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  1. #1
    Keytarjunkie's Avatar
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    My Polaroid 4x5 Conversion

    Sorry, I'm not a very good member here! Most of you probably don't know me. I've been working on a project for the past 4ish months inspired by some threads here, at LFF, and other places. I just developed some of the images I made with this camera over the summer, so I thought I would share some info on the camera, the work that was put into making it, and the results that I have gotten so far.

    First, a photo of the camera itself:



    It folds up nice and neat, a very compact package:



    The back of the camera was entirely designed by me (which is why it looks so rough! LOL), the most important part is the grips which hold on the standard double darkslide, but I'll talk about the design in a minute.



    There's also a secret storage compartment, I wish I had a light meter or something convenient that fit in here...



    Okay. I guess I'll start with the design. This camera has no tilts, shifts, etc. and cannot accept any other back than a standard double darkslide. Some people might think this is crazy. But, then again I don't think a 4x5 rangefinder is for them. In my opinion, the whole idea of a 4x5 with a proprietary viewfinder is to be as convenient as possible. You don't want a system that requires you to use ground glass for every photo. If you did, you'd be shooting on a tripod with a viewing hood and all sorts of crazy stuff. And that's cool, I like shooting 4x5 that way too.

    This camera does not belong on a tripod. I think that's the most important part for me. I'm a young photo student (well, not even a photo student) and I still find shooting 4x5 to be a little uncomfortable. I love the quality but I'm not a fan of the time it takes. Don't get me wrong, I love taking time to make the photograph (example), but for certain things it's just not practical at all. I wanted a large format camera that did away with all of the conventional aspects of large format photography, and was simply just a camera. So that's why the back is small enough to only accept double darkslides...it's one of the smallest backs I've seen designed for this type of project. Most people bolt a graflok on there and it's really bulky. I used springs (scraps from the camera back) and attached them to L-shaped aluminum pieces, and attached those onto the back of the camera. They stick out a bit, but it's the best I could come up with.

    I'd also like to talk about the process of building the camera.

    I started with your typical Polaroid 160 camera:



    And a Polaroid 900:



    The 900 has a wonderful rangefinder (not by Leica standards, but just in the sense that the rangefinder and viewfinder are actually in one window), but the body has an electric lens and is a bit crappy. The 160 on the other hand, as a crappy viewfinder and a really nice body. The 110A and 110B are best, but hey this is what I had. I also had a few lenses in mind, but the only simple way to do this is to stick with the stock 127mm Rodenstock so that you don't have to modify the cam to fit with a different focal length. So I stuck with the Rodenstock.

    I took apart the 900's rangefinder:



    And started to scrape away at the 160's sticky leather:



    And gutted the inside of the 160:



    The film back is made out of some obscure olympus 4x5 microscope adaptor, a $20 ebay score:


  2. #2
    Keytarjunkie's Avatar
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    Once all the leather was off, I cut down the back of the camera and started to get a sense of where I wanted the film plane to be:



    I built the front standard (this was before I found the Rodenstock):



    Aaand found some spraypaint



    Cut down the 4x5 back and measured it to be where I wanted it:



    Applied some freakin strong glue! And attached the new leather.



    Designed the clamps:



    Made a few test shots, and then basically decided I was ready to go! Here are some of the images I've taken with it over the summer. Unfortunately I'm still waiting on my ground glass screen which I cracked so the rangefinder isn't calibrated, but I just scale focused.







    The Rodenstock has enough sharpness to be acceptable and yet is so dreamy wide open at short distances! I can't wait to calibrate the rangefinder and use this on people. It will be so much fun.

    I probably spent a grand total of $100 on this project. And many, MANY hours. But it was worth it. I'm not a very technical person, but I set my mind to it! Hope you enjoyed the photos.

  3. #3

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    This... is... AMAZING!

  4. #4
    M.A.Longmore's Avatar
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    UltraSweet !

    I'm Dreaming About A Roll Film Adapter Configuration !!!
    Thanks For The Stimulation.

    Ron
    .

  5. #5
    Jeff Bannow's Avatar
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    Congrats! Nice work.
    - Jeff (& sometimes Eva, too) - http://www.jeffbannow.com

  6. #6

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    That is terrific. The camera looks great, and the images as well. I'm not too familiar with Polaroids - can I ask why you didnt just use the 900 with the 4x5 back?

    edit:sorry - read it more carefully this time and see the comment about the electric lens. Excellent work

  7. #7
    daleeman's Avatar
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    Impressive. Almost makes we want to clean off the work bench in the garage and start building something like this.

  8. #8
    Toffle's Avatar
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    Very nice... (and who said you weren't a good member? )
    Tom, on Point Pelee, Canada

    Ansel Adams had the Zone System... I'm working on the points system. First I points it here, and then I points it there...

    http://tom-overton-images.weebly.com


  9. #9
    Keytarjunkie's Avatar
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    Thanks for the kind words all!

    Quote Originally Posted by spolly74 View Post
    That is terrific. The camera looks great, and the images as well. I'm not too familiar with Polaroids - can I ask why you didnt just use the 900 with the 4x5 back?

    edit:sorry - read it more carefully this time and see the comment about the electric lens. Excellent work
    Actually, I probably could have used the 900 since I took the original lens out of the 160 as well. The 900's body is okay for conversions, and I know some who prefer it, but personally I just love having that giant knob on the front of the 160 (it's the focusing knob, it moves the front standard away from the camera). On the 900, it's a small little wheel on the top of the door and it requires more force to turn...I just don't like it as much.

    Quote Originally Posted by daleeman View Post
    Impressive. Almost makes we want to clean off the work bench in the garage and start building something like this.
    Do it! I'm a 20-year-old college student with little to no technical proficiency in building things like this, but it wasn't all that bad. It helps if you know someone with tools that can cut through metal.

  10. #10
    Steve Smith's Avatar
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    Excellent. I must finish mine!


    Steve.

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