Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Saving your Onestep 2 from the landfill- camera reincarnation!

I love the Onestep 2. Polaroid’s first camera under the name Polaroid in a decade, it is an instant point-and-shoot that embraces the cultural legacy of Polaroid while adding some nice updates. The addition of a flash and a timer to the focus-free lens and led counter makes for some simple party snaps that anyone can do. 

The one modern addition that I could have done without, however, is the integral USB charged battery. I am a big fan of Polaroid, likely one of the biggest. I have a collection of hundreds of working vintage cameras dating all the way back to 1948. The reason they still work today is that they were not built with parts that would stop working in a few years. Vintage cameras that shot integral film had the battery built into the film pack, so just add a fresh pack and you are ready to go! 

Don’t get me wrong, I understand Polaroid’s choice to move the battery out of the film pack. It is expensive and wasteful to have it there. Discarded packs often have tons of life left after the pack of film is shot. Fuji and Kodak before them do not have batteries in their packs. It just makes sense. 

Many Onestep 2 cameras’ batteries are failing and people are left with a cute brick. It is way too soon for these cameras to become obsolete! 

As a proof of concept, I took my mint green Onestep 2 and added external replaceable batteries. I added two cr123s in series so it added up to 6 volts. At first, the results were sketchy, but I figured it was my ad hoc twisted wires loosely taped. After I did it right- soldering followed by heat shrink- it performed flawlessly!!  

Note: Since this is just a proof of concept, you will need to forgive the aesthetic. You can come up with ways to pretty it up!

Here are my super-duper easy instructions in a few steps: 

Remove the front plate. There are two tiny screws holding it on from inside the film door. Now gently pry back the sides at the tabs shown in my photos. The front will lift out and off easily. 

Locate the wires on the viewfinder side in the gap between the circuit board and the back half of the camera. You will see a red and black wire hooked on to the side of the circuit board with a tiny white plug. Ease the plug out and gently pull out all of the slack. You may get about an inch. This is the plug that goes to the battery located right under the viewfinder. Cut the wires with the scissors so you get the plug and as long of wire as possible. 

Connect the wire that has a plug to the wire on your battery holder. Red goes with red, black with black. Solder it, as a weak connection WILL cause a disruption in the function. Now plug the little white plug back in.

That is all there is to it! Feel free to mount the batteries to the camera any way you want. You can cut a notch out of the side when you put your front back on. I just snapped it back on and the wire seemed skinny enough.

A word of caution- I did not do this with rechargeable batteries, so I don’t know if the USB charger would work or go terribly wrong. I have no interest in that for myself, but if you try and succeed, please tell me the results!

I shot a pack through with this modification and it worked like a charm!
The light leak in the upper left corner was the crushed pack. I buy pretty damaged packs so I can use them to test!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Hidden features, easy fun, or fixing the dormant closeup lens in a Polaroid Originals Onestep 2.

They say all of the Tesla cars being sold today could be fully automated with the flip of a switch. Tesla is waiting for the laws and society to catch up with their innovation. Products are sold all the time that have dormant features that are just simply turned on so they can sell the product for more. Conversely, a product is often dumbed-down in order to sell it for a lower price point. Same features, but no buttons to access the features. The goal is to hit both markets, the luxury market and the economy market. If you have ever driven in an economy car, you probably have noticed the plastic plates everywhere on the dashboard that are placeholders for those extra features.

The Polaroid SX-70 folding SLR instant camera was introduced in 1972 with a price of 180 dollars (adjusted for inflation to today’s dollars it would set you back a grand). Three years after that, they “dumbed it down” so they could sell it for half price. How did they do that? They blocked the ability of the user to focus benefiting from the single-lens reflex feature( for the layperson, an SLR camera allows you to look in the viewfinder directly through the camera lens, as opposed to a tube going thru the camera body). You will note, I said they blocked the ability- they did not get rid of all the mechanics of an SLR. I actually get a kick out of shooting with my Type 3 non SLR-SLR. I like hearing the familiar thwack of the mirror moving in the body of the camera for absolutely no reason. Perhaps this is why I was very excited to hack my OneStep 2!

I heard on a blog somewhere that the Onestep 2 can get stuck between lenses. There is just one problem with that description and the poster never explained: The Onestep 2 only has one “focus-free” lens as it is a point and shoot instant camera. I found nothing in my search to explain this. It may have been the newness of the camera line, as Polaroid Originals had just released this new line of cameras. I started searching eBay for broken Onestep 2 cameras, and I bought one that was broken since it had a blockage in the lens.

The camera was one of the slate-gray ones- a real looker. And sure enough, there it was! You could rock it side to side and see the lens switch from one to another. I fully intended on tackling it then, but life got in the way. I also got the Onestep + which actually had the lever where you could switch back and forth between a regular and portrait lens.

Lately I have been feeling braver since gutting my Impossible I-1 camera ( ), so I decided to dive in. I worked way too hard and removed way too much, so I will walk you through how to fix this anomaly properly(not the roundabout way I did it).

Removing the face-plate is quite easy.

Open the film door and you will see two tiny screws toward the front. Use a good, well-fitting screwdriver, as these will strip quite easily. Remove those screws.

Now look at the inside of the white face-plate I photographed, and you will see a series of bumps that pop into tabs around the side of the face-plate. Carefully pry around the edges of the face-plate from the back using a very sharp screwdriver or knife, starting at the bottom and working your way up. Once it releases, lift it out of the way. Tape the tiny screws to the camera body.

Look down on top of the lens area. You will see a gear and a tiny dot of glue. If the dot of glue releases, the lens will swing down into a middle position by gravity.

The later Onestep + has a piece of plastic that pops over the gear in order to switch between lenses. The earlier Onestep 2s are missing that piece of plastic. Oh, and they are missing the second lens. The lens holder is there, but no plastic in it. Sorry, It was my hope that I could rig something to gain access to the closeup lens, but alas, they left the second holder empty. I suppose you could hack it and add your own lens or funky filter to the second space.

While I was in there, I also wanted to know if this car had auto-driving built-in but turned off. You see, the Onestep + is a full-featured camera that has access to shutter speed and aperture control through a Bluetooth connection and a phone app. Though it appears that the parts could be added, the extra board was not included. On the plus, the extra board is located behind the lens switch.

So there was no real feature to be gained, except for the fact that this would be a really easy fix. I could just put a drop of glue back in place, but I went for something more permanent. I simply wove a piece of wire, tying the lens in the correct position. Putting on the face-plate was just the reverse of removal. Start at the top and snap it into place. Finish off with the two tiny screws.

This is a project within the capability of just about anyone. If it is too much trouble and you have a broken Onestep 2, donate it to the cause- I will gladly turn it into a project or two!

Speaking of projects- I am halfway into trying to unlock the SLR in the non-slr Polaroid SX-70 model 3. Who knows, it may just work!