World first Lego Instant Camera

Classic rendition

This is the world first Lego twin lens instant film camera – Lego Instant. Yes, I built this camera from scratch. I always have fascination in twin lens camera (TLR). The instant film adds the magic touch to this classic camera design.

First look at the Lego Instant

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With my background on instant camera modification, it might be possible to build a Lego twin lens reflex with a classic design while using a modern Instax instant film. This camera is the first Lego camera to use instant film, as far as I know…

Looking from different perspective

Using the lens from the vintage camera

On the surface, it looks like a castle built with Lego. The design made reference to the classic twin lens film camera. Here I use two lens from a Japanese TLR – Yashica. I tried various ways to mount the lens onto the Lego tightly. The way I currently mount the lens preclude the use of glue.

Traditional twin lens reflex (TLR) – Yashica 635

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Making use of Fuji Instax instant film

The film ejection mechanism is modified from a Fuji Instax Mini camera. Yes, the film ejection is driven by motor. Sounds cool? It uses Instax Mini film. Using instant film adds a new dimension to TLR. The classical TLR uses medium format film and it needs special processing to develop the pictures. And it takes a long time. Using Instax Mini film, I am always ready to give out the pictures to people. It is way more impressive than using a bulky-advanced camera and showing people the preview pictures on the small screen. It is an astounding and magical moment to witness an instant picture pops out from the Lego camera, not to mention the suspense of seeing the image emerges slowly.

Sample pictures

Camera construction process

Let me count how many bricks I have used later. Most of the bricks are ordinary bricks and a few Lego technic pieces were used in the front plane, which can be seen in the camera photo. I have this Lego TLR idea in my head for some months when I saw my neighbour throwing away boxes of Lego. I started to think about the possibility to modify a camera with Lego. My impression is there are always some creative way to use Lego; making a camera with it may not be entirely impossible. Weeks later I ordered lots of Lego and took me a night of experiment to come up with an initial skeleton design. But the method I mounted the lens was not satisfactory at the time, which was fragile and difficult to block out unwanted light. I tried to use the Lego software to design too but it is more difficult to visualise than to stack it physically.

Then I was trying to find some good Lego technic piece to resolve the mounting issue. Later I started to think it would probably be more efficient if I just drill the hole in a Lego flat plane. Everything went fast after that moment and I came up with a workable version which can take pictures.

Focusing mechanism – a ground glass locates on the top of the camera to assist focusing

Another focusing example

Greatest challenge is to block the light leak

To me, the challenge of using Lego as a camera, is always on how to block light leak. The previous two photographers who tried to build the camera have not resolved this problem fully. Lego, not only has lots of tiny gaps after assembling, it also turned half transparent if it is under strong light such as sunlight. There will be a lot of random light and colourful reflection on the picture if one only uses Lego to seal the film compartment. It needs to use some better approach to resolve this light leak completely, which I made use the traditional film camera modification techniques. I can take the camera out in a sunny day without any fear that the light will disturb the exposure, just as the sample pictures show.

Here are more pictures samples. Lens is a critical part of this project. The photo quality almost entirely depends on the lens, after we blocking all the random lights and reflections in the camera. Here again I use my favourite Yashica 80mm F3.5. It has a wide aperture and impressive bokhen. It is excellent as a walk around portrait lens and I also love its low light performances. Compared to the instant cameras in the market, the glass lens from Yashica delivers a much more stable performances in different lighting situations, a wider aperture to use, more appealing bokhen (while many instant cameras have no bokhen due to the small aperture) and richer and unique colour tone.

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Many people asked about the size of the camera. Whether I can shrink it further and what’s the usage of different bricks. The answer is that not much room to shrink it further if we want to retain the twin lens design and a motorised film ejection system. The camera is quite comfortable to hold in hands. After carrying it around to shoot for a few weeks, the camera weight and size are manageable. It often creates some interesting emotion when people discovered this Lego castle is a camera. ddAnd even more surprise that it is not a commercial product but my own modification. They faint when they learnt that it is an instant camera. It is an absolute killer if they watch the magic performance after taking the pictures…

Stay tuned with us ! More topics about Lego Instant to be covered, including various tricks of using Lego Instant !

More updates on Lego Instant:

https://instaxmagic.wordpress.com/2016/12/25/enhancement-to-lego-instant-camera/

https://instaxmagic.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/lego-instant-camera-photo-collection/

 

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Parisian Macao

During the holiday, I visited the gorgeous Parisian in Macau. This hotel pushes the extravagant style to a next level, way further than Venetian Macau. I have walked alone in the hotel at night and can’t help to shoot some instant pictures.

