Thursday, June 8, 2017

SX70 Instax - Film Adapter Thingy (I-FAT) Update

Hahahaha... I just wrote that title and did a spit take. That's really not what I'm calling it. Aren't we having fun? Pull up a chair, this might be a long one and I'm on allergy meds.

May saw a tidal wave of camera repair jobs and freelance design projects and June-July is looking to be the same. Needless to say I'm a bit overwhelmed so I've been updating customers that there is currently about a 6-8 week backlog and I'm trying to get to them as fast as possible. One thing I can promise is that I won't rush a camera. It's best to do it right the first time, each time, rather than have it shipped back to me, I then cuss at myself for the rush job I did, and then send it back hoping I fixed it... it's a bad habit to get into and I want each camera shipped back looking and working like new.

One of the many side projects I've been trying to cram in to my schedule is the whole SX70/Instax film pack idea. For those of you on Instagram, you've seen a few pics but I never really had a chance to explain it entirely because Instagram is all about pretty pictures and I like to post pretty pictures. So I'll try to explain what exactly this whole project is and why I'm beating myself up trying to do it.

My first reconnection with film photography was when I bought my first pack of Impossible film in 2011. To this day I'm a brand-loyal Impossible Project (now Polaroid again) customer hands-down. When ordering film, I order a three pack of 600 film first. Whatever money I have left over, it's HP5, Portra400, and then maybe, just maybe, I'll snag a pack of Instax Mini if I bump into it at Rite-Aid. I absolutely love what Impossible has done with introducing an entirely new market, as well as reintroducing to the previous one, to instant photography and they firmly believe in preservation of what many consider to be their favorite camera, the SX70. So when reading about this project, keep in mind that my intent has never been to replace TIP film in my SX-70 with Instax. The intent is to be able to use multiple formats in my SX70 while performing no modifications to the camera whatsoever.

This whole concept started when a few folks on IG showed off their Instax mini film used in different cameras. Very cool. I tried a few and it was fun but (permission to speak freely) a total pain in the ass. Only one shot could be exposed at a time, there was a lot of fumbling around trying to tape an unexposed piece of film to a darkslide, and the film had to be processed in a different camera. And all this had to be done in a changing bag. Pleh!

Here's a few pics I took with Square film in my SX70. I did a temporary capacitor swap and converted the metering to 800. All have been processed in an Instax 210.






So what would it be like if my SX70 was a multi-format camera, much like the Yashi 635 (120 and 35mm). What if I could use Instax Mini, Impossible Project film, and now Instax Sqaure in my SX70 without any modification to the camera at all? That would be cool... I could do some more delicate portrait work or fine art influenced compositions with my Impossible project film. Or I could pop in some Instax and take random everyday shots or vice versa. There's pros and cons (all subjective) to both formats. Impossible film is a bit more expensive, but the resulting image is unbeatable. Instax film is cheaper and more readily available but lacks the soul that you can get from Impossible film. Impossible film is expressive while Instax is convenient. There certainly is a common middle-ground but wouldn't it be great to use both films in the same camera?! Hell yes it would!

Here's a few early sketches for a mini-pack concept (before Square was officially announced) showing the adapter pack, film door, and daylight loading mechanism to transfer Instax film to the adapter pack.




Here's my thought process for the project. If I can't really explain this that well in words, then I'll be posting some drawings and 3D development soon. Plus I suck at staying on-topic and lack organized thinking.


Concept:

Shoot three different instant film formats, Impossible, Instax mini, and Instax Square in an SX-70 camera. 

Problems:

- The mechanics and dimensions of the SX70 are not compatible with Instax film packs. 
- Instax film is rated ISO800 while the SX70 is designed for 125. 
- Instax film is exposed from the back of the print. Final images will be reversed.
- Instax cameras are designed with incredibly tight roller tolerances and the gearing is greatly reduced   to allow enough torque from a standard DC motor to pull the film through the rollers.
- Only one sheet of Instax film can be exposed at a time in an SX70 and a separate Instax camera is required for processing (see next bulletpoint). All film must be transfered from camera to camera in the dark.
- SX70 roller tolerances and roller spring strength are not tight enough to apply the correct pressure and evenly spread the Instax developer throughout the entire print. Undeveloped patches at the upper corners would be seen.
- Instax film packs don't have the integrated battery packs like Impossible packs. An external battery pack would be needed.

