Reviving a Vintage Camera

Fuji X100 | 1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 1250

Ever since Photobooth’s grand opening, I’ve been thinking about the two Polaroid cameras I recently found among boxes of old photo gear my dad gave me. The first one I discovered was an all-plastic model. Pretty cool. The second one, however, is a much more exciting camera. We brought both to Photobooth, but the Land Camera 450 pictured above is what got all the love and attention.

The 450 is a beautifully made, vintage Polaroid camera, fully loaded with an all glass lens, auto-exposure system, and a big, bright Zeiss Ikon finder for focusing and composing. Unlike my plastic model, the 450 has a solid metal build, folds down into its own case, and has a cool-looking leather strap:

Vince, one of the studio’s owners and an expert on Polaroid cameras, was very helpful in getting us started. After making sure it was in working order (to our surprise, the battery that drives auto-exposure still had juice), we purchased two packs of Fujifilm cartridges and learned how to load up the camera:

Land Camera 450 training: Framing up your subject, focus, cock the shutter, release the shutter. Bridget gave it a try first:

Fuji X100 |  1/125 sec, f/4, ISO 800

What to photograph for our very first instant print? Hmm…

Fuji X100 | 1/950 sec, f/4, ISO 800

Ok, here’s the tricky part. The Fujifilm stuff seems to be a little thicker than the original Polaroid Pack Film the camera was designed for, so we had to be really careful when pulling out the first 3 or 4 exposures. Those first few frames are pretty tightly packed:

Fuji X100 | 1/250 sec, f/4.5, ISO 800

Get the frame out, wait about a minute, and…drum roll!

Keep the drumroll going….

Fuji X100 | 1/240 sec, f/4, ISO 400

You wouldn’t think this would be such a big deal, right? But when I first saw this print, I was completely and utterly giddy. Like, hop up and down and clap your hands giddy (not that I did that, but you know). The entire process felt more like forging a picture instead of just taking one. I was instantly hooked.

Fuji X100 | 1/850 sec, f/16, ISO 800

Suki wasn’t as excited.

The late afternoon light was beautiful, and what better way wind down the day than to go out on a photo walk with our “new” camera around one shoulder and digital camera around the other:

Outside the studio, we got little anxious with our first film cartridge and damaged a few frames trying to yank the tightly packed film out. At a little over a dollar per click, it’s not something we wanted to make a habit out of, but hey, you have to learn somehow.

Fuji X100 |  1/750 sec, f/10, ISO 400 (Provia Film Sim)

The Mission District surrounding Photobooth is such a great place for a photo walk. I took the above with the X100, and then took the same shot with the Land Camera 450:

Polaroid Land Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film

The super sharp, high-resolution, colorful digital file looks great, but there’s something really special about the instant print. These scans seem to lack the contrast of the actual prints, which look fantastic right next to my keyboard as I type this.

Fuji X100 | 1/140 sec, f/2.2, ISO 200

Here’s a frame that got jammed in the cartridge as we tried to pull it out of the camera. Even though the print didn’t properly develop as a result, I kind of like how it turned out. I think the damage gives it character:

Polaroid Land Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film

Fuji X100 |  1/125 sec, f/2, ISO 1250

Bridget tried mightily to get a frame of me taking a picture of her. She did great, but again, the frame jammed.

As the picture above (right) shows, we had to place our prints right on the ground as we stopped to take photos since we had no place to store them as we walked about. I think Suki stepped on one of them at one point. More character. =)

Polaroid Land Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film

Way to go Jonathan, ignore the shadow from your big head in the frame. That’s ok, I can just photosho–aw, wait a minute…

Polaroid Land Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film

Polaroid Land  Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film

Fuji X100 | 1/450 sec, f/2, ISO 400

Fuji X100 | 1/320 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800

Fuji X100 | 1/160 sec, f/2.5, ISO 400

Polaroid Land Camera 450 | Fuji FP-100C Color Instant Film

I was hoping the two cartridges we purchased would last a couple weeks. We ended up shooting both within an hour. Oops!

To think this beautiful camera has been sitting in storage for decades, a little box of fun that I didn’t even realize was there all these years. Well Mr. Land Camera, you have a second shot at life now. Let’s make pictures.

30 thoughts on “Reviving a Vintage Camera

  1. how exciting! glad you tried it out…i have one (well the 250) that i’m pretty sure is just for decor at this point. love your excitement and the images as well..definitely something special!

  2. Sooo cool! I think the damage adds character — I seriously have PS actions that mimic that! And how awesome that you can use modern film with it too. Hope to see more pics with it. 🙂

  3. I love polaroid myself,
    I used sx70 for many years and was heartbroken when they stopped making “Time-Zero” film.
    you guys have fun with it!!!

  4. Hello Jon,

    A good day to u.

    one quick question to ask. Hope u don’t mind.

    What is the X100 WB setting of the first 6 photos (until the pic your wife taking out the film).

    I found that those pics are really awesome and kinda reddish.

    Is WB Auto (or) red +2,yellow -2?


    Those pics have been processed in Curve adjustment? (sorry, i ask this question with all due respect).

    Also, i presume that Film sim=astia, Color=High, Sharpness=Hard, Shawdow=Mid Hard, Highlight=Mid Hard for those 6 pics.

    Seeing your pics make me not to give up in photograph taking. Thanks millions in advance.

    1. Billy,

      The images are straight out of the camera as is, so no curve adjustments etc. White balance was auto, no trim. Provia film simulation, with all picture settings at default except for color, which as set to high. I commonly use the settings you mention, but not always 🙂

  5. Dude these are awesome 😀 What a rad vintage camera! I don’t blame you and Bridget in going crazy over this thing, the results are something else that you just can’t duplicate with any digital camera. Hoping to see more pictures from this thing soon!

  6. The look achieved with the Polaroid is something unforgettable and definitely worth the effort to revive. What a cool toy to have in the arsenal!

  7. These are great. Both cameras capture great images with the vintage look and feel. I love that in some photographs. It brings back memories for some people and gives you a great smile to capure.
    I’m linking to you in a post I’m doing. I think your blog is great for it.

  8. I found your blog while researching Polaroid Land Cameras and Fujifilm FP-100C film. I really love this post, especially how you juxtaposed the digital images with the prints. I’m looking forward to experimenting with it myself. Have you ever done polaroid image transfers? That’s mainly why I want to shoot with the Fujifilm FP-100C.
    Best, e.v.

    1. I haven’t tried doing an image transfer yet, but shooting with the land camera is a ton of fun. Hope you get to to experiment with some pack film soon! =)

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