How to: Polaroid Land Camera Battery Conversion

We have guest blogger Kristian O. Gunderson on the blog today. He recently posted a great How To on his blog, going over the battery conversion process for Polaroid Land Cameras. He offered to share that post with our readers, so I will turn it over to him.

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I wrote this tutorial partly as a resource for the participants of my upcoming Polaroid Land Camera workshop, and for everyone else that want to know how to do a Polaroid Land Camera battery conversion. You need a working battery on most land camera models to get the shutter working. When I first started using the land cameras I had no clue whatsoever what I was doing and how to convert it. I checked the interwebs and there was always something not explained or not shown in a picture. I will try in this tutorial to explain how the process is done step by step in a detailed way (lots of pics), tools I use, problems that might occur while modding and alternate solutions.

Step 1

This is the Polaroid 104. One of my favourite cameras. This tutorial works for almost every land cameras. camera-with-cover

Step 2

Remove the cover of your camera, but keep it close as you´ll need it later.

camera-without-cover

Step 3

Locate the battery compartment (hinged door) on the back.

back-of-camera

Step 4

Pry open the battery compartment door. Inside you´ll find two battery connectors, most of them have battery corrosion and im giving away my tip on how to easily clean them. I have converted some 20 land cameras so far and almost all of them have this problem. Some of them don´t, and if that´s the case; skip a couple of steps and scroll down to “Step 8“. As you can see in the picture below the black connector has a lot of battery corrosion.

battery-door-open

 

Step 5

Tools of the trade. I use a lot of different tools to mod the battery and later cleaning the camera.

toolsofthetrade

1. Soldering Iron

2. Solder

3. 9V battery connector

4. Flat nose plier

5. Long nose plier

6. Grip locking plier

7. Utility knife 1 (longer sharper blade)

8. 4.5V battery holder

9. AAA batteries

10. Flat bladed screwdriver

11. Heat shrink wrap

12. Electrician´s tape

13. Lens cleaning dust blower (I use it as a camera dust blower)

14. Q-tip (cleaning bellows)

15. Utility knife 2 (shorter more precise blade)

16. Toothbrush (cleaning corners)

17. Flat screen cleaner (I use it for the entire camera, effective!)

18. Micro fiber cloth (dust removal)

Step 6

Next step is to clean the battery connectors. This picture and the picture above you can see that the black connector has a lot of battery corrosion which you need to clean. The tool I use, is simply the utility knife (No. 7). I start with scratching everything off on the back and front and inside the connector. Always use caution while doing this as battery corrosion can irritate and burn if you get pieces of it in your eyes. I talk from experience. Safest way is to use protective goggles. There are other ways to clean the connectors, one is baking soda, but I´ll not going to explain it in this tutorial.

Note that some of the connectors can be extremely corroded that the wire itself will come off while attempting to clean. The best solution is to use a knife and separate the wires from both(!) connectors, strip off some insulation, twist them with the battery connector + add heat shrink wrap and solder them together. See example in “Step 14 B“.

dirtycontact

Step 7

After cleaning the battery connector it should look like this. If it´s really hard to get the erosion off I sometimes use light sanding paper after using the utility knife. Makes it all shiny too :)

cleancontact-front

cleancontact-back

Step 8

Next step is to attach the 9V battery connector to the existing land camera battery connectors.

They are cheap and can be bulk purchased here: 9V Battery Connector

Make sure you get the right battery connector as there are many different. Buy the flexible one, not the plastic sturdy, because the original connectors are somewhat oversized and doesn´t fit the plastic one properly. You might have to extend / bend in the + or – plug, depend in which camera model you have. I use the flat nose plier (No. 4) for that.

wrong-connector

connectors

connectors-after-connecting

Step 9

Next up is to modify the battery holder. I also buy them from eBay, here´s a link for you: 3xAAA Battery Holder. They are really cheap. I guess you can get similar battery packs from your local hardware store.