There's more but I can't think of them off the top of my head but you can see there's a laundry list of why this wouldn't work. But I'm a stubborn product designer and I like to think of ways to make this work. So me and a few others started brainstorming. Actually I just started babbling about it at the pub and a few of my buddies offered their .02.

What if there was a specialized film pack the same dimensions as Impossible's, in to which a user would load 10 sheets of Instax film, load into the camera, and take 10 consecutive shots just like they normally would?





Addressing the loose tolerances of the SX70 rollers and my desire to keep the camera as original as possible, why not remove the SX-70 film door (it's really very easy to do... like really easy) and replace it with a newly designed door that contains it's own gear train, motor, battery supply, and delivers the print with the same torque and pressure specs to that of an Instax camera?





With a little help from one of my engineering buddies "bebeh" Kyle, we started developing this system. There's still a list of hurdles we need to get over but I feel like we're 80% to proof-of-concept. A few things we still need to work out:

- The original intent was to have this as a completely automated cycle. In other words, you press the shutter button and the camera does the rest... Just like Kodak used to say when people still used tooth powder and thought putting butter on a burn was the right thing to do. Problem here is the RPMs of the film door mechanism isn't the same as the RPMs on the camera. Speeding up the RPMs on the film door to match the SX70 drastically reduces the developer spread of the Instax film. And I broke my gear train on my SX70 due to the strain of trying to push the film sheet into ultra-tight rollers (luckily I know I guy that fixes these cameras. See? Having fun.).

To solve this, and for simplicity sake, it would be easy enough to move the rollers forward and let the camera cycle naturally without ejection. Then the user would push/pull a lever attached to the film door to mate the film sheet to the rollers. This lever movement would do two things:

1. moving the lever would mechanically mate the rollers with the film sheet
2. moving the lever would trip a switch that starts the film door motor initiating a film door cycle. This prevents the SX70's geartrain from clutching out and breaking.




So essentially this would become a two-step process. 1. press the shutter button for exposure allowing the camera to cycle 2. push/pull the developing lever to eject the print. I think we're a patient enough group to look past the fully-automatic process in favor of something a bit more manual. Or we could say "screw you" to both methods and slap a big ol crank on there so we can GRRRRRRIND our film from the betwixt the camera rollers.

So, that's where we're at. There's a few things that I'd be willing to live with like a reverse image, the need for an ND filter built in to the adapter pack, and my biggest user-unfriendly gripe which is the user would need to load the film sheets in a darkroom. I have some ideas for a day-lab like mechanism that would take the film from an Instax pack and transfer it to the adapter pack (pictured above) but just thinking of the engineering on this gives me brain-fever. That'll be saved for later. Our last steps are to get the roller tolerances correct, document a few test cycles, slap a visual and 3D presentation together in case anyone (permission to speak freely again) with a shitload of money wants to take control of this project, and get back to repairing and selling cameras and drawing pretty pictures. This has been a fun project and I hope more like this pop up later on.



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All this writing that I hoarked up on your screen has built up to answering my original question... why am I doing this? When someone would ask me that I would look at them just as a nine-year-old would after their dad busted into the room screaming "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!" after finding that child lighting hairspray (Aquanet to be exact) soaked explosive caps on the carpet. Yes that happened. I give that kind of blank "f-if-i-know" stare. I guess I just really like instant film and my SX-70 and I wanted to see if I could do it. It's a simple answer. :)


Oh, and the filthy money. I want to make millions and millions of dollars and sleep on a pile of money every night with a woman under each arm. #yeahright

Friday, April 14, 2017

Springtime Update - There's Gold in Them Thar Hills...

Finally! A lot of the mush and slop is starting to dry up and there's some sunshine popping out a bit. Mother Nature is busting out saying "LET'S PARTAAAY!" (Robin Williams ref.). And here I am inside sneezing my ass off in front of a computer. Great. Grand. Wonderful.

Quick shop update followed by a few projects that I've been busy with in my free time. February and March were very busy months that saw a tidal wave of repairs and I'm getting to them as fast as I can so thanks to all that still have cameras pending for your patience. I need a shirt that says that. 

