing I would try is to make sure that the battery is new and that all of the wire connections from the battery to the circuit are good. Beyond that, I don't know what to do.


Reply 4 years ago

I have disassembled the front part of the camera, the problem is that the shutter not remains opened. With the lever both parts of the shutter(one metal with a hole and another without it) remains open, and when click the button then both parts close together. The electro-magnet don’t attract and retain the metal without a hole as it must do.

Or the magnet don’t work properly, or the electric eye don’t do it. I think that the problem is the light sensor or the capacitor that works wrong.

I have put connections directly to te circuit near the electric eye, where the wires of the battery connect to the circuit.


Reply 4 years ago

I've read that it is the timing capacitor that corrupts on the circuit board for these cameras. So, it is possible that might be the issue.

You should be able to tell whether or not the solenoid / electromagnet is working by briefly applying power directly to it.

If the mechanical shutter is broken, I am not sure how to fix it.


Reply 4 years ago

Ok, but I don’t know how much power I can give to the solenoid without burning the wires to it, they are thin as a hair.

About the capacitor, do you know where I can find the capacitance? In the side I can see there is no information... It’s the green pill in the last photo.


Reply 4 years ago

Very gently lift up the capacitor and see if there are marking on the underside. Some multimeters also have the ability to read capacitance. You could also try Google image searching for "Land Camera schematic."

I'm guessing for the electromagnet that you can apply 1V - 4.5V to the spot on the board where those wires are connected. Start with the lower voltage and slowly work your way up. In theory, the magnet should magnetize and stick to things at a low voltage, albeit, it might not engage the mechanism.


Tip 4 years ago

Someone told me that to be sure to ear the second click when trying to do a photo, you have to, without paper (or with) put a finger in the electronic eye, press the shutter (first click) and then release the finger on the electronic eye. Then the light activates the second click.