This week, instead of our normal Artist Spotlight, we are bringing you our first Vendor Spotlight. Shooting instant film would not be possible without vendors dedicated to keeping the medium alive, and Nate with PolaroidConversions.com is one of these vendors.
There are many people doing conversions to older Polaroid cameras out there. Just Google the subject or search tags in Flickr and you’d be amazed at the results. So, what sets Polaroid Conversions apart and above most other people modifying the older Land Cameras?
Simple, Nate has taken the time and done the research to make sure that his modifications not only look professional, but work in a manner that you would assume the camera has not been modified.
I actually came across Nate when I was doing my own research into instant film and modified 110 A Land Cameras. The amount of information he has put out on the internet through his various sites and Flickr is enough to keep you reading for days. Here are some links to check out:
Polaroid Conversions – Main store front.
Instant Options – DIY and help site.
Flickr – Galleries of work from Polaroid Conversions
Some of the products that Polaroid Conversions offers are 110 A/B Land Cameras converted to take 4×5 film, pack film and 600se backs and accessories. Conversions can be done to change automatic Land Cameras into manual models. Polaroid Conversions also has several options for integral Polaroid cameras.
We had the chance to talk with Nate about Polaroid Conversions and a little about his take on instant photography. Here is what he had to say.
Tell us a little about you.
Originally from a tiny town in the middle of nowhere Central Massachusetts I eventually moved to South Florida and finally settled here in N. Cental Florida. I received a BFA for digital media which led to various jobs using computers in creative ways. Whether it is pre-press digital printing, video production and graphic design or painting and sculptures I seem to always find myself keeping my hands busy. And I am happy to do it.
(1) What type of products do you offer to the instant photography community?
– Everything. If Polaroid made it I probably bought it, sold it or modified it. I am always trying to keep Instant Photography alive by buying and selling everything to anyone around the world in a reasonable way. From random films I come across to complete camera kits and accessories, I sell it all to all around the world. Currently I am the only professional converter of Polaroids in the world, as far as I know. I currently run PolaroidConversions.com which allows people to see what I offer in terms of custom work. Since everyone really wants more control over their photography I try to supply people with different options like110A/B conversions and quite possibly the smallest and lightest handheld 4×5 rangefinder as well as my own Manual Option electronic camera system. Recently I have added custom designs for the OneStep SX70/600 rigid style cameras. I will never stop looking for the next modification or conversion that will give people a new creative tool to help keep Instant Photography alive
(2) What was the first instant camera you modified?
– A Model 150 which was the first thing I ever documented for instantoptions.com and its DIY conversion section: instantoptions.com/
(3) Favorite Mod you offer or have done?
– The 110A/B conversions were not my idea, I think I just made them a little more unique, custom and clean. Presently no one else offers them professionally as I do, so I can be proud of that. However, even my 110A/B 600SE style mod was nothing unique. Just perfected to the point of being able to always make the next one just as good as the last. So I can only take real honest pride in something that I believe was solely mine alone. And that is my Manual Option system.polaroidconversions.com/
(4) Any mod you did, but would not do again?
– One time I tried to modify a 95B to take 600/SX70 films and it was nothing but pure unadulterated tragedy. Trust me, I know it sounds like an awesome camera setup, but if it was easily reproduced I would be cranking them out by now.
(5) Whats the attraction to instant photography for you?
– I never really got into digital photography. Being the age I am, I actually had access to digital cameras for most of my picture taking life even though back in the day we’re talking no megapixels and high costs associated with ugly design. I even had the Apple Quicktake on loan from a friend for a weekend once, held a glorious like 8 frames internal memory. Even less than the last Polaroid films per pack. Analog film photography and college went hand in hand for me; my father bequeathed his Canon AE-1 and lenses to me that I used exclusively for all my photography (personal and educational) up until I truly got into Instant Photography as my main photographic medium. What happened was during a course we were all given Daylab Jrs for printing some of our 35mm slides to Polaroid and then make some sort of project with it. Be it a book, lifts, transfers, whatever. At the time, it really was not something any of us truly took seriously. Which was probably the teacher’s fault for not being very enthusiastic about the Instant process at all and everyone being poor college students. So the work was lackluster and looking back now it was nothing special when it comes to Instant Photography and what’s possible with it. As time went on and digital became more and more ubiquitous while at the same time photo printers were becoming obsolete but not for lack of need, just from cost of paper, ink, and quality. I never owned a photo printer, so I cant comment, but its the trend I saw. One hour photo shops closed and labs shuttered, making using a 35mm camera harder and harder and more expensive as time went on. Less rolls were shot and the camera collected dust. Meanwhile I had taken a digital media type job where using the Olympus digital SLR was a daily occurrence and eventhough I truly loved using it, I never wanted to directly replace all my 35mm glass I’d spent years and lots of money “collecting”. My own personal, non-work related needs went towards wanting an SLR, or at least manual controls, and some sort of tangible print like if I dropped off a can of 35mm and came back an hour later. I no longer had a darkroom or access to one like in college. So the only thing left was Instant Photography when I really thought about it. But at the time I, like many of my peers, were oblivious to what Polaroid offered in technology and film especially in the 50s-70s time period. The clamshell 600 types everyone had for birthday parties weren’t exactly a replacement for my AE-1. Research led me to the Automatic Land Cameras and their superior “full frame” ability that my AE-1 would never achieve on 3×4 instant films. Automatic cameras led me to manual ones, especially the 110A/B conversions that were something a child of my generation never may have seen, ever.
