Monday, September 06, 2010

Great Wall + Polaroid = Sweet!

This is a project I've been meaning to do for awhile. I was just waiting for a cheap Great Wall and a cheap Polaroid back so I could combine the two! This was actually probably one of the less "fun" things I have done, but I will probably do it again sometime and correct some of the problems I had (and not trash so many useful parts).
We start with a Great Wall DF-2 camera...known for its "bokeh" heavy lens, and reviewed previously here.

Take off the back.

And take out some random bits I don't need. You can see that the film plane is actually quite a bit deep in the camera.

Putting the camera on the back, you see that I need to cut away a lot of metal.

My first worry was the 3-step shutter mechanism, as discussed in my Great Wall post. To put the back on, I would have to remove the first step, which is used to advance the film and release the shutter mechanism for cocking.

After taking it off, though, I realized that I could use the double-exposure switch, which does the same thing. It just releases the cocking mechanism (haha) so you can take another exposure. Cutting into the camera would not affect this part. So I measured and marked. It was I think 5/8" in + 3/16" to allow for the thickness of the Polaroid back. It has to be fairly precise as the Great Wall has pinpoint focusing.

And then I cut the rear part out using a hand saw and a hand-held jig saw. This is where I made my first mistake. I should have removed ALL the extra bits of metal. Sawing was not smooth at all, and the angles were awkward.

I should have taken off the outer cover plates, though they survived. And I should have removed the interior light-proofing parts, which I destroyed in the process. I didn't realize that they would be important until later. Here we see how the camera and back fit together...

I used a Hasselblad back because it was already precut for 120 film. I did make some adjustments to it, though, to try to make a larger image area.

I then had to take the old back and cut out the top and bottom to put back on the camera. I just used a hand saw for this part.

I had to deal with the holes left over from the film spool advance...

I retrospect (you will see why in a bit), I could have cut up another 1/4" inch. I also needed to seal up all the open areas. Old Spectra and Ace dark slides worked well.

At this point, all I really need to do is glue it together...

This is where it started to get ugly, and I have few pictures of the process. After letting it dry overnight, the shutter stopped working. I thought that maybe I got superglue on something and it was catching. It would fire, but stick halfway through. I did everything I could think of to avoid tearing the back off. I took the top off to see what I could do.

I messed around with this for far too long before I just gave up and tore the back off. It was a spring inside the wall that had come loose. It provides tension to make the shutter snap back. So I replaced it and put a bit of padding to keep it from popping out again. Then I glued the camera together again. Shutter was working great. Left it for a couple hours...shutter wasn't working again. After screwing around for another hour, I ended up tearing the back off again, and removing the double-exposure mechanism all together.

I have no idea why it was affecting the shutter, but taking it out fixed the camera. I can just turn the knob now to cock the shutter. On a side note, I opened up my other Great Wall to compare, and I did nothing to it except remove the knob, which involves one screw, and the cover plate...but now the double exposure mech doesn't work on that camera! It just lets me cock the shutter. I didn't change anything so I don't understand it at all. And, when I took apart the cameras, it is impossible to get the speed setting in the right place. So I can set the speed, but the indicator doesn't line I just have to know that I am three clicks over so it is at 60. I tried like 5 times to get them to line up and they won't.
So...ANYway. At this point the shutter works so I glue it back together and check focus with ground glass. Seems to be perfect! But, another problem...I destroyed the interior parts of the camera when I was cutting. When you cock the shutter, it totally lets a bunch of light into the interior of the camera. There is a piece on top that block light, and a shield for the sides that blocks light, as well. In this shot, along the sides...light shines through that gap, so it has to be covered yet allow the shutter to slide.

I had to reconstruct all of these parts with plastic. I don't have any photos of this process because by this time I wasn't having fun anymore and just wanted to be done with it. So, yeah, I did finish it...

Ugly! Did I forget to mention that I dropped the camera on the floor, bending the front of the lens? Doesn't affect anything other than the looks. And I lost the front skin...must have thrown it away, or it became a cat toy and is under the couch. But....does it work better than it looks? My first test shot with 664:

Leaky! I took it inside and shined a flashlight all around the inside and couldn't find any leaks. I figured it was my baffling system I built out of plastic, but it seemed to be light proof. Put some Fuji FP-100C in and took another shot...

Still leaky! Looks better cropped, of course. works! Focus seems to be spot on. Just that pesky lightleak. Another shot with ID-UV.

It was at this point that I painted the camera black in hopes that it would fix the mysterious leak. This morning, I took it out again for a few more test shots.

Argh! Leaks! After looking at it in the dark multiple times and finding nothing, I realized that it couldn't be the had to be the Polaroid back. And it was...leaking from the dark slide slot. So a piece of tape over the opening fixed the problem. No more leaks!

So, it works. A few thoughts. The bottom is cut off (which is actually the top of the Polaroid). I had this figured out pretty exactly, but when I made the plastic mask, it moved the back down just enough to cut off the edge of the shot. And the ugly edges from my baffling and tape. If I do this again, I will try to keep as much of the original camera intact as possible. I probably spent 20 hours on this total, but that included redoing things, etc. I could probably make another in six hours or so. Not sure if it's worth the time, money and hassle though. But that probably won't keep me from trying again. I'll call this the prototype. GRP.v01!

Adios until whenever!


  1. Hasselblad backs always leak through the darkslide slot, it's their Achilles heel :D

  2. Compelling stuff! I admire your fortitude!

  3. Nice work! I personally LOVE the light leaks you camera made. I have whole series of images and abstracts with the mysterious light leakers, they make my work more interesting.

  4. did the polaroid back have a full sized opening? or a 6x6 opening?

  5. it was a hassy pola back so the opening was 6x6.