Polaroid Land Camera Guide

Polaroid Land cameras are named after Edwin Land who was the inventor of the instant film camera, which was manufactured by Polaroid. All Polaroid instant cameras were called “Land” cameras until 1982 when Edwin Land retired.

This guide applies to the “packfilm” versions of Polaroid Land cameras which includes series 100-400 and were manufactured from 1963 to the mid 70s. Previous Land Camera models used a different type of film called roll film and a guide for that type of camera can be found here.

Polaroid stopped producing packfilm in 2009, leaving Fujifilm as the only manufacturer until 2016. There is still a supply of film out there but it is quickly diminishing and the prices are rising. Fortunately there are some photo labs that are currently trying to recreate the process of manufacturing this type  of Polaroid packfilm.

My first Land Camera in this style was the model 100, which was the first model ever produced. I found it at an antique store for 20 dollars and was so excited because it was my dream camera.  I managed to get it to work and have taken plenty of photos with it. Over the years I have collected quite a few different models at various thrift and antique stores because it’s my favorite type of vintage camera. I just can never pass them up!

Land Cameras can also be bought refurbished online for a higher price, but they’re guaranteed to work unlike the ones found second hand. Thrift store cameras can be a bit of a risk because you never know if it will work or not. But for me that’s all part of the fun!

I love this camera because it is such a classic vintage camera and still takes great photos over 50 years later. I have always loved the way film photos look and Polaroid film is magical with its instant developing. It still amazes me that these old cameras can still just pop out a beautiful film print.

This guide applies to the 100 series through the 400 series, although there may be some features of the later models that are not covered here.

Remove the Case 

If you’re lucky enough to find a camera that still has its case, unlatch it from the top of the camera to fold it down. Press the metal clip underneath to remove it. In some models the view finder will need to be flipped up.  In other models it stays up all the time.

 

Extend the Bellows

To extend the camera bellows press upwards on this arrow. Pull the bellows out gently until a click is heard and they slide into place.

 

Retract the Bellows

It’s a good idea to make sure the rollers are clean each time a new pack of film is placed inside. Otherwise chemicals will build up on them and make it difficult to pull the photos out.

The rollers are released by pressing the red clip and pulling the rollers up.

Use a damp paper towel to wipe them clean. If there are chemicals that are caked on really well, then a little bit of rubbing alcohol on a Q tip usually does the trick.

 

Open the Back

 Press down on the lever found on the bottom of the camera to pop open the back.

The inside of the camera should be clean and free of any tears or rips. Any rips of tears will provide a way for light to enter the camera and overexpose the film.

 

Clean the Rollers

It’s a good idea to make sure the rollers are clean each time a new pack of film is placed inside. Otherwise chemicals will build up on them and make it difficult to pull the photos out.

The rollers are released by pressing the red clip and pulling the rollers up.

Use a damp paper towel to wipe them clean. If there are chemicals that are caked on really well, then a little bit of rubbing alcohol on a Q tip usually does the trick.

 

 Test the Shutter

Engage the shutter by pressing down the lever labeled number three on the front of the camera.

 Release the shutter by pressing the red button labeled number two.

If the battery is working, two distinct clicks will be heard and the shutter can be seen opening and closing if the back of the camera remains open.  If these two clicks are not heard then there is something wrong with the battery connection and shutter will not open so a photo will not be taken.

Most old Polaroid Land Cameras found in thrift shops and antique stores will contain an old corroded battery.  There are still replacement batteries like this that can be found, but the easiest thing to do is replace the old battery with three AAA batteries.

A cheap mini flashlight has the perfect apparatus for converting the old land camera’s battery system.

This is done by connecting the white and black tabs to the flashlight battery holder. A quick fix is taping it all together with electrical tape. A permanent fix is by sodering.  In some cameras the flashlight apparatus will not fit inside so you may have to break off some plastic pieces in the battery compartment to make it fit.  That is what I did in the picture above, you can spot the jagged edges!

