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Thread: Polaroid type 54 advice (no camera/back!)

  1. #1

    Polaroid type 54 advice (no camera/back!)

    Hope I've picked the right spot — I think this is more an Alt set of questions than a Pinhole one at the moment.

    I've bought a box of expired Polaroid type 54 film on a whim. I've never used a Polaroid camera of any kind in my life and don't own a jot of relevant equipment. I'm looking to construct a camera to use it in (as well as, probably, ordinary 4x5 paper) but first I need to know about the Polaroid process.

    The film's expiry date is July 06. I don't know if that means it's usable in a proper Polaroid camera or back even if I were to borrow one — I've read about expired pack film drying up and becoming unusable*, but it seems type 54 comes in sheets, the effects of expiry on which I don't know about.

    From my earnest but scattershot reading I understand that the Polaroid equipment itself plays a part in the film's development. I did read something (now lost — more fool I!) about going at the sheet with a hard brayer in the dark!—does this sound plausible? A general overview of how this type of film works would be useful to me in working out how I might be able to process it. I'm not too worried about quality loss compared to using the film "properly".

    Would I be able to use this film in an ordinary 4x5 film holder?

    I'm probably looking to construct a straightforward pinhole box, although depending on if I find defunct camera equipment cheaply I may venture into something more technological. I hope to start up a thread on this project in the relevant camera-construction forum eventually.

    In summary, if anyone can offer advice on i. expiry, ii. camera-free development or iii. film holders as above I'd be most grateful!

    *any comments on this either? I have a £2 2-pack of 600 film too, exp March 06!

  2. #2

    Polaroid type 54 advice (no camera/back!)

    Sheet film can dry out too, but probably takes longer. It doesn't like extreme freezing temperatures either.

    The size may be different than normal film. It's thicker because it has a sleeve or envelope, the developer pods and a metal strip.

    The strip is what is locked and disengaged in the Polaroid 545 holder to hold the film inside when the sleeve is pulled out (like a dark slide). The film holder itself doesn't have a darkslide.

    You could probably figure out some ingenious way to clamp the metal strip (I could see myself trying a clipboard mechanism and skip the regular filmholder approach.

    There are 'external' Polaroid processing methods. I think 8x10 and larger may use the separate 'processor' method.

    I >think< all that does is roll the film thru, burst the developer pods and spread the developer. like a pack or sheet camera of smaller format.

    I don't know much about 8x10 and 20x24 Polaroid. Maybe there is something more sophisticated for development spreading , as those are large and huge areas to cover evenly, uniformly, etc.

    ...but, conceptually, that is what the Polaroid filmholder does, when it works. When it does, someone once said, it's one of the great Wonders of the World.

    Back to question#1 -

    I inherited some several years expired 53 and 59. It's gottento the point of 'why bother' ..streaks, patches etc missing, but it's still fun, sometimes. It still jams in my holder at times and I still have to mop the slop out of it.

    Probably my holder's issue...

  3. #3

    Polaroid type 54 advice (no camera/back!)

    Polaroid has apparently announced discontinuation of all products. You should therefore be able to pick up a 545 holder for like $15 from someone dumping theirs.

    As Murray says, you need to solve a lot of problems (exposing the film and then covering it again, then developing it) to use polaroids without the holder, and the holder is probably the most economical way to solve these problems.

    I can't see any way you could put polaroid into a regular 4x5 holder without totally destroying the packaging (and therefore the pod of developer, etc) - they're far too big to just fit into a holder. No sense in modifying a 4x5 holder for it either as it really would be just as cheap to buy a used polaroid 545.

    Here's the long version of all the technical problems you'll have to solve, and how a 545 holder works:
    The way a holder works is that when you insert the film pack, it engages a clip that holds the metal end of the holder in place so that you can pull away the external paper sheath to expose the film. Then after your exposure is complete you push the sheath (which is never fully removed) back over your film and switch a lever on the holder to disengage the clip and simultaneously push two rollers at the opposite end together. Next you pull the whole thing (paper sheath & innards) through the rollers, which disperses the chemistry over your polaroid. Wait for the appropriate development time (temperature dependant) and finally peel the film pack open to reveal your print. If you wanted to hack together a camera without a 545 holder, you'd have to clip the metal end of the polaroid sheet film pack firmly in place so that you can pull the sheath out for your exposure (not all the way off, remember)... then to process it you'd have to remove the film & sheath from the camera, then find a way to break the chemistry pack and evenly spread the goop over the film, by pulling it through some rollers or something. I'd imagine the spacing is critical here, otherwise you could get an uneven coating of chemistry. Slight imperfections on your roller will seriously impact your results; just a little bit of dirtiness on a 545 roller will give you uneven development splotches. I think it would be pretty much impossible to get this right unless you took the time to build a device with perfect rollers, perfectly parallel, and perfectly spaced. I can't imagine going over the pack with a hard brayer, or running it along the edge of a desk, or any other makeshift hack, to get even chemistry spread. Maybe you could get some interesting results by doing it yourself though; kind of like the "Trash your negative" philosophy - let chance figure into your final results. I expect you'll mostly get garbage without the right rollers though.

    You don't need to do anything in the dark though; if anything you'd just run your brayer over the pack after removing it (with it's sheath intact) from your camera.

  4. #4

    Polaroid type 54 advice (no camera/back!)

    walter - that is brilliant. That's exactly what I was looking for in terms of explanation, having not met the film or holders before.
    Thanks to Murray too for prompt reply. Taking both together I feel fairly well briefed.

    I'd heard the Polaroid news, of course, but hadn't thought about the effect this could have on availability of cheap equipment!

    So, now: on the lookout for a back, and I'll be building a box to take both that and ordinary holders

  5. #5

    Polaroid type 54 advice (no camera/back!)

    But Fuji FP100 fits the 545, right? It just acts like Fuji instead of Polaroid.

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