Light Leaks Revisited- How I Fixed Them In A Polaroid Model 100 Automatic Land Camera

Light Leak In Upper Right- Means Leak Is On Left Side Of Camera Bellows.

Light Leak In Upper Right- Means Leak Is On Left Side Of Camera Bellows.

A while ago, I blogged on the topic of light leaks. For some reason, I love them in a Kodak Brownie, which I shoot with, or stuff I see taken with a Diana or a Holga, which I do not have, but love. They seem part of the whole Lomography movement. But, in Polaroids? Call me weird, but to my photographic eye, they just don’t look right.

At Photographica a few weeks ago, I picked up, amongst other great finds, an original 1963 vintage Polaroid Automatic Land Camera Model 100. The first of the series, this beautiful camera was packed in one of the large Polaroid attaché’ kits, with every accessory imaginable, and unopened print mounts. When you collect and use Polaroids, this was a very nice find. The price was even nicer- on the dollar table, for a buck. Done.

Do this in a darkroom, and check again after repair, for light leaks.

The camera has a few quirks, which Polaroid undoubtedly improved upon in the later 200/300/400 series cameras. The chemical spread is uneven, resulting in all kinds of blobs. But what really was noticeable was a light leak, appearing in the upper right of each print. This told me there was a leak in the bellows somewhere on the left hand side. I took the camera into the darkroom, and shined a strong LED light into the back. Sure enough, a couple of pinhole sized leaks were noticeable on the left-hand side. Off to Home Depot.

Strong Stuff- Rust-Oleum LeakSeal.

Strong Stuff- Rust-Oleum LeakSeal.

After seeing an in store display showing how Rust-Oleum LeakSeal, described as a “flexible rubber coating”, I decided to give this a whirl. The bellows need to remain flexible as they expand, contract, opening, closing the camera, and focusing. it sprays as rubber, flexible, and pitch black. It is not cheap, at $10 US a can. And it is a STRONG smelling material. It needs to be sprayed in an area that has plenty of ventilation. In hindsight, I went a bit crazy, spraying two coats. More later on the unexpected side effect.

Masked off inner lens element, located behind the shutter assembly. You must do this before spraying LeakSeal. As you can see here, it did what it was supposed to do- protect.

Masked off inner lens element, located behind the shutter assembly. You must do this before spraying LeakSeal. As you can see here, it did what it was supposed to do- protect.

INSERT WARNING HERE- Make sure you mask off your inner lens element, before spraying. I used masking tape, and then put Gorilla Tape over that area, with the bellows retracted, before unfolding. This will keep the black, rapidly drying LeakSeal from ruining the camera optics, and maybe even the shutter itself.

After letting it dry overnight, I tested the bellows for flexibility, and for leaks. None to be found, but the bellows folding was a bit rigid, and tight. I think one coat here really would have been plenty. The stuff is pitch black, and durable, but importantly, flexible. Two coats, not as flexible. Less is more. Lesson learned.

Fun, this was not. This stuff could knock an elephant down. But it works.

Fun, this was not. This stuff could knock an elephant down. But it works.

I took the camera out yesterday, almost as an afterthought, as I had some digital photography to do in the morning with my D300, at my son’s game. One bag. And some chrome I wanted to shoot in the afternoon with the F2S. Another bag. So, I threw the Polaroid case into the trunk. Diners and Polaroids are almost made for each other. As you can see, there is a lot of uneven chemical spread still. Maybe another project for another day. Until then, yes, the light leak is gone. If you like them, keep them. If not, they can be easily repaired.

Moran Square Diner, Fitchburg, MA- Uneven Chemical Spread On Right Hand Corners.

Moran Square Diner, Fitchburg, MA- Uneven Chemical Spread In The Corners.

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