Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Type 50s and the Mamiya Universal...heaven!

Up until now, I have had zero experience with the larger format peel-apart film, generally known as Type 50. This differs from the Type 100s in that it is larger, of course, and each sheet is loaded individually as opposed to an entire pack at once. There are three basic backs that were made by Polaroid to take this film type: 545, 545i and 545 Pro. There may be others, but I'm still figuring all of this out. The 545 was the original back, the 545i was an updated version (basically the same, just prettier), and the Pro has a built in timer and thermometer, I believe. The caveat is that you only have a need to provide the camera, typically a large format camera. Which I don't have. For that reason, and because the film tends to be much more expensive, I've been avoiding it. Until now.
First, let's get to know the different Type 50 films that were available. There is actually an interesting variety...most likely because this was regarded as professional film. This info is from The Land List.

Type 51 - BW, ASA 320, print + negative
Type 52 - BW, ASA 200
Type 53 (old) - BW, ASA 200, acetate negative
Type 53 (new) - BW, ASA 800
Type 54 - BW, ASA 100
Type 55 - BW, ASA 50, print + negative
Type 56 - Sepia, ASA 400
Type 57 - BW, ASA 3000
Type 58 - Color, ASA 75
Type 59 - Color, ASA 80
Type 64, Color, ASA 64 (tungsten)
Type 72 - Color, ASA 400
Type 79 - Color, ASA 100

Lots of choices! So...I wanted to be able to use some of this film. I've seen backs for the 600SE before, and figured I could make one for my Mamiya Universal! I stuck with the basic 545 back because it was only $10, as opposed to the 545i that usually sells for at least $50, and the Pro for even more. I didn't want to spend a lot of money on something that might not work. Here is the back I used.

As you see, there is no way to connect the mount to my camera. I think most large format cameras use clamps of sorts...but I'm not all that familiar with how that works. So...I needed to make a mount so I can attach this thing to my Universal. I needed a Polaroid mount, and I didn't want to spend a lot of money on something I was just going to destroy. I was offered this beauty for a low price. This is on old-style Polaroid back for the Universal.

I just had to get the mount off of that beast... of the issues here is that Type 100 is obviously smaller than Type 50. That open area is about the size of the image on Type 100.

You can see that the entire print fits in the 545 opening, with room to spare.

I didn't want to end up just exposing 100 sized images onto Type 50 film...not much point and the cost is much higher. I needed to make the exposed area larger and to do that I needed to cut out the extra stuff inside the mount. I just used a jigsaw and file.

This allows for a much larger exposure area. One other issue was that the 545 back is a bit thicker than a 100 back, so the film plane is about 3/8 of an inch or so further away. I remedied this by grinding down the back surface of the mount. I don't have many tools, so Skorj suggested using the sidewalk...and that's exactly what I did! Poured some water on the sidewalk, sat down, and ground away for about 30 minutes. I removed the metal to almost the inside metal flanges. I actually did this before the cutting...but here you can see the thickness of an original mount compared to my ground mount, as well as the side that I ground.

For those planning on doing this themselves for a Mamiya or 600SE, note that I removed the "teeth" before working on the mount to prevent accidental snapping or something equally annoying.

The mount is now the same size as the opening on the Mamiya I have maximum exposure for this camera. There isn't any way to get more from it!

The next task is to attach the mount to the 545. I used Liquid Nails Adhesive. I also plugged up the old screw holes in case they might be a source of light leaks. But before I did that, I had to shave off the small lip on the 545 back so the mount would be flush with the back.

Overnight to dry. But that white is a bit ugly, and white isn't known to be particularly lightproof (verified with a flashlight). So I bought some matte black paint and gave it five or six coats. Pretty it up and keep out stray light particles.

Looks almost professional! Let's get this bad boy on the Mamiya...

Doesn't exactly make the camera any more portable! Weight isn't all that bad, though. Now for the best test it! I've never used the film before, so I had to read the instructions. Each sheet of film is individually packed.

I stuck it in the camera, followed the instructions (push film in, slide covering out, take shot, slide covering back, push down roller lock, pull film, develop and peel!). Oooh the anticipation!

