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A wooden classic 3×4 Graflex camera for Fuji INSTAX wide film

(Last Updated On: 07/12/2020)

After a long time I found finally 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 3×4 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 4×5 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.

the grafinstax
The GrafINSTAX

Everything started with an old wooden 3×4 sheet film Graflex SLR which was in a very bad shape when I received it

Graflex 3x4
Graflex 3×4
Graflex 3x4 camera
Graflex 3×4 – back view
Graflex 3x4 camera
Graflex 3×4 – side view

 

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.

Graflex 3x4
Removal of the leatherette – Top side already restored
Removal of the leatherette
Removal of the leatherette

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.

An old Graflex 3x4
Graflex 3×4 partly sanded
An old Graflex 3x4
Graflex 3×4 partly sanded

 

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.

Graflex bottom
Graflex bottom
Graflex with polished front
Graflex with polished front

 

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

Old bellows and viewing hood
Old bellow
Old bellows and viewing hood
Old frame of the bellow

The final result of the refurbished camera looked already promising

Graflex with new bellow and viewing hood
Graflex with new bellow and viewing hood

 

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.

Fuji Instax Adapter
Fuji Instax Adapter

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 Detail

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

Lomo INSTAX wide back with orginal crank
Lomo INSTAX wide back with orginal crank
Lomo INSTAX wide back with crank adapter
Lomo INSTAX wide back with crank adapter

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.

Focus Adjustment Setup
Focus Adjustment Setup
First trial
First trial slightly out of focus but…..
Further trials
…it got better and better until…..
Perfect Focus
…it the focus was perfect!

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

Required lift of the focusing screen
Required lift of the focusing screen
frame and lift
Focus screen with frame and lift

 

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 free available on Thingiverse.

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

Duration: Feb 2017 – Sep 2017

Works:
– 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 f4.5/160 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 crank
Lens: Kodak Anastigmat f4.5/160 (6 3/8″) – (exchangeable)
Shutter Speeds: 1/40 sec – 1/1000 sec

5 Replies on

A wooden classic 3×4 Graflex camera for Fuji INSTAX wide film

  • I tried to get a Belair back, but they are out of stock at Lomo and are rare and expensive on ebay. Lomo is now taking names for a notification when they become available. I’ll print up your modification in anticipation. Thanks

    1. Yes I know that they are hard to get. I had also a hard time to find one when I was building the camera. Luckily I found one online in a shop for gadgets in the US (last piece). I wish you luck and the best would be if Lomo decides to reissue the Belair back.

  • I love seeing how you you got this working. I would love to do something similar with my Graflex.

    Though I might do it with one of the Fuji cameras since the can be picked up cheaply.

    I didn’t see it in your post but it would be really useful to install a darkslide so you could go back and forth between Instax and regular film.

    Any extra words of wisdom would very much be welcome.

    1. Hi Louis,

      the adapter which takes the Lomo INSTAX back isn’t removable. That’s why you can’t use the camera for normal film anymore. Anyhow, the film format is theses days hard to get. The adapter is specifically made for this type of 3″ x 4″ Graflex camera. It is not one of the more common and still fully useable 4×5 Graflex cameras. These Graflex cameras are very cheap to get.

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