4x5 Polaroid conversion

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by Gordon Coale, May 29, 2006.

  1. Gordon Coale

    Gordon Coale Advertiser Advertiser

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    A thread on Rangefinder Forum got me going on this project but I thought there must be someone like minded here at APUG to share this insanity. I've admired the Littman 45 (an APUG sponsor), based on the Polaroid 110b, but my budget is too small for one. Actually, I don't have a budget. Noah Schwartz , and Dean at Razzeldog , have some nice conversions. Still too expensive but I figured I could do one myself. The Polaroid 110b is nice but it is a beast and more expensive than I want to spend ($100 if patient.) I decided to base my conversion on the Polaroid Automatic 250. Smaller, lighter, and way cheaper. I picked one up for $5. The first picture is the 250 with the Graflok back and Kodak Ektar 127/4.7 that will end up on it. I already had the back and lens. The 250 is quite a bit smaller than the 110b. The Graflok back is usually trimmed to fit on the back of the 110b. The ground glass holder in the Graflok back is about the height of the back of the 250. I want to keep the Graflock back untouched so it's going to extend a bit above and below the 250. The second picture has the basic tools needed to take it apart. I also used a box cutter to cut wires. There were lots of rivets and very few screws. The third picture is what is not going to be used.
     

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  2. Gordon Coale

    Gordon Coale Advertiser Advertiser

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    Here it is ready to be transformed into a 4x5 rangefinder camera. First I will need to get the lens a good CLA then mount it. Then I can find where infinity focus will be and go from there. I have a good idea of how I'm going to get there but mounting the lens will give me some specifics. The slow speed range on the Supermatic (X) shutter isn't working. The shutter hangs open. One option is to send the shutter out for a CLA and that needed the lens cells to come out. That was easy but the wooden lens board seems to have swollen from being in a damp storage. I will keep it in a warm dry place and see if it shrinks and I can get the board off. I thought I would pull off the front cover to see if there is anything obvious to account for the slow speeds not working. I looked and fiddled and then quickly put it all back together. I will be sending it off to Carol Miller . Carol takes 3 to 4 weeks so it will be another month or two before I can mount the lens on the Polaroid. In the meantime I will be filing away on the Polaroid lens board to provide clearence for the Ektar. The Kodak 127/4.7 Ektars are pretty good lenses and can be had for a reasonable amount. Its a 4 element Tessar that was popular on press cameras. They can be had, with some patience, for under $50 on eBay. This one was on my 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 Speed Graphic that I've had for a long time. The 4x5 Polaroid will be more useful than the Speed Graphic. Not as pretty , though.
     

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  3. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    I envision major trouble with the rangefinder -- the slope will be wrong for the longer lens (the original in these cameras is, IIRC, 114 mm). You'll have to either adjust the slope of the RF (not sure that's possible -- it's not designed to be adjusted, just replaced, even in warranty service), fabricate a linkage to proportionally transmit the strut movement that normally operates the RF, or alter the geometry of the struts to give the correct movement of the RF tab relative to the lens board.

    You'll probably also wind up having to shorten the struts to get focus, if you don't mill some more off the back, but you'll know that when you get the lens mounted.

    However, I'll be interested to see your progress, since this shouldn't require one of the glass-lens cameras (which are good enough in their own right to keep using in their original form), but ought to work with any pack-film Polaroid equipped with an RF and tripod socket (which means 2-3 models down the line, the ones with less versatility in exposure and cheaper lenses).

    There are a lot of these 127 mm lenses out there, and even more 135 mm lenses -- if you can come up with a generic method of adjusting the RF operation in these Polaroids, you could start a pack-film renaissance... :smile:
     
  4. Gordon Coale

    Gordon Coale Advertiser Advertiser

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    Donald -- You're absolutely right about the 114mm lens. <cue head banging on wall> Why I assumed that if the 110s had a 127mm lens then the 250 would, I don't know. I double checked the Land List: Lens: 114mm f/8.8 3-element glass. Having been there numerous times one would think I would have noticed. Apparently not. On to Plan B. I'm just going to have to wait and see what happens with the 127 installed. I'm not sure the rangefinder will be usable. I could always scale focus. Maybe put that Wollensak 90 on it...
     
  5. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    FWIW, Diwan Bhathal posted on photo.net that he's done this successfully, but I see by the photos that he moved the RF and mounted something on the front -- I'd guess it's a translation linkage, he says the focus is accurate from infinity down to about four feet (which is probably as close as he can get with the 127 mm lens he mounted). Google for his name and "Pink Panther" and you should find it.

    It's a little more work, but I was looking at my 350 today and thinking it might be possible to open up the RF, or else to mount a linkage under it that would still let me fold it and close the cover. However, I won't hack up that (fully functional) camera, I'll get another one with a completely toasted battery compartment and/or shutter...
     
