Polaroid Land Camera Guide

Polaroid Land cameras are named after Edwin Land who was the inventor of the instant film camera, which was manufactured by Polaroid. All Polaroid instant cameras were called “Land” cameras until 1982 when Edwin Land retired.

This guide applies to the “packfilm” versions of Polaroid Land cameras which includes series 100-400 and were manufactured from 1963 to the mid 70s. Previous Land Camera models used a different type of film called roll film and a guide for that type of camera can be found here.

Polaroid stopped producing packfilm in 2009, leaving Fujifilm as the only manufacturer until 2016. There is still a supply of film out there but it is quickly diminishing and the prices are rising. Fortunately there are some photo labs that are currently trying to recreate the process of manufacturing this type  of Polaroid packfilm.

My first Land Camera in this style was the model 100, which was the first model ever produced. I found it at an antique store for 20 dollars and was so excited because it was my dream camera.  I managed to get it to work and have taken plenty of photos with it. Over the years I have collected quite a few different models at various thrift and antique stores because it’s my favorite type of vintage camera. I just can never pass them up!

Land Cameras can also be bought refurbished online for a higher price, but they’re guaranteed to work unlike the ones found second hand. Thrift store cameras can be a bit of a risk because you never know if it will work or not. But for me that’s all part of the fun!

I love this camera because it is such a classic vintage camera and still takes great photos over 50 years later. I have always loved the way film photos look and Polaroid film is magical with its instant developing. It still amazes me that these old cameras can still just pop out a beautiful film print.

This guide applies to the 100 series through the 400 series, although there may be some features of the later models that are not covered here.

Remove the Case 

If you’re lucky enough to find a camera that still has its case, unlatch it from the top of the camera to fold it down. Press the metal clip underneath to remove it. In some models the view finder will need to be flipped up.  In other models it stays up all the time.

 

Extend the Bellows

To extend the camera bellows press upwards on this arrow. Pull the bellows out gently until a click is heard and they slide into place.

 

Retract the Bellows

It’s a good idea to make sure the rollers are clean each time a new pack of film is placed inside. Otherwise chemicals will build up on them and make it difficult to pull the photos out.

The rollers are released by pressing the red clip and pulling the rollers up.

Use a damp paper towel to wipe them clean. If there are chemicals that are caked on really well, then a little bit of rubbing alcohol on a Q tip usually does the trick.

 

Open the Back

 Press down on the lever found on the bottom of the camera to pop open the back.

The inside of the camera should be clean and free of any tears or rips. Any rips of tears will provide a way for light to enter the camera and overexpose the film.

 

Clean the Rollers

It’s a good idea to make sure the rollers are clean each time a new pack of film is placed inside. Otherwise chemicals will build up on them and make it difficult to pull the photos out.

The rollers are released by pressing the red clip and pulling the rollers up.

Use a damp paper towel to wipe them clean. If there are chemicals that are caked on really well, then a little bit of rubbing alcohol on a Q tip usually does the trick.

 

 Test the Shutter

Engage the shutter by pressing down the lever labeled number three on the front of the camera.

 Release the shutter by pressing the red button labeled number two.

If the battery is working, two distinct clicks will be heard and the shutter can be seen opening and closing if the back of the camera remains open.  If these two clicks are not heard then there is something wrong with the battery connection and shutter will not open so a photo will not be taken.

Most old Polaroid Land Cameras found in thrift shops and antique stores will contain an old corroded battery.  There are still replacement batteries like this that can be found, but the easiest thing to do is replace the old battery with three AAA batteries.

A cheap mini flashlight has the perfect apparatus for converting the old land camera’s battery system.

This is done by connecting the white and black tabs to the flashlight battery holder. A quick fix is taping it all together with electrical tape. A permanent fix is by sodering.  In some cameras the flashlight apparatus will not fit inside so you may have to break off some plastic pieces in the battery compartment to make it fit.  That is what I did in the picture above, you can spot the jagged edges!

FujiFilm, until recently made new film for Polaroid Land cameras in color and black and white. Although it is now discontinued, the limited supply can still be purchased. Original, expired Land Camera film can still be found occasionally on eBay.

The film pack is loaded by placing it into the back of the camera. Make sure all the paper parts are aligned and not folded over before closing the back.

 

Film Speed

The film speed settings are 75, 150, 300 and 3000. 75 is a good place to keep it on because the color film is speed 100 and 75 is the closet to 100.

 

Lighting

 

Use the blue tab along the bottom the select the light setting. I usually keep mine selected for bright sun/dull day, unless it’s really bright outside.

Exposure

Twisting the ring around the lens adjust the aperture. In darker settings the camera should be set to lighten, in bright settings the camera should be set to darken.

Focus

The focus is adjusted by pressing or pulling the two tabs labeled 1.  This adjusts the below length of the bellows and brings the image into focus.

Adjusting the bellows is done while simultaneously looking through the little circular viewfinder to the left of the big viewfinder. There is a line that cuts the image in half, and they will line up perfectly when focused.

Once the image is lined up and in focus, engage the shutter by pressing the lever labeled 3, then snap the photograph by press down on the shutter release button labeled 2.

