The day the Frankencamera went digital

The day the Frankencamera went digital. 

A while ago I made myself a Frankencamera from an old 1920s 6x9 folding camera with a 1980s Polaroid back attached. Into this I could fit one piece of Instax Wide film and, after a little messing around, produce a single instant print. Mind you, I always found this process limiting. I couldn't really travel very far, it was time-consuming to set up and, at the end of the day, most of the exposures were failures.

Since then my technique has come a long way. Thanks to the Frugal Film Project I've moved on to (far too many) folding cameras and have a nice collection of plate holders into which I can load Instax Wide films. So the Frankencamera was relegated to a box and has remained untouched for several months. And then I came across the profile of @hackaninstant on Instagram, or rather the algorithm thought I might be interested in their profile — and Instagram was right.

After modifying instant cameras to take 120 roll film, @hackaninstant has started experimenting with attaching digital cameras and smartphones to take images with Polaroid cameras. This was perfect timing, since I have been looking for a ground glass viewing screen for my KW Patent Etui and when I contacted @hackaninstant for some advice on the screen he recommended a Leelux 400 diffusion filter. Sadly I've not been able to find the Lee diffusion filter just yet but I did manage to find a generic diffusion filter from a local photographic supplier. 

Using rigid plastic from a folder I created a frame between which I mounted a piece of diffusion gel (89×135mm). This fit perfectly in the back of the Polaroid back of the Frankencamera. I checked that the mask was working and the distance from the film back to the minimum distance that I could achieve focus with the Genius digicam (13cm).

Using 5mm black foam board I constructed a cone that fit snugly over the diffusion filter in the back of the Polaroid back. To this I securely attached the Genius digicam and I was ready to turn the Frankencamera into a 'digital camera'.

After a couple of tests I took the combination across the road to photograph my favourite tree and well. I mounted the camera onto a mobile tripod and held the cone against the Polaroid back of the Frankencamera. It wasn't the best arrangement, but at the moment I can't figure out how to remove the door of the Polaroid back. I took several images in portrait and landscape orientation for comparison. 

On the whole the images came out quite well, certainly better than I expected. However, there was a clear hot spot in the middle of the diffusion filter and this naturally affected the exposure of the digicam resulting in a heavy vignette. I think this is because of the quality of the diffusion filter and I hope that when I can get hold of a Leelux 400 diffusion filter the results will be better. A promising start, though. 

Addendum: After a few weeks I managed to get my hands on some Leelux 400 diffusion filter, a product recommended by @hackaninstant on Instagram. Comparing the Leelux with the original diffusion filter you can instantly see the difference, the Leelux 400 is so much thicker. 

I cut a piece of Leelux 400 to fit in the rear of the Frankencamera and headed across the road for a comparison test. With the same setup as before I took two photographs, one with the cheap diffusion filter and one with the Leelux 400. Even on the display screen of the Genius digicam you could immediately see difference between the two materials. With the original diffusion gel there is a large 'hot spot' in the centre of the frame which when the digicam sets exposure result in a heavy vignette. With the Leelux 400 the image is distributed across the diffusion filter. There's a little bit of fall off at the edges of the frame, but this was negligible. On the whole, a successful experiment and now I have enough Leelux 400 for many more attempts. I also have a folding camera with a missing ground glass screen, and I'm going to see how Leelux 400 works with that.

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