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I’ve messed about briefly with peel apart instant film using the Polaroid back I got for my S2A, but have been somewhat put off because it is of course limited to a 6x6cm image along the bottom edge of the 7.3×9.5cm image area of the film itself, which always seemed a bit of a waste. I thought about dismantling it slightly to make a pinhole camera of some sort, but decided against it because it’s a nice bit of kit, and you never know when you might want to try it on something.

So I’ve been looking for another option. There is a vast range of different cameras manufactured by Polaroid designed for pack films and they’re mostly not that expensive on the used market, because they were mass-produced and there’s plenty of them. I was looking at some of the more sophisticated versions on e-bay recently wondering idly about gambling £25 or so on one, when by chance yesterday I spotted something for £3.50 in a charity shop; a Polaroid “Super Colour Swinger III”.

Polaroid Super Colour Swinger III

It’s one of the cheaper models, with a rigid plastic body and a plastic lens, but I figured for £3.50 it was worth a go. A quick inspection showed that the rollers were fairly clean and so at worst I’d have a pack film holder I could convert into a pinhole camera or something by sawing off the front of the plastic body. So I picked it up, box, instructions and all, handed over the cash, and took it home. There I put a fresh pair of AA batteries in and fished a pack of Fuji FP-3000B black and white pack film out of the fridge and loaded it up, set the camera to ISO 3000 and took a shot of the washing up. I pulled the film, waited 15 seconds, peeled it apart and there was an image. I’ve taken a few more test shots and although there is nothing worthy of scanning and uploading, the camera clearly works perfectly with the exposures more or less correct. So it looks like a got a bargain.

After a consulting the Land List and poking around a bit more with the camera, I’ve discovered a little more about it. The plastic lens is a 114mm f/9.2 which is just about a “normal” lens for the type-100 pack film format. The ISO setting I mentioned earlier isn’t really a setting at all, it just replaces the wide open aperture stop with a much smaller one. I estimate it to be roughly 5 stops smaller, which of course is roughly the difference between ISO 3000 and ISO 75, so the “electric eye” always selects the same shutter speed, regardless of the ISO setting, for given lighting. This is a bit annoying as it means you can’t use fast film with the widest aperture setting – indoors for example, or to mess around with depth of field. Since Fuji have apparently discontinued the 100 ISO black and white film, the 3000 may soon be the only mono option, all the more so. I may try and rig a neutral density filter to see what can be done, although obviously this will mean slower exposures than desired.

So anyway, it could be a fun little camera to play with. I now just have to scrape together some cash to build up a stockpile of instant films. The Impossible Project have some interesting looking expired pack films in their shop, which I looked at before, but couldn’t justify for just a 6×6 image, but may now be worth investigating, while they last.

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