For those taking the time to read this and are considering sending in a camera for repair, please please please, just ship the camera only. Please don't include straps, boxes, cases, film, etc. Often times parts and accessories get misplaced and the added weight raises shipping costs. As for film shipped in cameras, I do my best to remove the pack in a changing bag but there's some occasions where the film can get fogged when doing initial inspections. 

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I like April. It's my month... I'm a Taurus. Stubborn AF. I usually get a creative boost by the second week or at least highly motivated to start or finish some kind of special project. April 2017 has been no exception. Those that follow me on Instagram have seen my initial prototype for using Instax mini (and square) film in unmodified SX-70 cameras. I'm bringing in a friend to solve the roller issue, so once that's resolved I'll be writing a full post on that. In the meantime...

I had a follower on IG contact me regarding an auction consisting of unused gold plated SX70 parts (thanks Justin!) owned by a former Polaroid employee that I couldn't pass up. These parts are untouched, unmodified, never in circulation, shiny, brand spanking new, NOS, Minty mint mint, whatever you want to call it. So what to do with them? My first thought would be to build a Sonar much like the "Limited Edition" stamped ones with the "gilded" gold finish. But I wanted to do a one-of-a-kind. Collectors like rarities and I love rarities but can never afford them because I pay child support hahahahahahahaha! *cry* I've done one-offs before with my painted customs and skins but nothing yet with authentic Polaroid parts. So after cruising a very brief but informative list of historical gold SX70 cameras here, why not add to the list and do a 680? Nobody else has done it... and I like the camera. A lot. Especially when it's rebuilt with stronger plated parts.

*** EDIT - Sale is currently pending for the Gold SLR680! ***

Here it is..! The world's first and only gold SLR680 built with authentic NOS gold-plated Polaroid parts. Some details to note are the professionally printed nameplate labels with mirrored gold lettering. The camera features all the same functions as the SLR680 but with a museum quality gold finish found nowhere else. Anyone else see this pitch turning into a Jaguar commercial?



There are still some details in progress... This will be presented in a piano finish rosewood wooden box lined with red felt and I'll be finding someone to build a custom strap with gold hardware. Add a gold printed certificate and it will be for sale. Keep in mind this is collector quality... not sure if this is the camera you would want to go swamp crawling through the reeds with to get a shot of a mud turtle.

Here's a few pics showing the parts and some of the build progress. Something very cool to see was the original protective tape on the faceplate. I did some light polishing to get off any surface gunk as well as old adhesive. 









Many thanks as well to the folks at www.diginate.com in London, UK. They really are an amazing resource for professional quality product labels. I did a ton of looking around and found these guys doing an image search. I'll be using them for all 2nd shot labels going forward. 







So that's it for now. I'll be posting a lot more updates on Instagram as the final details come together. Until the next post, here's to a little love and a lot more peace. I'd like to help make it happen... <3 Have a great weekend!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Latest Haps

Just a quick reminder for those that stop by the blog on occasion... be sure to visit the new site at www.2ndshotsx70.com or www.instagram.com/2ndshotsx70service for the latest projects and available restored cameras currently for sale. More blog related goodies coming soon!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Quick Random Political Thought...

Seeing how the blog has also doubled as a bit of a journal for me lately, I have to jot down a personal note to look back on in the future. Some may get pissed about it or disagree with, get offended, it seems pretty easy to rile people up on social media which is why I try to keep things strictly business. I sit here in the shop and sometimes listen to podcasts that can get political and all that. The shop can't always be banging with 80s/90s hip hop and metal. Well, it can but I'm running out of playlists.

I was just sitting here thinking, for the past eight years I didn't go hungry, I had a roof over my head, I felt safe as an American, and my wife and kids are healthy as is the rest of my family. I think Obama did a good job and I feel pretty proud we had him as President. Thankful would be a better term. I reallyreally hope I can say anything remotely close to the same eight years from now... hell even four.

Ok... this is also a Polaroid blog. So, here's a Polaroid picture!




