My Polaroid 4x5 Conversion

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by Keytarjunkie, Sep 10, 2011.

  1. Keytarjunkie

    Keytarjunkie Member

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    Sorry, I'm not a very good member here! Most of you probably don't know me. I've been working on a project for the past 4ish months inspired by some threads here, at LFF, and other places. I just developed some of the images I made with this camera over the summer, so I thought I would share some info on the camera, the work that was put into making it, and the results that I have gotten so far.

    First, a photo of the camera itself:

    [​IMG]

    It folds up nice and neat, a very compact package:

    [​IMG]

    The back of the camera was entirely designed by me (which is why it looks so rough! LOL), the most important part is the grips which hold on the standard double darkslide, but I'll talk about the design in a minute.

    [​IMG]

    There's also a secret storage compartment, I wish I had a light meter or something convenient that fit in here...

    [​IMG]

    Okay. I guess I'll start with the design. This camera has no tilts, shifts, etc. and cannot accept any other back than a standard double darkslide. Some people might think this is crazy. But, then again I don't think a 4x5 rangefinder is for them. In my opinion, the whole idea of a 4x5 with a proprietary viewfinder is to be as convenient as possible. You don't want a system that requires you to use ground glass for every photo. If you did, you'd be shooting on a tripod with a viewing hood and all sorts of crazy stuff. And that's cool, I like shooting 4x5 that way too.

    This camera does not belong on a tripod. I think that's the most important part for me. I'm a young photo student (well, not even a photo student) and I still find shooting 4x5 to be a little uncomfortable. I love the quality but I'm not a fan of the time it takes. Don't get me wrong, I love taking time to make the photograph (example), but for certain things it's just not practical at all. I wanted a large format camera that did away with all of the conventional aspects of large format photography, and was simply just a camera. So that's why the back is small enough to only accept double darkslides...it's one of the smallest backs I've seen designed for this type of project. Most people bolt a graflok on there and it's really bulky. I used springs (scraps from the camera back) and attached them to L-shaped aluminum pieces, and attached those onto the back of the camera. They stick out a bit, but it's the best I could come up with.

    I'd also like to talk about the process of building the camera.

    I started with your typical Polaroid 160 camera:

    [​IMG]

    And a Polaroid 900:

    [​IMG]

    The 900 has a wonderful rangefinder (not by Leica standards, but just in the sense that the rangefinder and viewfinder are actually in one window), but the body has an electric lens and is a bit crappy. The 160 on the other hand, as a crappy viewfinder and a really nice body. The 110A and 110B are best, but hey this is what I had. I also had a few lenses in mind, but the only simple way to do this is to stick with the stock 127mm Rodenstock so that you don't have to modify the cam to fit with a different focal length. So I stuck with the Rodenstock.

    I took apart the 900's rangefinder:

    [​IMG]

    And started to scrape away at the 160's sticky leather:

    [​IMG]

    And gutted the inside of the 160:

    [​IMG]

    The film back is made out of some obscure olympus 4x5 microscope adaptor, a $20 ebay score:

    [​IMG]
     
  2. OP
    OP
    Keytarjunkie

    Keytarjunkie Member

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    Once all the leather was off, I cut down the back of the camera and started to get a sense of where I wanted the film plane to be:

    [​IMG]

    I built the front standard (this was before I found the Rodenstock):

    [​IMG]

    Aaand found some spraypaint :D

    [​IMG]

    Cut down the 4x5 back and measured it to be where I wanted it:

    [​IMG]

    Applied some freakin strong glue! And attached the new leather.

    [​IMG]

    Designed the clamps:

    [​IMG]

    Made a few test shots, and then basically decided I was ready to go! Here are some of the images I've taken with it over the summer. Unfortunately I'm still waiting on my ground glass screen which I cracked so the rangefinder isn't calibrated, but I just scale focused.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The Rodenstock has enough sharpness to be acceptable and yet is so dreamy wide open at short distances! I can't wait to calibrate the rangefinder and use this on people. It will be so much fun.

    I probably spent a grand total of $100 on this project. And many, MANY hours. But it was worth it. I'm not a very technical person, but I set my mind to it! Hope you enjoyed the photos.
     
