This week I am participating in Polaroid Week on Flickr and Twitter. I’ve been itching to shoot with one of my pack cameras anyway. Today I selected the Automatic Land 220 and loaded it with FP100c color film.
My 220 is special in my collection. My grandfather bought it when he retired and took it on vacation. When it came to me it still had a customs inspection sticker from Bermuda on the back. Of course I’ve preserved it.
The 220 features a plastic lens, the more complicated “scene selector” shutter assembly and a fixed, non-folding rangefinder. I’ve converted mine to use AAA batteries.
The weather wasn’t great today, so I chose the desolation of Hampton Beach in the off-season.
The scale focusing is simple to use, and there is a mirror arrangement which makes the setting visible in the viewfinder. There are two apertures, marked 75 and 3000 for color and B&W film respectively.
When shooting 3000 ASA B&W film, the depth of field is so wide that the camera can be focused at 5 feet and forgotten. Alas, Fuji took that option away from us this spring. (BRING BACK FP3000b!)
The camera features a large plastic handle on the strap, which Polaroid advises to hold while pulling the tabs. This is necessary as the spreader bars provide more resistance than the rollers used on more expensive pack cameras.
Some users complain about the shutter release being located on the front standard and its causing camera shake. I feel this minor issue is offset by its use of regular AA batteries.
Although a cheap entry level model, the Colorpack II is still capable of beautiful images. It’s small and tough; I’m not afraid to carry it around. My only complaint is that I miss the ringing sound made by the rollers of the more expensive units.
All shot on Fuji FP100c, which is sadly the only film currently in production for these cameras.
Introduced in 1969, the Colorpack II was the first color-capable Polaroid camera to retail for under $30. It features a rigid body and uses spreader bars instead of rollers. Focus is strictly via a distance scale.
Today was a nice sunny day, so I loaded mine with a pack of Fuji FP100c and took it along on some errands. I'm very happy with the results and hope to have them scanned soon.
It occurred to me recently that I hadn’t showcased any of my Polaroid pack-film cameras. They are uniquely physical and satisfying to use. My collection includes a pair of cameras with family history; Dad bought the 230 when he returned from the army, and Gramp bought the 220 for a trip to Bermuda. As it was snowing heavily, neither of them was coming off the shelf. The 250 was in hiding, the 420 is Beth’s; the Colorpack II is cool but I felt like a rangefinder; the Countdown 90 isn’t working. I have a pair of thrift store 103’s though. . .
Manufactured from 1965 to 1967, the Polaroid Land Automatic 103 is a simpler variant of the 100 series RF. It has a 114mm f/8 lens with an automatic electronic shutter. A simple slider selects between two apertures for either color (100ASA) or B/W (3000ASA) film. The rangefinder uses separate focusing and viewing windows, and it folds inside the camera when closed.
I dipped into our stash of Fuji FP3000b for some snow shots. I’m going to miss this film when it’s gone.
Like most Land Automatics, the 103 is mechanically complicated to use. The front slides out and locks. Focus is accomplished with a sliding bar which moves the lens board back and forth. The shutter is cocked manually with a lever on the right side of the lens board then tripped by a button on the camera body. After exposing, you pull a paper tab on the right side of the camera then pull the print out of the camera. The spreader rollers make a nice ringing sound. Modern Fuji film is self-limiting, so timing print developing isn’t necessary.
Polaroid simplified the process by numbering each of the controls. I disagree with their operating order though. The manual recommends leaving the shutter cocked, presumably so you won’t miss a shot. As an owner and user of many old cameras I prefer not to leave any springs compressed, so I arm the shutter immediately before shooting.
I’ve recently completed conversion of all of my pack cameras to modern batteries. My first two shots with the 103 were junk, and I thought I’d done something wrong. Upon investigation I found that I’d simply left the exposure ring set too dark. After a quick adjustment, they were fine.
If you want one, you have lots of options. I find pack cameras and the 103 in particular to be frequent thrift-store bargains. Neither of mine cost more than $12. If you just have to get your hands on one today, try eBay. Most any example you get will require conversion to modern batteries, but the process is easy. Google can help, at least until I get around to writing the article.