Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dremel Tool meets Square Shooter meets Fuji Pf100 Instant Film

1970's Polaroid Square Shooter

A year or so ago, my wife came home with a Polaroid Square Shooter that she found at thrift store.  She bought it for around four or five bucks with the intent of giving it to me because she knew I enjoyed the instant cameras and it was just kind of cool to have.  I received it with joy and after a few weeks, put it in a box with a bunch of other photography gear and kind of forgot about it as there was no chance of finding film for this little charm. 

The camera is pretty a much a one step, point and shoot which used the old and much discontinued Polaroid 85 films.  It has a shutter release, 4' to infinity focus, a flash bulb socket, and a wind up timer on the side that is used for print development times.  Unlike the Polaroid instant film that much of us are familiar with (see image above), this one used film which was pulled from the camera after the exposure and then the positive print was pulled apart from the negative.  It's kind of cool because you actually have a salvageable negative to keep and reprint if you want. In addition, the print format was square opposed to the common Polaroid print we were used to (see above).

Fast forward a year and I stumble onto an article in which people have been modifying the film storage bay to receive and actually use the Fuji Pf100 film in this camera.  Now, Fuji stopped making this film in 2016, but there is still a ton out there and can be purchased on many internet photo sites.  

After watching a brief tutorial, I fire up my old Dremel tool and begin the surgical process of carefully grinding away portions of the film bay.  The smell of hot plastic is not pleasing and it makes a complete mess, but I believe the procedure is a success. 

I order up several packs of the Fuji film and watch a few videos on how it works.  Sure enough, the film fits.  Its a tight fit, but its in there and everything seems to be working.  The first test shot is of a parking lot at work.  I can't think about composition, lighting, anything photography related other than "is there going to be a picture when I peel the film."  I wait the suggested 90 seconds to develop and slowly pull the positive up.  I feel like Charley Bucket opening a candy bar and waiting to see the corner of a Golden Ticket. Much to my excitement and pleasure, there is a print.  A really good print. Well exposed, great color, and its stable. 

Of course I'm ecstatic and overjoyed.  I snap a cell phone pic of the print and immediately send it to my wife.  She seems pretty excited, but probably not as much as I. 

Many prints followed and many more to come.

State Capitol Building, Madison, WI
April, 2017
Polaroid Square Shooter w/ Fuji Pf100 film

Friday, May 12, 2017

Catching the instant bug...again.

When I was seven or eight, I obtained my first camera. It was a Kodak Handle instant. It was much like the Polaroids of the day. I remember being fascinated by making an exposure and watching the print develop in front of me. It kindled my interest in photography which would continue and develop my entire life. I'm still learning. Instant photography became 35mm film, which then became digital and here we are.
A while back, I saw a documentary about the demise of Polaroid film and its resurrection by a group of instant geeks who call them selves "The Impossible Project."  This group has begun refurbishing old cameras, manufacturing new instant film and allowing us to relive the instant photography thrill again.
After watching and doing some research, I had the bug again. The desire to make instant photographs with temperamental film on original machines that reminded me of what sparked my interest in photography as a boy. I recently received my 40 year old, rebuilt Polaroid SX-70 camera and several packs of film to begin this venture again. To relive the excitement of instant photography and introduce it to my kids so they can hopefully be amazed and intrigued the way I was at their age. One image, no computer, no editing, all camera, and maybe a small gift to send with a friend to hang on their fridge that nobody else has or gets to see.
Instant film and the antique cameras are tricky, frustrating, and a test of patience, but completely satisfying when the image finally appears. This is my first test shot. Her name is Molly.