(6) What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?
– The one I have with me at the time. Truly it is subject and environment based for me. Making the choice for what film format to bring is probably the biggest factor since it narrows the choices considerably. If shooting macro type work there is nothing better than the SX70 SLR models and they are really lightweight for taking on long walks and hikes into nature. I love macro stuff especially flowers and cute little stupid toys or things of that nature. But if I need a flash for any reason I always grab the SLR680 even if I do not end up using the flash, knowing it is there is worth the size and weight increase over the original SX70 body. However, up until The Impossible Project stepped in with their new films, if I wanted to shoot anything “artistic” it had to be on the peel apart films like 669 and 108 because 600/779 films, like Fuji Instax today, are “too perfect” for some situations. That said I do have waiting for just the right project some ATZ, SX70 and Fade2Black films because they are anything but perfect. To break it down into a simple package it is probably easier to just say I would use the SLR680 for my integrals and any random Automatic Land Camera for the peel aparts. I say random because I really do not own a single one. Always working on at least 2-3 at a time, when I get the desire to go shooting peel apart films, I will grab one to shoot with and then just return it to the shelf to be sold to another Instant Photographer.
(7) What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?
– Other than the coveted Model 185 (Land Camera, not NPC) I have probably held and used at least once everything but the most obscure and random machines like many ID/Passport camera, science cameras or other such stuff. I wish I actually had the ability to have kept one of every Model that has come through my hands, but there would be no room left in the house for me or the cat! I would love to have seen the 20×24 camera in use, but I personally doubt I would ever have any project worthy of it.
(8) What's your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?
– Hands down it would have to be Polaroid 108. Which was the precursor to 669. I do not know the specifics of why 108 was stopped and replaced with 669, but they were sold concurrently for a few years until the 108 chemistry ran out. This stuff is probably the most analog of all the peel apart films. You really never know what you are going to get in terms of colors from pack to pack. But they are always magnificently shifted towards blue and yellows. Exposed and developed into a look that no amount of Photoshop manipulation or Instagram filters could reproduce. It truly is a magical film. Everything you shoot with it turns “vintage” which, for some reason, always works on instant films and never seems to be, what many call, hoaky.
(9) What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?
– Keep shootin’. I tell everyone that. Understand that its not exactly a booming industry or medium. Every shot you take, every pack you buy is keeping the demand for the products up which in turn keeps the companies wanting to supply us Instant Photographers. And with that said, whatever your budget is…it won’t be enough for all the film you’ll want to shoot!
(10) Final thoughts or words of advice?
– Illusion of quality through high prices…
Polaroid was very prolific in their marketing and production of all things. Literally millions of cameras of all types and formats are out there. If there is an item priced very high and it is truly nothing extremely rare then there is a good chance another one can be found for much less. Never stop looking for what you want and never, ever get “the fever”; that is to want something so badly right now you pay anything for it. Trust me, another one will eventually come along and you’ll get your chance again.
The main marketplace for instant photography seems to be eBay and its counterparts around the world. With it comes 2 distinct ways of buying and selling, one of which clearly show bias towards greed more than the personal interest in Instant Photography itself. Now one can argue that when you purchase instant photography items using “auction style” or just “buy it now” you are getting exactly what you pay for and there is nothing to be bothered by. However, people see a high priced item and believe that it must naturally be priced so high for a reason. Typically that reason is the “illusion of quality”. One item is more expensive than another item therefore it must be better. One seller asks $150 while another starts an auction for $0.99 or asks $50. Both items are exactly the same and so are the descriptions and photos. But the tendency is for some people to believe the more expensive item must be superior while the auction item is inferior. In the end a buyer does get what they pay for, but I personally feel any money OVER-paid could have been spent on film which in turn drives demand for all involved to continue to manufacture the film. Everything aside, without film there is no more Instant Photography format. Keep it alive and keep shootin’.
We encourage you to check out links provided in this post. If you are a student of any grade, Polaroid Conversions has extended a 10% Education Discount towards the purchase of any of his conversions, just let them know you heard about him on Snap It See It!