Notes on Pack Film Camera Features

bellows •  body •  viewfinder •  lens •  exposure settings •  timer •  battery

The Bellows:

Bellows unfolding and focusing (303K)

All cameras in this collection have a bellows incorporated into their design. This allows the camera to fold up into a small package. Focusing is accomplished by pressing the focusing bar either right or left. To see an animated picture demonstrating a camera unfolding, click here. This particular camera also has a folding viewfinder.

Camera body types:

Metal body

The first pack film camera (model 100) and later higher end models were made with a metal body. These cameras also came with a tripod socket and could accept lens accessories.

plastic body

But most cameras were made with a plastic body. Plastic body cameras did not have a tripod socket, and could only accept lens accessories if they had a glass lens.

The bodies of both types of cameras are riveted together, so these cameras are difficult to work on or modify. The only items that can be taken apart are the front shutter assembly and the rangefinder/viewfinder.

Viewfinder types:

Imagesizer viewfinder Viewfinders came in 3 configurations. The lowest priced models came with an imagesizer viewfinder which presented a parallax corrected viewfinder and an arrow pointing to the number of feet that the lens was focused to. You would have to estimate the distance the subject was from the camera and focus the camera until the arrow inside the viewfinder pointed to the number of feet you estimated.

Viewfinder with separate focus and view Medium priced models came with a system where you focused with a rangefinder type of focus system and framed the subject with a separate parallax corrected viewfinder. This type of viewfinder came in both folding and non-folding versions.

Zeiss Ikon viewfinder Higher priced models came with a Zeiss Ikon combined rangefinder/viewfinder. Only one hole for both viewing and focusing was used.

Lens types:

plastic lens glass lens All pack camera lenses have a 114 mm focal length. Higher end cameras were outfitted with a 3 element glass lens. These lenses were fitted with a flange which could accept lens accessories. But most cameras were manufactured with a 2 element plastic lens. Though this lens was cheaper to produce, it still produced excellent results.

Exposure settings:

camera with 6 settings The more expensive cameras allowed 2 different aperture settings for each film type along with the possibility of using 4 different types of film for a total of  6 aperture settings. Only 2 types of film were produced for these cameras (though other film types are produced for other cameras using a Polaroid film back): colour (75 or 80 ASA) and black & white (3000 ASA). These cameras could also use 150 and 300 ASA film, though Polaroid didn't ever make these film types (though "studio" film comes close at 125 ASA). This configuration usually came with a 3 element glass lens. When using colour film, the operator could choose between an open setting which allowed for outdoor pictures or indoors with flash, or a more closed setting which allowed for only outdoor pictures in bright sun. When using black and white film, the open setting allowed for taking pictures indoors without a flash. The more closed setting allowed outdoor pictures and indoor pictures with a flash along with a large depth of field.

camera with 2 settings The more inexpensive cameras had only one possible setting for only 2 types of film (75 ASA colour and 3000 ASA black & white), for a total of  2 aperture settings. This type of camera came with a 2 element plastic lens.

Timer types:

mechanical film development timer As a convenience, timers were provided on the backs of some cameras (and all of the countdown series). These were provided to time the development of the film between pulling it out of the camera and peeling it apart. Mechanical timers were set and started manually. When the timer ran out, it was time to peel the film apart.

electronic film development timer Electronic timers were set manually by choosing the number of seconds for development, but were started automatically by pulling the film out. A light indicates that the timing is in progress, and a sound emits from the timer to signal the user to peel apart the film.

Only later cameras (1969 and later) came with development timers. If you owned an earlier camera, you could purchase a mechanical timer which attached to the camera strap.

Battery types:

camera batteries Earlier cameras used a larger 4.5 volt battery (No. 531) while later ones used a 3.0 volt (No. 532) battery. Cameras with electronic timers needed an additional 3.0 volt battery for the timer. Batteries were held in a separate compartment in the back of the camera.

Unfortunately, these batteries aren't very easy to find anymore. But you can still purchase them from Polaroid directly for around $7 plus shipping. Or you can rig up your own battery pack, but that may require some modification to your camera. If you like, check out how I made a No. 532 (3.0 volt) battery replacement.

bellows •  body •  viewfinder •  lens •  exposure settings •  timer •  battery