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! :)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Batteries Not Included... (not the 80s movie with the little UFO toaster robots)

One of the greatest luxuries of being a designer in the car and toy industry was being able to play with and carelessly throw around other people's money. R&D budgets were limitless (so it seemed) and there were teams of a dozen or more engineers working on a project at any given time. Once a product was conceived and given the go-ahead for production, more teams engineered, tweaked, tested, and manufactured it. Let's not forget about the legal teams that hovered over every step. Money was simply numbers on a page that we were trying to reduce so profit margins could be met or exceeded. Holy crap things are different when this is a one man show... 

I've been very excited about the developments with the i-type conversion but as I mentioned in a previous post, I need to keep reminding myself this isn't a commercial manufacturing project using someone else's cash but rather a homemade science project with a wicked limited budget.

slim and tidy said they...

pic stolen from ebay out of all places...

The results of the survey posted previously were pretty much in favor of the slimmer design (83% to 17%) and just about everyone that took the survey agreed that a rechargeable li-po battery was the way to go... I even have CAD data ready to print. But without an R&D team behind this, there's not really any way I can make it happen and unfortunately it comes down to legal issues as always. 

After doing a lot of research and even consulting a few individuals that have been in situations like this, there's way too many legal and compliance restrictions when offering a 3D printed small run product containing a lithium ion polymer battery to the general public. A project and product like this requires safety testing, dedicated product and safety engineering, and needs to meet IEC safety regulations. Go to the very back page of the new Polaroid Originals Onestep2 (or any manufactured electronic product) and you’ll see a smattering of logos like CE, FCC, and other technical certification logos. Any kind of electronic device, appliance, etc. needs to pass a series of tests to earn these logos on products. There might be a few reading this and nodding their heads thinking "no shit... I could have told you that.". I really never thought about it before announcing these would be available. I got ahead of myself... Oops.

If anyone wants to comment by the way and point out that I'm wrong or there are ways to work around this (legally and safely), by all means feel free to chime in!

So I need to stop here... I can't hack something together for a quick buck just to find it could catch your house on fire. Even if it's the consumer's fault for using it wrong, we all know who gets bent over the table and screwed six ways till Sunday. Yep... lil 'ol me. And at this point, I’m already over budget and schedule. If I were to go the li-po route I would want to do it right and be safe about it but don’t have the assets to do so at the moment without it being a new full-time job. In the meantime, let's hope that someone else with commercial manufacturing capabilities, a team of product integrity engineers, and a barge full of money considers picking this idea up to go the li-po route.

So, for my own protection, it's back to my original design using 4 AA batteries (not included... just like the title!) to power the camera with the potential for a removable battery pack (in progress). I've used it and love it. It can be a bit bulky with the battery pack in place but work with me here... think of it as an "era specific" product. :D I think those that would like to use i-type film will be pleased with it as well. 

Hey, look over there!!! Did you know I'm gonna offer an SLR680/690 3D printed faceplate that won’t blow up in your camera bag or set your trousers on fire?

Sunday, October 22, 2017

I-Type Conversion - Survey Time!

I like getting feedback and input when it comes to new ideas and potential products... it's a beneficial part of the design process and is often confused with "design-by-committee" situations. You may have seen that 2nd Shot is currently developing a camera conversion to use i-Type film. This allows for use of a less expensive and more versatile film (600 asa). Another advantage is that i-Type film packs don't have the traditional built-in "impulse" flat batteries so there's less of these batteries tossed into landfills. Nice. Another goal for this project is to avoid simply tacking on a Radio Shack battery holder and calling it a day. Why not make it look like an actual product with ergonomic considerations combined with styling that compliments the camera's aesthetics... good ol product design right?

I'm constantly reminding myself that this isn't a commercially manufactured product like I was used to dealing with at my last job. This will essentially be a service utilizing handcrafted and 3D printed parts so I'm dealing with a different type of costing process. My goal is to still offer the best service I can at a lower cost but I don't want to sacrifice important features. So posted below is a very brief survey that will help me determine how to go about this service.

A majority of product cost will be for materials... specifically the battery pack housing. 3D printing isn't really that cheap compared to large-scale manufacturing but neither is low run manufacturing compared to 3D printing. Overall size will also need to be determined by the power source. There's the traditional path of using AA batteries as opposed to a li-ion poly battery able to be recharged with a USB cable. Bulky and low cost vs. slim and expensive... it's the eternal struggle of product designers. So I'm reaching out to you guys to help me choose a direction and offer some input. Click away! :)

Create your own user feedback survey

Monday, October 9, 2017

In an attempt to post on this blog more often, I’m going try a new weekly segment offering basic tips and ideas primarily from the manual “How to Take SX70 Pictures” published by the Polaroid Corporation in 1974 (it was included with each SX70 camera purchase back in the day). You may have seen this booklet pop up a lot... it's not just filled with mindless banter and sweet pics of 70s facial hair. This booklet/manual, although very brief, has a ton of info that is definitely worth reading and revisiting to better understand the functional capabilities and limitations of the SX70 and what to do if there are any problems either due to camera malfunction or simply because of user error. There’s also some great general tips for composing shots and what to look for when shooting in various lighting situations. Although considered a user-friendly automatic camera, using the the SX-70 has a bit of a learning curve and a few functions take a bit of getting used to. So, on to tip #1! 

