Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Balance and Clarity Pt. 3 – It’s a long one…

It’s been almost a year since I posted on the blog and with very good reason… this was the busiest and most productive year 2nd Shot has seen since first launched in 2013. We’ve seen high end custom projects, routine repairs, new members, custom camera sales, and met our goals for 2018 before the year end. Needless to say, (without bragging one bit) business has been good.

There’s some harsh realities when dealing with mass amounts of vintage items like the SX70 and some of them are very difficult to overcome. Parts accessibility, replacement part longevity, customer turnaround times, overhead, vendor prices, film performance, etc. This wasn’t a hobby-for-profit gig that we were going for… this was a business and I’m more than happy to say that we met our two-year business plan goals. Keeping some of these realities in mind, it’s hard for me to say that this business will be “evergreen” and I can retire off the income. It’s anything but that, especially at my age. I’m at a plateau in my life where it’s essentially shit-or-get-off-the-pot with what I want to be when I grow up. Working with this business over the last few years has taught me that.

Aside from the realities mentioned regarding the cameras that we repair, there’s also realities in my personal life that need to be addressed soon. I’m not 30 anymore, 42 actually. I grew up in the 80’s riding bikes and setting off firecrackers in the backyard. I lived the 90’s when music was angry and there wasn’t anything really to be angry about. In the 2ks I was a dad to 3 beautiful kids but chose to leave my marriage inheriting all kids of debt, child support, and all the fun shit that goes along with divorce that will push a person to the edge of anxiety and depression (I made my bed ya ya ya). 2nd Shot started from passion for the SX70 but also to fund my 800 mile trips every other weekend to see my kids. I then met my soulmate and remarried and left my day job to pursue one of my passions. I think it’s safe to say that I accomplished what I set out to do (and have a t-shirt to prove it).

So that leaves me asking myself “what’s next”. It’s a good feeling, actually. There’s a sense of adventure to asking that question. There’s excitement in uncertainty but the wiser I get, the more I approach this feeling with caution. 15 years ago, I’d say “fuck it” and dive right in to some high-risk venture… but that’s not me anymore nor what I want. 2nd Shot has been run out-of-pocket. No loans were taken nor money borrowed to do this gig. It’s a nice feeling to have zero debt when starting a business but it’s also very limiting to what you can do until you gain a vast amount of traction, which we certainly have. I’m not about to go broke taking 2nd Shot to “new levels” or be a game changer though. Let’s be open here… boutique businesses like these isn’t for the middle-aged divorcee dad with debt. I’ve worked hard to avoid wearing the “shut-in hermit that enjoys camera repair at home” mask. It’s simply a harsh reality for myself that I need to either blow out the business and face a myriad of unknown variables to sustain a long-term boutique business, or step back and consider realigning past endeavors. Plus I miss working in a social environment… I like people.

The good news is that I’m still passionate about Polaroid and the SX70… I haven’t lost the love for the medium or the machine. I’m still smitten with the slowly appearing image that is magically birthed from a little camera and the whirr of the motor. I’ve spent more time than I can imagine obsessing about reviving these machines, learning what makes them function properly, and going beyond repair manual procedure to keep them alive and out of landfills. We’ve pushed to do things differently here at 2nd Shot… much differently. And even paid a little extra money to make sure we made products that stands out or that are unique. But in order to do so, moving forward, some parts of the business need to be set aside.

I’ll speak freely here… anyone can repair a camera. Yes, anyone. If you have the right tools, a ton of spare parts, lots of patience, and an understanding of how all components of the camera work together, you can repair an SX70. The only skills needed is patience and the willingness to learn. It’s a non-subjective craft… the camera only goes back together one way and will only work if assembled properly. And the camera doesn’t have a conscious brain either. It’s not trying to trick you or make your week a living hell because it won’t work. Stabbing at it with a screwdriver and screaming that it’s broken won’t fix it… nor will asking 20 questions on social media. 20 different people will give you 20 different pieces of advice and maybe only one answer will be somewhat accurate. 99% of what you need to know is in the repair manual. The other 1% is where you have to be creative and fabricate your own parts and tools. You can’t be a “DIYer” if you depend on buying all your parts from Digikey or MacMaster Carr. Seriously… for all of the DIY repair enthusiasts, be creative and get off of your ass and dig deep to find out what makes these cameras work and what you can do to fix them.

