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Polaroid 900 "Electric Eye"

This camera was the top of the automatic shutter line, made from 1960 to 63. It is based on the very first Polaroid camera line, the 95 from 1948. The line evolved in several steps over the years. The 900 is the first camera with completely automatic exposure, the so-called "Electric Eye", a CdS cell based system, which controlls speed and aperture, The shutter is electrically controlled, 1/12 - 1/600, plus Bulb. Manual control is also possible by EV settings. The lens is a 130mm, f/8.8, 3-element glass lens. It has a top class
single-window view/rangefinder.

As all these cameras were built for roll film, long gone, they have to be adapted to 100 pack film. Instax Wide versions have also been made. Most 900 cameras are now used to convert a 110, 110A or 120 camera to a single-window view/rangefinder. As the camera body allows 4x5 format, it is possible to have a 4x5 back instead of the roll film system. The front standard could be replaced by a lens board of your choice and thus use standard lenses on a foldable, very compact body with single-window view/rangefinder.

Some pictures:

Front. From left: tripod thread, focussing wheel on the border of the bed, shutter release (upper silver button), opening button (lower button).

Converted back. Single window range/viewfinder with parallax compensation. Roll film instructions.

Print door open, This is where you took out the print after development.

First part of the back open.

Back completely open. Roll film consisted of two rolls wich were attached and were joint inside the camera after taking a photo. The negative film roll was put into the smaller chamber to the right. It was attached to the positive paper roll (which also had the pouches with the development agent) via a strong paper lead. The positive roll was put into the bigger chamber to the left. The second part of the back was closed and the paper lead streched across the back to the exit. Note the two rollers on the photo of the first part open which will oppose each other when the back is closed and which will squeeze the content out of the chemical pouched and spread it between negative and positive part of the film.

Once the camera closed you had to pull the paper lead to the first stop. This put the first negative into place for photographing. When you had taken the photo, you had to pull further. This joint the negative to the positive, the chemical agent was spread between the two. You had to wait 60 seconds and then you could open the door to peel the positive off. In those days it was necessary to treat the positive with the coater to neutralize the remaining agent.

Film chambers

Seen from above. accessory shoe with contact.

Seen from below. Second tripod thread.


Camera open. The shutter cocking lever is just visible in the viewfinder when not cocked.

The lens

There is a 625 battery holder at the back of the front standard. The original mercury batteries are no longer available, but a modern 625 battery works. It might not be a calibrated system anymore, but it's better than nothing. My shutters still worked after more than 60 years.

Camera open, "wink light" attached. A few words on this device: in those days, photographers had the choice between use-once flashbulbs and expensive electronic flashguns. The high speed  3000 ASA Polaroid films allowed a simple design: a 45 volt battery (similar to a radio battery of the same era) charges a capacitor. When the shutter is tripped, the capacitor is discharged through a 12 volt car turn-signal-style lamp. The result is a brief but bright flash from the bulb. Even though the lamp is only 12 volts, the brief duration of the flashes lets the bulb last at least as long as the battery. The batteries were each supplied with a spare bulb.

Another camera, bought later.

Camera open, bulb flash attached to the wink light for very low light situations.

View/rangefinder with bright framelines.

Typical outfit with leather case, wink-light and its flash bulb extension and coater.

Another case with another camera. I have never seen the box of colour roll film.

Genuine leather bag closed.

The camera was easy to handle. Open the front, press the tab on the camera bed under the lens and extend the bellows, it clicks into place. Cock the shutter, there is nothing to set, it's all automatic, focus and frame your subject and push the shutter release. That's it. Pull out the photo as on any other Polaroid Roll Film camera. To close the camera, squeeze the tab again, push the front standard back, push the struts and it will close.

Most 900 cameras serve to swap the finder of a 110A camera. This is possible with some DIY skills.

Comparison 110A/900.

Seen from the back.

How to open the rangefinder of the 900: There are 4 screws to open,

no.1 is at the front,

no.2 is at the back, under the finder.,

no.3 is difficult to find, it's in the film compartment,

and no.4 is in the wink light shoe. There is a crack in my housing, maybe a service man hasn't found the third screw...

The finder housing off.

Now the 2-window system of the 110A/120:

Screw no.1 isn't in the same place at the front. The others are the same.

The system of the 110A and 120. Besides the screw no.1 there is another problem: if you want to keep the strap, you have to cut a hole into the housing. On the right edge of the photo you can see the strap lug of the 110A/120. This sticks out of the finder housing, whereas the lug of the 900 is under the rangefinder housing.