A wooden classic 3x4 Graflex camera for Fuji INSTAX wide film

A wooden classic 3x4 Graflex camera for Fuji INSTAX wide film

After a long time I finally found the time to updated my blog and write some new articles about my past projects and photo journeys. First story is about my crazy GrafINSTAX project, the conversion of an old Graflex 3x4 camera into an instant camera accepting Fujifilm INSTAX wide film which I finished in September last year. Further articles will cover my Monster Graflex project, a 4x5 Graflex for and with the famous Kodak Aero-Ektar, a 3-D printed grip for the ARAX 60 and my trip to Beijing in China. I also want to share my recently rediscovered passion for home synthesiser jam sessions and my opinion about the gear I purchased for it.

But let's get started with the crazy project - The GrafINSTAX

The Idea

My idea was to bring an old camera back to life which couldn't be used any more because of the nonavailability of the film format. Not only that the camera should work, it should be unique, beautiful and most important, fully functional.

[caption id="attachment_635" align="aligncenter" width="487"]the grafinstax The GrafINSTAX[/caption]

Everything started with an old wooden 3x4 sheet film Graflex SLR which was in a very bad shape when I received it

[caption id="attachment_578" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Graflex 3x4 Graflex 3x4[/caption] [caption id="attachment_579" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Graflex 3x4 camera Graflex 3x4 - back view[/caption] [caption id="attachment_580" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Graflex 3x4 camera Graflex 3x4 - side view[/caption]

The dirty work

First step was to remove all external parts of the camera for removal of the leatherette. First it looks even more ugly after the leatherette has been removed. But after some sanding works and wax finish, the result is so amazing that it's almost not to understand why the camera has been covered in this black artificial leather. I guess that during the days the camera was produced, the black leatherette was something modern while wooden cameras might have been considered as old school.

[caption id="attachment_581" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Graflex 3x4 Removal of the leatherette - Top side already restored[/caption] [caption id="attachment_582" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Removal of the leatherette Removal of the leatherette[/caption]

After the leatherette was removed, it was time to sand, polish and wax the whole outside of the camera. It requires certain patience to get all glue removed and to reach to the final result. But it's worth the effort.

[caption id="attachment_583" align="aligncenter" width="640"]An old Graflex 3x4 Graflex 3x4 partly sanded[/caption] [caption id="attachment_584" align="aligncenter" width="640"]An old Graflex 3x4 Graflex 3x4 partly sanded[/caption]

Back to Gold

Now it was time to get rid of the black paint and to polish the metal parts. Unbelievable which beautiful camera was hidden in the dark black dress.

[caption id="attachment_627" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Graflex bottom Graflex bottom[/caption] [caption id="attachment_626" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Graflex with polished front Graflex with polished front[/caption]

Give me bellows

Since the bellows where not the best anymore and my plan was to have red one, I send the original bellows to Rudy in Hong Kong who makes incredible custom bellows for a reasonable price. You can contact him via email in case you need some new bellows for your camera: ecbuyonline@foxmail.com

[caption id="attachment_585" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Old bellows and viewing hood Old bellow[/caption] [caption id="attachment_587" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Old bellows and viewing hood Old frame of the bellow[/caption]

The final result of the refurbished camera looked already promising

[caption id="attachment_630" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Graflex with new bellow and viewing hood Graflex with new bellow and viewing hood[/caption]

Beam me up

Parallel to restoration works I was planning the transfer of the old Graflex to a somehow modern instant camera for Fujifilm INSTAX film I removed all unnecessary parts of the Lomo INSTAX wide back and developed the adapter for the back in Fusion360. I printed several versions on my 3D Printer until it was perfect.

[caption id="attachment_620" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Fuji Instax Adapter Fuji Instax Adapter[/caption]

The version on the above photo was almost perfect. Only difference to the final adapter was the brown instead of the black leather. All printed parts for the cameras can be downloaded for free on Thingiverse.

More Details

Besides the adapter for the Lomo INSTAX wide back, I had to change the crank and the distance of the focusing screen.

[caption id="attachment_660" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Lomo INSTAX wide back with orginal crank Lomo INSTAX wide back with original crank[/caption] [caption id="attachment_659" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Lomo INSTAX wide back with crank adapter Lomo INSTAX wide back with crank adapter[/caption]

It required some effort to get the focus correctly, but thanks to the INSTAX back, I was able to compare directly the focus of the screen with the focus on the photo.

[caption id="attachment_615" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Focus Adjustment Setup Focus Adjustment Setup[/caption] [caption id="attachment_619" align="aligncenter" width="640"]First trial First trial slightly out of focus but.....[/caption] [caption id="attachment_618" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Further trials ...it got better and better until.....[/caption] [caption id="attachment_614" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Perfect Focus ...it the focus was perfect![/caption]

The focusing screen requires a lift to show the image correct in focus. And a mask to frame the photo correctly.

[caption id="attachment_612" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Required lift of the focusing screen Required lift of the focusing screen[/caption] [caption id="attachment_623" align="aligncenter" width="640"]frame and lift Focus screen with frame and lift[/caption]

The finals

Finally the camera had to get a name and a nice table on the back, showing the important shutter settings.

And what about the results?

Well, the photos have a vintage look due to the old lens but very sharp for an instant camera.

And now the best parts! As already mentioned before, all parts for the 3D print are freely available on Thingiverse.

Project Accomplished: THE GrafINSTAX - A wooden vintage sheet film SLR camera modified for INSTAX wide film.

Duration: Feb 2017 - Sep 2017

- Removal of Leatherette
- Sanding and waxing of the wood
- Removal of black paint
- Polishing brass parts
- Exchanging focusing hood (new)
- Exchanging bellow (new)
- CLA of focusing mechanics
- CLA of shutter
- Cleaning shutter curtain
- Adjust shutter speeds
- Modify (new) Lomo Belair INSTAX wide holder
- Design and 3D print INSTAX wide holder
- Design and 3D print INSTAX crank adapter
- Cut and glue leather pieces (INSTAX holder)
- Clean and adjust focusing screen for the new film holder
- Design and print focusing screen adapter
- Design and print focusing screen cover
- CLA of vintage Kodak Anastigmat f45/160 mm lens

Technical Data:
Camera: Graflex Rb Series B manufactured between 1923 - 1942
Film format: Fuji INSTAX wide
Film Holder: INSTAX Lomography Belair back with manual crankLens: Kodak Anastigmat f4.5/160 (6 3/8") - (exchangeable)
Shutter Speeds: 1/40 sec - 1/1000 sec

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note that comments must be approved before publication.