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Pulling the Plug - My Adventures in Packfilm Part 1


Here's a story about a bargain find (two actually) which came just in time to take me on one sentimental journey and one crazy idea which eventually may come to a sort of fruition.

Above you can see me holding the polaroid photograph which I subsequently gave to my daughter's maternal grandparents on a sunny May-day recently. It was taken on the first meet-up since February's Covid-19 meeting restrictions. We kept our distances but I could give them this important memory of their finally meeting their granddaughter after such a long and gruelling time.


This is a crop of the above mobile-photo, so not as sharp as the original. You can see the special character of the lens though, the circular swirling around her head and the short depth of field even at (the only) f/8,8 aperture. This is taken at 1,5 meters - closest focusing distance is 1,1 meters.


Polaroid peel-apart pack-film Fujifilm FP-100C

The above photo shows the first peel-apart polaroid photograph that I made. It was on the day before we met the grandparents. I had found the Polaroid Land 210 camera which you can see obscured by the photo in a second hand shop. I quickly grabbed it without checking if it worked or anything. Partly because it was so darned cheap (SEK50/€5) and partly since I knew that I wouldn't be able to test its function until an electric source was somehow attached to it.
Imagine my joy when, once in my chambers, I discovered that there was a pack-film cassette still in the camera! And not an empty one - which also would have been great (more about that later) - but with six unexposed photos inside!!


Polaroid Land 104 film alternatives

Inspiration had struck to buy a Polaroid camera (from the Swedish auction-site). Posts on Instagram and blogs by Adam Paul aka Vintage Film Hacker and Mike Eckman put me on the track of using 120 film in old rollfilm Polaroid models. All fired up I bid on a Polaroid 104 camera and won it! A couple of days later when examining it for the first time it dawned on me: This is not a roll-film camera but a pack-film one! I bought the wrong model of Polaroid! [Syntax Error!]
With this realization - being me - I immediately tried to come up with a way to still use roll film in this camera.

Earlier I'd considered using polaroid cameras mostly to be an indulgence of the few with the cash to spoil on an expensive hobby, with a low hit-rate at that. I still think so to a certain degree. My angle on the topic is to experiment with cheap alternatives to large format photography, since I am strangely drawn to it.

First I tried with a roll of unsprocketed 135-film transported by a backing paper from a 127 film. This is a rather crude way of transporting and collecting the film. I never finished the testing, though it worked.

Next I wanted to finally try my Harman Direct Positive paper. I cut 10 pieces to fit the inside of the carton that I had prepared for the pulling 127 experiment. I ran into a fundamental issue though, being that the paper has something like 3 ASA sensitivity and the camera has settings for 1: 3000 ASA ("b&w") and 2: 75 ASA ("colour"). After some brain-wracking (I am particularly bad at abstract thinking and things bordering maths) I tried using ND filters to make the camera expose at longer times. I won't go into details (which include rather old caffenol, math, poor research on Polaroid 104 exposure specifics) but the 10 exposures all turned out blank.

Come the next day and the above mentioned Land model 210 entered my life, along with the film and cassette.
After an evening of mending the hot-wired battery pack on the new camera and more instruction manual reading about the two models, I felt fully informed and capable of using the cameras. Both entirely unknown to me just five days earlier.


Above is the second to last of the Fujifilm polaroids. It is hard to nail exposure, is my lesson from the five exposures I've made so far (while not finished with the writing of this article). The "Lighten" and "Darken" control is a whole lot less than I want from a camera.


Handling & usage of packfilm cameras Polaroid 104 and 210

1, 2, 3, 4. That's what Polaroid thought was the need-to-know information for using the camera. #1 is the lever which lets unfold the lens. #1 is also the focusing control, used in a different manner. #2 is the shutter button. #3 is the lever cocking the shutter. (The ordering of the three is odd - I would have put the shutter button last, since it's the last function used of these three. Oh, well...) They even put numbers on the physical buttons/levers to help you remember the easy functions. Then there's the #4: Pull the film out to develop.

The camera is big, heavy, bulky and ugly. The bellows protrudes a long way and is supported by thin rails; an electrical wire that can easily snag anything or get squashed hangs outside the bellows; another easily accessible wire runs from the shutter button to the shutter housing. There is no tripod mount.

Inside is a very capable exposure meter, reading from an eye next to the lens. Focusing is made through pushing two levers with one finger on each hand. In the viewfinder you see the distance markings clearly, in the middle of the composition. Also the edges of the photograph are indicated in the viewfinder with arrow markings. The finder is huge and very good.

The last photo. I love birches and the sweeping meadow grass.


Roll film chapter 2 (to be continued)

The idea of exposing roll-film still hasn't abandoned me, mostly because I haven't come to terms with the idea of changing film sheets in the darkbag after each and every exposure. I've spent some late-night and early-morning hours thinking about a doable solution (instead of getting much needed sleep) and may be on to something.


These are the three parts making up the pack-film cassette of the 100 system. Stay tuned for an upcoming hack!


Thanks for stopping by! Don't hesitate to comment or check out my Instagram at #ourbooksmalmo. Visit my Etsy shop getOurBooks where there are several cameras and other photography paraphernalia for sale.

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