If you enjoy DIY projects and don’t mind diving deep into programming, soldering, and otherwise hacking apart old cameras, this weekend project is right up your alley. Meet the thermal paper Polaroid.
Created by tinkerer Mitxela, this Frankenstein of a camera takes the shell of a Polaroid Sonar Autofocus 5000 and crams a webcam, thermal printer and Raspberry Pi Zero computer inside. The result is a digital instant camera that immediately prints your photographs onto thermal paper—the type of paper receipts are printed on.
The project isn’t for the faint of heart. It involves a good bit of cutting, soldering, wiring and programming, as meticulously detailed in Mitxela’s step-by-step guide on how he built the thing. The entire process was filled with a healthy bit of trial and error, but when all was said and done, it worked. And not barely worked… flawlessly worked, as though that’s how the Polaroid camera was designed to operate all along.
As explained in the above video, the camera uses a three-dollar webcam as the eye, catching the scene through the lens of the Polaroid. When the shutter of the Polaroid is pressed, a screenshot from the webcam is captured and processed by the Raspberry Pi Zero before being sent off to the thermal printer. As it prints, the paper is fed through the same area a normal Polaroid print would be expelled from.
The amount of work that went into the project is evident in how clean the camera looks even after all of the hacking, soldering and glueing. From the outside, the camera still looks almost identical to how it did when Mitxela started. Everything is packed inside the frame of the original Polaroid Sonar—it can even be booted up externally through the clever positioning of the serial port. which is hidden beneath where flash bars are placed when shooting with instant film.
To see the entire process and dozens of photos from throughout the building process, head on over to Mitxela’s site and check it out. And if you’re brave enough to take on this project yourself, be sure to share your results with us.