Film cameras are a labor of love. There is nothing practical about them in today’s age of social media and instant gratification, but that doesn’t mean that the labor doesn’t produce results commensurate to the effort. Case and point with the Instamatic cameras. Besides being a relic from the 1970s, it’s not practical to run film through them. They used 126 cassettes; 35mm film with fewer sprocket holes in a snap-in cartridge. Aimed at the entry-level photographer, these cameras had plastic lenses, simple point-and-shoot controls, and no real adjustments.
Because the 126 cartridges aren’t produced anymore, shooting film through these isn’t very practical. However, CameraHack in Italy has produced a 3D printed two-part cassette that allows one to load standard 35mm film into it and run it through the camera. I purchased one of these about a year ago and completely forgot about it. So I loaded some 35mm Fujicolor 200 into the Fakmatic and set off with the X-30 to take some shots.
To be perfectly clear, the adapter allows you to run film through the camera, but only if your camera cooperates. If you’re lucky enough to get a compatible Instamatic, you’ll need to be sure to advance twice, shoot once, for every shot since the film advance lever only moves the film half a frame each time. This is not a camera issue, but an issue of trying to use a 21st century adapter for a 20th century junk camera. I found myself in a predictable motion, when I remembered, to get the pictures framed properly: Advance the film lever fully, let it retract, advance it again just a smidgen, then hope the shutter release is good to go. It usually worked.
More often than not, however, I found myself forgetting the advance-twice-shoot-once method and had a ton of overlapping photos. More on that in a minute. What I noticed on the first roll I ran through it was the obnoxious light leaks. Loading the film in the Fakmatic requires first cutting the leader off a roll of film and taping the snubbed start of the roll to the take-up spool in the Fakmatic. Afterwards, the remaining steps are in pitch dark or a dark bag. Extract the remaining film from the 35mm cartridge and hand-roll it tightly so it fits in the feeder side of the Fakmatic cartridge. Then put the top on and gingerly insert it into the camera without letting the top pop off — it inevitably pops off.
After my first roll had light leaks, I ran a second roll through it thinking it was some error on my part. True, it is still probably due to my crappy loading abilities, but I’ve come to embrace the results. The leaks are growing on me enough that I’m going to roll another roll for it to use on Christmas day.
That leads us to the second inevitability: you will forget to double-stroke the advance lever and end up with a roll of overlapping frames. Again, this is something that actually works in favor of the X-30. I like the results! When the light isn’t bleeding through, the images are fantastic. When the light peeks in, or bleeds in, it has some psychedelic effects on the images. I like both.
I really hope the light leaks are a result of the camera and not my shoddy work loading a roll, because I’ll get better at loading but the camera will always have light leaks. I guess we’ll know after another few rolls. I have everything taped off, including the frame window on the back, and I still get the leaks, so it’s anybody’s guess.
If you have a darkbag or light-safe room and the desire to shoot something kitschy like an Instamatic, go hit the thrift stores or the FPP store for them. I’d steer clear of the ‘bay. The sellers of late have started smoking fuzzy yellow crack rocks when it comes to prices for old tech. Check Facebook Marketplace if you really need to get your e-purchase on. The Fakmatic adapter is going to cost you more than the camera, likely, but it’s worth it. It’s well designed and durable. Besides that, you’ll just need patience and a dummy roll to test with, but I think you’ll enjoy the process. The process is, we all know, why folks still shoot film.