Polaroid + Pinhole = Pinholaroid
I picked up a Polaroid camera for $1 at a garage sale thinking I could add a pinhole and have a pinholaroid. I didn’t find any good online tutorials, and feeling confident after building my digital pinhole camera, I decided to figure it out as I went. Keep reading to learn how to turn a cheap Polaroid camera into a cheap polaroid pinhole camera…
The Polaroid camera I found is a Polaroid Onestep Closeup. This turned out to be an ideal camera to modify because of the closeup feature, as you will see when I explain the shutter system I created.
The first thing you have to do is to pull off the front face to get to the guts of the camera. Be somewhat careful not to break the faceplate because we will be reusing it. Use a blade to pry up a corner and with a little pressure it should snap open.
We won’t need the lens, so simply pop it out. Keep the parts, you never know when you might need them:
You should be able to see how the shutter opens and closes as you push the lever on the left back and forth. Since most Polaroids that use 600 film don’t have batteries (they get power from the film pack) it can be a little hard to tell what you can remove, and what has to stay. My original plan was to use the existing shutter by making a switch with a paperclip. Unfortunately, this won’t work because once the camera gets power, you can’t manually release the shutter. Here is what my first failed attempt looked like:
This worked good in theory, but once the film was added, it started spitting out film. Time for plan B. We need to fool the camera into thinking that the shutter is working normally. That means that you will have to remove the shutter completely. This wasn’t as easy as it would seem. There isn’t anything to unscrew or remove to let you easily remove the shutter. You can’t drill through the shutter because this will lock things up. I used a needle nose pliers to break apart and pull the shutter out. This is probably the hardest part of our Polaroid modification.
With the shutter out of the way, all we have to do is add a pinhole. I cut a small circle out of a piece of tin from a soda can. Press a needle into the tin, but don’t make a hole. Turn the tin over and sand on the impression from the needle until a small hole appears. Cut a circular piece of black electrical tape, and use it to tape the pinhole where the shutter used to be. I don’t get caught up with measuring my pinholes and calculating focal lengths/apertures/shutter speeds, but there are plenty of online calculators if you want to be more precise. This is what mine looked like:
Now we just need an easy way to cover and uncover our pinhole. You can expect your exposure time to be about 0.5 seconds on a sunny day. That means that we will have to manually open and close the shutter, and we can’t just cover the pinhole with black electrical tape. We need something more efficient. The Onestep Closeup has a unique feature that other polaroids don’t. It has a switch that allows you to take closeup pictures. Pushing the switch pushes a thin lens in front of the main lens. If we cover the closup lens with tape, we can use this as our shutter. Normally, the closeup lens isn’t used, so it is made with a spring that pulls it off. We want to reverse this spring so that by default, the closup lens is covering the pinhole. This modification will allow us to pull the switch to uncover our pinhole, and then it will snap shut. Here is how to do it. Remove the spring and slide the Closeup lens off. Cover the lens with tape. I used aluminum duct tape, but electrical tape should work fine. Next, drill a small hole in the corner opposite of the lens. A bent end of the paperclip will go in this hole for extra strength. The bent paperclip will look like this:
Next, tape the paperclip down and attach the spring to the left. Now our shutter will snap shut. It should look like this:
In order for our new shutter system to work, we will have to remove some plastic. The plastic is relatively soft, so you can easily break it off with a pliers. Don’t use a router or saw, because the bits of plastic will get in the camera and you will never be able to clean it out. Here is a look at the front of the camera after the plastic was removed:
Now all that is left is to snap the faceplate back onto the camera. Here is what it should look like with the shutter open and closed:
Your done. Now you have a cheap pinhole polaroid camera. To prove that it works, here are a couple pictures of flower and my son and his toy truck that I took this morning. These were approximately 0.5 second exposures, and they were hand held. I may have to modify it again to add a tripod mount.
An interesting side note is that our pinhole modification allows this “Closeup” camera to focus even closer up. Since pinhole cameras don’t have a lens, everything is in focus at any distance. Any blur that appears is due to the subject moving, the camera moving, or from a pinhole that is too large.
Unfortunately, the film will still cost you a buck a picture. I have come close to buying a polaroid back for my Holga, but I just can’t bring myself to purchase a $90 accessory for my $15 camera. I also haven’t converted my Holga to a pinhole yet. Maybe that will be my next project.