FujiFilm, until recently made new film for Polaroid Land cameras in color and black and white. Although it is now discontinued, the limited supply can still be purchased. Original, expired Land Camera film can still be found occasionally on eBay.

The film pack is loaded by placing it into the back of the camera. Make sure all the paper parts are aligned and not folded over before closing the back.

 

Film Speed

The film speed settings are 75, 150, 300 and 3000. 75 is a good place to keep it on because the color film is speed 100 and 75 is the closet to 100.

 

Lighting

 

Use the blue tab along the bottom the select the light setting. I usually keep mine selected for bright sun/dull day, unless it’s really bright outside.

Exposure

Twisting the ring around the lens adjust the aperture. In darker settings the camera should be set to lighten, in bright settings the camera should be set to darken.

Focus

The focus is adjusted by pressing or pulling the two tabs labeled 1.  This adjusts the below length of the bellows and brings the image into focus.

Adjusting the bellows is done while simultaneously looking through the little circular viewfinder to the left of the big viewfinder. There is a line that cuts the image in half, and they will line up perfectly when focused.

Once the image is lined up and in focus, engage the shutter by pressing the lever labeled 3, then snap the photograph by press down on the shutter release button labeled 2.

If the two clicks are heard, the photograph was taken!

 

Pull on the numbered tab to advance the negative part of the film. This causes the negative to make contact with the positive part of the film and bring the next negative forward in front of the lens.

The image is still inside the camera at this point.

To remove the picture from the camera, grasp the black tab and pull it out with a a firm and steady motion. Make sure it is pulled out straight and not at an angle which could cause a jam, or affect the development process.

The rollers work to spread the development chemicals across the image as it is pulled through, and to begin the development process.

On the side of the film is a developing time guide based on the ambient temperature. Although the fujifilm apparently has no maximum development time so it is ok the leave it for longer than it says.  However if you are using old expired film it’s best not to leave it to develop for too long.

After the recommended waiting time, peel the film apart and admire your polaroid picture!!

 

The flash clips onto the top of the camera and the wire plugs into the front. The flash will fire automatically when it is plugged in. To switch to taking photos without flash, just unplug it.

Flash bulbs can be found on eBay or at antique stores if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon them.

The bulb screws into the flash apparatus, and once it fires, it can be ejected by pressing the red button on top of the flash.

The bulbs are hot and partially melted once fired. Be careful!!

See a collection of some of my polaroids HERE.

Tell me about your Land Camera adventures!

 

 

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Film in the City

A walk through the city on an early spring evening. The days were finally getting longer, the weather was finally getting warmer.

I took my little Argus camera, loaded up with some film and went to explore a newly built walkway, through the once forgotten part of the city.

I’ve watched this area for years from my work building window.  For years all they did was seem to move dirt around.  Then eventually they built a path.  One day new buildings are supposed to cover this big grassy area. I’m still watching from my office window, wondering if the building will ever start.

The Beach in a Dream

Little beach towns always feel like a magical, altered reality type of place to me. A place far away from regular boring life, where time almost stands still. When thinking back, months later on that short little week spent spent at the beach, it almost feels like a dream. I think these Polaroids capture that feeling.

These Polaroids were taken with the Polaroid OneStep 2 and film.

Land Camera Photo Shoot

 
I have been working on fixing up my polaroid land cameras. Getting them all cleaned, restoring their batteries and writing a little user guide. Then I got inspired to do a photo shoot with my first and favorite one, and before I knew what was happening, I had a whole 1960s thing going on.


And maybe it was because I have watched a little too much Mad Men, but I couldn’t seem to take a photo without having a crabby expression..







I sure do love this camera and I can’t wait to share more about it soon!  I also can’t wait to find some vintage clothes to fuel this new 60s vibe I’ve been feeling.

