I’ve always wanted one of the later Colorpack cameras, from maybe the 300 or the 400 series. Also, I’ve really wanted one with the parallax corrected, one windowed Zeiss-Ikon rangefinder. The idea of using one window to frame and compose, and focus, has always intrigued. Yes, this would likely entail additional investments in portrait kits (the standard pack camera close up and portrait kits use a different “goggle” configuration). And, if getting into a 400 series body, a new flash system to learn.
I bought this 450 through ShopGoodwill.com, a winning auction bid.
This is the first model outside of the 100-200 series I’ve used. Turns out that most of the 100-200 series cameras are prone to a leaky capacitor, which can result in “dark print syndrome”. While producing a beautiful image, they can indeed, without a little experimentation with the Lighten/Darken adjustment, underexpose. While I’ve only made a few images with this 450, it seems to meter and expose spot on. The 450 is a tank, maybe one of the most refined of the original Colorpacks, short of the 180-195 series.
It worked out, even with shipping and handling, to be a fraction of the cost of what they are selling on eBay. It arrived in beautiful condition, and complete with the proprietary Model 490 Focused Flash, and a fresh supply of General Electric Hi-Power Magicubes- the only ones that are compatible. Of course, there is a finite amount of these cubes out there, as they haven’t been manufactured in years. The flash has integrated louvers that open and close based on your rangefinder focusing. So, for proper flash exposure, sharp focusing is indeed key. The shutter is set to a fixed speed by the camera once you plug the flash in.
There are viable, modern, electronic alternatives. A great one is offered by The Film Photography Project in their online store. Known as FPP #490 Electronic Flash Holder w/ Electronic Flash, it utilizes a modified 490 bracket housing, retrofitted with a 50M Ultiblitz electronic strobe, complete with a PC cord. And, it works like a charm. One caveat- this flash likes good batteries. After getting dark, underexposed images with economy bulk batteries, I noticed that the ready lamp was not even illuminating, An install of fresh Duracell alkalines solved the problem.
How do they compare? The FPP electronic flash, at comparable distance (4 feet in this Curious George test) yields a somewhat “cooler” exposure, and seems to do a better job at opening up the shadows, as seen here-
Both nice exposures at 4 feet. The Polaroid 490 lets you lighten/darken right on the unit, as the built-in camera settings become overridden after attaching it, because of the louver system. I have yet to experiment with L/D settings on the 450 itself while using the FPP Electronic Flash. There are several electronic flash solutions available for Polaroid pack cameras. This truly is a nice one. But experiment, and always use good batteries.