  6. Gordon Coale

    Gordon Coale Advertiser Advertiser

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    Diwan saw this thread and sent me an email pointing me to his post on the Pink Panther. I feel better. It can be done. Now I just need to get the 127 Ektar off that lens board. It's still stuck.
     
  7. JLMoore3

    JLMoore3 Member

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    If all else fails- there's the Tominon 114mm... I have one, and I've seen others available on the auction site. Keep an eye out for the oscilloscope or close-up cameras with the 114mm lens.
     
  8. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    The problem with 114 is that by the time you mill off enough of the Polaroid's body to bring a 4x5 to the 114 focal plane, there's nothing left -- and then you'll get a negative vignetted to 3x4 by the Polaroid bellows. Diwan's method, installing his 4x5 back directly on the back of the body, adds just enough distance to focus with the 127 mm lens, and he claims the RF is adequately accurate. I found another image of the front of the camera where I could see the linkage to the RF -- no slope modification, it's just to allow the RF to clear the back, since the RF actually hangs over the film door/roller housing on the original camera setup and there isn't clearance for any kind of frame around a 4x5 holder below the RF housing (although, holding a 4x5 holder up to the back of my 350, it looks to me as if a frame made from metal angle stock might be thin enough to allow the RF to remain on its original hinge).

    If you can keep the RF on its hinge, it might be sufficient to replace the actuating finger that pushes the RF arm with one that's offset just a little (or just bend the original a bit) to adjust the RF to be "close enough" from infinity to a few feet, and you'd then have full use of the parallax correcting viewfinder (though you'd have look "outside the frame" a little -- 114 mm on the Polaroid frame isn't quite as wide as 127 mm on 4x5).

    Hmmm. Now I *will* have to try to find a 101, 102, etc., one of the "almost desirable" models that lose out as shooters with Polaroid film because of their less versatile exposure options. They still have the folding RF and the lens board on the front end is the same all the way down to the bottom end, plastic lens, fixed-VF with stadimeter instead of RF -- at least after you strip off all the shutter parts and glass. :smile: I could do this on a proof of concept basis with the 13.5 cm Tessar and dial-set Compur off one of my plate cameras...
     
  9. paul ewins

    paul ewins Member

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    Donald,
    According to landlist.org it was only the 250, 350, 360 and 450 that had the integrated viewfinder and rangefinder. The 101, 102 & 103 still had the glass lens but separate RF and VF windows. The 104 and some of the others didn't even hav a proper RF. From recent experience a 250 or 350 should cost $10 on eBay although the spot price can vary wildly from time to time. Probably goes up every time a thread like this comes along and then settles down again a few weeks later. Once you add in postage there isn't any reason to settle for less than the Zeiss RF models.

    The thing I would really like is some sort of low powered magnifier that could be attched to the back of the VF to provide enough eye relief when I attach a bulky back to the camera. I want to turn one of the packfilm cameras into a roll film panoramic, but have to get the film plane far enough back that the bellows doesn't vignette. Once you have done that the VF is a fair way forwards. It doesn't help that I wear glasses.
     
  10. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    Well, perhaps this ought not to be mentioned here, but there is always this gizmo to solve your VF problem: http://www.imaging-resource.com/NEWS/1131636291.html
    At 200 GBP a little hefty for what you're brewing but it would solve the problem for people wearing glasses and you'd have a sorta *digital* TLR viewfinder construction. :wink:
    May I add that this will not make the camera digital, you will still end up with normal photographs.
     
  11. HerrBremerhaven

    HerrBremerhaven Member

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    Hello Paul Ewins,

    Their were two viewfinder versions for the 250 Automatic. One is larger opening in the back, and provides greater eye relief. I don't wear glasses, but I think that version might work better. If you are checking auctions, try to get a look at the back of the viewfinder to figure out if it is a larger window 250. All the later ones were small window, less eye relief, viewfinders, including the 350, 360, and 450.

    I understand the distance aspect of your modifications. It might be easier to go with a magnifier on the larger window viewfinder, or it might work easier with the other. Anyway, this is just to make you aware there were two different viewfinders on the 250 Automatic.

    Ciao!

    Gordon
     
  12. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Correct on several counts -- I've got a 210 (converted to pinhole, autoexposure still intact, dedicated to 667 only) that has the fixed, stadimeter type "RF" (though it does still have parallax correction), same as the 104, and there were 300 series and 400 series models with the same lack of features. What I find genuinely annoying with these, however, is that the 101 and 102 would work fine for conversion, as would corresponding models in later series -- except that they don't have tripod sockets! Maybe not such a big deal for a camera that would be light enough to really hand hold well (shouldn't weigh any more than a Texas Leica, certainly not as much as a Bronica or SL-66), but annoying none the less.

    I suppose one could install a "blind nut" to make a socket, but then you'd have to watch you don't compromise light tightness, as well as likely needing to reinforce the bottom plate of the camera, which in turn would interfere with attaching and closing the original cover (one of my goals in this kind of conversion would be to keep as much of the original configuration as possible).

