By Raz Cuculea
Here’s a quick tutorial on how to hack your 135 (35mm) canister to work with an instamatic camera.
Instamatics came on the scene in the 60s and took the photography world by storm. They were cheap, plentiful and used the 126 film cartridge, which was easy to use and made the cameras cheap to produce. About 50 million cameras were produced in the 60s and instamatics kept being improved on and sold until around 1988. The 126 format cartridge is getting harder and harder to find, and many people just throw or give the cameras away thinking they are nothing more than paperweights.
There is a tutorial over at instructables.com for modifying the camera to take 35mm film, but I prefer hacking a film canister as opposed to a perfectly good camera. That way, if you even stumble over a cartridge of 126, you can just put it in your camera, and take some shots.
I cut a slot in the plastic that enables the instamatic pickup to grab onto it. As mentioned before, if your pickup is in a “plus” shape, simply cut another slot. The older instamatics (104) have no slot in the centre so to get them to work you would have use friction. The 35mm cartridge will not fit, so you need to sand the top down just a bit and use a little force to get it in there. If it’s tight, it will work just fine.
This step has to be done in a dark place. I do this in a black bag, in a pitch black bathroom facing away from the door. Start rolling the film out of the canister and onto the gluegun stick (try not to touch the film too much).
Have the camera in that same bag and once you finish, shove the empty canister and your makeshift spool into the camera. Chances are you didn’t get the pickup reel into the slot you made. You can generally advance the film and release the shutter a couple of times and feel if the film is moving when you advance the lever. Once you feel it moving close it up.
Given that the film is not designed for the instamatic’s advancing mechanism, you will actually need to press the shutter and advance the film 3 times to get one “frame.” I generally shoot one image normally, and two with my thumb on the lens to make sure I don’t double-expose the frame (you can do three if you want to be really sure).
Bear in mind this is all about experimentation. Have some fun with it, chances are you’ll butcher your first roll like I did. But see how your film and camera react. In my case, I got too many lightleaks (I didn’t tape the seams), and I didn’t use fast film speeds (100 or 200 ISO) so my pictures came out blurry.
As always, I encourage you to share your images on our facebook page, and feel free to comment and submit any suggestions of thoughts. ‘Till next time.
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