It happens to all of us....you find this cool looking Polaroid camera in a thrift shop for fifty cents - buy it - only to find out that the film is long discontinued and stuff that is available is probably bad and the stuff that is known good is outrageously expensive.
Well, maybe this only happens to me...??
The camera in question is the Polaroid Electric Zip in blue (they came in patriotic colors...red, white, blue and black). Although some ridged body Polaroid cameras could take both 100 and 80 series pack film, the entire Zip line was meant for 80 series packfilm only.
For those of you unfamiliar with the ins and outs of packfilm, the 80 series film was more square than the rectangular 100 series film. The key distinction however is that the 80 series film was discontinued when Polaroid went belly up whereas 100 series packfilm is still made by Fujifilm.
I wanted to convert the camera to sheet film, however considering the number of death threats I got from previous Polaroid to regular film conversions, I elected to stay "Instant."
In this Instructable, we will convert a Polaroid Electric Zip from 80 series packfilm to 100 series packfilm.
* "Packtastic" is the registered trademark of the Film Photography Project, Michael Raso - Benevolent Overlord.
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Step 1: Camera Overview/Stuff You Will Need
The Electric Zip was a consumer grade Polaroid camera popular in the 1970's. Many survive to this day in thrift shops and junk drawers around the world. The front standard works probably as well as the day it was manufactured, however the plastic that makes the body has grown brittle with age. I imagine that the plasticisers have evaporated. Perhaps some armor-all would revitalize it a little?
Luckily, cyanoacrylate glue works wonders on the broken plastic pieces.
The camera is built along the same lines as other packfilm cameras, but takes the square 80 series film exclusively. This is a problem since Polaroid has stopped producing the film and current stocks are deteriorating quickly. To use this camera as I intend, I'll have to convert it to the readily available 100 series packfilm that is still made by Fujifilm.
For this instructable you ill need:
1. An Electric Zip camera (this modification will probably work with any 80 series film camera made by Polaroid).
2. One or more packs of Fujifilm 100 series pack film.
3. Small format pliers like needle nose.
4. Razor knife, box cutter, exacto knife (any one).
6. Rotary tool (optional).
7. Cyanoacrylate glue (superglue) if you break any plastic piece as I did.
8. 45~60 minutes of time.
Step 2: Modify the Camera
The purpose of this modification is to create more room in the camera in which the longer 100 series film will seat. To do this, we'll remove the old 80 series film stop and take out the plastic ridges meant for the old film.
1. Open the back of the camera and remove the back portion by lifting up on one of the tabs and ease off the back. This is an optional step as you can do everything with it on. Removal makes the process easier, but I also snapped off the tab doing it. You can glue it back on, but it might just be best to leave well enough alone.
2. Locate the black 80 series film stop. It is black with white writing. Wiggle the plastic back and forth until it loosens. You might hear some cracking as the plastic breaks away from the camera. Recycle the stop.
3. Once the stop is gone, examine the area that the stop covered. You will see some ridges (again to stop the 80 series film) that must be taken out before the new film pack will lay flat. You can use a dremel too to grind them down or use a pair of pliers to break out the ridges.
4. If you took off the back, you can now put it back on by carefully bending the hinge tabs and easing it back on the camera.
OK, you are done with the camera. If you check an old 100 series cartridge, you will notice that it almost fits. Maybe an extra 5mm would make it fit snugly. We'll take care of that in the next step.
Step 3: Modify the Film Pack
Now the pack will almost fit. To make up the last 5mm, we will cut the plastic on the pack itself. You will have to do this with every pack of film you use. Luckily, Fujifilm long changed from metal to soft plastic film holders, so the operation is fairly simple.
1. Open a new pack of 100 series film. On the front of the pack, locate the rectangle raised off the plastic. Use this as a guide for your cut.
2. Use a ruler and razor knife (exacto) to deeply score the plastic on the film pack. Don't cut all the way through or you will risk damage to the film.