First of all it´s important to determine what kind of voltage your camera requires. The inside of your battery compartment has a text engraved on the door, see picture below. Since the Polaroid 104 camera originally used a 3V battery im going to walk you through how to modify a 4.5 battery pack to a 3.0V battery pack. If your camera use a 4.5V battery you can skip Step 9 – 11.

batterytext

 

First you need to locate the battery holder part shown below. It sits directly below the positive end of the battery holder.

back-of-camera

Step 10

Use a tiny flat bladed screwdriver to pull it halfway out. You´ll see in the next step why.

step10new

Step 11

Since this is originally is a 4.5V battery holder and we dont want to use 3 AAA batteries we´re going to stretch the spring so it will attach between the positive battery end and the plastic. Because the string has tension there is no need for any soldering, it will hold itself in place. I use the long nose plier (No. 5) to stretch it out a little, then use the same plier to hold the base of the spring in place (it will easy break if you dont, remember this is cheap stuff and not quality. I then use a flat nose plier (No. 4) to stretch the spring fully out and attach it directly beneath the positive end and the plastic.

stepsomethingnew

Should look like this:

wire-connected

Step 12

Now you want to solder the battery holder to the 9V battery connector. I normally add some solder to the pre-stripped wires first, and then some to positive and negative side of the battery holder.

soldering-cable

battery-pack-soldered

Make sure not to use excessive heat as the plastic easily melt and you can end up with something like pictured below. Either try to fix it or use that spare battery holder you purchased. Go back to step 9 if you run into this problem.

battery-pack-too-much-heat

I use the big grip locking plier (No. 6) to simply hold the battery pack while im soldering, it´s steady like that.

battery-pack-holder

Step 13

Now that you have soldered both the positive and negative wire to the battery holder its time to place the two AAA batteries.

An easy way to check if everything is OK is to cock the shutter (marked with a “3″ on your camera) and press the shutter button. Before you press the shutter button make sure you cover the lens (if you already have loaded the camera with film) or just the mechanical light meter (the round thing next to the shutter) with your hand. Press the shutter and first you´ll hear one click. You should hear another click when you remove your hand from the light meter. If you only hear one click you have to switch side of the positive and negative wire. Just re-solder and test again.

shutter

battery-pack-ready-for-test

Step 14

Next is to use some electrical tape to secure the soldered wires to the battery pack and make it “better looking”. I use 4 lengths of electrician´s tape (No 12).

battery-holder-taped

 

Step 14 B

Alternate way to connect the battery holder to the camera if the battery corrosion has damaged the wires that hold the original battery connectors.

wire1

wire2

 

Step 15

Now it´s about time to modify the camera itself. As you´ve seen the battery compartement can only hold an old polaroid battery type, and there is no room for the new holder. What you need to do is to use the same long nose pliers you used for the battery pack to clear out the plastic inside the compartment. It´s not necessary to trim everything, just so that the battery pack will fit. While doing this it´s a good idea to have the camera cover attached as you need to use some force that might damage or scratch the camera front.

diggin-the-battery-holder

diggin-the-battery-holder-2

Place the battery pack inside the compartment. If it doesnt fit, clear more plastic.

battery-holder-in-place

Step 16

Close the battery door, remember not to squeeze the wires between the door as the sharp edges may damage or even cut the wire. Load the camera with a pack of film (I prefer Fujifilm FP3000B) and test it :)

insert-the-film-pack

Your end result should look like this:

photo

 

We want to thank Kristian for putting together such a wonderful and detailed tutorial. Please leave Kristian a comment if you´re stuck or have any problems, or if you just want to show your support and say thanks. You can find the post on his site here if you would like to comment there as well.

Comments

  1. Danny Garretson says:

    Fantastic tutorial. I will definitely be trying this. My 104 has been sitting on the floor begging for battery power.

  2. for those not wanting to convert, Impossible Project sells the batteries

  3. Before I try it does it work on the 420 model?

    • I have not personally looked at the 420 Model, but if it uses the same single battery in the compartment as the 250, then yes this mod will work.

  4. Great post! I Always like seeing posts on converting Polaroid Land Cameras!
    You post was very clear and easy to understand! NICE!
    I shoot, collect & sell my Polaroid Land Cameras.
    Twitter & IG: scotthuckphoto
    https://www.etsy.com/shop/scotthuckphoto

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