One of the systemic quirks of Polaroid photography is your rollers, or spreaders. The classic roll film, and Automatic Land Cameras, used a set of stainless steel rollers to break the chemical pod which releases the reagent that is spread between the negative, and positive sheet. This chemical can build up onto your rollers or spreader, creating spots or flecks, muted colors, and occasional jam ups when pulling a print tab out of the camera.
In the Automatic Land Cameras, you simply lift up the red latch on the upper left hand corner of the back door. Swing out the rollers. These were beautifully made out of stainless steel, and really rugged and durable. You can wipe them clean with a damp cloth. I have also used on occasion a paper towel sprayed with Windex-type all-purpose cleaner. I rub them down with one hand, and move the rollers around with the other, making sure to get everything. When shooting color film, I have seen on occasion a paper like residue accumulation that will build up on one side of the rollers. Get that stuff too.
On occasion, I have also had to take a can of compressed air to blow out debris off the bottom of the back door that will build up. Check that area as well. Snap the roller assembly back in, load up a fresh pack, and get out there and shoot. Really, this is a simple process. I have seen everything from YouTube videos, to pages and pages of text on it. This is really not that difficult. Photographers, I have found, have a natural tendency to overengineer everything. Myself included. Doing this after each pack of film will ensure great performance for years.
When Polaroid introduced the Colorpack 2, and other rigid body pack cameras in the late 1960’s, many of them went to a less efficient spreader system, using a bracket mounted to a removable assembly which easily snaps out. I really dislike this system. Modern day Fuji packs just do not run through them well, and shots, and packs, can be wasted. Sure, it is easy to clean, but it just does not work as well as the rollers. Cameras such as the Square Shooter 2, using the now defunct 80 (square) format, have a removable roller bracket, which can be interchanged with this set up. When I get my Big Shot, I plan on doing this, and last night, I ordered a Square Shooter 2 off of Etsy for $4 to “cannibalize” its roller assembly. If using a camera with the spreaders, you can pull them out as one piece with the convenient tabs located on both sides. That way, you can soak it in water, and wipe it dry.
I own a Hasselblad 500cm. It is an amazing 6×6 square medium format camera. I have shot many rolls of 120, but yet to shoot any Polaroid with it. The kit came with a Hasselblad Polaroid 100 film back. Thankfully, it uses rollers, which are smartly packed onto a removable bracket.
When I got this, it appeared that the original owner had not cleaned the rollers in a while. there was lots of goop on them. They are so easy to pop out, and clean. With a little elbow grease (not really, a bit of H2O), they now look like brand new-
These really came out clean, and looking like new. Cannot wait to load this up with a pack of instant this Spring, if this brutal Winter we have had in New England ever does decide to end. Should be a lot of fun-
To sum up, clean these suckers. It’s simple. Religiously, after every pack of film you shoot. You won’t be sorry, and your Polaroids will love you for it.