Hacking the Walgreens Forever Camera for Near Free Film




Intro: Hacking the Walgreens Forever Camera for Near Free Film

The Walgreens forever camera is a disposable camera that you reuse over and over again.  After using up the film they include in the camera, you return the camera and get the film processed.  They load a new roll of film in the camera for free.  The deal is that as long as you bring the camera back to them for processing they'll put a new free roll inside.  The trick is that you can take the film out and put it in a different camera without much trouble.  This allows you to pay $2.15 + tax for film processing and a roll of 27 shot color 400 film.

Step 1: Wind the Film Back in the Cartridge

When you get the camera it will already be loaded with film.  The camera works opposite of how a normal 35mm film camera works.  With a 35mm camera you put the film in the canister holder then take take pictures and pull the film out of the canister to get to the next frame.  When you're done you wind the film back into the canister and take it out.  With the Forever Camera and many other disposable cameras the film in inserted, then wound out of the canister.  when you take pictures you're winding the film back into the canister. 
If you were to open the film door you'd expose the roll.  You need to "take" pictures and just obstruct the lens and make sure no light gets in.  After going through all 27 frames you'll get to the E in the frame counter on top of the camera.  Now the film is wound into the cartridge and ready to be removed.

Step 2: Put Film in Another Camera

After removing the film, put it in your favorite 35mm camera or whatever other photographic creation you have and shoot away.  You should get around 27 shots. 

Step 3: Return the Film

After completing your roll, take it out of the camera and stick it back in the Forever Camera.  There's no need to wind it or anything.  When you drop the camera off they'll open it up, put another roll in, and wind it out.  If they're busy you can try telling the person that you can just wind it, then you don't have to deal with the whole taking pictures into you jeans thing.  Or if the person looks like they usually don't work in the photo department just tell them you'll take care of installing it and they'll just hand you the cartridge.  The cheapest option is to just get negative made for $2.15 + tax.  The also offer printing and digital files of your pictures on a CD. 



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    16 Discussions

    I love the idea of saving money and recycling film - what a great combo. So I jumped on this Instructable as soon as I saw it. I got a Forever Camera, took all 27 blank shots, and successfully removed the little film roll thingy. But now I'm stuck, I can't find the slot on my Nikon Coolpix where the film roll thingy fits, so I can use it to take these free pictures. I've been all through the owners manual and searched the Nikon website, but I can't find any reference to how to do this. Do you have any ideas? I'm guessing this is some kind of Big Brother restriction that Nikon added to keep me from getting free pictures. Does anyone have a hack to get past this restriction? I'm pretty handy with a soddering iron and I'm not afraid of opening up my Nikon, I'm just not sure what needs to be modified...

    5 replies
    crazygMr. Potato Head

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    hello mr head ,the film goes behind the lens just pry it off with a screwdriver and that circit stuff behind is just nikons big brother copyright stuff so that can go. .the coolpix case is i guess a bit shallow so a cigarette packet should make a good extension in which to fit the film drill two 7mm holes in the top so you can add a wind on and rewind function a pencil in half should suffice for this.make a groove so in fits the canister thats the rewind pencil , the other end of the pencil tape the film to it thats the advance pencil. put some dark sponge near the pencil holes to keep light out.and gaffa around the seals for the same purpose.tape some sort of flap over the lens this will serve as a shutter. i suspect your focus sweet spot will be somewhere in the region of -1.5cm and 1cm. when processing is so cheap its only fair to experiment. i look forward to seeing your instructable .

    If you don't have your own film camera, just put your eternal film into a pinhole camera made from a gum or mint container. You can get the other, empty canister from your walgreens as well.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I went to Walgreens today to get one, but was told that they no longer sell the cameras and are stopping the Forever Camera service.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Never mind, it was just that location. I purchased one at another store today.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I actually work at walgeens and all you have to do is ask for the film to not be reloaded into the camera fully just bring the camera in with the film to get processed and ask for the film roll to put in your camera yourself. All we need to do is see the loyalty camera so we know you actually have one we dont care what camera u use it in


    7 years ago on Introduction

    P.S. Develop only is now 4.15, that's right, twice as much as before. But other places have raised their prices too, so it's probably still a good deal


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for telling me about this! I've done it twice already.

    If your film doesn't turn out, like if you put old film in there, they don't charge for dead rolls, so they'll just give you a new roll for free. So if you have some mystery rolls, at least some walgreens don't mind trading them for new film for free if there's nothing on there.

    It takes the walgreens employees a while to load the film and wind it for use, you can just say that you'll wind it yourself to save time and often they'll just give you the film and the camera.


    It bears experimental verification, but some of the plastic lenses are completely defect free and give surprisingly excellent results. Long ago before digital cameras existed in the consumer marketplace, throw away camera lenses began to be made on automated assembly lines with only jets of air to move the lenses about. No contact, no smudges or scratches during manufacturing. Pretty ingenious!

    I do still prefer my own SLR lenses to fixed focus. But then I still do my own film processing when I want something special!

    spark master

    8 years ago on Introduction

    err the idea is you wind the film into the cannister (with out exposing) , you then load it into a nice camera, then you reload it intothe forever camera, return it to get pics or cd's?

    the benefit is you pay 2.15 or the going rate for the film and processing and a set of prints? thanks


    2 replies