Friday, January 6, 2017

“Tested and Working” – Balance and Clarity Pt. 2

The moment we've all been waiting for – Happy New Year! And a week late too! In fact, my last post was about four months ago which was just before I got up and left my day job to pursue my 15 year long desire of financial struggle and becoming self-employed doing some kind of trade skill work or whatever. In my case, and I’m totally making this job title up but it sounds killer when introducing myself to people at parties, I’m an “independent industrial design consultant and specialized analog photo technician”. Rolls right off the tongue. People think I make millions of dollars or they think I stay home and play video games all day.

Overall it’s been a good year, personally. My family is healthy (pops had a heart scare but thankfully he pulled through), The lovely Dubbs and I had our first-year anniversary, and we're on a new schedule with my kids so we all get a lot more time together. Unfortunately, with the aftermath of 2016, there’s a lot of sad things happening. I could go on about how much 2016 sucked politically and civilly (like royally sucked butt), and how we lost loved actors, actresses and singers, but I think a lot of us are already aware and I don’t want to turn this post into debate. Trump stabbed and ate the last remaining fluffy unicorn kitten? Fine, I’ll probably hear about it on Facebook and he's a dick for doing so.

I’m visual. I like picture books and repair manuals. So, those that follow 2nd Shot social media may have noticed I spend about 95% of my time on Instagram. I like it there. It has a very chill and professional atmosphere (depending on whom you follow – @drunkpeopledoingthings doesn’t count. Funny though.) and some amazing photographers, artists, people, and families simply sharing pictures. In the meantime I'll still check in here from time to time.

Ok this isn’t supposed to completely be a journal entry but rather a quick follow up to one of my previous posts from last year about finding balance and clarity. Actually, it looks like this may become an essay so grab a cool beverage, scotch and soda or maybe even a tall glass of wine spritzer... Constant Comment perhaps?.. and read on.

It’s been scary leaving the security of a paycheck and a desk job after 15 years but who knows, I might end back up at another job like that if the opportunity pops up. As long as the great folks at Impossible keep making their films (c'mon guys... where's the new news?!), I'm keeping the shop open. Finally being productive on a daily basis and in control of what I do feels incredibly liberating. And because of this feeling I’m beginning to see that it wasn’t the job itself that I didn’t like but more of my attitude toward my job. Great Platoon reference right? Instead of my job, it was an inner war? See… Elias… my job is the war and we… we’re fighting eachoth. Nevermind. That fulfills my wanting clarity at least for now. For 2017 and on I’ll still be adjusting the balance as I'm sure billions of others are doing. I’ve been busy since I left my other job which is a fantastic relief to know there's work out there so now is a good time to focus on balance. No resolutions this year because, well, I don’t have anything to resolve haha! I’ll stick to my goals.


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I want to kick off 2017 with a positive vibe and share some tips and hints when purchasing an old used SX70 or SLR680/690. These past four months I did a lot of business. I’m not bragging but just pointing out that I got a lot of cameras to repair in the shop and I got a better idea of where these cameras are coming from. Guess where most of them came from!!!... Go ahead guess! THAT’S RIGHT! yaBe (say it backwards). Guess what yaBe is. THAT’S RIGHT! The Wild West of e-commerce! Anything goes folks and the guns are still firing in the air. I’ve been on there since 1998 which is a long time and long enough to spot a hot pile of flies-buzzing-around-it moose poop. It’s not all bad though. The site can also be a great tool but, I’ve seen a lot of posts, sales, and purchased items that make me look around and ask, “Really? Does anyone find this acceptable?”.

I’m mainly focusing on this whole “minty”,  "like new", and “tested and working” thing. Let’s say an estate sale buyer finds and old SX70. It looks great after 40 years and they bring it back to the shop. They pop in an older film pack or maybe has one they purchased for testing. The camera runs and the darkslide ejects. They see an image in the viewfinder, close it back up, and list it. First off there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this and I'm not bashing anyone. In fact, I would rather someone do this than list an item as “tested and working” without even dusting it off. And some sellers are completely innocent in doing so. Simply writing “tested and working” is a very subjective thing to say. But you, the buyer’s reaction, needs to be “well, how well was it tested and how well does it work?”. I’m going to follow up this post with a list of link of sellers (both on yaBe and elsewhere) that I would trust purchasing from or to send to for repairs. You may pay a little more than what you would spend on yaBe but I’ve seen auctions and BINs go for triple the market value of an actual working camera simply because it says “tested and working”. Plus these guys are dedicated and passionate about what they do... that's pretty rock n roll if I may say so. Here’s my top 10 things to look/ask for when purchasing an SX70 680/690 in no particular order:




    1.     Crack is Whack…
Be sure to check, or ask the seller to check, the rear hinges just under the rear cover plate. If the one on the right rear (facing camera) is broken. The camera won’t power up. The “wake up” S6 switch is molded to this hinge and is often a hidden malfunction since it's tucked away. This is one of the more involved repairs to perform since full body disassembly is needed and the only way to properly fix this is a replacement rear cover assembly. You could glue it but chances are you’ll be regluing it again in a few days. So much glue!





    2.     Hi Mr. Seller… Is this really an Alpha 1?
There’s more and more people advertising tan and chrome SX70s as “Alpha 1”. Early SX70s were not called “Alpha 1s” but rather original SX70 or “Model 1”. Don’t let the film door be your guide either for paying a premium on what may be an innocent mistake by the seller. Are there strap lugs and a tripod mount? Might be an Alpha. Pop a spent flashbar in the flash port or an electronic flash not powered up yet. If nothing happens after you press the shutter, it’s likely an Alpha (later ECMs and Alphas were programmed to prevent film loss due to a malfunctioning flash bar or device. Also, Check the serial numbers. Alphas were manufactured from ‘76 and up. Actually, early Alpha 1 ECMs (shutter circuit boards – the brains of the camera) have been found on cameras from late ’75 but it’s best to be on the safe side. The third digit of the serial number is the last number of the date the camera was built (for 1970s models). So, serial number 5K714143582 is a camera that was built in 1977. SHE’S AN ALPHA!





    3.    Check your mirrors! Shake n tap…
All Model 1s and especially SLR680s are notorious for having loose internal viewing mirrors. Here’s my theory on this... Original brushed chrome plated models have a very thin type of protective clear coat to protect the brushed finish. This finish is also found on the inner mounts the mirror adheres to on the rear cover body plate (most likely a manufacturing necessity – It would cost too much to mask the underside of the rear cover plate that guards the mirror and keep the coating from getting on the mounts so instead Polaroid just hit it with black spray paint). I think over time this coating acts as a resist to the adhesive. Combine that with old age and it loses its grip. 680s just used a generic clear silicone that over time weakens and older plastics naturally leech out toxic softeners (Yay 80s!) that could act as a resist. If you find the camera of your dreams, even in mint condition, shake it. If it doesn’t rattle than no mirrors are broken. Give the back a tap like you’re burping your camera (make sure nobody's looking). If you hear a hollow thunk then you’re most likely ok. If it sounds like a bouncing metal plate then the mirror is loose. 8 times out of 10 at least one of the three mounts is loose. On some 680s I can simply pull the mirror off without any effort. I don't workout either.





    4.    Is there fungus among us?
Mushrooms on your camera is a killer. It’ll eat away at lens coatings, fog up optics, and eats away at the Fresnel screens and mirrors. Parts need to be replaced and a lot of disassembly is required. Does your camera smell like an old and wet basement or a sponge that was left in the sink too long? It was most likely stored in a wet basement.





    5.    You say it runs… does it sound like a vacuum cleaner or a dying squirrel?
The motor is the heart of the SX70. If the motor RPMS sound strong, consistent, and doesn’t smell like burning carbon, you’re in good shape. Here’s a biggie, and this goes back to my post about motor couplers - If your camera is pre-1975, there’s a great chance the camera uses a motor coupler to link the motor driveshaft to the gear train. This coupler becomes very brittle (I’ve seen some made from polypropylene that are bit stronger) after time. Once it breaks, the gear train won’t engage and you’re left with a 40 year old noisemaker.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLg1c6EjEht/?taken-by=2ndshotsx70service