If the two clicks are heard, the photograph was taken!

 

Pull on the numbered tab to advance the negative part of the film. This causes the negative to make contact with the positive part of the film and bring the next negative forward in front of the lens.

The image is still inside the camera at this point.

To remove the picture from the camera, grasp the black tab and pull it out with a a firm and steady motion. Make sure it is pulled out straight and not at an angle which could cause a jam, or affect the development process.

The rollers work to spread the development chemicals across the image as it is pulled through, and to begin the development process.

On the side of the film is a developing time guide based on the ambient temperature. Although the fujifilm apparently has no maximum development time so it is ok the leave it for longer than it says.  However if you are using old expired film it’s best not to leave it to develop for too long.

After the recommended waiting time, peel the film apart and admire your polaroid picture!!

 

The flash clips onto the top of the camera and the wire plugs into the front. The flash will fire automatically when it is plugged in. To switch to taking photos without flash, just unplug it.

Flash bulbs can be found on eBay or at antique stores if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon them.

The bulb screws into the flash apparatus, and once it fires, it can be ejected by pressing the red button on top of the flash.

The bulbs are hot and partially melted once fired. Be careful!!

See a collection of some of my polaroids HERE.

Tell me about your Land Camera adventures!

 

 

Chloride Ghost Town

In north western Arizona, about an hour and a half outside of Las Vegas, is the little almost forgotten town of Chloride.

Chloride was once a busy mining town with over 5000 residents, but over the years that number steadily declined to around just a few hundred and Chloride was on it’s way to becoming a ghost town. For whatever reason though, this town was never completely abandoned and still has a couple stores, a restaurant and a motel.

It’s a picturesque dusty little town, full of eclectic desert character. We stopped at the general store for some snacks to fuel us on our way to the Grand Canyon.

Chloride was a fun place to stop.  I’d love to spend more time there exploring one day.

Two Guns Ghost Town

Just off of interstate 40, formally the old route 66, is Two Guns Ghost Town.
The land where this ghost town now sits, holds many stories.
A group of Native Americans were killed by an enemy tribe that set fire to a cave where they were hidden.  After that tragic event, the area is now known as the Apache Death Cave. Years later the beginnings of a settlement started to appear as construction began on a railroad and bridges over the Canyon Diablo where the Apache Death Cave was. But this new settlement was a town of outlaws and bandits. Reportedly a group of men once robbed a train, stealing close to $200,000 and then buried it somewhere near the canyon rim.  It has never been found.
Eventually a man named Harry Miller, who referred to himself as Crazy Chief Thunder, began the major construction of a town he wanted to call Two Guns.
The town included a small zoo with mountain lions, snakes, and other interesting creatures. He also apparently sold the skeletal remains of the Native Americans who died in the cave nearby.
Crazy Chief Thunder skipped town eventually after shooting a guy to death with whom he’d had a disagreement.  The man’s widow kept the town going and opened a gas station, tourist store and campground. Unfortunately the gas station burned down in the 70s, and Two Guns slowly declined into a ghost town.
Now it sits, right next to the interstate, just some lonely graffiti covered buildings in the middle of the empty desert.
The setting sun was casting extreme shadows over the crumbling buildings as we arrived at the ghost town one chilly February day. The wind was tearing across the flat open land. No one else was around.
The desert is such a strange and mysterious place.

A Walk Down Heidelberg Street

Heidelburg street, in East Detroit.
I had seen many pictures of this house and when I found out it was in Detroit, my homeland, I had to go.
I didn’t realize how big the Heidelberg project really was. It consumed the entire street.
The abandoned houses in the surrounding neighborhood stood intimidating against the cold grey winter sky.  I’d seen rows of abandoned houses plenty of times before, but this was much larger than that.  Many of the seemingly abandoned houses were not quite abandoned though. There were signs of life inside, even if the roof had fallen in.
It was one of many neighborhoods that got left behind. Forgotten as the rich parts of the city grew.
Tyree Guton started this project in 1986 when he returned from the army and found the neighborhood he grew up in, in shambles.
The goal of The Heidelberg Project is to bring communities together, and improve lives through art.
It was easy to see that this project brought a whole mix of different people to this neighborhood, who might have otherwise stayed far away.

 

 

It was a cold day, but as we walked around the sun began to come out and warm the street where people were working to rake up leaves, and as the artist continued to work on his never ending art project.

 

Under the Neon Carnival Lights

When the sun sets, and the glowing lights flash on, the fair becomes an entirely different world..
..A strange neon sort of world, almost like stepping into an alternate reality.  With distorted colors and sounds, everywhere you turn.
A world where time seems to stand still. Full  of bizarre sights, illuminated by strange colored lights, little stands selling peculiar food, and dizzying rides towering high above.
The cheerful pastel land from the day, has become a little more sinister.
The neon lights flashing rainbow colors, illuminate the dark shadows where I stand, away from the crowd. Capturing the eerie atmosphere of the traveling carnival.
The crowds lessen as the night goes on. I’d like to stay until everyone goes home, and explore the vacant carnival grounds.