In my bag this week No. 11: Polaroid JoyCam and Yashica A (redux)

Polaroid JoyCam and 500 film
The failed experiment: A Polaroid JoyCam and the shattered remains of a pack of Polaroid Type 500 film. What a waste of almost $3. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The Polaroid JoyCam. What a piece of crap!

This is all the review it’s ever going to get, so say goodbye as you finish this post and leave the page. Check the related articles below if you want to learn more about REAL Polaroids.

What the crap?

Yeah, in one of their last gasps, Polaroid made the JoyCam. It’s 95% plastic (there are two skinny little metal “rollers” — I say metal because I can’t even be sure they are steel) and features . . . basically nothing.

It’s 100% automatic, just press the button. This is a feature of many Polaroid cameras, but here it’s take to the point of absurdity. There is one feature, I suppose — a switch to turn the flash on and off.

Which kills me — it has a flash, which is powered by a battery built into the film pack like most old Polaroid 600 cameras. But they cheaped out and made you pull a ratcheting “rip cord” to mechanically pull the film through the “rollers” instead of including a motor to do it for you. That’s it. Even the film door has a plastic hinge and a plastic clasp.

The mirror inside is plastic (and covered with little fingerprints, because kids just can’t resist). The button is plastic. The rip cord is plastic. The whole thing triples in weight with a film pack loaded.

But I bought it anyway, since it was half off its original price of $4. Still overpriced, but I’ve been looking for something to use up a pack of Polaroid Type 500 film. I found the film at a thrift store, too, for half off its $2 price tag. All told, $3 invested.

The film was still in its original packaging and has been in my film drawer in the fridge for a year or more. I didn’t know whether or not it was any good, and I fully accepted that it might be worthless. It’s a good thing I did.

After finally getting a camera while thrifting with a friend on Saturday, I decided it was time to try it out. I made room in the bag, opened the film pack up and loaded it, saw a red light indicating the battery in the film pack was still good. I pressed the button, the flash fired, I pulled the rip cord and the dark slide popped out into my waiting hand.

All tests passed but the last one. I held the camera up, pointed it at Kate and pressed the button. The flash fired. I pulled the rip cord and a series of grinding clicks and clacks ensued.

Only problem? No film. I pushed the rip cord back in, fired it again (to hell with the double exposure) and pulled again. No soap.

Opened up the camera, accepting the totally wasted frames it would cost, and fiddled around inside. Everything appeard to work. The film wasn’t binding in the film pack, the rip cord was moving correctly and it seemed to be engaging the film positively.

Light bulb: the rollers! Pull out the top piece of film and try to move it through the rollers. No dice. Examine rollers. No mess. Examine film. Uh oh…

Yeah, the film was shot. The chemical pouches were completely dried up. I started pulling frames out to see if any of them were any good, and more than halfway through the pack they still felt like they were full of corn starch.

So I piled everything on the counter and took the picture up top with my iPhone. Then I put everything in the trash. I don’t mind losing the $3 to learn the lesson and play with the camera for a few minutes, and I don’t need it on my shelf.

It’s ugly. It doesn’t look like anything. It’s bubbly and weirdly wrong in every dimension (of which it has about 46). Everything about it is tacky except the peeling stickers. Nope, not interested.

And it never actually spent a single second in my little camera bag. Truth be told, I’m glad.

Yashica A

Yashica A TLR
My newest Wayward Camera, a Yashica A twin-lens reflex in fantastic shape. (Daniel J. Schneider)

I tested the Yashica A in the first week of this column, but this week it’s back in the bag after I got the first roll I put through it processed and came up empty.

The film I got back was blank and marked — it was never exposed at all. I can’t blame the processing because it wasn’t exposed and the emulsion wasn’t somehow washed off. It must’ve had the emulsion on it at some point because it had its edge markings.

I checked out the camera again and made sure everything was working. The aperture works, the shutter works and the speeds seem accurate (at least relative to one another). I can’t find a thing wrong with it.

So I decided to chalk it up to a problem with the film or the way it went through the camera. Maybe it was rolled wrong. It wasn’t behind the backing paper — I could read the numbers through the ruby window. Whatever.

So I loaded it up with an expired roll of Fuji Reala 100 and I’m giving it another test run.

That’s it for this week, but stay tuned because next week I have something big to share with you.