Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Reviving a Vintage Camera

with 30 comments


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.

Written by Jonathan

September 6, 2011 at 6:37 pm

30 Responses

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  1. wow these cameras give the photos such personality wow

    Chris Brewster

    September 6, 2011 at 6:40 pm

  2. congrats on this new found hidden gem… i would be giddy too!!

    Jason Fan

    September 6, 2011 at 6:47 pm

  3. Wow, these are precious! The camera is huge but the prints look great

    Howie

    September 6, 2011 at 6:52 pm

  4. LOVELY!!
    Such a cool camera with wonderful photos!! (I want one, too!)
    I especially love the ones taken outside, with soft blue tones:))

    akane

    September 6, 2011 at 7:06 pm

  5. soooooooooo~~~~ COOOOOOOL!!!!!!

    Shibal Inu (@Our_Shibal_Inu)

    September 6, 2011 at 7:19 pm

  6. 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!

    cara

    September 6, 2011 at 8:09 pm

  7. 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. 🙂

    Jacqueline

    September 6, 2011 at 8:26 pm

  8. Nice stuff! You may also want to try the FP3000B B&W film. Glad you were able to resurrect a real gem.

    Mike Jefferies

    September 7, 2011 at 7:37 am

  9. 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!!!

    M.

    September 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm

  10. there’s nothing like a vintage camera and the way each photo looks after using it. Simply beautiful.

    Kay aka Babygirl

    September 7, 2011 at 1:12 pm

  11. these look awesome! i really want to shoot more full size polaroids like that myself.

    Alice

    September 7, 2011 at 6:20 pm

  12. 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?

    OR

    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.

    Billy

    September 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    • 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 🙂

      Jonathan

      September 11, 2011 at 9:46 pm

  13. great post, really makes me wanna try it out myself 🙂

    Lyngstad-Creations.com

    September 7, 2011 at 10:15 pm

  14. 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!

    Kelven Ng

    September 8, 2011 at 2:32 am

    • Oops, Hachiko I mean! Though, the dog in that story is an Akita 😀

      Kelven Ng

      September 8, 2011 at 4:44 am

  15. 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!

    John

    September 11, 2011 at 9:21 pm

  16. Wow, reviving an old camera. and it works sooo nice!!! really cool stuff, Jonathan!

    Jasmine Lee

    September 13, 2011 at 11:48 am

  17. wow- droool!love how these photos came out! i just absolutely love that vintage, washed-out look. that is one huge but gorgeous polaroid camera!

    Karleen

    October 16, 2011 at 1:34 pm

  18. […] If you’ve been following my blog lately, you probably know that I frequent this shop. I originally discovered it on opening night, and came back again later to purchase some  film and get schooled on Polaroid photography. […]

  19. […] home with some kind of new photographic goodie, whether it be an awesome tintype portrait, some Polaroid film, or an analogue camera of some sort. On our last visit, we picked up the new LomoKino Super 35 […]

  20. […] pay this studio a visit and get yourself immortalized on a steel plate, or at least get some help firing up that old Polaroid camera of yours Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailStumbleUponDiggLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  21. 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.

    muse2greats

    April 27, 2012 at 9:15 pm

  22. 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.
    http://evdecleyre.com

    e.v. de cleyre

    December 23, 2012 at 8:29 am

    • 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! =)

      Jonathan

      December 25, 2012 at 7:41 pm

  23. […] been a while since I revived my now irreparably broken Polaroid Land Camera 450. But that camera lives on in a way, with its Zeiss Ikon finder now mounted to my recently acquired […]

  24. You can also reclaim the negatives. Scan them or put them in an enlarger. Looks really cool too. On new55project.blogspot.com. You can read more about it.

    Peter de Groot

    March 5, 2013 at 10:06 am

  25. Great post! There is some good information in this blog re: the jamming issue on the first few frames: http://www.cepwin.com/2013/02/12/polaroid-210-experiences/. I tried some of his suggestions recently with my Polaroid 250 and noticed a BIG difference. 🙂

  26. […] plenty of time in front of my cameras in 2013. This was the year of pack film adventures with my Land Camera and black and white photos with my old rangefinder, at least for my personal […]

  27. […] for the last few years, you know I love this place. Vince Donovan, one of the owners, helped me revive my dad’s old Land Camera on my second visit to the shop. I blame him for getting me hooked on shooting pack film. I […]


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