I ran a workshop February 2019 at my local youth centre.
I mostly worked with three kids. However, the first two sessions involved dozens as we explored the technology of cameras and the challenges of camera building.
Using my Burke and James press cameras, they were introduced to focal length, focusing, light leaks, and how film needs to be developed in the dark! Truly, they are the digital generation.
And then we got to camera building! Here's how it went! On Facebook here.
And embedded via Youtube:
I would argue the three are the first teens to build working LEGO Instax cameras. Which is kind of awesome.
I'm very proud of the work they did and I hope we get a chance to do it again.
The build uses a Kodex No. 1 F6.3 127mm Kodak Anastigmat lens. I think the Kodex refers to the shutter.
There are four, FOUR!, layers of mostly 2x4 LEGO bricks. The numerous layers were needed because:
1. The Kodak lens did NOT have front cell focusing. That's when a lens can focus by turning the front lens (if you didn't know these types of older lenses can have elements behind the shutter. Instead this Kodak lens needs to have ALL the elements moving (front lens(es), shutter, aperture, and rear lens(es)).
You need a barrel section that moves the lens assembly, or let us call it a front standard, back and forth.
2. The other reason I wanted so many layers of LEGO is I hoped to use LEGO to perform all the camera functions like maintaining the flange distance, providing relative parallel film and lens planes, but most importantly, keeping out the light. If LEGO is the media res of the camera - I wanted to use LEGO as much as possible.
The front focusing section is one layer of LEGO comprised mostly of 1x4, 1x6, 1x8, etc. It is shrouded by a mix of 2x and 1x bricks.
I hoped that overlapping and offsetting the bricks would be a way of preventing light leaks. Yet with a moving front element, as you focus forward, you reach a point where there is only one layer of bricks.
Light will get in...
...hence the black donut of 2x4 bricks around the shroud. The shroud has its own SHROUD.
Of course, it's never enough. I have to use some electrical tape in the front section and I added more to the back section where it doesn't interfere with focusing. Honestly, it's still not enough.
For the longest time, I've been looking out for a Kodak instant camera.
Not for the body, or the film, or some incredibly sharp sleeper lens.
What I wanted was the CRANK.
You see some of them had hand-cranked rollers. With a hand crank roller I could hand develop Fuji Instax film, which I have been trying to find a way to do so for a long time. Also see an attempt here.
Now I can. BECAUSE, I received from a whole lot of them.
They come from a fellow collector named Bill O who helped me out with some lenses for a LEGO INSTAX CAMERA-building workshop I'm running in February for teens in my town of New Westminster.
The lenses also were beyond generous:
Aren't they pretty. Don't mind the dust. That's just my scanning platen.
But back to the Pleaser II as pictured at the very top. The big feature is supposed to be the Handle. Kodak even had a model called "The Handle".
With the CRANK, I hoped I could develop Fuji Instax Mini film. Developing in Fuji Instax Camera is possible but you get into the problem making sure the camera doesn't EXPOSE your already exposed film.
Another option would be to have a Diana Instant Film Back but you have to think about batteries. But with a roller system you could do it by hand,...as long as you had a dark room or a dark bag (okay, okay, there are always trade-offs when hacking cameras) --- indeed, I really wanted some way of running the rollers without a motor or batteries.
The overall concept is to make the whole Fuji Instax film experience more manual. Manual lens, manual focus, manual aperture...and now manual development.
I'm happy to report, the Kodak rollers, spacing and such, WORK!
I know this because I shot Instax Square film in the Pleaser II.
It took some doing. Many of the Kodamatics took J batteries.
The above image are ALL the J batteries I found inside all the Kodamatics. Some of the models were quite clever. They had an extra battery storage slot for the spare.
While far better than the Polapulse batteries found in a Polaroid Film Pack, the J batteries aren't available at your local store. There were Kodamatics that took AA batteries, like this Partyflash II.
The Pleaser II, the one with the cranked rollers, used the J batteries. And I didn't just want to test the rollers. I wanted to test the camera itself. So I made my own J battery. With bits of copper from a Polaroid 600 camera, a couple of watch batteries from my local supermarket and some red tape I was able to run 6 volts into the light meter AND the shutter mechanism.