A Year in Land Camera Photos

About a year ago I found this vintage polaroid land camera on a thrifting trip. I had been wanting one for a while, but wasn’t ready to spend a couple hundred bucks on a restored one.  I luckily found this baby in great condition for 20 dollars! All I had to do was replace the battery and now it works great! I even found this flash for it a few months ago.

 Fujifilm still makes film to fit it and I wanted to share the photos I have taken in this past year. There aren’t a whole lot, due to some tragic film jams I ended up losing quite a bit of film. 😦

This is the first photo I took with it (that came out!)  I forgot to focus, however..

We spent a weekend in the mountains last spring and I snapped this view from our motel.


We took a trip to a dairy farm last summer and I brought my regular camera, but forgot my battery at home!  I was so mad, but I luckily I brought my land camera with me! I think a land camera photo is worth about 100 digital photos.



From our beach trip. I forgot to focus again.. But I kind of like the dreamy out of focus look.

My Mom’s haunted house.
Christmas day. This is where I realized the camera shouldn’t be used indoors unless you have a flash. Surprisingly this was a bright and sunny morning!

This was taken with my new flash bulbs!

And this is my latest photo which I am very excited about. I tried to take a picture of the house, but didn’t hear the click of the shutter so I thought it didn’t work. I took it inside to look at it and then I took a test shot of the backyard, (because a neighbor had come outside in the front of the house, and I didn’t want them to see me of course!) And it turned out the shutter had worked the first time and I ended up with this amazing double exposure!

I definitely want to take a whole bunch more land photos this year, I just love the way they look!

Camera Equipment Wishlist

I’m always dreaming of what my next camera accessory purchase will be and I thought it would be fun to share my wishlist.

I have a Nikon D5100 and it’s perfect in just about every way. My only wish is that it was full frame, but that’s a story for later.


I love my 50 mm lens, but sometimes it’s just too zoomed in to be practical. It’s nearly impossible to shoot indoors with it since I have to stand so far back to get everything in frame. But the pictures it takes come out magical so I would like to try out the 35 mm since it is less “zoomed in”


Polarizers are great for outdoor photography, they make colors stand out and reduce reflections. I really want to get one to see what it can do!

 Ever since I first got a camera I have really loved taking close up shots of things. One day I would love to own a macro lens to take proper close up shots of my plants and the bugs that like to come visit my garden.

I have a few bags that work alright as camera bags, but I would really love to have a proper camera bag to carry everything in. Especially if it’s cute like this one!


And last but not least, probably something I’ll never own, but I keep it on my wishlist because it’s fun to dream.  A fast zoom lens. It’s fast because the aperture is huge and can let in a lot of light, allowing you to have a higher shutter speed than normal, in darker situations. My 50 mm is a fast lens and I am obsessed with the effects it has. I would love to see what kind of photos a fast zoom lens could take, but they cost well over one thousand dollars!

What is on your camera wishlist?

Thrifty Finds

It had been a while since we checked out some of out local antique shops. On his trip we ended up finding something at each place!

The first place we stopped, I had been dreaming about visiting for months. This guy has an awesome collection of vintage cameras, including many old land cameras. I spent a very long time admiring all of them..


I couldn’t decide on buying any of them though, but I did find these neat old flash bulbs I had seen around ebay and thought about getting. They were a good price so I snatched them up! I’m not sure if they fit any of the cameras  have, but I always thought it would be cool to use one or two.

 
Steven likes old black and white photos and he picked out this one, of somebodies funeral.  I picked out the one with the cats!

The next store I didn’t take any pictures of, but Steven found an old guitar and I saw a camera I liked.. But I still didn’t get it.


We saved our favorite store for last, it has wall to wall books and many other treasures. We ended up finding some pretty cool books.
I saw this bag sitting among the books and peaked inside. I was so surprised I closed it right away and just stared off into space for a while. The whole day I had it in the back of my mind that I wanted a newer Polaroid camera. And I just happened to find one!

This camera was made in the early 80s, and while Polaroid no longer makes film for it,  The Impossible Project has taken to trying to re create the film, and I am excited to get some and try it out!