And a backwards peel for me, of course...and it works!!!

This was with the 50mm lens. For comparison, here is basically the same shot with the same lens on ID-UV (Type 100).

Big difference! And...I have almost full coverage on the Type 50! Just lost about 3/16" on each end. Not bad, as I think all of the similar works I've seen have a black border on all sides of the image. Kind of funny that you can see my shadow with the camera...will have to watch that when shooting!
This was my only test shot. I've verified that it works, and this isn't the kind of film I want to waste screwing around...need to plan each shot and all that. But I think this is one of my favorite projects so far, and certainly something I will use as often as I can.
Until next time! I'll see what else I can cook up...


  1. Damn fine work...damn fine work.

    I just lost my 600se this last weekend when my truck causght fire in route to Dallas. I had recently bought new insurance (thank God) called "Valuable Persoanl Property" for my camera equipment. Assuming all goes well with my reimbursement, I think I"ll be replacing it with a Universal Press. I'd love to try this. Thanks!

  2. Peter1:57 AM

    Just remind me which other films fit into the 545/i holders?

  3. That back looks fantastic all painted up and pretty, good job! Looking forward to seeing more pictures from it.

  4. film types are listed at the beginning of the article...

  5. Excuse my ignorance, but does the Fuji 4x5 instant film work too?


    seems like it should work!

  7. Robert Sigfusson3:26 PM

    Thank you for a great article!

    The Fuji 4x5 is packfilm, so you need a type 550/Fuji PA-45 holder for that film.

  8. Robert Sigfusson3:35 PM

    ...The quickload/readyload films are not pola, and need to be developed.

  9. What type of film goes in an SX-70?

    (Nice job!)

  10. Nice job. We are in the process of developing a new film type that will fit into that back.

  11. I'm not sure if I've heard of anything more hardcore than just cold grinding away at a sidewalk using Polaroid bits. That's awesome.

    I recently got a Polaroid 4x5 Land Holder #500 with the thought that I could use the Fuji 4x5 film in it, but that was a big fail, because, like Robert says above, the Fuji 4x5 is packfilm, and the land holder is just for the quickload films and the single sheet Polaroid. Sadness. So now I have 2 boxes of the Fuji 4x5 film and a lonely #500 film holder sitting around, being all emo because I can't use them.

  12. OH WICKED! I wanted to mount the polaroid back on my mamiya press and i failed terrible..

    oh i got a video of the Polaroid 185 with special price tag

  13. went to oosawa camera with skorj! no 185 there though. lotsa yen!

  14. Great read!!!
    I need some help please! I just got a polaroid back for my Holga and I can't seem to be able to get an exposure. I don't know if I'm pulling it out wrong or what. It seems like the "negative" side doesn't seem to stick to the opposite side. I guess what my problem is that i cant get it to develop. I'm new to peel away polaroid film and I am extremely frustrated since i can't seem to find any answers online. Any ideas or tips? I've been working with type 100 film. Thanks a lot!

  15. see my newest post on peel-apart. at the bottom is a link to a pdf about using the film.

  16. Thanks for the link. Apparently the back that i bought was incomplete. Mine didn't come with the rollers. Are the rollers what starts the developing process??

  17. yes, the rollers are very important! they spread the developer across the paper.

  18. I just purchased a Mamiya Universal Press with 6 x7 and 6x9 film backs, as well as a Polaroid back. I am shooting type 100 from the impossible project, although when sold out ... No more as they are without the machinery to produce anymore. Will type 600s from the Impossible Project (integral film) work with this camera back? Open to comments and/or suggestions.

  19. there is no native way to use 600 with the Universal. you have to get an old sx-70 back and make a mount yourself (which i plan to do someday), or look for one that someone has made on ebay. fuji still makes peel-apart film, color and bw.

  20. Anonymous12:59 AM

    how about the focus point, Accurate?

  21. seems to be fine as the photos are in focus. the rangefinder does not work on my crown, though.

  22. Anonymous4:43 AM

    So you think this can be adapted to shoot 4x5 sheet film?