Polaroid is dead, long live Polaroid! ^_^
...or, what to do with that lovely old camera once the global stock of instant film runs out…
Talk about a coincidence. A few weeks ago I bought this Polaroid Land Camera 1000, also known as One Step at a thrift store for 2 euros, for one purpose only actually, to build some kind of ‘digital camera’ in there. To make this happen I bought a webcam this week, an older model Quickcam for Notebooks from Logitech. You’ll probably notice my definition of a ‘digital camera’ is quite broad ^_^.
A couple of months ago I also bought a Polaroid camera at the same thrift store, a Polaroid Colorpack 100 Land Camera, but I decided to give that one to a friend of mine along with a pack of black and white film, so she could actually take pictures with it.
Now I could’ve gone out and purchased film for my own Polaroid too, but somehow that’s quite expensive (or I’m a cheapskate), so my idea was to build some kind of crappy cam in there. More or less in line with the quality one expects from such a camera. ^_^
A while ago I already had plans to do this, but the cam I bought back then turned out to be too crappy even for my taste, next to that it had this totally annoying (imho) mirroring of the image (in hardware!), the same trick you’ll find in the cams in nowadays Macbooks and such. It beats me what kind of purpose that actually serves. Anyway, I returned that particular cam and bought this Logitech for little money this week and made plans to build this cam inside this old Polaroid camera this weekend.
And why is this a coincidence? Well, this particular weekend when my kitchen table was scattered with bits and pieces of some thirty year old Polaroid camera it turned out Polaroid themselves are no longer doing polaroids, in other words, the company decided to quit the production of instant film for these kind of cameras. In a while you won’t be able to buy this film, or maybe at a higher price if some other company decides to produce the film (wouldn’t surprise me).
a few more links with the bad news:
Now I’m aware Polaroid did (does?) produce digital cameras (at one point at least). Somehow it doesn’t seem as a very current line up to me and judging by the fact I have to search for them on their website whilst the cameras which use good old film are featured on their global frontpage, they don’t consider it their core business either. This is even stranger when you take their latest ‘news’ into consideration… I’m not sure what their business model is at the moment to be honest.
But that’s that, back to the project! ^_^
Why did I decide to build a webcam in there in the first place? Well, somehow these webcams are ideal for DIY projects. They can be had for little money and you can use them for a variety of purposes. I like to use these webcams with specific Mac software on my old iBook or my (a little less old) PowerBook. Once you have Macam installed, you can also use HackTV to record movies, encoded with a codec of choice, or take stills with it, if that’s what you want.
FYI, this project has a lot of similarities with another old project of mine, how to make a cheap submersible webcam.
The good thing about this is, you can grab almost any old and crappy webcam for this. Just take a long look at the enormous list of supported cameras!
You shouldn’t expect too good a quality of a setup like this, 352 × 288 is your friend here :-)
But, to give you an example, after I bought the first old Polaroid camera I somehow was bitten with the Polaroid virus and as some kind of digital postcard from my holiday last year I made this ‘Polaroid picture’ which in fact is a crappy pic I took in between transits on Berlin Hauptbahnhof with my old phone (a Nokia 7610). So, somehow, the idea is/was that once this project succeeds there are always ways (in software) to make the content at least look like Polaroid pictures, if that’s what you want. *^_^*
But, to be honest, I don’t care that much if the content looks like Polaroid pictures or not, the main idea is the get this old and imho awesome looking camera at least back to work like a camera. So here we go:
the actual project
After I bought the webcam, I first wanted to test if it would work with Macam, I mean, if it wouldn’t, this specific webcam wouldn’t be good to go for my little project. ^_^
But, guess what? It worked!
After that, I needed to find a way to open up the old camera. Somehow it got me stuck for quite a while, I didn’t want to damage the camera (even though this specific camera isn’t in the most pristine condition) and at some point I even doubted it would be possible to open it up without damage.
