After my proof-of-concept prototype gave reassuring results, I decided to start a full-scale project. At that moment I had a Lubitel camera with well-worn body and a Jollylook camera. These two cameras were supposed to provide all necessary components to make my hybrid: lenses, shutter, viewfinder and developing unit. And my goal was to design a functional camera body that incorporates all of the above components.
Firstly, I disassembled and examined both cameras. Lubitel cameras are of solid design: it is easy to overhaul it and then to re-align lenses. There are only few components that can fail and It seems that these cameras can work forever provided regular maintenance. This is a probable reason for the low quality of the cameras--they were supposed to be fixed by the buyers themselves. Jollylook is a controversial photographic device. On the one hand, the manufacturer marketed it as an "easily recyclable cardboard camera". On the other hand, the biggest part of the camera - the film developing unit - is made of plastic not cardboard and therefore may be not recyclable (at least it has no recycle symbol). However, this is the part of the camera that I like the most.
Secondly, I realized that the Jollylook film developing unit is not a good fit for my design. The cons are:
- the unit has an irregular wedge-like shape, which perplexes designing any attachments for it
- there are no thread holes for screwing on any other components to the unit
- there is no back lid that covers the Instax film cartridge in the unit
- the film pulling mechanism seems to be too harsh on the film resulting in black tree-like traces in the upper-left corner of photos.
Having only two pros (compact size and a crank handle that allows more even dragging out of film) against many cons, I decided to look for an alternative. Eventually I found one - a Kiipix "printer" that I bought used on Amazon for experimentation.
As I started my disassembly, the Kiipix appeared to me suspect as well: I questioned its practicality, but its design and quality remained attractive. I found the following pros:
- Kiipix provides a back lid and an exposure counter
- there are plenty of thread holes for screw assembly
- the retail price is lower: $30 for a Kiipix against $35 for a Jollylook developing unit
- it is bulky compared with the Jollylook developing unit
- it uses a hand-turned knob to advance the film and this intermittent dragging of the film leaves temporary traces on the image
After pondering Kiipix and Jollylook options, I chose the Kiipix film developing unit. I tried a couple of ways of combining the developing unit with the camera, and finally chose horizontal alignment which makes the assembled camera look neat and balanced.