A common problem that is misconceived as a “malfunction” is simply part of the original SX-70 programming. Older Model 1 SX-70s (this also includes early Model 2 and Model 3) require holding down the shutter button for the duration of the cycle and until the print is fully ejected. If simply “jabbed” as the manual puts it, the cycle can be cut off, delayed, interrupted or the mirror can remain flipped up which keeps the shutter blades closed and you won’t be able to see through the viewfinder. Later Models (typically late '75 and up) including Alpha 1, Sonar variants, and 680/690 didn't have this issue. Users could simply tap the button and voltage was continuously applied. This blurb is from page 30 of the manual:


In rare cases, The camera may stop in the middle of an operating cycle because the motor is not getting enough power to continue. (When this happens, you may not be able to see through the viewfinder, or to close the camera fully)…

One is jabbing at the shutter button instead of holding it until the picture comes out. The remedy is simple - press the shutter button again and hold it. The camera should complete its cycle. If it does not, open the film door in dim light and pull the pack out about an inch. Push the pack in again and close the film door. The counter will reset to 10. The camera should complete its cycle, ejecting the top piece of film which will have been exposed and should be discarded.”

There’s other reasons for mid-cycle failures such as a dead or weak battery, but since this manual was written 43 years ago and these cameras are now glitchy antiques, there could be something else wrong with the camera (weak motor, migrating fresnel light baffle, shutter malfunction) and it’s best to send it in for a repair.

Here's what happens when simply "jabbing" the shutter button on a Model 1. 

This shows normal operation when holding the shutter button during a cycle. Be like video 2. 

It’s very important to note that if the camera stops mid-cycle, do not attempt to force close the camera! This can cause all sorts of things to break inside like the viewing mirror or the hinges on the flip-up fresnel screen… Not a cheap fix.

Check in next week for more Prof. Dirty Rollers SX-70 Tips! :)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Welcome Back Polaroid!

I really don’t know where to start on this one… do I get all emotional and blubbery? Should I write something dramatic (too late)? Do I surpress all emotion and be “all business-like”? How about writing this in prose? Interpretive dance maybe?

I’ll keep it simple. I’m very excited to call my favorite film “Polaroid” again. Happy 80th birthday and welcome back…

For those just tuning in, essentially what's going on is The Impossible Project purchased the Polaroid brand name and rebranded all their instant film products under the name Polaroid Originals. So it's the same company but different name. Brilliant marketing move for Impossible in response to Instax's growing portfolio of instant film formats and cameras. Plus this is a very recognizable name and will pull in new and old fans/users/photographers thus hopefully boosting sales allowing for product refinement and R&D for new goodies for you and me. The competition between companies makes for more and better products and I'm all for it.

Best news of all is that we'll finally see a drop in price for all films... from 23USD to 18.99 for 600/SX70 and 15.99 for i-type! Pinch me now! Ready for more?! The new OneStep2 is only $99! So not only are they hitting the market with a resurrection of the Polaroid name (in reference to analog instant photography) but they're also making it more affordable! Yes I'm running in place right now!!!

And get this... 2nd Shot is also celebrating it’s first year full-time to the day. HOW ABOUT THAT?! Tons of exciting new things coming up that I’ll post soon but for now, we’re just soaking in the great news. Congrats to The Impossible Project. You guys did it. :)

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Whut?! Free Camera?

Lot of cool news this post as 2nd Shot is approaching it’s first year being full-time (almost 6 years since this whole gig started!). We've been pretty quiet on social media to focus all attention on filling repair/sales orders but now that things are close to finding balance, it's time for some more posts. But first, a bit of house keeping…

There are about a dozen cameras in the works any given week, either waiting for new parts or for skins, so thanks for everyone’s patience while I gradually chip away at the queue. This summer has been the busiest to date and I’ve had to extend some wait times to fulfill orders with specific deadlines… some a bit longer than I’d like to. To expedite these orders, I’ve had a few friends lend a hand with parts cleaning and assembly. Those with repairs that have been paid for can expect their cameras to ship either this or next week. 