3. Once you are satisfied with the scoring, score the sides of the pack from your line straight down.
4. Once all is scored, break off the plastic with a pair of pliers. Recycle the small strip of plastic.
5. Insert the pack into the camera. It should fit snugly.
Now that the pack fits, it should act just like any other pack camera.
Step 4: Operation, Sample Photos, Issues
The camera will operate just like any other pack film camera. I'll go over the steps below, but if you are familiar with pack cameras, you know the drill.
1. Seat the film into the back of the camera and swing the back closed. It will look like paper is caught half in and half out of the camera - this is normal. Swing the metal wire and snap into place.
2. Pull the dark slide paper firmly. It will slide out and a small white tab with the exposure number will be revealed where the dark slide was.
3. Adjust the ISO switch to the ISO of the film you are using (either 75 or 3000).
4. If you feel it is too dark for your film, attach a flash cube (not a magic cube). Snap the cube in and wind the cube clockwise until it stops. The cube will rotate to a fresh bulb with every photo.
5. Ensure the shutter release is not locked (on the open padlock icon).
6. Compose and take your photo by gently squeezing the shutter release.
7. You can create a double exposure (or triple or quadruple) by simply repeating step 6. If you don't want to, continue to the next step.
8. Firmly pull the white, numbered tab all the way out. A new tab will take its place.
9. You will notice a wider tab appearing to the rear of the first. This is your actual photo.
10. Firmly pull the wide photo tab in one motion completely out of the camera.
11. Wait for the film/print sandwich to develop. There is a development time guide right on the photo pull tab.
12. After the wait, peel the print away from the negative and enjoy the warm feeling of creativity.
13. Once the print dries (a few minutes), you can put it away for future enjoyment.
14. Traditionally, the negative is tossed in the garbage, but you may decide to keep it for further processing. All sorts of fun stuff can be done with the negative (just use da'google).
Issues: Using this pack film in a camera for which it is not designed, you can expect some "issues." Here are the ones I have encountered:
a. A black (unexposed) bar on the right hand side of the photo. This is to be expected as the original format was square and we are using rectangular film. This will happen to every photo, so plan your composition accordingly.
b. Developing reagent (goo) spreading problems. Even with a nice firm pull, the goo does not seem to get to the corners of the photo. I've tried manual spreading with my fingers after the photo was pulled, but that left artifacts on the print. This is fresh film, so I can not blame it on dried up reagent. It happens more or less (less with a nice firm pull) with every print, so I plan my composition accordingly. Once I'm through with this pack, I'll examine in interior and see I I can spot the culprit.
Conclusion: Don't let your Electric Zip sit on its lazy butt in retirement -- put in a little work and have it start making Packtastic* images once again.
Step 5: Update
Although I have not fixed the goo spreading problem, a work around will solve the problem for the most part. I was able to get full goo coverage by rolling a soft rubber brayer over the package as soon as it comes out of the camera. Luckily, I have a brayer around for block printing. A foam paint roller may also work. Do this on a safe surface because some of the goo will ooze out the side of the print/neg sandwich.
The problem with the goo must be related to the width of the gap between the rollers in the camera. Type 80 film must have been slightly thicker than modern 100 series film?
I had one photo jam in the camera out of the 10 photos in the pack. The photo took as normal, but the photo tab didn't appear in the out door on the camera. I opened the camera in room light to see if I could somehow insist the photo go through the rollers, but only succeeded in exposing the next photo to light and fogging it. I eventually took the jammed photo out and processed it manually with the rubber brayer. It did produce an image of my cat Eddie, but it included a lot of weird artifacts. This jam has only happened once, so I'm going to consider it an anomaly. This type of jam also infrequently occurs in my regular pack cameras, so I'll attribute it to the complex path these photos must take inside the camera.
Step 6: Update: Goo Control
It seems this arrangement requires some cleaning of the rollers to prevent the heartbreak of goo build up! So try cleaning after every pack or two. A little more often than regular pack photography.