Monday, November 02, 2009

Aries Polaroid coin stage: Why not?

This is one of those things I bid on and then thought, geez I hope someone outbids me! Someone else actually bid on it, but $2 short of my bid. Oh well. So here it is (deep breath): The Aries Model 195 Coin Stage/Model 4000 Coin Camera.
Okay, so sure I have a lot of coins in boxes and drawers...but I have little to no desire to take photos of them. Sure, we all know coins are cool.

But I just bid because it looked interesting. Other than being odd, there aren't many reasons to own one of these. But now I do. So now I'm sharing a little bit of my madness with you.
This "thing" had no instructions with it; just a brochure. Which helped a little bit. Not much, but a little bit.

My favorite part: lightweight and portable. Okay, it is actually much lighter than I would have expected. But at 18" tall and 12" long...not exactly a compact camera. I guess you could throw it in the back of your van...

...and head off to the coin show with it. Impress your friends with instant coin photos.
Ha...I just noticed that's the wrong brochure. Here's the right one for this camera. Very important, I know. But mine has adjustable magnification, the other doesn't. Obviously better.

Anyway, so I had to use this in my kitchen, because it isn't small, and I don't have any outlets left in my office-type area. It's more authentic, anyway, to photograph your coins in the kitchen. Your mom doesn't want it on the dining room table. So, here is the beast.

Yes, I agree. Unnecessary purchase. I sacrificed a pack of Fuji FP-100C to figure out how this thing works. It probably was meant to be used with 3000 film, but I didn't want to waste a pack of 667. This is basically how it works.
There is a light table that you put your coin on...

It is supposed to light up the coin face and provide a white background. The black slide allows you to position the coin and expose one side and then the other, so you have both sides of the coin on a Polaroid.

It is also supposed to have different magnifications, adjustable via a bunch of pegs and the bellows. I couldn't really get this part to work.

So I thought I should just jump right in and take a shot as a baseline. I set the magnification at 1:1, or actual coin size.

Okay. Too dark. Let's open the aperture and increase exposure time.

Okay. Too light. And out of focus. Which is odd for a fixed-focus camera. check that focus. I have a focusing screen for my 600SE. Let's see if we can fix this.

It seems to only be in focus at maximum magnification. I have no idea how to make it stay in focus for the different magnifications. The lens doesn't focus; it's all the bellows' work. Maybe with 3000 film? Not sure what difference that would make. But, whatever, I got it into focus. Looking at the brochure, maybe the base is adjustable...too much trouble to figure that out, though. I prefer to view my coins close up. Let's take a couple more shots.
Oh, I forgot to mention...this thing is awkward as hell to use. You have to reach in the narrow area where the lens is to adjust speed and aperture, and cock and fire the shutter.

And when you take the shot, you have to press on the light button and hold it down. In doing so, the entire unit moves, so you have to brace it with your hand while pushing, and then reach around and fire the shutter. Kinky.
Moving on. I try a few more shots, guessing at the exposure settings.

Ha. maybe let's try a smaller coin. And a brighter coin. Uno mas...

Success! Wow! I'm going to take Polaroids of all of my coins now! Not. This is probably my very last coin shot. Ever. But...what else can I do with this thing? It's basically a slight macro camera. Anything flat will work. Let's try a couple shots of old stereoscope photos.

"Red Rock from Below, Grand Canon of the Yellowstone, Yellowstone Park. 1903."

"Doing the Chores."

Kind of cool, I guess. How about a couple of photo scraps of mine from around 1988?

Yeah, I like that. But that's the end of this pack.
Okay, so it's cool for what it is...a strange piece of photographic equipment. It has a few issues. Use is limited by the small stage, about the size of an actual Polaroid. The bulbs are very yellow, so everything photographs brown with color film. And they are super hot. When I was working on focusing, the coin was practically glowing red. What are my future plans for the coin beast? Not sure. I might take it apart. I can't imagine using it more than a couple times as it is. I'd like to separate the camera from the base, see what I can do with it. How awesome would it be to carry this around on the street? Might be a neat portrait camera, as the focus can be a foot or more away from the lens.


I have couple things I'm working on for future posts. The Kowa Super 66 is sweet. And I've got the Fuji film in a Kodak instant camera thing figured out. Until then...


  1. Maybe it's the LF photographer in me but that lens looks like a standard LF lens, you can probably attach a boring ol' cable release to it somewhere around the lens.
    And bellows does not mean fixed focus; It must have come with a ground glass at some point?

    The backlight seems kind of odd for coins which are solid. You should try something more see-through like leaves or onion skins or something.

  2. you rock. it's always entertaining to read your crazy polaroid diy stories.

  3. This camera should have been named the Money Shot!

    Seriously, though, awesome review. I can't wait to hear how you got Fuji film to work in a Kodak instant camera!

  4. yeah there is a cable release mech. but it's still difficult to squeeze into the space. while the bellows aren't fixed, the camera is supposed to be fixed at 3 or 4 different settings. i figured out how to adjust the base, but it's a pain to do. you almost have to pull the entire thing apart everytime you adjust the magnification. i think i'll take it apart. do a little tolt shift or something.

  5. tilt, i mean. and it lights up the face of the coin as well as the background. the second face shot was fairly transparent with the bright light.

  6. What a beast! Behemoth! I suggest doing a texturestudy with it before you fit it with a pinhole and take shots of backlit silhouettes

  7. okay, yeah, that's cool and odd. and, nice to have a self-portrait of you.

  8. What an oddity !
    The stereoscope shots came up nice.
    Looking forward to seeing more pics from this one.
    How ostentatiously grand is coin-eye Lagerfeld !

  9. I want it. I need it. I don't actually know how did I ever lived without that

  10. iamzip7:32 PM

    Haha... I have definitely bid on things that I instantly regretted and prayed that someone else would outbid me. I'm sure you can come up with an interesting use for it, maybe something with slides?

  11. Ha, what a beast, I would love to see ongoing developments with this, as iamzip said slides might be the way to go, maybe double exposures of two slides!

  12. Anonymous3:38 AM

    I actually found one of these for really cheap at goodwill and use it for portraits. You have to kind of guess the composition but they come out beautifully.