We remarked how they would fit our décor, but thought it was silly to buy a fake camera when there are plenty of affordable real ones out there. Accordingly, I picked up an old folding Polaroid 100 on eBay on the cheap. Reading up on it, I discovered that Polaroid originally made roll film cameræ for a few years, then went to the wildly successful "pack film" format. These were made for a long time, and in huge numbers. My Model 100 was the first, and probably well over a million of them were produced. The Model 100 was also quite capable with quality glass lenses, a range of film speeds, and an automatic electronic shutter capable of producing correct exposures at speeds from 1/1200 to 10 seconds.
I didn't want to just have it be a shelf queen from the outset. It's a nice working camera, why not run some film through it? I worked with pack film when I worked at the University, taking high speed oscilloscope photographs with Type 667 3000 speed instant B&W film. The old pack film is gratifying to work with and the huge negatives can give excellent sharpness (unlike the later SX-70 style film with the migrating dyes, which produces distinctively soft images).
A little research revealed that Polaroid no longer offers pack film, but Fuji makes both color and high speed B&W films in this format. It's also possible to buy old expired genuine Polaroid packs on eBay fairly inexpensively.
The camera uses an uncommon 4.5 volt snap terminal battery, so I rounded up a compact 3 AAA cell holder from a defunct LED flashlight and attached snap terminals to it. The camera also needed a little cleaning and adjustment and took a little fiddling before the electronic shutter would work reliably. I had chosen an inexpensive one, which was obviously an old early model that had been used extensively. However, they're quality construction, built to last, and fairly easy to work on.
The first pack of old film was long expired, so the development chemicals didn't quite cover the whole frame, and there was some color shift and loss of contrast. This brand new photograph looks like it was taken half a century ago. I quite like the effect.
The ergonomics of these early pack film designs is a little odd, I had to get back into the habit of holding the camera a certain way, and being careful not to block the film exit door when pulling the tab. However, I really enjoy the whole whole process. First you focus the image by holding the camera in both hands and sliding the top assembly (marked with a "1") from side to side with your index fingers to focus. While the mechanism is a little odd, it's a nice Zeiss parallax corrected coupled rangefinder. Then you take the picture by pressing the shutter release (marked "2"). The shutter will open for the correct amount of time for the film in use and lighting. You can now cock the shutter for the next picture (the cocking lever is marked with a "3"). Now to develop the film. There will be a white tab sticking out of the side of the camera through a slot marked "4". While holding the camera in your left hand, smoothly pull the white tab straight out with your right hand, taking care not to block the opening of the hinged gate next to the film slot. This pulls the negative from up front (where it is exposed) to the back (next to the development rollers). Now for the actual development. Pulling the white tab has brought out a black/yellow tab made of heavier material. Pull this tab the same way as the white one, but it will require more force. What it's doing is pulling the negative, print paper, and developer pod through a set of rollers. The rollers break open the developer pod and (ideally) spread the developer evenly between the negative and print. You then wait a specific amount of time (classically, 60 seconds, but a short as 15 seconds with some of the newer films) and peel apart the print and negative.
Bam! Instant photography! An incredible number of photographs were taken this way over the years. It's a hands on, organic process that's strangely satisfying. The early films (including the high speed oscilloscope film I used to use had to be coated after development to avoid the silver oxidizing. They came with a tube containing an applicator soaked with sticky goo. Fortunately, the modern films don't need this messy step (although they're messy enough, with the separated negative covered in caustic developer).
The old camera now sits in a place of honor with our other bits of photographic memorabilia.