  3. happyjam64

    happyjam64 Member

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    This... is... AMAZING!
     
  4. M.A.Longmore

    M.A.Longmore Subscriber

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    .
    UltraSweet !

    I'm Dreaming About A Roll Film Adapter Configuration !!!
    Thanks For The Stimulation.

    Ron
    .
     
  5. Jeff Bannow

    Jeff Bannow Member

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    Congrats! Nice work.
     
  6. spolly74

    spolly74 Member

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    That is terrific. The camera looks great, and the images as well. I'm not too familiar with Polaroids - can I ask why you didnt just use the 900 with the 4x5 back?

    edit:sorry - read it more carefully this time and see the comment about the electric lens. Excellent work
     
  7. daleeman

    daleeman Subscriber

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    Impressive. Almost makes we want to clean off the work bench in the garage and start building something like this.
     
  8. Toffle

    Toffle Member

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    Very nice... (and who said you weren't a good member? :smile: )
     
  9. OP
    OP
    Keytarjunkie

    Keytarjunkie Member

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    Thanks for the kind words all!

    Actually, I probably could have used the 900 since I took the original lens out of the 160 as well. The 900's body is okay for conversions, and I know some who prefer it, but personally I just love having that giant knob on the front of the 160 (it's the focusing knob, it moves the front standard away from the camera). On the 900, it's a small little wheel on the top of the door and it requires more force to turn...I just don't like it as much.

    Do it! I'm a 20-year-old college student with little to no technical proficiency in building things like this, but it wasn't all that bad. It helps if you know someone with tools that can cut through metal.
     
  10. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    Excellent. I must finish mine!


    Steve.
     
  11. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    Very nice job!
     
  12. amac212

    amac212 Member

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    I'm utterly gobsmacked. This is fabulous and I so want to see some wide open shots if you have the opportunity to share. Kudos to you and thank you for the inspiration. Wow, wow, wow. And did I mentioned I was utterly gobsmacked?
     
  13. dukyluke

    dukyluke Member

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    focus plane

    Hello,

    I just got an old polaroid 900 & 110a, and would be curious to know, how you did to get the focus plane/filmplane right, when doing the conversion, and after you glued a new back on to it, to put 4x5 filmholders in? (and in relation to this how did you manage to reset the rangefinder?)

    If you could explain this a bit more detailed, this would be great.

    Thanks a lot,

    warmest regards,

    Jeff

    P.S.: I had a look at your website, and like your images quite a lot...
     
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  15. amsp

    amsp Member

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    Great stuff, I love the idea of a 4x5 rangefinder.
     
  16. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    When you put the 4x5 back on it, the film plane moves back from where it once was. The mechanism holding the lens needs to be moved back by the same distance. This involves drilling out the rivets and securing it in it's new position. I did this by drilling and tapping the bed plate out to M2.5.

    The rangefinder does not need to be altered.

    EDIT: Sorry, all of this only applies to using the camera's existing lens which the OP did not do but you could if you wanted a simpler conversion.


    Steve.
     
  17. saman13

    saman13 Subscriber

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    I remember reading this post about a year ago when wondering what to do with the Land camera that was given to me thinking "if one 20-something college student can do it, then this one probably could too". But then I realized that I probably wouldn't want to shoot 4x5 until I started developing my own film.
    Well, just getting my darkroom off the ground so now this post popped back into my mind...

    Really great work
     
  18. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Although interesting, a Crown is a light 4X5 folding rangefinder, the rangefinder is not a single unit but usable. Although the rangefinder is camed for only one lens with ground glass back will work with a nice assortment of lens from wide to moderate telephoto, and has limited raise and tilt. For the cost of a Pathfinder 110 and the conversion you can find a Crown with 4x5 spring back or for not much more a later model with a back that takes a roll film back.
     
  19. saman13

    saman13 Subscriber

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    Yeah but... how much more fun is it to do it yourself?

    Especially since the film for these cameras has been discontinued, the big appeal of this to me is to take a camera that could otherwise not be used (I'm not going to pay the prices of the discontinued film) and make it useful again! Keeping one more camera in use and out of the landfill and all that.
     
