Author Topic: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.  (Read 49476 times)

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Skorj

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Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« on: June 12, 2009, 04:30:31 AM »
What's in the box?



Although hardcase Polaroids allow some selection of shutter speed (by tweaking the Light / Dark control), their electric eye is often fooled by pointing straight into the setting sun. As this is something I often found myself doing, it was apparent my old hardcase (a heavily modified Color Pack III), was to be upgraded by a full manual pack-film camera.



A Polaroid 180, 185*, 190, 195 and 195 SE were all considered as a replacement for my friend's FujiFilm FP-1 I had been using (for more on the FP-1, CLICK HERE). The 180 was eliminated because though similarly lensed, they are slightly slower than the 190 & 195 at f4,5. The 180 does run to f90 though, an unfeasibly small aperture to exploit the high speed of Polaroid's ISO3000 films (Type-87 and Type-667), and now one of the few remaining pack-film types still produced FujiFilm's FP-3000B.


195 SE and 190.

The 195 (in this case an SE) was chosen over the 190 as it comes with a clockwork timer instead of the electronic timer of the 190 (those batteries though obtainable, are a bit hard to get sometimes). As 195 also do not have electronic timers and the associated thicker back-plate, they also accept FujiFilm pack-films without internal compression of the tabs making them hard, and sometimes impossible to use too.


190 (L), and 195 SE (R) Timer Backs. Battery compartment on 195 is blank, whereas on 190 it accepts 1x PX-something battery.


190 Electronical Timer Detail. They beep (quietly), and the light goes off when tripped by a micro-switch on pulling the print tab.

For assumed cost saving reasons, Polaroid only fitted the Zeiss viewfinder / rangefinder combination to the 180 and 190. The 195 and 195 SE both came with the cheaper dual-window finder.


Stock 195 finder. Uglier perhaps, but the parallax correction on the two window device only has to run up-down, not up-down AND left-right, so it might be more accurate for framing as well. Especially with the viewfinder element in line with the lens center. Some report this to be true.

I replaced my 195 SE dual-window native rangefinder / viewfinder combination with a single (small) window Zeiss version from a 350-series camera. Later model 180 also have a Zeiss finder, but the larger windowed version. If this is not confusing already, the 190 comes with a Zeiss too, but the same small window as fitted to 350-series camera. The Zeiss finder though does give a nice bright focus spot, and is comparable to any other rangefinder functions.


Nice bright frame lines and focus spot.

Focusing and composing through one window is a lot easier, especially if you have the habit of snapping stuff quickly. This is a popular tweak, driven by both name and function. No screwing or anything hard needed here, just a little flick on the spring-bar with a small screwdriver. As long as you do not let the tension spring launch itself into orbit, putting the new one on is just as simple - literally a 30-second job.


Spring-bar for rangefinder / viewfinder removal process.

Some spring-bars though are quite tight and a little whack with a hammer, or some needle-nosed pliers are needed to dislodge.

The Zeiss VF / RF combo is nice and bright with a central yellow dot for focusing, and parallax correction frame-lines. It focuses down to just under 1m, almost as good as the FP-1 at 80cm. As well as being X & M synched, it also has a self-timer, a facility some times for tripod mounted night work. In the same segment, the FP-1 and Konica Instant Press do not have a self-timer.


Manual shutter cock lever in white. You cannot see the cocked lever through the VF like you can on the FP-1 though. The 180, 185, 190 & 195 do not have a fold-out bed like the earlier Pathfinder, or FP-1 & Instant Press, instead using a free standing frame to support the bellows. The unique lever driving focusing is smooth and once mastered, very easy to use. Some of these cameras are also spring-loaded, so when releasing the bellows, they automatically extend. My 195 SE does not do this, but others I have worked on have.

While the hardcases will switch to 1/2000s, I've not need that fast with manual aperture control as a supplement (maximum speed of 1/500s). The manual aperture control also allows greater control over compositions, including for ISO3000 films which during the day had previously had been confined to shooting at f64 with a hardcase. Sometimes infinite DoF was just a pain.

For those so inclined, later 195 (notably the 195 SE, and maybe some 190, and all 180 too I think) lenses are also equipped with an EV-scale, in support of the corresponding EV-graduated matching light meter, giving interlocked aperture or shutter priority effectively right there on the lens. Shooting with a modern Sekonic and a Gossen Digisix both in EV-mode is a real whizz as a result. The interlocked EV function was a snappy addition to manual lenses, and perhaps declined with the advent of largely automatic camera.

An EV-calibrated lens is the only difference I can resolve between the 195 and the 195 SE. Though, there may have also been package content differences too.


Nice bright 190 / 195 lens - f3,8 to f64, and 1s to 1/500s. 180 has max of only f4,5 - but runs to f90!


