Polaroid 110A 4x5 Conversion

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As per the new toy thread, I picked up my latest project camera today, a Polaroid 110A. There are quite a few conversions of these online, most either adding a Polaroid 100 back so you can shoot Fuji FP100C pack film or, as an alternative, grafting a complete Graflok back on so all associated 4x5 holders can be used.

I was originally planning to go the Fuji packfilm route and converted a Polaroid Colorpack 80 to Fuji then hacked it to take the film holder section. Whilst the Colorpack 80 can take 100 film it still shoots square frames. I could buy a standard Polaroid back for medium format cameras and remove the 645/6x6 frames to use but in the end I decided against the Polaroid holder because I prefer shooting standard film emulsions and have also wanted to try 4x5 but couldn't justify the outlay for a field camera.

As a result, I've decided to build my own 4x5 conversion making it as light and simple as possible while still delivering good results. Rather than grafting a Graflok back on (due to cost and availability) I'm modifying the standard frame and building a locking system to mount the DDS direct to the camera. I'll also be designing a clip in Ground Glass using the same mounts so I can frame using that instead of the tiny rangefinder/viewfinder.

My new toy :0)

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I didn't take any pictures of the back before I disassembled it but there's basically the main rear door that opens to the left and then a second inner door that holds the film pressure plate that hinges to the right. Both have a simple hinge with a pin through it so I just used a bent strong paper clip and pliers to push the pin out then put them to one side. I won't be using the inner door section but the outer section will be cut down to keep a short door to cover an empty space next to the DDS where I think a remote release cable can be stored nicely!

Thanks to @moomike for the loan of the DDS! This is the first fit after removing the rear doors.

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The DDS sits nicely on top of the original metal frame of the camera.

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Just need to grind a couple of small sections out of the metal frame so the other end of the DDS can slot in and be held in place inside the original frame. Once that's in place I'll be able to install some light seals around the inside edge and test for fit.

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The benefit of making minimal changes to the camera and mounting the DDS direct to it is that I know it's all square. If I machine a new frame onto the camera there's a strong chance it won't be exactly parallel to the film plane leading to odd results.

I've made up a friction channel to hold the DDS and am designing a two-part piece of acrylic to slot it down into so that the DDS stays properly aligned and locked Into place to stop any light leaks.

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That plastic channel slots tightly around the DDS and will have one of the two interlocking acrylic sections bonded to it. The other one will be bonded to the outside wall of the original roll film holder. Keeping the original roll film frame means that I've got an existing strong mount to use as well as retaining the front door spring which is mounted to the back of it.

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I'll be spraying the plastic channel Matt black once it's all complete to keep any reflections to a minimum.

At the other end I'm cutting a shallow notch into the original frame so the raised end piece of the DDS can drop into it and be pushed against the end frame. I'll remove the original hinge section and replace it with a piece of thin rubber which will add some friction to the end of the DDS beneath the dark slide to help keep it locked in to the camera.

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Finally I'm also planning on drawing up an additional bottom plate and having it laser cut from black acrylic to bring the base of the camera slightly lower than the DDS so I can have an extra edge to hold it in place.

ImageUploadedByTalk Photography Forums1439594814.951243.jpg


It's actually all coming along nicely and easier than I thought it would. I'm expecting to not get a full 4x5 frame because the film is too close to the aperture but I'm happy to accept a slightly smaller image in return for the camera being neater and not requiring an additional frame. With the new 4x5 frame being as close to the original film plane as possible I shouldn't have too much trouble adjusting the infinity focus and rangefinder to keep the camera as original as possible.
 

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Good stuff Steve, coming along nicely.
 

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Remarkable, I really admire anyone who has the skills to do this.
 
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Thanks Andy. I was up early this morning to do some remote work so started thinking about the base panel (better than thinking about the Polish Windows server I was working on!). I'm going to be pressing the DDS on from the rear so wanted a lip at the bottom too so I'm going to use a piece of 10mm acrylic and machine out a channel for the DDS and original strap mount to fit. I've just cut out the card templates with help from my resident camera mechanic Chloe so will scan them and send them over to the laser cutter I use so he can get going on it.

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I've a feeling I could run out of likes on this thread! Great stuff, Steve, looking forward to seeing how this develops. :)
 
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Thanks Dean :0) I'm going to cut the slots in the camera frame today so the DDS sits flush and I can test it out for light leaks before I fit the seals.
 
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I'm half way through a 5x4 conversion to mine. Unfortunately, I have been at the half way mark for nearly ten years now.

One day...

I'm expecting to not get a full 4x5 frame because the film is too close to the aperture
You could move the film plane back a bit (I have) but that requires the lens assembly to be moved back on the focussing rack. It can be done but it require the removal of a couple of rivets and some new, equally low profile mounting method needed to hold it in its new position.


Steve.
 
