Using Fujifilm Instax Wide film with the Polaroid Big Shot, 23 March 2024

Using Fujifilm Instax Wide film with the Polaroid Big Shot, 23 March 2024

A week or so ago I came across a Polaroid Big Shot on eBay. This isn't that unusual, but normally the Big Shots are from the US and after taking into account postage and customs charges can be prohibitve. This one was in Europe and, at the time, was a reasonable 50€ plus postage. I kept an eye on it for a few days and as the deadline approached the price started to go up. I added a couple of bids, but these were instantly outbid, then with six seconds to go added my final bid of 70€. The auction closed and ... I had won it! I felt a little bit sad for the other bidders for this item, they must have been disappointed to lose it with just a few seconds to spare,  but this didn't last long as I realised I had finally got a camera that I have been after for years.

I first became aware of the Big Shot some time in 2002, when the Shitty Camera Challenge were promoting the Autumn challenge, Instant Regret. A celebration of all things Instant film I knew that I wanted to do something a little different than just use my Polaroid 600 camera from the 1980s. Besides, even then Polaroid film was, for me, far too expensive. So I thought of using an old instant camera with modern Instax film. I searched around for for something and came across the Kodak 'Handle' which used a hand crank to manually eject the film. The bonus with this camera was that film hadn't been available for it since the 1980s so to get that working wad a real challenge. 

At the same time I learned of the Big Shot, and especially its connection with the artist Andy Warhol who used a Big Shot extensively in his work. Originally this was a $20 camera launched by Polaroid in 1971 before the produced the SX-70. It was only produced for two years, until 1973, before being withdrawn from sale, and the story goes that Andy Warhol bought a bulk load so that he could continue using his beloved Big Shot after its demise.

With a single shutter speed and a focal distance limited to about 1m the Big Shot was an unusual beast in that it was designed for one job, taking portraits on pack film. At a pinch it could be used outdoors without flash, but indoors with it's long focal length (about 20cm) using the ISO 100 pack film that was available, flash was essential. Hence it featured a large diffuser above the single plastic lens and an attachment for Magicubes, a small chemical flash pack that was popular in the 1970s. 

The Type 100 pack film that the Big Shot uses was withdrawn by Polaroid in the mid-2000s, and it's Fuji equivalent in 2016. These films are still available on auction sites, but nowadays the price is ridiculously high. So if you want to take photographs with the Big Shot then you've got to be a little bit creative. I've made some nice plastic mounts in the past for the Kodak 'Handle', my Frankencamera with a Polaroid pack film back, and most recently for a 1920s generic folding camera, but when I tried to make a similar mount for the Big Shot the Instax Wide film was just a little too snug in the back of the camera.

Turning to Google I discovered a PetaPixel article by Nicholas Morganti helpfully titled, 'How to Convert a Polaroid Big Shot Camera to Shoot Instax Instant Film' ( Here he made some card slide mounts for Instax Wide film where you slide a piece of film into the mount in the darkroom (or in my case a dark bag) and load this into the Big Shot. You can only take one shot at a time, but at least it's something. Incidentally, this article is also an excellent introduction to the Polaroid Big Shot. 

Instead of card I used the plastic cover from a cheap folder, which was made of rigid plastic about 1mm thick. The frame size in the back of the Big Shot is 135x88mm and the size of Instax Wide film is 108x85mm. I cut a piece of plastic mount of 134x88mm, which fitted perfectly, two pieces of  12x88mm and two pieces of 15x88mm. I glued the 12mm pieces to large backing and the top and bottom, left it to dry a little then glued the 15mm pieces on top of the 12mm pieces flush to top but overlapping so that the film would slide into the mount. After that I left the mounts, I made three, to dry thoroughly. 

The mounts worked really well, and I managed to load and mount two films within about 10 minutes. Remember that with Instax films the light sensitive side is the black side so this should be loaded into the mount facing outwards. This can be a little fiddly in the dark, but at the bottom of the film is a spacer and if you hold the film by this and not the chemical capsule end (which you should be careful not to damage) you can feel the 'lump' of the spacer and orient properly. 

The shutter speed of the Big Shot is a fixed 1/50s and the available apertures are f56, f36, or f24. To expose the Instax Wide films I used a smartphone app camera Meyer and set aperture using the 'light' or 'dark' setting on the front of the camera, as required. Exposed films were developed by unloading the film from the Big Shot in the dark bag and then reloading it into an Instax Wide cassette. This was loaded (still in the dark bag) into a Fujifilm Instax Wide camera, turning it on and pressing the shutter button. 

The first film always comes out as if it was the 'dark slide' and not be exposed by the camera, but if you are loading two or more films remember to cover the lens so that the film is not exposed by the camera. Also, when loading the film into the cassette load it developing capsule end up, otherwise the chemicals will not be spread evenly over the film.

The final Instax photos came out really well. They were a bit out of focus, I really need to practise my 'Big Shot shuffle', but I was extremely happy and can't wait to take the Polaroid Big Shot out again.

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#Polaroid, #BigShot, #Vintage, #Instant, #Instax, #InstaxWide, #Warhol, #Portrait, #ExpiredFilm, #Expired,