I, like many Polaroid nuts, love the style of the Automatic Land Camera pack cameras from the sixties, but need more control. Though the Automatics offered many more options than the current point and shoot cameras(5 apertures, flash or no flash, variable focus), I desire a fully manual camera on occasion. My 195 is wonderful but a bit rare and expensive, so I wanted one that I didn't feel quite so attached to that I could be more rough and experimental with.
I come from a maker family. My mother made it a point to expose us to art shows and art museums. We grew up watching her paint, draw, and enter shows. My older sister was also creative. When my sister and I wanted a toy, we figured out how to make it. Her efforts were always much more refined than mine. I can still remember those sloppy, loping stitches on that terrible looking doll I made, with eyes of smeary marker. A lifetime later, I still do that same thing. When I want something and it is financially out of reach, I try to make it!
There is a tradition of converting the lower priced packfilm cameras to manual, so I wasn't a pioneer. For my inspiration I turned to a wonderful Flickr collection of images by Option 8(a handle known to many a Polaroid geek). There are tons of great ideas for Polaroid conversions, but I have to warn you- it is an addiction. https://www.flickr.com/groups/polaroidconversions/?ytcheck=1 If this link is dead, just google Polaroid conversions and you will find the image thread rather quickly. Though there are some gorgeous ones done with wood veneers, color leathers, and bright paint, the ones that appeal to me are the cameras that look very mechanical and a bit steam-punk.
This is my proof of concept for something that has been done hundreds of times- I was just proving it to myself. My Polaroid conversion is quite basic. I took a Polaroid Automatic 100 packfilm bellows camera that was inoperable as the donor body. I removed the shutter button and cable, the lens and all of the stuff built into the front standard, as well as from the battery compartment. I gave it a new bellows from a broken 104. I mounted a 127mm lens and Prontor shutter I got from a piece of Polaroid medical equipment on the front of the standard quite easily by widening the lens mounting hole with a Dremel tool. Then I filled the exterior holes on the front standard with scissor cut black metal off of an old packfilm pack. The inside of the standard was filled with black craft foam ( the kind you can buy by the sheet)to eliminate the possibility of light leaks. Felt would work just as well.
The final touches were to drill a hole in the back of the battery carrier to mount my development timer, and shape a lid to cover the now larger lens. Shaping the lid was pretty easy. I chose a lid that was shaped for the pack cameras that have the viewfinder permanently out, as the viewfinder would never fold back down with the new lens. I then propped the lid up between two bricks and stretched out the front to accommodate the lid by pressing the cold clip against the plastic while applying heat with a heat gun to the front of the lid. Take your time at this so you don't accidentally warp the whole lid, but just stretch the front.
That is pretty much it! Easy, right? If you looked at the images from Option 8's conversions you would see that the process can be done with a lot more grace and style than I applied!
Since my camera is intended to give me far more creative options, I carry a brief case full of goodies to go with it. I use short and long shutter releases, a manual timer, an exposure timer, ground glass, close up and portrait lenses with viewfinder diopters, lots of funky lenses, filters, and flash filters. I also made a very simple flash mount from a cold shoe and a 268 flash base so I can use an electronic flash. When the camera is weighed down with all of these gadgets it is so ugly it is beautiful!
Voila, fully manual camera!
So far I have done purposely messy pulls, dumped salt in the pack (it gives a star like effect), ran tape through it, as well as questionable expired film! It performs like a champ, and since I can attach all manner of stuff to it, the possibilities are endless. I can't wait to try wet plate collodion with it!