Fujifilm discontinued their FP-100C Instant Film in 2016, I think. It was the film used to take test shots on medium format cameras since Polaroid stopped making theirs way back when. I used to use it for my Mamiya RB67 Professional, but I used my final sheet in 2019.
To use instant sheet film I had a Polaroid back, connected to a P Adapter, which allowed the connection of the Polaroid back to a Mamiya RB67. The Polaroid back has a dark slide in it and meant that you could take the whole lot off mid-way through a pack of film, shoot some roll film, then swap them back again later.
I don't shoot loads with my Mamiya - I love it, but it's expensive to buy and develop film. I come back to it now and again, and whenever I do I look up whether anyone has come up with a good replacement for the peel-apart film or an adapter for Instax/Polaroid Original. There are a few things about, usually on Kickstarter, often more expensive than I can justify for a personal project, and they tend to go very quiet after the initial launch. I don't even know why I wanted one so much, but there's something about taking instant pictures on my Mamiya that I really enjoy.
One day while I was pondering this I remembered that I had an Instant Back for my Lomography Diana F+, which shoots Fujifilm Instax Mini, and I had a spark of inspiration - perhaps there was a way to attach this to the Mamiya? So I spent a very happy afternoon with some foamboard, velvet and a whole lot of gaffer tape.
I was pretty focused on the job in hand and a bit impatient so I can only apologise for not documenting this better, but hopefully this gives you the general idea, in case you enjoy messing about with things like this as much as me.
I started with the Mamiya body with the P adapter attached - this was needed to be able to attach a Polaroid back to the body, so it made sense to use this as the platform I'd attach everything to.
First things first, remove the part that connects the Instant back to the Diana F+ body - remove the screws. Easy.
There are parts at different levels, and a curvy bit on the Instant Back so I needed find a way of filling all the gaps. Cue the foamboard, velvet and gaffer tape - the goal being to create a flat surface to attach to the P adapter, and not let any light sneak in.
This image is mainly here because it looks a bit like a face.
I didn't have felt, I did have velvet, which is great, but be warned that velvet bits get everywhere!
Once I'd got the Diana Back flattened out it occurred to me that there might be a way to attach it to the Polaroid back, rather than just to the P adapter, so I could make use of the dark slide too. It turned out to be super simple as the back section of the Polaroid back popped out at the hinge really easily. It was then just a matter of gaffer taping everything together and I had a nice secure unit!
Sorry this was shot vertically, it was for Instagram Stories!
At this point I remembered I didn't have any Instax Mini film so I ordered some and waited for it to arrive.
Three days later, late in the afternoon, the Instax arrived! I set myself up at my electric piano - as the film would be sitting further back than roll film or the actual Polaroid back I knew that the focus would be off, but I thought a good starting point would be to focus as normal, and with a piano keyboard it might be easier to see what sort of compensation was required. I took a light meter reading and went for it: remove the dark slide, switch on the back, make the exposure, press the develop button, take the exposed film out and put it in my back pocket, put the dark slide back in, switch off the back.
As expected, it was totally out of focus, but the exposure looked pretty good and more importantly - I was amazed it worked at all!! So I had a guess at what sort of compensation I'd need to make for the focus, which was basically to roll the bellows right back in, and I was pretty impressed with the result!
By this point it was getting pretty dark so I ended the day on a high (ridiculously high from the success!) and came back to it at the weekend when I had more time.
I took a couple more shots inside (by a window, just to make things harder for myself, but these were actual test shots for film), then I thought I'd try outside to get a sense of what focus limits I had. It was a really sunny day. I took a shot and the whole thing was completely blown out. Yes it's 800 ISO film but even making massive adjustments to the aperture wasn't working. I went back inside and took a few more shots - the first few were also blown out but it started to get better. I deduced from this that there must be a leak somewhere. When I took those first shots I was inside so it didn't matter so much, but being outside there was no hiding. Thinking about it now, I also took the back off to take a shot on film before I went outside, so that's also a possibility.
So I went over everything with another layer of gaffer tap, being extra cautious on the corners and joins, started a new pack and began with shots inside in case I blew everything out again. I was really pleased with how these came out - I went for high apertures to increase my chance of focus, guessed a position and went for it. Lovely yellow tulips. I shot through a window, too, to get a sense of the focus but keeping in the back out of the light (plus it was raining and I wanted to stay dry). At f32 the raindrops on the window are sharp, but the building in the background is softer.
As you can see, towards the end of the pack I ventured outside. For extra caution I popped a beret on the Instant Back too, and thankfully, it seemed to work!
So, with my 127mm lens I can shoot pretty lovely, sharp images about 1m away from the camera, and softer images of things further away. For test shots that's still helpful though, the exposures match up nicely, as you can see from the test shots leading to the final image, below. I'm sure with further investigation there'd be away of correcting the shift, but I'm happy with what I have for now!
So there it is, a Mamiya RB67 with a Diana Instant Back+, a success!
I am a professional photographer based in the UK. If you would like to have a chat about working with me, messing about with cameras or zines, get in touch by email at [email protected] or call 07751233292.
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