Classic cameras meet a modern film format. That's the aim of Hong Kong-based camera hackers and reviewers Cam5ra Tribe. Their innovative hacks and modifications enable old cameras to shoot instant film. Here, member Johnny Yau tells a bit about their fascinating work.
Hello! Welcome to the Lomography magazine. Please introduce yourself to our readers.
We are Cam5ra Tribe, a group of camera hackers and reviewers from Hong Kong. Not really sure when we started; sometime a few years ago, we started meeting with potential users in cafes, teaching them how to use the instant camera, and repairing their gear on the field. Our custom made cameras are secretly distributed and used by people who know their value. We could call ourselves a group that makes use of classical camera designs to modernize them with new technology?
What inspired you to start building cameras from scratch? How long have you been doing this?
We started our hacking Instax cameras before Fuji discontinued their peel-apart instant film. At that time everyone was happy with their Polaroid but we started to find an alternative way to take instant photos. We selected Instax because they have various sizes, steady developing result and they are fairly cheap and readily available.
How many cameras have you built so far? Can you tell us more about them?
One is the Mamiya Press with Instax Wide Back. Our first Instax wide camera was a hacked Fuji Instax Wide 100 that could use Mamiya press lens with coupled rangefinder. We choose Mamiya press as a body donor because they are a cheaper alternative to other models in the same series. The best lens line-up for this series was 100 mm f2.8 (my favorite lens with double g), 100 mm f3.5 Black series (sharp and bokeh), 65 mm f6.3.
Second is our Polaroid original 110 with Belair Instant Back. One of our fellow group members, M-eye Pong, has designed and enhanced the Polaroid 110 with the Belair Instant Back seamlessly. One of the advantages of Polaroid 110 was the compactness with the 127mm f4.5 lens. He is still currently making new Polaroid 110 conversion, but it has stopped since we cannot find the Belair Instant Back.
Lastly, our Horseman 970/980 with Belair Instant Back. Horseman 6x9 series with rangefinder coupled and multiple lenses. We picked the Horseman series because they are fairly cheap as parts in Japan. Same as the Polaroid 110, we don't have any Belair Instant Back to do the modification.
Why did you choose to implement a TLR design in your camera modification?
TLR is the simplest design with fine focusing, the construction is simple and easy to adjust, although it is huge, you can't deny how sturdy it is. My TLR design was inspired by Master Hideo Muto (aka 610san) and Kevin Kadooka.
What is the edge of an instant photograph over other formats?
Instant photography gives us a faster learning curve to accommodate a camera. You don't have to send your film to a lab to develop and wait for the result. Digital cameras can do the same but you can get the same result with analogue cameras especially the image size of an instant camera, which is more than a "full-frame" digital camera.
Removing all technical impossibilities, describe the "ideal" camera that you'd like to make.
One of the most difficult to hack on a rangefinder with a fixed lens is modifying the camera to couple with the rangefinder. I'm planning to build a rangefinder that's able to couple with any lens based on digital data.
What is next for you?
I'm currently working on reviving the legendary Fuji FP-1 to use Instax Wide by hacking a Lomo'Instant Wide as an instant back. For the TLR Instax wide camera, I'm trying to improve the appearance for next revision.