Now, if you’re not familiar with the Mamiya C220, I’m sure you can still guess that it was never designed for instant film of any kind. The C220 is a TLR with interchangeable lenses and it shoots 120 & 220 roll film in 6×6 format. It doesn’t have a removable back nor does it have removable masks inside that would allow you to change format. It’s simply impossibe to load an Instax Mini cartridge inside a C220 without modifying or damaging the camera. And that was out of the question. I love my Mamiya! It’s fully manual and it has a wonderfully sharp 80mm lens.
So after a long shower deep in thought, I came up with a plan. I identified three challenges I would need to overcome if I was going to make this work:
I quickly grabbed my C220, an old empty Instax Mini cartridge and some discarded, blurry Instax photos I found lying in a box. The first challenge was easy to solve: yes, one exposure fits almost perfectly in the C220. There would be a bit of image cropping at the top and bottom, but I could live with that. And while I was excited that Instax Mini would fit, I spotted another challenge that would need to be overcome:
This challenge was the hardest one to solve. After all, this had to be accomplished using a film changing bag so as not to prematurely expose the film. Given that I could only use my sense of touch, I figured that creating a mask to hold the film in place would be best. I began by measuring the inside of the C220 and an Instax Mini photo. I drew out my design on card stock, cut it out and tested it in the C220. It fit. But it was too finicky and didn’t hold the Instax as I had hoped it would. So I designed another mask. And that didn’t work either. In the end, it took me 5 iterations before I came up with a simple design that worked almost flawlessly. I created two tabs to help me align the Instax by touch and then the pressure plate on the C220’s back would keep the exposure in place.
But then it occured to me that I had yet more problems to solve:
I had to think through this logically. Light coming from a lens will create an image that is upside down and reversed. Therefore, Instax film is exposed through the back and ejected upside down from the camera! Next up: can I feel the difference between top & bottom and front & back? Yes, Instax film has a ridge running along the top on the back side.
With that out of the way, I turned to solving the second challenge: removing an exposure from an Instax cartridge. I grabbed the empty Instax Mini cartridge and stuffed an old photo inside it. It turns out to be very easy to remove an exposure. Instax cartridges have a notch on the bottom. You just have to slide something into the notch (I used the cap of a pen) while applying some pressure to the back of the cartridge (the side that warns you not to press on it) to align the photo with the ejection slot. As you push the photo with the pen cap, the photo slides out of the top of the cartridge. It seemed easy enough to do with my eyes closed, so I turned to the last unsolved challenge: what do I do after I’ve taken a photo?
It occured to me that I wouldn’t be able to get the exposed Instax photo back into the cartridge and I really didn’t need to anyway. The solution was to use the rollers in my Lomo’Instant camera to trigger the Instax development process. I simply had to open the back of the Lomo’Instant and insert the photo oriented with the bottom held against the camera’s rollers. As long as I remembered to turn off auto flash, I could press the shutter with my other hand to trigger the rollers and then grab the photo on the other side and watch it develop.
With all the details worked out, I was ready to begin. I grabbed my film changing bag and placed everything inside. It all went according to plan with a few small hiccups. For starters, I forgot that the Lomo’Instant camera shines a bright green light when it is turned on. I remembered just as I was about to trigger the rollers in the changing bag, but it was too late. I foolishly created a light leak that gave my first photo a greenish colorcast. After that first attempt, I covered the Lomo’Instant’s “on” light with some black tape. And even with great care and careful alignment, I still managed to load one photo upside down and another crooked.
There is one other thing worth mentioning here. The C220 has a failsafe built into it to prevent you from accidentally taking multiple exposures. Since there was no film roll needing to be advanced to the next frame, the C220 wouldn’t let me trigger the shutter until I switched the camera to multiple exposure mode.
I think my little experiment was a huge success. It certainly was a lot of fun! And when I got the focus right, I was happy with the results. I will definitely try this again one day. It may require a lot of work to produce a single image, but if I wanted quick photos, I’d use a digital camera.
Here’s a step-by-step summary in case you want to try a similar experiment:
And just in case you’re wondering: Instax Square will not fit in the C220. It’s 1 mm too wide for the camera!