A Polaroid Kind of Day... Anyone Know How to Work a Polaroid "Electric Eye" 900?

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by danny_zahner, Jul 25, 2005.

  1. Hey there, Just picked up a Polaroid "Electric Eye" model 900 for next to nothing, complete with the case and flash units. However, I am having trouble figuring out how to operate this monstrosity of photographic goodness. The thing is so huge it is nearly comical!!! Anyway, the shutter only seems to want to operate on the "B" setting, even when the lever for "B" is not engaged and the shutter is set to "manual". However, the aperture and EV value wheel seem to function properly. Does this shutter need repaired? Or do I need a battery to operate the shutter properly? What kind of battery does it take? I'm guessing the battery is installed in the little pull out door on the bottom portion of the back of the shutter housing. Is this right? I'd love to get this old mammoth of a camera going again, but I need some help in doing so. Any suggestions? I am just going to use 4X5 sheet film in it, unless the shutter is unsalvageable. Any suggestions on opening up the shutter housing, or doing any repairwork on this old beast? I mean, c'mon, look at how big this thing is compared to my 35mm Welta Welti folder!!! It's so big you can't help but to love it!!!
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  2. In fact, this camera is so big, its' flash has a flash, and even its' flash's flash is bigger than your point&shoot's flash!!!
     
  3. There are some instructions on using the 900 here http://www.rwhirled.com/landlist/how2-rolluse.htm

    The flash is fascinating - In the fifties flash bulbs were the main option but you needed to carry lots of them as you could run out - electronic flash meant lots of cash and a huge power pack carried over your shoulder. Polaroids answer was to use a car flasher bulb and overrun it fo a fraction of a second - adequate for repeated interior shots on fast Polaroid film, and the bulb would last as long as the battery - both were replaced together. If you wanted to use slower film or work in total darkness you added the accessory flashgun to your winklight to increase the light output, together the two flashes gave the light output of large expensive flash bulbs while only using small, cheap ones.
     
  4. Problem with the 900 is that it uses the long-discontinued 40-series Polaroid roll films.
     
  5. Yes it uses a battery. Polaroid will probably sell you one, if it is the same battery used in one of the cameras they still make film for. But, unless you plan to put sheet film in it, it's pointless.
     
  6. Danny:

    This camera uses a mercury 1.3VDC battery. The battery is located on the back left lower side of the lens plate. Need to pry the little metal door open and there it is.

    Somewhere there is a battery that can be found that will fit in there.

    This camera can also operate on manual. If you look under the lens, there is a "swich" that says automatic and manual. The manual is calibrated in Pola EV settings, so a light meter is needed, a light meter with EV settings.

    It is impossible to find film for this. You may try to insert a sheet of 4x5 inside, in the dark room ( one shot only, before another trip to the darkroom ).

    There is a conversion that you can make, look in the "Alternatives camera" forum. Pola roll film backs are identical, or almost, for all models of this type of camera. There are two conversions that can be done, one to 4x5 sheet film, the other to panoramic 120 format.

    I will try to find the link for these conversions.
     
  7. The link:

    http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00CpsA

    Worth taking a minute to study the details of the modifications.
     
  8. Yup, I have already read that thread a couple of times, and have studied it thouroughly. I also have already read the instructions from the Land List website, but I have yet to see what battery the camera takes, if the shutter can be operated without the battery in manual, and have failed to find any information on shutter repair for the Polaroid 900.

    Thanks for helping with the battery voltage... 1.3V. I think I can make something work. If this shutter can be operated without the battery (unlike later pack film cameras), then it will need repaired. Any suggestions??? Is there a manual out there for this kind of work?

    BTW, making a medium format folder out of the 900 would be slightly pointless, though fun. The camera is so huge, yet only a relatively small negative would come out of a relatively huge camera. I think the smaller Polaroid folders, such as the 80a, would make far better medium format folders (in fact, I have one of these and will turn it into a 120 rollfilm camera before long!!!). THANKS FOR ALL THE HELP!!!
     
  9. Danny:

    For this camera in particular, once you have it set to manual, a Pola meter is needed. This is a light meter calibrated in their proprietary EV settings. Possibly, in the Internet, these settings can be found, should not be difficult do find them.

    As to the battery, it originally used a PX-13 or something like that. It was a somewhat big mercury battery. Discontinued due to pollution concerns. Impossible to find one.

    A 1.3VDC that fits in there will make do. Just make sure that contact is made on both polarities. Possibly, need to jam the battery with a metal shim or similar.

