Sunday, May 31, 2009

Quick on the heels...the Polaroid J66 Conversion.

Yeah, I may be the only person who practices converting to pack film using a nice camera like the 110A, and then moves on to converting crappy cameras. But how many 110A cameras do I need? One. So on I move.
My next conversion was a Polaroid J66. Widely regarded as not a very good camera, the J66 was a fixed-focus, auto-exposure camera for Type 47 (3000-speed black and white) roll film. Some of my favorite cameras are crappy, so I figured, hey...why not? It's a pretty cool looking camera, I think.

I love the industrial vibe...very vintage. Very much a product of its time. A very popular camera, as well -- about one million were produced between 1961 and 1963. Original price: $89.95. I paid $6. It has some neat features, such as the auto exposure. That big square on the front is the light meter, It has a little dial on top that lets you know if there is enough light. The dark/light setting is on the front lens, and directly controls the aperture. I said it was fixed focus, and it mostly is except for the ability to pull the bellows out a notch for shots closer than six feet.
There is a built-in flash of sorts. It pops out of the side and takes an AG or AG1 bulb. The flash uses a single AA battery, which oddly enough you push in from the front of the camera, alongside the bellows. It just kind of sits in there held in place by the contacts.

Also interesting is that the camera was produced before color film was available from Polaroid, but that it was planned and the camera would be able to use the film.

I'm waiting for the color adapter (a plate that fits over the front of the camera and has a filter for the meter), so I can't vouch for its capabilities in the realm of color.
And this just because of my ongoing infatuation with chicks holding Polaroid cameras. It's a sizable beast, indeed.

And also just because, here is the J33, J66's baby bro. Built for Type 30, which is a much smaller roll film that didn't seem to really take off. But I think the camera is awesome looking, so I have one. Too small to convert to pack film, but some have done a conversion to 120 film.

Okay, so back to the J66 conversion. Most of it is exactly the same as the 110A conversion, so I'll just have mostly pictures with bits of text, unless something is different. Overall, the second time around is much easier. I had most of this done in about five hours.
First, remove the pins and get the backs off.

Take the top off. Held in place by two inside screws and the two screws that hold the viewfinder in place.

Remove the spool holder. This was easier as it was just held in with two screws and was all plastic. And pop out that spring bar thing. The bolts shoot to the ceiling when you do.

You don't need to save any of this because there isn't a spring to pop the door open underneath like with the 110A. I failed to show pictures of this next step on my 110A conversion. Remove the photo plate/bellows clips to get the pack as close to the original film plane as possible. Just pry it up and rip it off.

In retrospect, I'm not sure you need to remove the cutter bar. You will be sawing off the end of the camera anyway. Maybe just peel back the skin and leave the rest. But I didn't consider this until I had removed it.

Saw the end off. This time I started on the long side and then cut each end, so my cut would be straight.

Do the same with the door. Remove the extra bits with a screwdriver, pliers and brute force. Then saw the end off. I was more careful with measuring this time. I had the same idea as last time, to use original parts in the new design.

I cut the plastic top on this camera, as it was long and skinny and didn't look right hanging over.

The bellows weren't fixed like on the 110A, so I had to reattach. I took the seal, cut it in bits, glued it back on, then used epoxy in the empty spots so it would stick to the camera body. Then I painted the clear epoxy parts black to stop the light leaking through.

I had the same issue with the back, not being able to open it while attached to the camera, so I just shaved off a small bit on the corners. I could have gotten away with shaving even less than this, but it's hard to do without slicing your finger (which I did) or screwing up the finish around the area you are shaving. The plastic is very brittle and doesn't peel kind of flakes and snaps off in little bits.

After all that, it's just a matter of putting it back together, gluing the pack back in place, fixing the skins, etc.

The black pack doesn't go quite as well with the color scheme on the J66, but overall still decent looking. So how does it shoot? Is it as crappy as everyone thinks? A couple random shots I took while out running errands, and then a few final words about the conversion. These are with Fuji FP-3000B.

Not bad at all. Not particular exciting, but not awful. It actually does a pretty good job of giving the FP-3000B a 667-like texture. And leaks? Yeah, the camera has leaks. On the 110A I used a Fuji back. This time I used a Polaroid back, which didn't fit quite as snug, so there are some gaps along the sides. I taped as much as I could, but I'll probably have to reglue (the back is also a little loose on one side) and seal up some of the edges.
So was it worth it? Sure, why not? Maybe it's not a fantastic camera. It looks really cool, but it's a bit middle of the road, not having the cool plastic effects of the Big Swingers, while also not being nearly as nice and sharp as the 110A. Still, I'm glad I did it, and I'm looking forward to the color kit so I can test out that function (after I fix the leaks).
I may convert the Polaroid 850 next, just because it's pretty darn cool looking. And each conversion I do gets easier, and new realizations will be had with each, as well. And it keeps me entertained.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Anonymous3:56 PM


  3. hawk630@hotmail.com3:58 PM

    thinking of mating a Mamiya press back to a Polaroid pack camera say a 250

  4. Now I can be a expert photographer using your guideline.

  5. Very cool! Thanks!

  6. FWIW, I just converted an 850 to 120. Dead simple, only one hole to drill, and Adorama has the battery for the internal meter. Details and a sample shot are in the last few comments at

  7. Anonymous8:01 PM

    this is great! i am just confused about how to get the pack film in there and taking it out? do i put a single sheet of 4x5 in it? do i need to be in a dark room? do i need to be in a dark room when i take the sheet out? How to a activate the chemicals in the 4x5? help please?

  8. Anonymous10:52 PM

    I was looking up info on this camera, and saw the Diamonds Restuarant pic and went "Hey I know that place." Funny how you can search all over the world on the Internet, and still end up with the information in your backyard.

    Phoenix, Rosevelt, and 7th Ave dweller

  9. hey how much was the back for this?

  10. on ebay anywhere from $20 to $50 depending on who's selling and buying.

  11. Anonymous4:06 PM

    Thank you very much for the tutorial!
    I've just converted my "J66". I tried it with Fuji FP-100c, and images are all black ... It's night and I tried it in the house then. When I point the camera at a light bulb, it appears, but remains black side, If I don't point light bulb , it is all black... This comes from the fact that I do not use flash? Can I use this film? Or should I stay with a B & W film?

  12. Anonymous4:08 PM

    and Sorry for my bad english...

  13. unless you have the color filter that goes on front, the camera only takes 3000 speed film. 100 is too slow and won't expose. don't forget the battery, as well!

  14. Anonymous5:21 PM

    Thank you for your answer!
    Do you know if there is color film with3000 iso? Isn't the battery just for the flash?

  15. nope, only BW 3000 speed film. there is a filter available to use color, but you have to hunt one down on ebay, probably attached to another j66.
    not sure if the battery is just for the flash or helps with metering. but it's just an AA i believe.

  16. Anonymous6:01 PM

    Thank you again! And by the way your conversion, blog and pictures are really cool!


  18. the backs are all about the same. you may have to remove whatever is used to attach it to the camera it was meant for...

  19. Anonymous12:55 PM

    what is your email?

  20. Love your blog. Thank you for posting!

  21. Anonymous1:08 AM

    Did you leave the red tape on it?

  22. Anonymous1:43 AM

    What camera back did you use?

  23. Anonymous1:26 PM

    Hey I just found one of these laying around out side my house I don't know anything about it brief case and all trying to sell it don't really know how much is worth email me

  24. I have the camera with the color adapter and have never used it before, what type of film should I look for if I want to try out the color prints?
    Also, could this be converted to medium format?

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