This week, we discuss about one of our favourite cameras (I know, we have so many favourite ones); the Polaroid Land Camera! People have been asking us about our newest addition(s), so we decided to share our perspective and thoughts on the old-fashioned but fully-functioning instant Polaroid camera!
Since our fixation with instant photography began, we have used the Instax Wide/Mini film (by Fujifilm) and the Impossible Project film (which is the Polaroid, square-sized film e.g. for SX-70/600). We are also aware that there are many different types of film out there such as the large format 4×5 (e.g the New99 film), the Polaroid Spectra and the 8×10 (both by Impossible Project).
At the outset, we would like to point out that this is not a review about the Land Camera (although we hope do one in the near future)! Instead, this will be an exposition about the Land Camera and the different models, the current challenges behind its use (especially with the announcement that the last usable packfilm (or peel-apart film) made by Fujifilm will not be produced anymore) and how the camera community (us included) have overcome some of these hurdles.
The History of the Land Camera
Believe it or not, there are different models of the Land Camera. The name derives from its inventor, Edwin Land, who later co-founded Polaroid; his cameras were the first to employ a process of instant film development (by transferring dyes from the negative to the positive film). There are different types of Land Cameras which employ a) rollfilm or b) pack film. We will be exploring these types of cameras later on.
Our Land Cameras!
Since our foray into the world of Land Cameras, we have since acquired a few Land Cameras: the Polaroid 180 Land Camera, the Polaroid 250 Land Camera, which are pack film cameras, and the Pathfinder 110B which is a rollfilm camera.
What caught our eyes about these Land Cameras were due to a number of reasons:
- The bellows: it looks cool!
- The mechanism: some of the Land Camera models do not require batteries, which is an advantage for ensuring extended functionality.
- The lens: made by Zeiss Ikon (its modern iteration, Carl Zeiss, remains hugely popular among camera enthusiasts), the glass lens (found in more advanced models) are top-quality, and produces sharp and clear images till this day.
- The range-finder: unlike the zone-focusing camera (whereby one has to ‘guess’ the distance from the object to be captured to the camera), the range-finder allows the user to focus instantly on the object.
- The film: the use of the peel-apart instant film (or rollfilm) is an experience in itself; from snapping the shot, to waiting for the development of the film and finally peeling off the negative from the image!
Polaroid 180 and 250 (Pack film cameras)
The Polaroid 180 and 250 looks almost the same aesthetically, but the key difference is that the former is a fully-manual camera, whereas the latter is an automatic camera. Both cameras were made in the late 1960s. The Polaroid 250 was refurbished and works excellently, but the Polaroid 180 was bought as is, and thus we are getting it fixed.
The choice of film for the Polaroid 180 and 250 is the Fujifilm FP-100c pack film.
As described above, the photo is captured onto a negative, and through the rollers found in the camera, the reagent causes the image to be transferred onto the positive film. We loved the quality of the image, which was much more sharp than the Instax Mini/Wide films. The FP-100c film is cheaper than the Impossible Project film; further, it can be used for emulsion lifts (you can see an example here). That being said, one needs to be aware of the drying time (which varies according to air temperature) and there may be chemicals present on the positive film, so be careful!
Here are some shots we took with our Polaroid 250:
Pathfinder 110B: (rollfilm camera)
The Pathfinder 110B is an even earlier version of the Polaroid 180 and 250, and used the rollfilm; the camera is fully manual, and had no aid from an electric eye.
The Pathfinder 110B used rollfilm, which means that the Pathfinder became ‘irrelevant’ since rollfilm was discontinued is 1992. It is unfortunate that we were unable to take any photos using the rollfilm.
Is this the End of the Land Camera?
As alluded to above, Fujifilm has since ceased manufacturing of the last ever peel-apart instant film made for certain models of the Land Camera, the FP-100C packfilm. This is a huge blow to recently-minted Land Camera admirers (such as ourselves). We have had only discovered this amazing camera at the start of 2016, and we were distraught that the most essential component of the Land Camera was being discontinued.
We have since managed to get our hands on a number of FP-100C films (those being the last stock) and are saving it preciously for future usage. It is clear that the price of the FP-100C films will rise (and has already risen), and it is not a viable option to purchase the pack film in the future.