    Another way is to unscrew the lens holder, where all the insides are. Then locate the two wires that go to the photocell from the battery compartment and "kluge" a longer wire to an external AA 1.5VDC battery holder. To drop the voltage to 1.3VDC install a Zener diode in series( .7VDC drop), this should do the trick. The AA battery can be stored in the camera front, to the right side ( as looking at the lens), there is enough space in there. If this does not fit, then a AAA will surely do.

    To correct for the lack of accuracy in the voltage, use the "Darker-Lighter" ring around the lens of this camera. This lens is quite nice and while not superior, can hold its own rather well.

    The reason for not making a med. format out of the Pola 80A, is that it does not have a rangefinder and has a really inferior lens. The camera that you have has a superb rangefinder, the same one as in the 110B, which was the last model rangefinder, by far the best. The lens on the 80A is a cheap plastic meniscus slightly better than a disposable camera.

    Good luck with your project. These modifications are not difficult to do, just a rainy day indoors, lots of expoxy goop and a hobby saw and a hack saw for the surgery to the back.

    Best regards,
     
  10. Danny,
    I have the same camera that I've just started using sans battery with 4x5 sheet film. You can find the Polaroid EV value exposure equivalents at the aforementioned site http://www.rwhirled.com/landlist/landdata.htm

    Setting to manual exposure and rotating the wheel on the side of the camera will cycle you through the EV settings. Aperture and shutter speeds are changed simultaneously per the chart on the referenced site. Look through the lens with the back open to see when the shuter opens and closes. It always sounds like it's on "Bulb," because the mechanism resets after you loose the shutter latch.

    I have had the sheet film shift locations in camera, so I would suggest taping one side of the film to the camera on the edge of the mask near the rollfilm cavity.

    Remember to place the emulsion side toward the lens. If you are used to loading film holders, this is the opposite of how you're accustomed to loading film.
     
  11. Diwan:

    Are you sure the 80a has a simple, plastic, meniscus lens? The example I have seems to have a front cell focusing, coated, glass triplet??? Were there optional lenses on these 80a cameras??? I know that it is a zone focusing camera, but I can make do as I would with a normal zone-focus medium format folder (like a Voightlander Bessa, Zeiss Ikonta, or Kodak Monitor). Also, the 80a seems to be a very solid, reliable, and durable camera to as well. However, if the lens quality is poor, I might think otherwise. However, conversion of the 80a seems relatively simple, as 120 film seems to fit nearly perfect inside the camera, and the 80a is significantly smaller than the 900. If I turn the 900 into anything, it will be for something with a large negative.

    BTW, I finally got the shutter working by opening up the front plate for the shutter housing, and adjusting the cocking lever a little, and exercising the shutter. Now it seems to be firing at the correct speeds, in accordance with the Polaroid chart. I don't really need the meter, but if I could get that working, it would be cool to have a rangefinder equipped, electrically metered, large format folder!!!
     
  12. Danny:

    I saw once an 80A and I inspected it for possible conversion to another format. This camera is quite small and has easy handling, as compared to the other roll polas. Yes, it is true, the lens has focus adjust, but it seemed to me to have only a meniscus in the front and another one in the rear of the lens. This one did not seem to me to have a triplet or other high quality lens. This is only my assessment, and is subject to precision, only my assessment.

    IMHO, these cameras were made in accordance to their use. Since they were made for instant snapshots, the quality required was that being sufficient to provide a good small size print. Any somewhat decent lens will do that.

    If you are looking for a conversion to another format, with the possibility of enlarging your negatives, that is another story... In this case, if I may recommend, the model 900 and the 110 series are much better.

    I have a 110A that I use for 4x5 format, and I am very pleased overall with it, portable, and good sharp negatives.

    I see that you have the chart for the Pola EV settings, with a regular light meter, this is sufficient. Nevertheless, the photo cells that came with these cameras are of good quality. If somehow, you can get the automatic feature for this camera working, this will be an added bonus.

    It is good that you think of "reviving" this obsolete equipment and transforming it into something else. Easy task to do, since these cameras were very well engineered. The metal is soft cast aluminum, and a good medium tooth hacksaw cuts easily through them. This allows facility for limitless varieties of conversions.

    Let me tell you that your endeavor makes me very curious and I find it quite interesting. Refitting this equiment to modern standards shows that the thought of the designer is still valid. They are good cameras.

    Please, persevere in your quest.
     

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