Where the hell am I going with this?! To sum up, we’ll be wrapping up the repair side of the business effective 12/31/2018. This is good news for us as we’ll be focusing on sales of i-type modded SX70 cameras and continue product development. Each 2nd Shot camera will be fully restored and modified to use the latest and greatest batches of i-type Polaroid Originals film. We’ve found that the latest batches of color PO i-type film have been the most advanced formula yet available most likely due to the release of i-type cameras such as the OneStep2 and the OneStep+. Makes perfect sense from a business standpoint. We’re proud that we spent the time to develop a method to utilize these films with your vintage SLR SX70. Please note that all repairs will still carry the full year warranty as well.

To all customers that will be submitting a camera or already have a camera in the queue, all repair orders are scheduled to be completed by early Spring 2019. Yes, we were that backed up and sorry it took so long to fix your camera.

Effective immediately, we’ll no longer be working on any other camera models except for the SX70, SLR680, and their variants. We’ll no longer be working on 690, pack film cameras, or box style cameras. We’ll also no longer be offering customization options or custom finishes. So, if you have a custom 2nd Shot SX70, take care of that sucker. It might be worth something someday.

So there it is… This isn’t a dramatic goodbye or anything like that. We’re just shifting priorities. There’s still plenty of places you can contact to have your SX70 repaired. We’ve always been a fan of the team at Brooklyn Film Camera. Kyle runs a tight biz (follow his personal IG account too for some enlightening intellectual insight on current political events). My man Todd out at Shutter Plus Light does a great job at bringing these back to life as well and is a pretty Rock n Roll cat in my book. Be sure to choose quality over quantity. Be wary of the assembly line cameras and “flippers”. I know a lot of mechanics that have a team repair thousands of engines that run ok but I also know a few mechanics that have done a couple hundred engines themselves that are bulletproof and will last a lifetime. Yeah… more car analogies. I can do food ones too if you'd like. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Crack That Code - Math Time!

I suck at math so I went to art school... That wasn't the only reason but it was right up there on my top 10 list. With that said, I've found I do need to use simple arithmetic on a daily basis in most cases but my way of dealing with numbers is very primitive and sloppy. So this is a disclaimer for the math wizards that there is most likely an easier way of coming up with some of the numbers I'll be explaining below. Feel free to chime in with any comments but be ever so gentle.

There have been several SX70 serial number calculators offered online in the past to help decipher the numbers you find on your SX70/SLR680 cameras. Unfortunately I don't think any of them work anymore (broken links?) but luckily the info needed to manually calculate the information is readily available in the original Polaroid SX70 repair manual that I reconstructed below. I was very surprised to find that it's very easy to unscramble the numbers using the chart. All you need are your numbers and if you suck at math like me, a calculator.

No love for the Model 3 on this chart? If your fourth digit is a 3, you've got a model 3. But you knew that already just by looking at it.

This chart only covers Model 1,2,3, Alpha 1, A1M2, Sears Special, and SE cameras. I have a few numbers on what to look for to identify later Sonar and SLR680 models but chances are, if you're holding the camera in your hand, you already know what model you have. The big payoff here is finding out when your camera was born...

First, look for your manufacture code. While facing your camera, you'll find it's located underneath the upper camera back lip, just above the film door latch. It's commonly stamped with silver lettering but often times the silver is worn off and you'll need a torch light to read the stamping. If you don't see a serial number in this location, open the film door and look for a heat stamped number melted into the chassis edge. If you find a serial number in this location, you've got a grandaddy camera. :) You might see an ink stamp on the shutter frame too... that's the shutter frame ID number, not the serial number.

First gen manufacturing code location... Gramps.

Ok, I'm going to use a customer's Model 1 as an example. There is commonly 11 characters designated for the manufacturing code. On most typical Model 1s, the serial number starts with a letter and only has 10 characters. If this is the case on yours, simply add a "0" in front of the letter. So the manufacturing code on this customer's camera is 0F416094273.

The numbers to pay attention to here are the first four and last two. The five numbers in between are the actual serial number. So this camera's serial number is 60942.