    What's needed for the VF/RF extension is a tiny, very simple Galilean telescope, perhaps 2x, similar to the extension that was sold for Kalart rangefinders (standard equipment on Speed Graphics for most of 40 years). Seems to me one could improvise this with off-the-shelf optics from vendors like Anchor Optics or Surplus Shed, plus a piece of small plastic pipe and some epoxy. Done carefully, it would still fit inside the cover with the RF folded, and would add only an ounce or so to the camera's weight.

    First step: find one of those $10 250 cameras I keep hearing about, when I have $10 plus shipping to spend on it...
     
  13. James Lo Piccolo

    James Lo Piccolo Member

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    Adapting a Polaroid Pack Camera

    I'm new here, but I have been following this forum thread for awhile, planning to get my thoughts in some kind of order, so that my questions don't sound so scattered as to try everyone's patience.

    The cost of a heavy, bulky Polaroid 110B camera, plus the cost of conversion -- I have no facility for DIY -- to accept 4X5 sheet film would be too high. Just using 4X5 film would be outside my budget anyway.

    Would one of those light-weight, slim-profile Model 180 Polaroid 3X4 pack-film cameras be a good compromise?

    The camera with the 114mm Tominon lens is only a little cheaper than the 110B on ebay, but could be used as is.

    But could the usefulness of the 180 be extended by having it adapted so that in addition to Polaroid 600 film packs, it could also accept 3X4 sheet film, apparently still available and affordable from Eastern Europe?

    And while I'm at it, could it be further adapted to take a 120 6X9 film-back, as well?

    Is the Razzlok-back a possible answer, or is that only for the 110 body type and oversize for 3X4, since it's meant for 4X5 conversions?

    Moreover, would the Razzlok back conversion of the 180 turn out to be as costly as it would be for the 110B?

    The Century Graphic is much cheaper, and might be easier to adapt to cover 3X4 format and still accept 120 roll-film backs, while retaining the tilts, shifts etc. built into it; but as Diwan Bhathal has said of the 110B, "it's a brick" (actually, the Graphic is more like a concrete block). Besides it lacks a top-mounted coupled rangefinder/viewfinder.

    (How does the Zeiss rangefinder on the 180 compare with the bigger, wider rangefinder on the 110B, which looks like it might be easier to see-through and focus for these tired-old-eyes?)

    So, I'm looking for a low-cost, light-weight, single-ocular coupled rangefinder/viewfinder, multi-use, cheap-conversion, semi-large format camera. Or is this a chimera rather than a camera?

    Any suggestions would be welcome.
     
  14. 9circles

    9circles Member

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    BIN prices for the 180 are much higher than a 110b (or 110a - essentially same camera) - the 180 is a pro spec camera so if you can get one for less than a 110 then grab it quick. I got a broken Pola 195 (similar to the 180) and exchanged the body off an old Pola 350 as these are basically the same and now have a 195 with electronic timer and it is a joy to use


    I've both of these cameras here - both are bricks :D, but the century is smaller, neater and more functional (limited movements, rollfilm backs and neat wee film holders for the 2.5x3.5 film which I havent had any problem getting). the 110 is a beast of a thing, but slimline when folded down.
    its actually the other way around - the zeiss rangefinder is MUCH larger than the tiny finder on the 110 and is an absolute doddle to focus. If you can grab yourself a cheap pola 250 or 350 (usually between £10-20 on an auction site), its almost identical to the 180/195 apart from the manual lens/shutter on these cameras. It would give you a very real feel about whether you wanted to spend the extra for the benefit of manual exposure.

    Hope this is of some help.


    Ian
     
  15. Murray@uptowngallery

    Murray@uptowngallery Member

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    May not help you, but the 95B, 150, 160, 800's have a glass 130 mm triplet...not compatible with the 127 Ektar shutter mount, but should be cheap, can be removed with its own funky shutter intact and mounted on a board. Maybe the +3 mm over the 127 gives you more 'slop' room to accommodate varying board mounting thicknesses.
     
  16. Buster6X6

    Buster6X6 Member

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  17. Murray@uptowngallery

    Murray@uptowngallery Member

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    That Polaroid-Graflex critter looked very interesting at first...

    ...then it dawned on me that it looks like a way to use the old Polaroid rollfilm on a Graflex camera, the opposite of adding a Graphic/Graphlok/etc back to a Polaroid camera.

    That rollfilm hasn't been available for decades. It looks just like the back end of the 95B, 150, 160 etc.

    Nice piece of history...anyone have any ideas for using it for something?

    People say you could stick a single sheet of 4x5 film in the back of those cameras (above), unconverted, shoot it, unload in a darkroom or changing bag, then develop and get a nominal 3x4 image...

    the irony here is that it fits a camera with a 4x5 back....so you could just use your 4x5 holders :O)