Instamatic Film Camera



Introduction: Instamatic Film Camera

About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with!

Turn an old 126 film cartridge from an Instamatic into a digital camera and video recorder.

Anyone who was born in the 70’s (like me) will have photo albums full of old Instamatic and Polaroid photos. 

Instamatic cameras were known as point-and-shoot cameras.  They were inexpensive, easy to load, and simple to use.  Unfortunately it is very hard (but not impossible) to find film for these camera’s anymore.  The film used was known as 126 film.  It came in a cartridge which just slipped into the back of the camera, it was very simple to load and un-load.

The film is so scare now that if you check eBay for a used cartridge you’ll find that it is more expensive that an actual instamatic camera!  

Initially when I started this project I wanted to use an instamatic camera and hack it with a digital camera.  Once I purchased one from eBay and discovered film inside of it, I instantly changed my mind and decided to go with the 126 film canister instead. 

This isn’t a hard project, although some bits are a little fiddly and there is a fair bit of modding to do to the film canister.  The great thing is the digital camera that I used is very small and quite hardy.  I had to move it around a lot and use it as a template when deciding where to mod the canister, and it still works perfectly.

So if you’re interested in making your own – read on.

Step 1: Things to Gather

The great thing about this mod is it really only needs 3 things to build.

1. Digital Camera – eBay  These little camera's are labeled as 5mp.  I don't think they manage that but for their size the images turn out quite good and the video even better.  The video also has sound!

2. 126 Film canister – eBay

3. Male to male USB - eBay

1. Screwdriver

2. Soldering iron

3. Hot glue

4. Superglue

5. Stanley knife

6. Dremmel

7. Pliers

Step 2: Opening Up the Camera


1. First take the sticker off the front of the camera and un-screw the screw.

2. Remove the circuit board and battery from the case. 

3. De-solder the battery and add a couple of longer wires to each of the terminals.  The wires need to be about 50mm long.

Step 3: Opening the 126 Film


1. There are a couple of ways to open the film canister up – all aren't that straight forward.  The canister is held together by a couple of tabs along the top of the canister.  You need to first twist the canister a few times.  This could pop the tabs and it might open.  If it doesn't you’ll need to pry open with a small screwdriver.  You could also run a Stanley knife along the edge a couple of times which will help it open.

2. Once open remove the film but keep the piece that the film is rolled onto.

Step 4: Modding the Film Case - Front

Next step is to mod the film case so it can accommodate the digital camera.

1. Place the circuit board onto the front of the film case and work out where the best position is.  I decided not to use the hole in the front of the film case as it just wasn't in the right position.  I wish I couldn't have though!

2. Mark out where the lens will stick through the case, where the on/off and mode buttons will sit and when your happy with everything, start to cut the case.

3. Make small cuts first and keep on aligning the circuit board and lens up until it sits as flush as possible to the film case.

4. Cut some groves for the switches.

5.  Drill a small hole for the microphone.

6.  Drill another hole for the view finder.

Step 5: Modding the Film Case - Back

So now you have the front done – it’s time to do the back.

1. Remove the top part of the back of the case.  This will make things a lot easier

2. Mod and cut where necessary until it sits as flush as possible with the front of the case.  You will need to make small modifications and test until you are happy with the way it sits.

Step 6:

1. Next you need to add the USB extender to the camera.  Remove the plastic outside with a Stanley knife and attach.

2. You should be ready to now add the back of the case.  Put everything together, making sure it sits right, hot glue the circuit board into place and super glue it all together.

3. I next modified the film reel and added this to the top.  All I did was cut off an end and glue it on!

Step 7: Adding the Back.


1. Use a dremmel and trim the edge of the back of the camera’s casing.

2. Once you have it to the right size and it fits against the back nicely, hot glue into place.

3. Next hot glue the buttons onto the switches on the circuit board.  Be careful and don’t add too much glue or you’ll stick your buttons down!

Step 8: Finished

That’s it.  Your modded-film-canister-digital-camera is ready to go out in the world and amaze

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