We're under two weeks away from celebrating the first full-time year of 2nd Shot and I’ve been itching to announce the 2017 SX70 giveaway. It's a 1973 Model 1 that was donated to the shop last month and the owner requested that it go to a good home so I'm gonna follow through with her request and find this classic a new owner. It's been given the 2nd Shot treatment... fully rebuilt, cleaned and tested, and works like a charm! Here's the rules for the giveaway:

**First be sure to visit and start an account if you haven't already... Instagram is cool.**

1. Follow 2nd Shot SX70 Service on Instagram if you haven't already.
2. Repost this image on your feed using a repost app.
3. Mention us @2ndshotsx70service and 2 friends in the comments section.
4. Hashtag your post #SX70GAW - Make sure your page is public so we can see it!

International entries are welcome but winners will be responsible for shipping and any additional fees. Make sure to follow the above rules... I'm checking these closely! :)

Just like last year, the giveaway ends September 9th at “High Noon” EST and the winner will be posted 24 hours after giveaway ends.


I’m also proud to announce that 2nd Shot will be directly collaborating with Aki-Asahi (one of the top suppliers of replacement camera coverings and skins) by offering custom art and engraving. The look, feel, smell, and fit of Aki-Asahi skins is hands-down the best I’ve used that has been able to replicate the original leather coverings on SX70 cameras. I’ve been using them since I started restoring SX70s and will continue to do so. 

With this new service, you can have your company logo, name, favorite art, etc, engraved onto your SX70 skins. With over 15 years of professional design experience, custom art, illustration, and design services are available done by yours truly. 

But wait… there’s more! Last month I ran a few test cuts of anodized aluminum skins and the results were fantastic! They also sold out really fast. I’ll be having more cut and will be available to add during a repair/restoration, and I’ll be selling them on the 2nd Shot site as well. These will also be able to be engraved and customized! 

Finally, check out workstation v2.0! It's about time... the old IKEA glass table was getting pretty crowded and a bit on the wobbly side. And who the hell would use a glass table as a workbench anyway?! *raises hand* *blushes*

2nd Shot continues to offer exclusive products and services that will give your SX70 a new life and many more years in action. 2018 will be a challenging year and as this gig is gaining more traction, keep your eyes out in the next few months for some very cool social media and PR projects including a new Youtube channel, gallery projects, and collaborations, and even a haunted Pola-Walk in the works! 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Et Erit Lux - Let There be Light

I took one year of Latin in high school... no clue why. Et erit lux (translation - let there be light) and a few nouns are all I can remember. Oh, and semper ubi sub ubi which isn't even a proper Latin phrase but rather an inside joke to those that took time to learn the language. Tut tut.

"Let there be light" is a good title for this heap of Pola-geekery blog fodder, and we're gonna get down and dirty on this one with lots of cross-eyed tech talk, and a smattering of pre-school physics. If that wasn't enough, there's a bunch of obscure pics that will both confuse and astound you. It's the only way I know how to explain it.


Just about every Model 1 SX70 I get in the shop to fix up has some sort of overexposure problem. Images are faded, overexposed, highlights are heavily washed out, there's zero contrast, and some objects are barely visible in bright scenes. Some shots even have a slight blur to them. There's many variables that can affect exposure metering on the SX70 (sticky shutter blades, sluggish S1 solenoid, incorrect faceplate ND filter, LTO - long time out), but the most common is a crunchy-crusty photodiode filter.

Overexposed indoor/outdoor shots caused by a heavily blocked photodiode filter.

The SX-70 was designed to "see" ambient light by means of a photodiode that is built into the shutter's circuit board (ECM - electronic control module) which is mounted right behind the shutter frame. What exactly is this "the photodiode"? Well... simply put, a photodiode is simply an electronic component that takes light and converts it into electricity.

Symbol for photodiode. Ever see Stargate? Well... those symbols were constellations but this looks like one of em... whatever. Read on.

When the shutter button is pressed and the internal mirror flips up, the exposure sequence begins. The shutter blades open to reveal light to the photodiode through secondary aperture holes located right behind the faceplate's "electric eye" (which is nothing more than an ND filter held into place by a pretty chrome ring bezel). Light is converted into electricity that runs into a capacitor on the ECM. When that capacitor is full, it pukes out it's charge in one huge burst which is read by the shutter's IC "brain" and tells the shutter blades that it's time to close the doors, ending the exposure part of the cycle. The remainder of the cycle then mechanically spits out the exposed print.

Shutter assembly cutaway showing the shutter blades. Secondary aperture holes are shown to the right of the blades. Located behind these openings is the photodiode.

A good way to understand how the automatic light metering system of the SX70 works is this:

- The less light that hits the photodiode, the longer for the capacitor to charge and the shutter blades remain open for a longer amount of time.
- The more light that hits the photodiode, the faster for the capacitor to charge and the shutter blades remain open for a shorter amount of time.

Keeping the above comparison in mind, because of low levels of ambient light, a lot of indoor shots without a flash or tripod are blurry. The shutter blades remain wide open for a few seconds and any camera movement results in blur. I'm gonna pat myself on the back for that explanation... ready for that second cup of coffee and a valium?