  20. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Paul, I'm not sure which Crown Graphic you wrote about. Some have a Kalart rangefinder on the side, others have Graflex' own RF on top. Kalarts don't have cams and their linkages can be adjusted for a range of focal lengths. Slow painful tedious process not to be attempted in the field. Graflex own RF is cammed, the cams can be changed in the field. Big problem with them is finding cams. There are discussions on www.graflex.org about making cams and http://www.southbristolviews.com/pics/Graphic/graphicmanuals.html has a cam designer program.
     
  21. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member

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    Exactly. And the OP did a really nice job to boot.
     
  22. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I have an older Crown with the side rangefinder, may be my problem with terminology. It has the linkage that connects the rangefinder to a fixed cam on the rear of the rails, as the rails are moved the bar from the rangefinder follows the cam. What I call the cam may not a real cam, seems to round. I seem to recall that Crowns came with a 127 or 135mm lens (might have been other factory options as well) so each had to have it's own linkage. Although my Speed's top mounted rangefinder is no longer functional it worked the same way. I thought the top mounted rangefinder cams could be swapped, (your right not job to be done in the field), many say that the rangefinder is matched to the lens. My Crown came with a 135mm Graflex but I have upgraded to a 135 Zeiss and I have no issue with focus. The Bessler Press Camera made for the AF in the 50s and early 60s had build in rails and cams for a number of lens. I have only seen one when I was at Vandenberg AFB, it had been heavily used over the years and replaced with a Superspeed with I never used.
     
  23. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Paul, that cam is part of the linkage that connects the Kalart RF to the bed rails. The rangefinding, as it were, is done by another linkage inside the RF itself. That linkage is adjustable -- read about how to do it here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B1sPJkp-Mdghc0JIYjdQZy05M2M. The process is very painful, is best not done in the field.

    Graphics' top rangefinders have easily changeable cams, which can indeed be done in the field. See the top RF Graphic manual at the site whose link is above.
     
  24. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I have that booklet, my understanding is that this is the directions for adjusting the rangefinder, I do not see directions for changing the cam for a different lens. I assume that that the arms that link the rangefinder to the rail are different for different lens. Changing the arm is easy just one screw, but then the distance has be adjusted? I might be wrong, (most likely) but I was under the impressions that with the side rangefinder were sold with a specific lens. My Wards Catalog 1952 list 127 installed. I don't have a parts catalog so don't know if different arms could be ordered after the fact or if you had to send the camera in to change the lens and cam?

    Both my Crown and Speed are side mounted rangefinders so I have no experience changing cams. I guess a historical moot point, maybe a lucky buy a kit with cams? I don't remember if the Superspeed has built in cams or interchangeable cams, although I trained with the Superspeed in Tech School never used one the field. What about Toyo, they bought the Superspeed, it is a rebranded a Superspeed or did Toyo upgrade to a Japanese Lindhoff?
     
  25. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    Paul, Kalart rangefinders do not have interchangeable cams. I just downloaded the manual I directed you to. It is clear and explicit. You haven't read it. You have an obsession that the cam on the right inner bed rail, which is used to adjust the infinity setting, is all there is in the way of adjustments. Go back and study the book with the camera and a tool kit ready to hand so you can take the cover off the RF and see what's there.

    The arms are camera-specific, not lens-specific.

    Graphics sold with a Kalart rangefinder and a lens were delivered with the RF calibrated for that very lens and with the appropriate distance scale (two pieces) on the bed.

    The SuperSpeed has Graflex'[ own RF on top, just like top RF Crowns and Speeds. Toyo bought the SuperSpeed tooling. Toyo didn't upgrade the camera in any way. They may have switched -- I don't know -- to metric screws.
     
  26. jacaquarie

    jacaquarie Subscriber

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    Read the instructions
    Have set up and adjusted two kalart rangefinders, not that difficult. Take your time, check, check again, then adjustment, check again, repeat. I found a local sports part, the far goal post were the good alingement target.
    Once upon a time a photographer was expected to do these things.
    Good luck.
    Read directions.

    Arthur