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DIY hacked Instax Square Camera

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

In my collection of cameras, I've got many that use the now discontinued peel-apart packfilm. I have used the Fujifilm fp-100c and fp-3000b packfilm in the Polaroid land cameras, in a Mamiya Press camera and even in a Crown Graphic 4x5 camera with an instant back. However since the Fujifilm packfilm was discontinued in 2016, I've been slowly using up my supply of the film and now I'm onto my last pack.

For a few years I have been wanting to switch to a different instant film, one that is still readily available. Currently there's the Polaroid/impossible project or the fujifilm Instax films. I chose the Instax film since it is quite cheap at around $1 per shot (Polaroid is around $2-3 per shot, expired Fujifilm fp-100c is still available but is around $80 for a pack, $8 per shot!). Instax comes in three formats - mini, square and wide. To me the main problem with the many of the cameras that use instant film is that almost all of them are automatic cameras - auto exposure, auto focus, and all have tiny slow plastic lenses.

So to solve this problem I have been hacking the Instax cameras. Either making them take other lenses or just using them as a instant back for older vintage cameras. I've previously made cameras using Instax mini, wide and now Instax square.

Today I will show you a Franken-Instax camera I made out of a Lomography Diana Instant Square camera. This is an instant camera that uses Instax square film.

The Diana instant square comes with many lens attachements - fisheye, super wide, Normal, telephoto, with closeup filters and flash attachments and viewfinders. I found none of the lenses to be interesting or good, all having plastic lens elements and slow apertures >f8. Although apparently you can purchase a much better glass lens for it.. There are only also two shutter speeds for this camera - instant (1/100s) and bulb. Linked to the shutter release is an internal switch that ejects the film out after each shot. On the side of the camera there is an on/off/multi exposure switch as well.

Recently I had purchased a interesting ocillioscope lens. It is a Tektronics Elgeet 3 inch f1.9 oscillo-navitar lens and came mounted in a No. 3 X universal shutter (B, T, 1/100-1s). A quick test using some ground glass showed that it's image circle should almost cover the Instax square film size.

It was good that the lens came with a shutter, but no focusing was possible. To overcome this I purchased a M65 to M65 focusing helicoid. This allowed me to attach the lens to the helicoid and mount the helicoid onto the camera body. I did this by designing and 3D printing 2 adapters out of ABS plastic.

1. lens to helicoid

2. helicoid to camera

I had to file a larger opening into the original front lens mount of the camera and also drill and tap four holes to mount my adapter.

The ocillioscope lens and m65 helicoid mounted onto the camera body

I also made a crude focusing scale on the helicoid to aid in manual focusing - I used a piece of ground glass glued into an empty instax film pack to check the initial focusing accuracy.

To trigger the film ejection I rewired the original shutter trigger sensor into a rocker switch on the top left of the camera. Compared to the rewiring required if we had used a fujifilm Instax camera, the lomography Diana instant square camera was extremely simple.

For the viewfinder I used the 70mm finder (close enough to 3 inch (~76mm)) that the camera originally came with.

Instax square diy hacked camera

While testing the camera I found that the ocillioscope lens, is only really sharp in the centre of the image, especially at fast apertures, so it is important to have the subject right in the centre of the frame. And there is quite a bit of vignetting with the lens.

Overall I quite enjoyed this project, I think it made a more interesting camera that it started off from. In the future I may try mounting other lenses onto it.

So this is the process for taking a photo.

  1. Scale focus using the focusing helicoid.

  2. Use a light meter to get the right aperture and shutter speeds (Instax film is iso 800 speed).

  3. Compose through the viewfinder and trigger the shutter release. (No need to cock shutter since it is an Everest shutter)

  4. Turn the camera on using the original on/off switch located on the right side. A little led light should switch on in the exposure counter.

  5. Flick the new rocker switch on and then off. This will trigger the camera to eject one film out of the top.

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