So back to the crusty photodiode filter. The photodiode itself is protected by an opaque housing and only light can get in through a little glass window. This window, filtering out any type of unwanted and interfering light that may cause inaccurate readings, is a tiny green glass gel filter. Without this filter in place, the photodiode lets in tons of nasty light that can't even be seen, throws off the reading, and results in way too fast of a shutter speed. Shots then emerge very underexposed and dark.

A very clean photodiode filter on an SLR680 (note the conformal coating only surrounds the housing and traces leading to the capacitor).

The SLR690 also has a similar photodiode but the filter is built directly into the shutter frame.

As far as what the residue is that grows/leeches out of/accumulates on the filter... I haven't identified that yet. Anyone that has studied optics, chemistry, or even internal medicine, please feel free to jump in on this one. I'm thinking of sending a sample to a lab (a sweet cop-show crime lab) to see what it actually is, but it's most prominent on Model 1s that seem to have been stored in wet conditions. The moldier the camera, the crustier the filter. One of my theories is that it's a reaction between the adhesive used to bond the filter into the photodiode housing and moisture, much like the corrosion on a car battery. Or it could be a reaction to moisture and the glass itself? This corrosion is white, very opaque, and can drastically reduce the amount of light that reaches the photodiode. Remember what I wrote above about the less light that hits the photodiode? Yep... shutter stays open longer. Overexposure.

Crusty crunchy corrosion on a car battery... yuk.

Crusty crunchy corrosion on an Alpha 1 ECM photodiode filter which will cause overexposure... More yuk. You can tell it's unfavorable since the word "crap" is written by the area circled.

Wonderful! So what now? Easy!... remove the corrosion. Often times the corrosion is found on the outside of the filter and it's as simple as using a blade and then some al-kee-hol to remove the gunk. Later model ECMs with an epoxy conformal coating (Texas Instruments would dip the edges of their circuit boards in to a black epoxy) are usually easiest to clean possibly because the coating gave better protection from moisture. Except for extremely moldy cameras, most corrosion found on these models is only limited to the outside of the filter. Alpha 1s, Sonars, 680s, and some late model Model 1 circuit boards have this black epoxy coating. But Model 1s from 73-75 had a different urethane/lacquer type coating that didn't offer as much protection and often times the corrosion would occur on the inside of the filter as well. Early 72-73 Fairchild ECMs didn't have any coating at all.

White crusty deposits on the inside of the filter adds a whole additional level of "meter cleaning" and the photodiode housing needs to be rebuilt. Essentially the filter needs to be cut out, the gunk removed, the filter bonded back into place, and the housing resealed. It would be easy if the filter was nice and flexy but it's a fraction of a mm, thin, tiny piece of glass that if not removed properly, can crumble. Ask me how I know this... that little sucker is like an eggshell.

Nice and clean photodiode filters. The one on the right chipped during removal. Oops.

1. A blocked/corroded photodiode filter on a standard Model 1.
2. Simply cleaning the front of the filter reveals there is still blockage on the reverse side.
3. The filter is carefully cut out and fully cleaned.
4. The filter is bonded back into position and the housing edge is resealed.

Cleaning or rebuilding the photodiode filter allows for proper light readings and accurately exposed prints. There's ways to "kinda" fix it, like cranking the LD trim wheel all the way to dark or even removing the faceplate ND filter (which by the way was used to fine tune final exposure and varies from camera to camera) but these are simply band-aid methods that don't allow the camera to operate properly like it was designed and may work in one type of lighting but not in others. There are many additional variables like film chemistry that can affect results as well. One company has gone as far as designing and manufacturing their own ECMs to avoid restoring old technology. I'm straight up green with envy on that one but I don't even have a slight fraction of the capital they do to put toward R&D and manufacturing for an SX70 circuit board so I had to learn how to restore the old stuff... which I find more fun anyway.

Accurate light metering = proper exposure. These were taken with a '73 Model 1 with a rebuilt photodiode housing.

So there you have it regarding the SX70 photodiode/filter, but I have to end this screed with a little 2nd Shot plug - A primary part of my repair process involves checking/cleaning/rebuilding this filter on every model camera that comes into the shop. This falls within my mission statement that if the camera "kinda" works, it's not working properly. This camera relies on all sequences working 100% for optimal results. I like optimal results.

-queue music "Live to Win"-

-strong upward fist pump-

-fade out-

-end scene-

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.


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


- 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.

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. 


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 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 or 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.


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.

    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 -

Roger (fastcat99) at eBay –

Todd at Shutter+Light -

Cory at Rare Meduim -

Jake at Filmneverdie -

Nate at Instant Options -

Erfan at Revival Studios London -

Matt at 2nd Shot (hahahaha had to slip that one right in there) -

Let's not forget the heavy hitters at