So using the chart, you can solve the first four numbers. The first number is the configuration or I think simply the type of shutter the camera uses. I admit I have no idea why some of these shutters are called what they are in the chart but I'd be able to identify the part differences by doing a visual inspection. Remember that often times other parts were used and replaced during repairs.

The first number (not stamped so it's designated as "0") tells us this camera has a "hybrid" shutter (still researching what that actually defines).

"F" tells us the month. A=January, B=February, C=March etc. It's important to note that the letter "I" is excluded most likely to avoid confusion when the numbers are read. So in this case, the camera was manufactured in June.

The number after the letter is the year. So this was manufactured in 1974,

Then after the year is the model number. As I mentioned before, if you're physically holding the camera in your hands, chances are you already know what model it is. This is indeed a Model 1.

Ok, here's where the math comes in and as I mentioned, there's probably an easier way to find the numbers. The last two digits designate the shift code and aren't the actual date of manufacture. You need to use a mathematical formula (crap) to decipher the day the camera was manufactured and what shift it was when the camera rolled off the assembly line.

Here's a quick formula I use is to solve for y (the actual date). z can only be either 0 (C shift), 1 (B Shift), or 2 (A Shift).

73 + z
                                                     --------------------  = y (must be a whole number)

I usually work backwards and see if 73 + 0, 1, or 2 is divisible by three resulting in a whole number. Only one of the numbers will be and that's your date! So here, the camera was manufactured on the 24th day on the A Shift.

This camera is a Model 1 with the "hybrid" shutter configuration. The serial number is 60942 and it was manufactured on June 25th 1974 during the A-Shift.


I need to towel off after that. As I mentioned earlier, this is easy for cameras up to a certain date. But what about Sonar and SLR680 cameras? Ok... here's where I might be guessing on some numbers so please use this as a guide only. Once you know the general periods of manufacturing, finding the dates should be easy for other models. Especially when you get into the 80s.

- Model 1, 2 , and 3 were manufactured from 1972 to 1976
- Alpha 1s (including A1M2s and variants) were manufactured from 1976 to 1978
- Sonar cameras (including variants) were manufactured from 1978-1981/2
- SLR680s were manufactured from 1982-1989

Typically, Sonar Onesteps have a configuration number of "5" (first digit) and "4" for the model number (fourth digit). If you have a Sonar model with the year number designated as 0, 1, or 2, we already know the Sonar models weren't released until the late 70s so these numbers show the camera was manufactured in 1980, 81, or 82. Here's a random customer camera with the numbers 5M847021458. Imma break it down (my Eazy-E reference for the day)... 

- "5" is the configuration
- "M" is December
- "8" is 1978
- "4" is the model designation
- "70241" is the serial number
- "58" is the 20th day on the A Shift

All the numbers apply for SLR680s. All third digits will refer to the 1980s. I have an SLR680 in front of me with a manufacturing code of 8K522976691

- The first number on 680s is commonly "8" but I've seen "7" as well. 
- "K" is October. 
- "5" is 1985. 
- Here there's a "2" for the model number... this is where it can get confusing as on the traditional chart, 2 would indicate it's a Model 2 or a variant. I thought it might indicate that it's an SE but this isn't. Still investigating.
- "29766" is the serial number
- "91" is the 31st day on the A shift

The numbers apply for very early Model 1s as well. Pictured earlier above is my very own grandaddy SX70 with the manufacture code of FM2020475CC. I'm not entirely sure of the "F" being the first digit but I'm taking a huge guess that it might stand for "Fairchild" (Fairchild Semiconductor) or that it's the first generation shutter design. But the rest of the numbers work out properly... As for the "CC", I'm not really sure either.

- "M" is December
- "2" is 1972
- "0" is Model 1
- "204" is the serial number
- "75" is the 25th day on the C Shift... Merry Christmas!!!


There are always exceptions to these numbers. Some numbers are handwritten... I'm thinking because they were either serviced or had a replacement part. Sometimes the number is removed completely due to repair or it simply fell off. There are even additional numbers added that could indicate refurbish and resell from Polaroid, etc. All the info above info is a guide. 

That's enough writing... If anyone cares to add any info regarding manufacturing codes, numbers, or any stuff like that, please feel free to drop me a line... I'll be drinking a beer. Happy Saturday! :)