Recent Items: “Slow Jams”

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“Love RIP” 2016. Polaroid 180 Land Camera, 114mm f/4.5 Tominon with close up lens attachment.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t been reviewing a lot of cameras as of late. It’s not for a lack of cameras to review, believe me. Much respect to my fellow bloggers especially the ones who do it so regularly. There is no glory to this!

However, I do have a new hobby; camera repair. Or “attempted” camera repair anyway 🙂

Here’s my most recent repair attempt. Some of you may remember my review on the wonderful Polaroid 180 Land camera. If not, and if you’re interested in that camera, you can check out the review here.

THE SHUTTER JAM

The camera was great. However, it started not being so wonderful a few months ago. First it started with the shutter intermittently not firing. It would just jam up for no reason, but then with enough pressing of the shutter release it would fire. Then one day, it stopped firing altogether.

Bummer. I thought this might be it for the mighty 180, but somewhere in the back of my mind I suspected it was not the leaf shutter in the lens itself, but that it was the release mechanism.

I remember reading about loosening up the cable that fires the shutter. On the 180, as with most Land cameras, the shutter release is attached to the main head board which also houses the lens. That area is protected by a metal part that is attached by three very, very tiny screws (if this stuff is confusing you, just refer to the pictures, they tell a much better story than I can!)

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“Slow Jam” The shutter release started to jam intermittently, eventually refusing to fire at all which prompted the attempted repair.

When you press the shutter release button (the red one), it actually fires the shutter through a cable, much like a cable release that you attach to your old school SLRs.

Anyway, I did loosen up the cable, but it did not solve the problem. I then tried the opposite, pushing the cable higher thinking perhaps it needed to be closer to get enough tension to fire the shutter. It still didn’t work.

Finally had to loosen up those three very, very tiny screws to take off the part that hides the actual shutter release. This turned out to the the hardest part of the job. It wasn’t supposed to be hard, but I found those screws to be so tiny, even my smallest “eyeglass kit repair” screwdriver wasn’t getting them raggedy screws out.

The space between the front board and the camera means your screwdriver must also be very tiny. There’s not a lot of room to work on this. I don’t have the biggest hands and yet I was having trouble fitting my hand in there while trying to turn the screws loose.

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“Screwed” The actual shutter release is located behind this metal part (top) held together by three very tiny screws.

Eventually, I got them off and I’m able to fire the shutter with my finger. It still got jammed so I put in a dab of WD-40 and it’s better now, but not completely fixed. I tried putting the pieces back together, but I found the shutter would release only intermittently with the cable to I just left it off.

I can use it now as is, but since I have to push up the shutter release by hand, I fear it might induce camera shake. Fortunately, the 180 Land Camera has a self timer function and that is what I use if I’m taking shots lower than 1/60. This plus my limited supply of the soon to be extinct packfilm means this is not a camera I’d use any more for taking shots of the kids, especially since they’re always moving around 🙂

This is still an ongoing project and I figure it might be helpful for anyone having similar issues with their Land Camera.

Just like vintage cars, it’s an awesome thing  and a lot of fun to shoot with a Camera Legend like the Polaroid 180. However, just like vintage cars, these classic cameras require maintenance and are not so fun when they start getting funky on you.

Just for the record, I did seek out service from a repair place that services these cameras. Never heard back from them. And perhaps that’s a good thing since they saved me money 🙂

THE FILM JAM

While taking my test shots, the film jammed in the 180 as pack film has been known to do. The film is discontinued, pricy, and every picture counts so I did not want to waste anything.

In the past, I have ruined whole packs by trying to force it out. In my 180 review, I mentioned of opening the film back ever so slightly which usually eases tension and allows you to get the film out, but sometimes even that doesn’t work.

In that case, what you need to do is in total darkness, open the film back slowly, pull out the exposed film which should be the one on the very top (assuming you had already pulled the tab enough) and manually put it through the rollers. Again, this must be done in total darkness.

The very top photo of the the dead flowers was actually a saved print using this method.

THE BURNING QUESTION

With the shutter jam and the film jam, I had a whole bunch of “slow jams” to deal with while shooting that Polaroid.

The burning question is, with regards to Polaroids and film altogether: Why Bother?

My best answer for that is: You gotta love it man!! 🙂

I know there’s a lot of folks way more experienced at repairing Land Cameras than I am and I’d love to hear from you!

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The Fuji FP-100C Discontinued: The End Of Pack Film

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“Peace” 2012. Polaroid 110B converted for pack film, 127mm f/4.7 Ysarex, Fuji FP-100C.

Periodically, I go through periods where I need a mental break from it all. I’m sure there’s more than a few of you who feel the same if you’ve been blogging or posting photos on the internet for some time. “C-B-R” I call it. Crash. Burn. Rise (or try to rise) again 🙂

As mentioned before, putting up a blog with any kind of quality content takes effort and I would rather not post unless I could put up something interesting for you.

Anyway, almost two weeks ago it was announced that Fujifilm would be discontinuing the FP-100C, the last commercially produced 3.25×4.25″ peel-apart pack film. The announcement caused a bit of an uproar in the film community.