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Instax Wide Ross Xpres – F11-1/3, 1/2s

Without the luxury of a digital white balance, the Instax pictures reflect the golden tone we see in reality. Sometimes I think it is much better than using artificial white balance adjustment in the digital world. There is a Parisian hallway which mimics the shopping malls in the past eras. It reminds me of the scenes I saw in the movie Midnight in Paris. The many statues depicting the ancient mythology attracts my photographic eyes. I had a few shots on these statues. Some were shot in wide open aperture of F3.8, which is the widest in my Ross Xpres lens. In retrospect, shooting at F5.6 may be a better choice which renders much sharper image.

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Instax Wide Ross Xpres – F3.8, 1/25s, 1.5m

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Instax Wide Ross Xpres – F8, 1/25s

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Instax Wide Ross Xpres – F4+1/3, 1/10

I was staying in the Venetian hotel a few years ago. I like it, perhaps because it carries some past glory lent from the beautiful city in Italy. I think Venetian looks much better now as the slightly wearing outlook more closely resembles the old city it tries to mimic. It is a perfect subject for a vintage lens to capture, but I don’t have time to shoot any unfortunately.

Macau still maintains some heritage from the Portguese and some of its older urban area have not yet been eroded by the high rise commercial buildings. I still see some peaceful community with some well preserved temples and local restaurants. I’m quite impressed and I took a shot when I sneaked out during dinner time. I targeted an old street that just located next to my dining restaurant. I have narrowed down the aperture to F5.6 but not further as it might be too challenging to handheld at shutter speed slower than 1/2second. Nonetheless, I like these wider aperture sometimes as it gives more dizzy light effect, in which these street lamps look like some mysterious bubbles. If I narrow the aperture to F11 or above, the lights would become star shape which is not as magical.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Instax Wide Ross Xpres – F5.6-1/3, 1/2s

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Ruins of St. Paul’s – Many selfies by visitors. I would advise people take less selfie and spend more time to enjoy the sites. The pictures quality wouldn’t be too good anyway with the mobile phone. 

Nowadays all casinos in Cotai provides entertainment for children as well. If these big boss is well entertained, their parents can free up more time in casinos. It’s a good strategy.

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Recent interview with Lomography

https://www.lomography.com/magazine/325005-analogue-artisan-albertino-on-the-magic-of-instant-photography-and-modified-cameras

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Seagull Era has come

With the release of the Monochrome film by Fuji, I have taken my Instax Segull Mini to try out the film. This lens is extracted from a Seagull 203 camera, also known as Shanghai 203. It’s picture is characterised by its high contrast, which is perfect for Monochrome film. Using the native unmodified Instax, Lomo and Instantflex usually result in unimpressive pictures due to the capacity of the lens. A Seagull lens is best known for its black and white pictures. The pictures are rich in strong tone which is very interesting even without filters.

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The day on the peak

After shooting an album for my good friend in HKU, we have went to the Peak to spend a lovely afternoon. He insists to give a big hug to another kid…

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Instax Wide Ross Ensign

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Meet up with my dear old friend

Last night there was a typhoon striking Hong Kong. I was meeting with my very good friend for dinner. We have endless topics everytime we met. As she is now not living in Hong Kong, I only saw her a couple times a year, which made our gathering time more precious. I was arriving late, partly relating to the typhoon. I was surprised she ordered a bottle of white wine when she was waiting for me.

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Instax Wide Ross Ensign – F4, 1/10s, 1.2m

The most challenging part of the above picture is to shoot at wide open aperture, which needs very accurate estimation of distance to focus, due to the ultra narrow depth of field.

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Instax Yashica Mini – F4, 1/8s, 0.9m

I like the plate, the concentric high contrast pattern. This picture reminds me the Taiwanese Bookstore Eslite (誠品).

These pictures show the merit of lens with large aperture value of F3.5/4. With suitable techniques, low shutter speed of 1/4-1/8s are usable. It makes the pictures at night very pleasing without flash. I’m indulged in the dissolving and dark background. For some lens with average quality or the native lens of the instant camera, the black color is not very solid, which reduces the dramatic contrast of the background and the subject.

 

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A night at a restaurant

This picture was shot tonight after dinner. Taking the column in the road as leverage and exposed for 2 seconds. There is a peaceful feeling to this restaurant. It is located in a old region Tai Po Hui. In the forum, many people said they have lots of childhood memory in the shop. I appreciate they have some ingenuity in their operation. For instance, they setup a book/comic shelf in the restaurant that allows the diners have a taste of the spiritual fruits provided by the books. To ensure I can still enjoy the dinner, I took a not-so-academic book – a sci-fri comic book called Chronowar (電夢時空).

Instax Wide Ross Xpres - F11, 2s

Shoot at Sept 24, 2016 (Sat)

Eightland Cafe Restaurant in Tai Po

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