The film pack for this specific model even carries the batteries for the camera so during ‘normal’ use, this camera never needed to be opened up (other than to load the film). Luckily I managed to open it up and once open (as always) I couldn’t understand why it took me so long. ^_^
Here it is all opened up:
After I managed to open up the body, I started to disassemble the rest of the camera. Somehow I didn’t take pics of the disassembly of the Logitech cam, but you can see for yourself I somehow managed that too. ^_^
The project in short: put left into right ^_^
Now I’m going to take you on a fast forward through the project from here, with a lot of pics:
What I did on the pictures above is this. I disassembled the Polaroid cam as far as I could, with the least amount of damage. I desoldered connections to take out all the electronics and in the end I decided that the way to put this cam inside the Polaroid would be with the original lens intact. If I would’ve removed it, you would be able to tell that this Polaroid is quite different from a normal one, that shiny lens makes quite a difference in terms of the looks of this camera. Anyway, because it’s still a lens I was hoping for the possibility to correct whatever this lens is doing with the lens of the webcam and that seemed to work! The lens of the webcam also has an IR-filter (that’s the red glow you can see in some pictures), needed for the CCD underneath. I’ve also got an old project dealing with removing the IR-filter of digital cameras, but that’s another story and not what I wanted to do here. So, in the most ideal situation, both lenses would stay in place and that seemed to work.
I had a little problem of black corners around the image, because of the hole being too small, but I solved that by turning around a knive in the hole, thereby gradually making the round hole bigger.
The USB cable on the camera was very short so I also took a USB extension cable and made that the new cable for this camera. I didn’t even have to drill a hole in the body of the Polaroid, I managed to pull the cable through a hole where you can normally see how many pictures you’ve made on your specific film pack.
I did need to use my Dremel to get rid of a lot of plastic to make the print with the CCD fit directly behind where the lens is going to be (once the camera is assembled again). I also needed to widen up the holes in the PCB. Normally on the webcam, the ‘lens assembly’ is screwed onto the PCB with tiny screws. My idea was to assemble the print in the same way to the body of the Polaroid, only with longer screws, which also have a slightly bigger diameter.
After a few hours of tinkering at my kitchen table, this was where I was, it all seems to fit!
I could’ve soldered the USB extension cable directly to the PCB, but somehow I didn’t feel like it. I used the original connector and connected the wires in an easy way ^_^
I did solder those connections and used good old duct tape to prevent any one of those wires shortcutting with another wire.
At this point the camera is almost back together in one piece. I didn’t assemble everything back together, but for instance, to have your little (in this case) red shutter button, you need to assemble a few parts together, including the motor up front. Somehow that motor also gives most of the weight to the camera, without it, the Polaroid feels (imho) too light.
A shot from the side and the first test:
And this is it! A good old Polaroid camera with a USB cable! ^_^
And of course, a picture of this retro camera on my (somehow) famous seventies table cloth *^_^*
...and a few more pictures of the camera in action, connected to my old iBook.
By the way, for all the old iBook users out there, here’s a little trick to prevent your iBook from going to sleep when the lid is closed. The reason I show you this is because with HackTV you can record movies and this way you can use an old iBook to record those, with the lid closed, in your bag, for hours on end!
In my case I use a backplate from a PC enclosure and some tape. When I keep it as shown on the picture left, the iBook will go to sleep when I close the lid. And as shown on the picture right, the iBook keeps on running when I close the lid.
The following pics are a little dark, but here you can see the iBook is running (and recording!).
And that’s about it! A way to (re)use those good old Polaroid cameras which are (if they already weren’t) obsolete from the moment the global stock of film runs out.
John Nack on Adobe Blogs: Helmut Newton, the death of Polaroid, and more
(how nice to be mentioned in one blog post along with my favourite photographer, the late Helmut Newton. I’ve got a Helmut Newton photograph on my wall and I used to have only one book of him, Pola Woman, polaroids(yes, that’s right) by Helmut Newton… (too bad I lost that book somewhere))
Feel free to comment if you will.As mentioned in the Message from Mark's family this site has been made static. This means that it will be no longer possible to comment on his ideas and projects, but that we all can continue to cherish his creativity.
you can find all of my projects overhere