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Have you done any testing with a ground glass to see how much of the frame you lose if the DDS is resting directly on the camera back? The outside of the DDS is around 5mm back from the original film plane which makes the 4x5 sheet around 10mm back in total.

I've saved a couple of sites showing the removal of the two rivets in the front assembly locking pice then loosening the screws to move the assembly back to compensate.
 
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Have you done any testing with a ground glass to see how much of the frame you lose if the DDS is resting directly on the camera back?
I have but I didn't measure it. Mine has a 5mm machined PVC piece between the metal of the back and the film holder. This also has a slot in it to take the ridge on the holder. I think I got full frame, or at least, enough of it that I wasn't too bothered by it.

I have trimmed away a liitle bit of the plastic top moulding to allow the holder to sit a little higher and despite what some modifiers state, I think the 110A can be used full frame with both the viewfinder and rangefinder. The 110B is the preferred camera for 5x4 modification as it has a smaller, combined finder.

I will have a look at mine later and if I discover anything else which might be useful, I will post it here.


Steve.
 
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Thanks Steve. I'll keep the rangefinder and align it if it has enough adjustment but I'll probably use a ground glass more. The 110A viewfinder is tiny so not ideal for framing.

More progress, no going back now!

Drilled out the rivets holding one half of the roller mechanism and removed the red switch on the front.

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I'll be keeping part of the original door but trimming it on the bandsaw to fit around the DDS

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At the other end, the DDS now fits right against the frame of the camera. Just need to finish off with a file but 99% right.

ImageUploadedByTalk Photography Forums1439639998.856563.jpg

I've also made up a new hinge from parts I removed so I can attach the DDS holder to the original roll film surround and hinge it out to swap it out.

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Next step is going to be cutting the rear door to shape and bolting the new hinge in. :0)
 
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I've now got a folding rear surround for the ground glass;

ImageUploadedByTalk Photography Forums1439658143.772230.jpg

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My template pieces are just made out of paper but I'll make the final ones out of black plasticard so it has some more rigidity. I'm going to make a ground glass frame the same size as the DDS and embed the acrylic or glass into it at the same depth as the film plane. I'm getting quite excited to see it all together now :0)
 
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Thanks. Build threads always help me to come up with new ideas. In fact, I've decided to turn the rear surround 90 degrees so the longer edges are bonded to the ground glass frame instead. Oh well, mark 2 coming up :0)
 
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I built a new popup screen for the ground glass last night out of thin plastic from the back of a clip in folder;

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This is now much more stable without being any heavier.

I've also finished off shaping the template for the new bottom plate. I was originally planning on the internal clip for the DDS being removable so it could be slotted straight in from the back. However, after looking at ways to secure the DDS, I don't want any clips/fixings to be visible from the outside so I've added a lower rail for the DDS to slide into from the right side of the camera along with some slight raised sections to secure the DDS.

I'm going to speak to the laser cutter today about machining the base. It will be around 10mm deep so it's thick enough to add the lip but not so thick that it adds a lot of weight. I was originally planning to use acrylic but I've come across a nice piece of Wenge which would fit perfectly...
 
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I was also looking at the top plate last night and wondering about removing it altogether to lose some of the 70's plastic. The rangefinder is pretty small so I can't see me using it much once there's a ground glass in place and the same goes for the viewfinder. Whilst the original advertising material for the 110A shows it as an almost point and shoot camera I can't see me shooting many 4x5's handheld!

If I removed the entire top plate I could replace it with a matching material to the bottom plate and just integrate a bubble level. I haven't shot any 4x5 but I can't see much benefit in having a cold shoe either?

Interested in anyone's thoughts on whether I should keep the top plate to retain the original styling or replace it with something smoother?

Cheers
Steve
 
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I've just drawn up the ground glass holder in sketchup so it can be cut out of 6mm acrylic sheet. It's designed in two halves so a central 3mm rebate can be left to hold the ground glass 4.5mm from the face of the holder like the original DDS.

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I've been reading up on the comparisons between a glass screen and an acrylic version. From the results I've seen, the acrylic screens seem to give good results along with the added benefit of not shattering if they're dropped.

What are people's thoughts on glass vs acrylic screens here?

Cheers
Steve
 
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Just taken the top plate off and removed the original hotshoe wiring.

I've decided to remove the rangefinder entirely because I don't see the point of it once I've got the ground glass in place. I've also removed the viewfinder and am thinking about using the original plastic surround to make it into a removeable Finder which I can use on the top plate if I want to frame quickly. I'll probably embed some magnets into the finder and top plate so it can be clipped off easily and stored in the space where the roll film used to be held.

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Just need to draw up the replacement plate and remove the existing brackets
 
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This is looking good, but my only concern is you'll likely need some way of blocking the light so you can see to focus and compose on the GG. Even something simple like a hood that the RB uses would be a massive help, trying to see through my 54 is very difficult with out a cloth over my head.


