Spring Sale at the Schoolhouse Antiques Mall

I am SO BEHIND on posting photos. I started a new job last month; my commute is twice as long as I’m used to (although largely on rural highways very light of traffic) AND I’ve been working a lot of overtime—I even came in for about 3 ½ hours on Sunday! I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, and I’m certainly not complaining about the money, but lately it feels like I barely have time for anything else.

Anyway, on Saturday I made time for the spring sale at the Old Schoolhouse Antiques Mall in the town of Washington, thus continuing my unbroken streak—I haven’t missed one of the biannual sales (there’s another one in October) since I moved to south Louisiana. For a couple of years there in the middle they were kind of crappy, but they seem to have bounced back. I’ve gotten some of my best vintage cameras there, including my Land Cameras, and this year did not disappoint:

Polaroid SX-70

The SX-70 was the only Land Camera I didn’t have at least one type of*, and one of just three cameras still on my must-own list. (The others are a Rollei 35 and a Fuji Natura Classica. I don’t count the Arguses or Kodak Brownies I buy when I come across them, because I collect those brands specifically.) I only paid $20 for it because it has the plastic rather than metal exterior, and because it hadn’t been cleaned and restored. But the seller—who was selling refurbished ones for $100, so he clearly knows Polaroids—assured me it worked, and I figured I could afford to trust him for $20. Those old leatherette patches just have to be scraped off, and the old adhesive soaked off with denatured alcohol, then I can either buy a die-cut skin or make my own. I’ve seen tutorials where people used materials like old wallpaper swatches, or leather patches cut out of vintage purses.

Hoodoo Oils

And this is the other thing I bought there, a Japanese lacquered corner shelf. Some of the lacquer has rubbed off on the edges, but it was only $12 and I’ve always had a fondness for all the kitschy stuff the GIs brought home after WWII. Cheap as it was, most of it is still better-made and more charming than the crap Ikea sells. I think it’s meant to hang in a wall corner, it’s got a metal hook, but standing it on the dresser creates 3 shelves instead of 2. Which makes it the perfect size to hold all of my condition oils, which previously had been scattered about—some of them were actually being kept in my underwear drawer!

*I also own a 95A, the 2nd model ever made and one that covers the earliest roll-film era; a 150, which covers the classic ‘50s-‘60s era (mine is a 1963); and several late-model hardshells.

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this is my superbowl

I took Friday off work to go to the semi-annual sale at the Schoolhouse Antique Mall in Washington. It’s the second week of April and October, and I haven’t missed one since I moved to Louisiana in March of 2010. Seems like there weren’t as many extra vendors this year, though. And a lot of the rooms in the schoolhouse were empty. When the economy sucks, antiques are one of those total non-essentials that are one of the first to fall by the wayside.

Anyway, I kept the damage minimal: some vintage postcards from Opelousas, a couple of silver-plated teaspoons for Mom (she didn’t feel well and couldn’t make it), and a Polaroid “The Button”. (Get a load of the balls on that seller: $300? I paid $18.) It’s the same camera as the Polaroid “rainbow” One Step, just with a different body. They were the last generation SX-70s, a bridge between the old folding SX-70s and the 600 series, the model that Polaroid more or less stuck with until their demise.

Yesterday I decided to poke into a few of the good antique stores in Lafayette. I thought it might be fun to have one of the rainbows as well; I could get one on eBay, but it’s more fun to find one in a store. (One good thing about these cameras is that the batteries were in the film pack, so corroded batteries in the camera is never a problem.) And whattaya know, I found one for $22 in the very first store I walked into.

I found an eBay seller that sells the flashbulb bars for $7 and bought one for each camera. I thought it would be fun to have them, even if I never use them (like the flash holder and bulbs for my Kodak Brownie Hawkeye).