But of course, the human mind is truly creative and ingenious sometimes…
Making it Work
We have discovered some truly remarkable ways to make the Land Camera relevant again (with no small amount of thanks to the online camera community), and we do hope that by sharing with you our efforts and lessons, you too would be inspired to get your own Land Camera too!
Alternative Films (for pack film cameras)
This method may be slightly laborious, but it does reap results! The idea is to a) use alternative films which can be slotted into the FP-100C cartridge, and then developing the alternative films, or b) slot alternative film cartridges into the cartridge holder of the pack film cameras. Below, we describe two alternative films that we have used with our Polaroid 250: the Instax Wide film and the Impossible Project (SX-70/600) films. This technique can be applied for all packfilm cameras!
Using Instax Wide film
These are the steps, which we learnt from J Caldwell for Snapitseeit:
- In a dark room (or a darkroom bag), we inserted 1 unexposed Instax Wide film inside an empty FP-100C cartridge.
- We then inserted the said cartridge inside the Polaroid 250.
- With the unexposed Instax Wide film inside the Polaroid 250, we adjusted the camera setting to match the ISO 800 film.
- After taking the desired shot, we took out the exposed, undeveloped film (inside the darkroom bag of course) and inserted it into the Instax Wide cartridge.
- We then took the said cartridge and loaded it into our Lomo’Instant Wide camera.
- After that, we triggered the camera and let the exposed Instax Wide film develop through the rollers.
- Tadah; enjoy the film!
We should highlight that transferring any undeveloped film should be done inside a dark room or darkroom bag to avoiding exposing the undeveloped film to light.
Using Impossible Project film
These are the steps, as seen on Snapitseeit:
- Insert the Impossible Project (SX-70/600) film cartridge (assuming it is full) into the respective Polaroid SX-70/600 camera. This should automatically eject the dark slide.
- In a dark room/darkroom bag, we inserted the said cartridge into the Polaroid 250. Try to peel off the plastic flap from the said cartridge. It takes a bit of effort to fit the cartridge into the Polaroid 250.
- Adjust the setting of the Polaroid 250 to match the ISO of the Impossible Project film (600 ISO for 600 film; 160 ISO for SX-70 colour film or 100 ISO for SX-70 black and white film).
- In the dark room/darkroom bag, remove the cartridge from the Polaroid 250 & insert the cartridge into the respective Polaroid SX-70/600 camera for developing.
- Tadah; enjoy your photo!
Although we acknowledge that these steps are a bit convoluted (hopefully the video helps to explain what we could not do here), the results are quite creative. Obviously these films were not ‘made’ for the Land Cameras, and thus taking photos with the alternative films were challenging but fun! The results we have gotten have been interesting; for example when using our Polaroid 250 with Impossible Project film, we realised that the images were inverted.
As mentioned earlier, the Pathfinder 110B used rollfilm, which means that the Pathfinder became ‘irrelevant’ since rollfilm was discontinued is 1992. Our solution was to turn to ‘converters’; people who turn previously unusable Polaroid cameras into fully-functioning ones!
Our Pathfinder is actually converted to be able to use Instax Wide films, although many photographers do convert it to use either pack film or 4X5 format. However, we felt that the Instax Wide film is so much more readily available (and unlikely to be discontinued any time soon), and is a much cheaper option than the Impossible Project/ pack films.
We acknowledge that the camera is quite expensive to convert (and that is the general sentiment for converting any ‘extinct’ Polaroid camera), and the Pathfinder is bulky. That being said, the innovation in converting the Pathfinder to use Instax Wide film has allowed us to capture amazing, high-quality photos. Further, the Pathfinder being fully manual gives us the creative freedom to take the ‘right’ photo!
Below are some Instax Wide films that we took (albeit expired); the colours appear slightly muted but the film has clearly been preserved well:
The purpose of this entry is really to highlight how creative and innovative people can be in the face of challenges (such as the discontinuation of the FP-100C film). We are very encouraged by those who have devised such brilliant ideas and worked hard in converting the Polaroid cameras, thus making these cameras usable today.
We hope you have enjoyed (or managed to endure eh heh) this longer-than-usual entry. If you would like to see more of our instant photography works, follow us on Instagram. Leave a comment to let us know which is your favourite!
Till next time,