Edit: I missed a bit....
/stupidity...
 
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I'm happy with the fit of the DDS. Now I've removed the top plate I was able to finish off the cutouts on the top rail for the DDS to clip into. They're nice and tight so it clicks into place and I can even hold the camera upside down and it stays attached..

ImageUploadedByTalk Photography Forums1439982112.030576.jpg

Once the bottom plate is cut it will add a further lower rail half the length of the DDS that it will slot into so I think that combined with the light seals will hold it all together nicely :0)
 
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Is it just me or is there something exciting about taking stuff apart :0)

I've now got a slimline (almost) pocket friendly 4x5!

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Decided to go with a very simple slim top and bottom plate which means I can centre the DDS and only need to use 4mm acrylic/Wenge for the plates and they'll still include guides for the DDS to run in.

I've also attached my popup shade to the DDS to see how it will look for size;

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I'm happy with that :0)
 

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It looks the dogs, very slim and sexy. Just be careful you don't poke yourself in the eye with tab on the hood.;)
 
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Well spotted mate, I hadn't thought of that. Might re-design it after I've tried it out on the finished glass.

I've taken most of the original skin off and now just need to do the door. Who knew Polaroid developed their glue alongside NASA for the re-entry plates on the spaceship...
 
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Well spotted mate, I hadn't thought of that. Might re-design it after I've tried it out on the finished glass.
Just turn the hood through 180 degrees and have the tab at the bottom?

It looks fantastic - you should buy a 3D printer then you could make your own parts? :)
 
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Good point, I haven't even made the ground glass holder yet so I've got time to adjust/rotate it.

And thanks, I'm really starting to look forward to actually use the camera now I can almost see the end product.
 
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There you go, looks much better now....

ImageUploadedByTalk Photography Forums1439994494.541576.jpg

Might just need a little bit of a cleanup :0)

I've just removed the lens bed to get to the back of the focus knob so I can remove it to get to the covering below it. Seeing as it's raining outside and my socket set is in the garage I'll leave the last couple of pieces of covering in place for now!
 

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I have to say Steve, watching your projects come together is one of the highlights of the f&c section. I'm getting a little bit excited :banana:
 
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I have to say Steve, watching your projects come together is one of the highlights of the f&c section. I'm getting a little bit excited :banana:
:agree:

We are cheering you on ...

What a great way into large format. I could imagine making contact prints from the negatives too.
If only I had the DIY skills/confidence to take on something like this.
 
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Thanks @RaglanSurf and @desf :0) I'm chuffed that you think so much of my mad scientist conversions mate, I just like the challenge!

I'm sitting on a call with a guy in Australia doing my day job and at the same time scanning ebay for Acrylic/Timber suppliers trying to decide between gloss black/gloss dark blue acrylic top and bottom plates or go for natural wood. My original plan was to go with Wenge wood again like the SX70/35RC I did because it should be pretty straightforward to fit the veneer to large flat panels but I'm quite tempted to modernise the camera a bit with acrylic. I've just asked my wife for her thoughts and she thinks black acrylic but I'm not sure if I should go with a leather covering or still veneer it?

Hmm, decisions decisions..
 
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Looking around for some inspiration and liking the look of wood veneer;

ImageUploadedByTalk Photography Forums1440012334.536887.jpg

Saying that, sand/brown leather has got a nice period look to it as well;

ImageUploadedByTalk Photography Forums1440012435.905608.jpg

ImageUploadedByTalk Photography Forums1440012443.691322.jpg

These are all done by Option8 on Flickr along some other excellent conversions.
 
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I like the veneer more plus it's a nice reference to field cameras being wooden, though I'm not keen on that particular veneer. Neither of the leathers look exactly right to my eye, probably be much better with a bit of wear on them though.

Loving how you're getting through this. If it were me, I'd have a Polaroid camera gathering dust on a shelf by now :)
 
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I agree that the wood veneer is a nod to traditional LF cameras like Nick's awesome kit. I've just seen this darker veneer that I prefer to the one above but think Wenge would look better;

ImageUploadedByTalk Photography Forums1440013598.597120.jpg

I've also just found some dark brown leather that looks a bit like the WingBack chairs in the F&C drawing room that might work ;0)

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I'm going to go with 5mm top and bottom plates so it gives a 3mm channel on each for the DDS to run in as well as being thick enough to embed a couple of magnets to hold the removable viewfinder. I'll also embed a small round bubble level in the top plate and the rear door to help with composition.
 
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On the point of the top and bottom plates. I'm thinking that if I leave the acrylic glossy it's going to pick up fine scratches as well as fingerprints which will drive me mad so I'm thinking about sanding the finished plates with cutting compound like a ground glass to give a smooth finish.

I'm going to order a sheet of acrylic in the next couple of days so will test it out on a small piece.
 

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Middle one looks good to me mate, classy.
 
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