Those little watch batteries could never run a motorized development process, but it worked just fine for the shutter and meter.
I put a sheet of Fuji Instax Square inside a Kodak Instant Color Film pack aka Trimprint. I took a shot of my boy.
Notes of interest. Kodak Instant Film was ISO 150. Fuji Instax which uses KODAK instant film technology shoots at ISO 800.
I assumed that the Kodak film was faster and had set the Kodak Pleaser II to overexpose the Instax Film and yet it turned out fine!!?? So my question is: could the battery, though at 6 volts, be somehow under-powered (amperage or some such) so that the camera set to overexpose (albeit accidentally) properly exposed the Instax.
Something to ponder.
Apparently shares same lens specs as the Polaroid Colorpack II. It looks like the lens is 114mm, f/9.2 3-element glass or plastic.
Mine is plastic.
It exposes at iso 3000 or 75, so I have to trick the electric eye two stops as I am shooting with Fuji Instax Mini film at iso 800.
Roughly three stops over or two stops under.
At iso 3000 it uses the f45 aperture. At iso 75 it uses an f stop of 9.2, or so I've read.
To use the solid body Polaroid pack film camera you have to set up a battery.
I'm using a 3v watch battery tucked inside the LEGO cone/box.
I'll document the camera better soon. Plus scan some photos. I plan to make this my VACATION camera. We'll see.
Version 3 features a little front foot that helps the camera stand on a table. (If you want to see ALL the version in one album, check out my Flickr. It's been a while since I've used it but I've fired it up again.)
It also uses electrical tape AND Renfrew Pro Tape inside to cover off light leaks.
Went outside in bright sunlight, came back with the following two images. Light leaks remained.
Re-assembled the lens board. I placed a foam o-ring between the retaining ring and the lens board. It looks promising. The image below was taken immediately after the modification.
What remains is an outdoor shoot under bright sunlight to really test it.
Awesome film-lens interaction, yes.
Good lens to film plane distance, yes.
A night shot I took last night. It was on a tripod. I just forgot to focus. But at least it shows me where the leaks are. The hunt continues.
The LEGO camera looks like scraps of nothing when you take it apart.
Here's a detail of the Diana F+ instant film back.
I used black poster board, Renfrew Pro Tape, and some dollar-store craft foam to make the light seals. It's not quite right yet.
The Renfrew tape may not be light tight as I hoped. But it's nice and matte. May use it in combo with electrical tape to make the whole deal work.
CameraMods: Sighting a working Lego camera that shoots Instax Mini with a Diana F+ instant back, version 2
Cleaned up the look of the camera from version 1b. Plus, I think I've chased down all the light leaks. We'll find out soon enough.
One of the big improvements is I put a sight on it. It's not a viewfinder as it does not let me know the framing. It does let me know if I am pointing the camera properly.
It works with two front sights. The lower sight is zeroed at 4.5 feet. The upper sight is zeroed at 12 feet.
I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn't establish range or that even if I see an object through the sight, it does NOT mean that object is at either of those ranges.
What it does allow me to do is point the camera properly at the centre of what I wish to photograph at two particular ranges, ie 4.5 and 12 feet.
I did this by turning a used Instax Mini pack into a ground glass. You can do that as per this post.
I determined the centre of the image and then figured out when the sights and the centre of image align. Once set, measure the range and note it on the set of front sights.
Okay, more sweet, sweet mod shots.
Nice and neat on the outside....
Better yet, nice and neat on the inside. I really wanted to get rid of the vignetting and light leaks with this iteration.
And that's pretty tidy.
A good view of the rear and front sights.
The next job is to add a sports finder. Have fun shooting and have a great day.
Just took four exposures. Looks pretty good.
Vignetting only occurs on the left side. It's unavoidable as a single row of Lego encroaches into the image area.
The colours are good though. And the depth of field is just what you would want from a project and lens like this (1/10 sec at F/5.6).
The overly warm cast can be blamed on the white balance on the digi AND the lazy photographer/blogger.
My boy, Jack, took the last one. He wasn't quite set for a 1/10 sec exposure.