  
    6.    Old or new Model 1?
First full year runs of Model 1s used electronics supplied by the company Fairchild Semiconductor. They went through about a dozen designs for the camera’s ECM brains. They worked ok at first but it wasn’t until Texas Instruments took over and did a few rounds of designs before coming up with a stable circuit board, the 706431. I don’t see these boards fail that often and if they do they’re easy to replace. Eventually later Model 2,3, Alpha and Sonar models used even more improved designs based off of this ECM. Which is better is subjective though. I've have seen and used some older Fairchild models that work just fine but most that I get in are a pain in the butt to diagnose and repair. Another thing to note is that later model ECMs are less prone to photodiode corrosion. It occasionally happens due to age and poor storage but is easier cleaned off than early models. Corroded photodiodes screw with the light meter causing overexposed shots. It’s a simple rule… the later model the camera the more improvements engineers and designers put into them. This is why Alpha 1s are so popular. Better parts, better ingredients, better pizza. Scotch is finally kicking in.




    7.    Focus pocus
This applies to all Sonar and 680/690 models. There’s a little autofocus time bomb implanted in these models called an opto sensor or “pickoff”. This part goes bad over time and needs to be replaced. “How do I know if the sensor is ok Matt?”… Glad you asked, friend! Try focusing your camera in AF mode. If it only focuses between 3-5 feet at all subject distances, your pickoff went aloha. Other AF killers are solder bridges on the sonar circuit board causing no focus response, focuses only to 10.4, incorrect distance readings, or spilt beer at Aunt Connie's 3rd wedding back in '79.





    8.    Oopsie Poopsie!
Try to avoid a camera that has cracks or chips. Ask or check to see if the camera has been dropped or look for signs or damage or abuse. Most often these cameras land on the viewfinder cap, back lower and front lower corners. Look for dents or cracks along the base of the viewfinder hood too. These are caused by someone forcing the camera open or good ol plastic fatigue. Cracks on the faceplate, rear hinge (as mentioned), film door corners, and bottom plate cover are common. If you find a crack in one spot, there’s most likely more in other spots you can’t see, especially underneath plated parts. Keep your camera strapped when you get it!





    9.    Flash dance
This pretty much applies to Model 1s 1972-1975. If you can, ask the seller to pop in a flash bar or electronic flash device. Then focus all the way to macro at 10.4”. Cover the flash (as to not blind the living shit out of yourself) and observe what the shutter blades do. The aperture should be at it’s f22 limit and immediately open right back up. If the blades remain closed than the (say it with me) cam follower intercept bar spring (located in the shutter) is weak and can't return to its closed position thus preventing the shutter blades to return to their open position. If you don’t use a flash then we're all done here.





    10.    Check the obvious...
When testing a camera, bring an old film pack with you. Make 100% sure your film pack is at least at 4.8 volts. Even more so for 680s. Anything under 5V can cause very inaccurate results, slow motors, inaccurate AF, no shutter response, etc.






So there it is. My top 10ish things to look for and avoid when buying an SX70. Ask these questions to everyone selling these. Heck even ask me! Even if you find an unused MINTY FRESH Model 1 "NEW IN SEALED BOX" on yaBe, chances are it’s going to need looked at. Ask tons of questions to sellers that “only offer the finest”, “best cameras” or “film tested by a pro”. They're probably legit but if they're not the ones fixing the camera then you might want to look elsewhere. With that said, here’s a list of some of the fine people I’ve dealt with or know that I would trust with my own cameras. I don’t mind sharing the love here and I won’t be offended or hurt if you, the reader, decides to wander from our 2nd Shot relationship to find love in another’s sellers arms. Ok, it got weird.

Love for 2017. I mean it…. That’s my quest for balance this year and a lifelong goal. I hope it spreads like wildfire.


Julien, Kyle, and the pros at Brooklyn Film Camera - http://www.brooklynfilmcamera.com/

Roger (fastcat99) at eBay – http://stores.ebay.com/Polaroid-cameras-from-Fastcat99

Todd at Shutter+Light - http://shutterpluslight.com/

Cory at Rare Meduim - http://landcameras.com/

Jake at Filmneverdie - http://filmneverdie.com/

Nate at Instant Options - http://www.instantoptions.com/

Erfan at Revival Studios London - http://www.revivalstudiolondon.com/

Matt at 2nd Shot (hahahaha had to slip that one right in there) - http://www.2ndshotsx70.com/

Let's not forget the heavy hitters at

https://us.impossible-project.com/

https://mint-camera.com/en/