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Thread: What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

  1. #1
    W K Longcor
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    What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

    Since following this forum, I've seen a lot of mention of old Polaroid cameras converted to 4X5 for use as a hand held camera. There seem to even be several camera technicians doing these rebuilds on a commercial scale. Now, I'm not finding fault -- just curious. To me those old model 900, etc. were among the heaviest, CLUNKIEST camera design mistakes to ever come along. With all the used 4x5 graphics to choose from, WHY would anyone prefer to work with one of these Polaroid monsters? I mean -- they are twice as heavy as a Graphic, you still have a bellows, the rangefinder is NOT any improvement over the graphic rangefinder,etc. In my mind, there are more negative than positive features with the old Polaroids -- so WHY? Somebody please educate me on this one.

  2. #2

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    Re: What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

    Quote Originally Posted by W K Longcor View Post
    Since following this forum, I've seen a lot of mention of old Polaroid cameras converted to 4X5 for use as a hand held camera. There seem to even be several camera technicians doing these rebuilds on a commercial scale. Now, I'm not finding fault -- just curious. To me those old model 900, etc. were among the heaviest, CLUNKIEST camera design mistakes to ever come along. With all the used 4x5 graphics to choose from, WHY would anyone prefer to work with one of these Polaroid monsters? I mean -- they are twice as heavy as a Graphic, you still have a bellows, the rangefinder is NOT any improvement over the graphic rangefinder,etc. In my mind, there are more negative than positive features with the old Polaroids -- so WHY? Somebody please educate me on this one.
    What Professor Longcor said -

  3. #3

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    Re: What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

    Beats me too, but I'm just an ignorant barbarian.

    Making and using them seem like harmless activites and make the converters and users happy. Tastes differ, so if they're happy I'm happy for them even though I wouldn't do what they did.

  4. #4

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    Re: What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

    Supposedly a well-converted 110B can be about a pound and a half lighter than a Crown, with a frame-line parallax-correcting viewfinder/rangefinder. That'd be sufficiently interesting right there. Too, these Polaroid roll film bodies--some with quite good lenses--could once be found for virtually free.

    Instead, I have a Meridian 45CE prototype with a wire hoop sports finder and Kalart RF. It sees double duty as both a technical camera and handheld one. Quite pleasant and manageable with a 135mm f/5.6 Caltar IIN and Grafmatic. I've just now got the RF adjusted for a 210mm f/5.6 Caltar IIN and have shot this handheld, too. (Not exactly featherweight, though.)

  5. #5

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    Re: What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

    There appear to be people like the concept and who actually use them. Not me! Be warned, these makers bite hard.

    I always hated the models from Polaroid, but the SX70 was a nice design (compared with its forerunners).
    People with artistic interests should use more time on Autochrome production rather than the Impossible project and these cameras.

  6. #6
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

    Love mine.
    Don't know what all the hate about them is.
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  7. #7

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    Re: What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

    I think people who want to get into large format - or return to it after years away - are attracted to the "small, light, easy handheld" aspect of the converted Polaroids. After all, it sounds less intimidating than large, heavy, complex and tripod-mounted.

    Most of them bail after a short while, or their camera sits unused. Because large format will never be as easy or as fast as a smaller roll-film or digital compact but they make these rationalizations inspite of reality. They are trendy, just like Speed Graphics and Aero-Ektars. That's not a bad thing as it brings more people into large format photography but I bet most of these posers never use more than a couple boxes of film before giving up.

    I know because I've tested... a handheld 6x9 will almost always be sharper than a handheld 4x5 in the final print. A Fuji 6x9 rangefinder or perhaps the Mamiya 7 or that newer Fuji/Bessa folder... those will be the sharpest handheld film cameras for landscapes and outdoor portraits at reasonable distances. Sharper than your Polaroid or Crown or even a Linhof (and I've owned multiples of all three and shot hundreds of sheets through them all).

    The eccentric William Littmann made quite a splash with his expensive, luxury Polaroid conversions that he sold to Brad Pitt and other well-heeled celebrities. How much you want to bet that Brad's is sitting on the shelf somewhere? But yet people continue to buy these expensive conversions with stellar, top $$$ outsized optics and exotic leather trims.

    And the ironic thing is that those heavy, bulky, "complex" tripod-mounted cameras are actually faster and easier to use once you know what you are doing, provided you can manage their size. I'm not going to argue that carrying 40lbs of gear is easier than 10lbs, but once it is in place - a nicely set-up professional camera will always outshoot the flyweight in the actual photography.

    I'm sure someone will shout out that I'm full of it, but before doing so, please show us some modern handheld Polaroid 4x5 conversion shots that are truly good, sharp, shake-free, in-focus pictures - something that upholds the sales proposition of getting 4x5 quality without the fuss/muss. I've been around sucking up photography for almost 30 years now and I haven't seen any yet.

    Prove me wrong and I'll lick the floor! Com'on Corran, before our dog pees!

  8. #8
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

    I knew you were going to chime in Frank!!

    I actually have a handful of handheld 4x5 chromes being processed right now that I shot over Labor Day weekend. I wasn't intending to shoot any landscapes but I ended up taking a couple of detours to some nice locations and made a few shots. Okay a few weren't handheld but I did climb up a 45 degree incline for several miles to a nice waterfall with nothing but the 4x5 Polaroid, some E100VS, and a tripod. Oh and my D800 with a 35mm. Lots of fun, and light, screw my Chamonix! (I brought the Chamonix last time I hiked there with 6 lenses and cursed it).

    However if you want some NOW:

    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-k71vT1uNeW...600/0208ss.jpg
    Handheld, no flash, f/4 if I remember, RF focused, sorry about the bad scan.

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-xD4_HKBxRd...600/0212ss.jpg
    Handheld with flash. I think you've eaten your hat before after I posted this one??

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-hRbzunIeao...ustom%2529.jpg
    This was my first sheet with it. Maybe not critically sharp? Just testing it!

    I can't scan my Fujiroids worth a flip so don't judge those.

    As it happens, I've shot Speeds/Crowns handheld and never seem to quite get anything in focus. Maybe it's just my preferences but I think the Polaroid RF is TONS better than a Kalart or top-mounted Graphic.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Portfolio
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  9. #9

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    Re: What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

    Yeah it was bait, wasn't it? But Dude, no offense... just that my floor is still dirty and my breath is still minty fresh.

    Why bother fussing with the 110? - just use the D800, it is better - nobody cares how hard you worked. Polaroids are disposable medium anyway, just use Instagram, same thing.

    http://theonlinephotographer.typepad...ou-worked.html

  10. #10

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    Re: What is so great about a converted Polaroid camera?

    To each their own but sheet film is too expensive for me to shoot hand held. Give me my Ries tripod and no wind!

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