The discontinuation of this film has more implications than it first seems. It goes without saying that those who truly enjoy pack film and use it regularly will be most affected. But they are not the only ones affected. With no more pack film, here are just some of the after effects:

  1. People who ever wanted to try a “Polaroid Back” with their film camera will be affected when there is no more pack film because virtually all Polaroid backs, especially for medium format systems, take the 3.25×4.25″ peel apart films. And for the Polaroid backs that do not take this film, such as the 545 backs, film is virtually non-existent, except for really old batches sold on eBay or the cool, but expensive New55 films.
  2. The announcement rendered all Polaroid Land cameras and any other camera that takes this film useless. Well, not really useless right now, but living on borrowed time.
  3. People who make a living selling pack film photos on the streets or at fairs, events, etc, will be affected. Admittedly, there are more people these days shooting with a digital camera and a portable digital printer than there are those using pack film, but I do know a couple of really cool photographers whose unique work was directly a result of shooting with vintage cameras and instant pack film, and some who even make a living from this.
  4. Folks who, over the years, have resurrected vintage Polaroid cameras and have made a living restoring and modifying old Polaroid cameras to take pack film. There was a good market for this, just check eBay. They will definitely be affected by this. Some of these people have started converting cameras to use Instax film, but they’re just beginning. I hope they will continue and wish them success with this.

The surprising thing about Fuji’s discontinuation? Well, from all accounts Fuji’s own line of Instax instant cameras and film are booming! These instant cameras are incredibly popular and according to some accounts, making a better profit over Fuji’s own line of renowned digital cameras.

I’ve read people saying maybe Fuji did not want the pack film market to compete or hinder the sales of Instax cameras so they discontinued the FP-100C. This however doesn’t make sense because Fuji had no competition. There was no other company left that was making pack film.

So why not just shoot Instax? Because at this time, there are no Instax cameras that offer decent manual/advanced user capabilities. Actually, there is the Lomo Instant Wide which takes Instax Wide film and offers more manual controls than what Fuji is offering, but reports on this camera are mixed. I hope to get one for review in the near future. However, so far none of these Instax cameras have anything like the great Tominon lenses on the Polaroid 180/195 Land cameras or the Ysarex lens on the Polaroid 110A and 110B.

MY EXPERIENCES WITH PACK FILM

Personally, as an available light and night shooter, I much preferred the Fuji FP-3000B, the amazing ISO 3000 black and white version. It was amazingly sharp with beautiful tones. Sadly, this film was discontinued in 2013, but can still be found albeit at ridiculous prices.

For the FP-100C, I find my best results outdoors with plenty of sunlight. The FP-100C needs lots of light. If you have a studio setup, it’s cool, but I’m an available light shooter. I could and have done portraits with flash, but for those Polaroid “party” shots with flash, I’d just prefer to shoot with a One Step.

The great thing with Fuji’s peel apart instant film is that you get two images for the price: an instant print and a negative which you can reclaim through scanning or a bleaching process.

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“Friend” 2009. Polaroid 600SE, 127mm f/4.7 lens, FP-3000B scanned negative side.

Not all is rosy with pack film though. I’ve had issues with broken tabs, film jamming and losing the first couple of shots and sometimes, the whole pack which makes you feel really lousy because these films have become really expensive.

At its best, it’s an awesome feeling because there’s nothing like seeing an instant print develop before your eyes. And with the right camera/lens combo, you can get really excellent pics that can’t quite be duplicated digitally, even with the best “film” filters. At its worst, the film jamming, the underexposed shots, the expense, the gunk, it sometimes makes me say, why bother?

PRICE AND AVAILABILITY

As soon as Fuji announced FP-100C’s discontinuation, the price gouging began. The film was selling for around $10 earlier, all of a sudden it went up to $14.99, then $18.99, now $24 and even over $30 in some places.

This is nuts and capitalism at its best, or worst. Strange thing is that the film was never out of stock whenever I looked, before the announcement. Now, it’s out of stock in most places. I know what you’re saying, supply and demand.

People are panicking. But I look at it this way. The Fuji FP-3000C was discontinued in 2013, but you can still find it even today on B&H, albeit at about three times the price before it was discontinued. Surely, once the entire stock is gone, it’s gone. But apparently Fuji had enough stock that, three years later, is still being sold.

Hopefully, Fuji made enough stock of FP-100C to last us a few more years.

THE BITTER END

In Fuji’s press release, they cited declining sales as the reason for discontinuing the film. This is the only thing that makes sense. Fujifilm is a business after all and just like all businesses they’re here to make money, not to appease a niche market of enthusiasts. Perhaps it cost more to produce the film and maintain the equipment that makes the film than they saw worthy.

Ironically, it is this niche market of old film cameras that Fuji borrowed the analog styling for its very successful line of retro styled digital cameras.

There are online petitions to save the Fuji FP-100C with thousands signed. The same was done when the FP-3000B was discontinued in 2013, it yielded no results. I expect the same here.

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“Mini Me” 2016. Pentax 6×7, 105mm f/2.4 Takumar, Fuji FP-3000B.

Some have wondered in the Impossible Project may take up this opportunity and buy out Fuji’s equipment to continue making pack film. I certainly hope they could. They really did do the impossible with Polaroid 600 and SX-70 film and I applaud their efforts. However, I personally feel that they won’t because they are probably already stretched thin as it is, although if any company can do the “impossible” they can!

Fujifilm has always been a different breed and have always made cameras, films, and decisions that were different and often unique. This time, sadly, they did what any corporate business would do and I think all analog photographers have lost something special because of it.