I don’t know when I’ll actually use them. You can’t get new film for them anymore, of course. Unlike with the older bellows-style Land Cameras, there isn’t any Fuji film that’s compatible with it. You can either buy really expired film, or that Impossible Project stuff. It’s pricey–$23.95 for 8 exposures. I would happily pay it if the film were more stable, though. But it tends to fade or speckle or crystallize. The first year or so it seemed like they were trying to improve it, but all the stupid hipsters are willing to plunk down money for crappy film. So they’re like “Develop it in the dark between 72-75 degrees and store it upright in an airtight container!”, and they sell a bunch of accessories to try to keep the photos from looking like crap. So it’s not really in their best interest to make the film better. It’s a pity, I had really high hopes for IP when they launched.

navigating the impossible project almost lives up to its name

Okay wow, there are a lot of different kinds of Polaroid film. I guess I knew that, but the 600 series was the kind that was made for pretty much my entire life, and they all shot the same kind of film, so I sort of thought of Polaroid film as being homogenous, even though I knew intellectually that wasn’t the case.

The Impossible Project makes more than a half dozen types of Polaroid film, some of which I’d never even heard of (“Zink”?). And it’s hard sorting out which cameras you stuff which film into, because TIP doesn’t give you a comprehensive list. They want you to buy the (ludicrously overpriced, IMO) cameras they sell, so they only tell you which cameras that they sell that are compatible with each kind of film.

But thanks to flickr Polaroid groups, Camerapedia.org, and crippling insomnia, I think I have it sorted.

Silver Shade is integral film for the 600 series, which is what my generation thinks of when we think of Polaroid. They started producing them in the early ’80s and the final evolution of the line was the Polaroid One.

TIP also makes Silver Shade for the SX-70, Polaroid’s first SLR and integral film camera. Also for the SX-70 is a weird film called Fade To Black, that goes through a bunch of color shifts before (yup you guessed it) becoming solid black after about 24 hours. Neat concept, but ultimately kind of a waste of $$$.

The Chocolate, Blue, and Sepia films are Type 100, a pack or “peel apart” film that goes into the old bellows-style Land Cameras. It seemed kind of weird to me that they would even make this film, but I guess pack film is easier to manufacture than integral film, or it wouldn’t have been invented first. And amazingly, these old cameras are still quite commonly found on auction sites in good condition, so I’m putting a 250 or 350 on my wish list.

I went ahead and bought a Super Shooter, because I found one in great condition on Etsy for only $19.99, and I was afraid someone would beat me to it. TIP makes one type of film for this camera, in Chocolate; but it also shoots Fujifilm FP-100, which is still being produced.

So whenever I get some more buxx coming in, I’m going shopping for a Land Camera and possibly a 600 One. Although if TIP has plans to make Silver Shade in Type 100, I might not bother getting a 600. Although although, it might be fun to have one for nostalgia’s sake. Although (3), that may be a color that can only be produced in integral film, not pack, in which case I could always wait for/hope that TIP releases it for the Polaroid Mio. I know Mio owners can shoot Fuji Mini Instax, so it stands to reason that the opposite should be true.

So many variables!

ETA: Reading the specs of the Super Shooter a little more closely, I think it can actually shoot both Type 80 (square) and Type 100 (rectangular) film. It looks like Polaroid made very few models of pack film cameras that wouldn’t shoot both. Basically, if a camera could shoot Type 100, it could shoot Type 80, because a square can fit into a rectangle. Cameras that were designed to only shoot Type 80 (ie. the Square Shooter) couldn’t shoot Type 100, because a square is smaller than a rectangle.

So long story short, it looks like I can shoot the tinted Type 100 film with my Super Shooter, in addition to normally colored Fujifilm FP-100. In which case, the Polaroid 250 will go onto my Cameras That I Would Like To One Day Own list and off my Cameras I Must Own Immediately list.

ETA (again): A little more research into TIP’s integral film leads me to believe that it’s not worth the money to buy any right now. It’s nowhere near to perfection — extreme light and temperature sensitivity, images fading or speckling, crystals forming in the photo — and probably shouldn’t even have been released. I guess it’s basically like a beta test for instant film, but it sounds like it’s giving TIP a bad reputation.