Sean's massively small f90 capable 180.

The EV interlock on the 180 and 195 SE are a lot easier and a lot more reliable to use than the previous manual incarnations on the 110 and 120 Pathfinder series.


EV Interlock on 195 SE. Note: leaving the flash sync lever on 'M', though of course not appropriate for modern X-synched flashes ('X' position obviously), is a kludge to stop the lever from getting knocked into the 'V' (self-timer) position. Out-and-about, shooting in the street, and dragging my 195 through haikyo all over, means it sometimes gets knocked. If knocked from 'M' it only goes to 'X', thus not getting the annoying and possible shot-loosing self-timer function engaged. Tape would also be an option, but that would soil her otherwise pretty face.

Results? Wow! After using the plastic lensed hardcases for years, I was amazed at the sharp contrasty results from the 4-element (114mm) Tominon on the 195. With RF focusing, and an accurate exposure setting, this bus will freak out anyone used to normal Polaroid attributes. Used with Fuji film, it will give you amazingly sharp, full-ranged grays and gloriously defined colors. Luckily I use it less than diligently, often estimating my exposures manually, and sometimes with well-expired films, this has resulted in some tremendous effects and some very pleasing (at least to me) results.

Low light use with ISO3000 films makes for a great, no-flash, low light photography.


Modern Nihon 12. Expired Type-667, 1/60 and f16.

Because of the rangefinder and leaf-shutter configuration, the 190 & 195 are nearly silent, with smooth steady operation. Hand-held exposures down to 1 second are easy as a result of little moving parts, and well balanced construction.


An Old Ropeway Engine Room Stands Untouched for Over Thirty Years. Expired Type-665, 1s and f3,8.

Tight depth-of-field from the 195 SE lens wide open at f3,8 is very pleasing.


A Rafish Porsche Driver Takes a Break Between Heats. Expired Type-665, f3,8.


A Man Who Told Me He Used to Be a Manga Artist. Expired Type-667, f3,8.

Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised to discover an added bonus of the 195; they also take square format films, as well as the rectangular format films. A great little party trick, and one I think all this series of folding Polaroids is capable of. The viewfinder does not auto-adapt for square format though - if you can find any these days that is - like the EE66 / 88 / 100 and Pro Pack / Reporter series do - but it is not hard to visualize the changed aspect ratio in the viewfinder, as it is easy to line up a square composition in the rectangular frame lines. With the square format films fitting into the right-side of the camera back (lens front), the viewfinder needs to be composed with an imagined square on its left-side.


Chillogoe Smelter. Type-87.

Color? Sure.

Shibuya Fuji Rabbit. Expired ID-UV, 1/125s and f4,5.

Numerous accessories such as ND and O filters (44,5mm), portrait & telephoto adapters, and various carry-cases were also available. Realistically, the only accessory needed for a real shooter might be an orange filter for contrasty skies. Or, maybe an ND if you're into ISO3000 stuff.


Native 190/195 ND5 Filter.

Overall, the 195 is an extremely competent Polaroid, as you would hope from what was the top-of-the-range unit when made in 1975. The nicely machined aluminum, and collapsible operation make it a great tactile camera to use. Collapsed, with its plastic cover in place (with snappy cold-clip holder), it is a rugged, easily carried machine. In mint condition, with accessories in their leather cases, they can exceed USD750. Happily this slightly used one was less than that, and a lot less than the comparable FP-1.

f3,8 always a valuable attribute for a Polaroid camera, with low light and street work permanently set for wide-open aperture priority.


Modern Nihon 21. Expired Type-667, f3,8.


A Proud Young Lad on the Way to School by Himself. Expired Type-665, f3,8.

Arigato. Skorj.

*Footnote: in looking for a camera of this type, I came across a Polaroid 185, noticed the electric eye on the front and assumed it was an auto device. Not true it seems. The 185 is a super-rare full manual, but with a built-in light meter. Only a few were supposedly built, as gifts for those close to Edward Land according to Internet legend. What one was doing in Japan, I can only guess, but I let it slip through my fingers for a few thousand yen. The Mamiya lens is only f5,6 though, so maybe I would never have been happy after all...

A few years later, I spied this mint 185 in my local camera store. Clockwork timer equipped, it is essentially a 180 with a battery powered match needle exposure system hand milled into the top of the lens board. Interesting to play with, but at f5,6 and such a price, it makes a good collector piece, and perhaps not a camera for rough treatment in the field. Hardly suitable for me, but a friend bought it and I get to visit it sometimes...



Of a similar type are the FujiFilm FP-1 and Konica Instant Press.

« Last Edit: December 08, 2010, 05:27:19 PM by Skorj »

original_ann

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2009, 06:08:29 PM »
These images make me weak in the knees!  Beauuuteeful.

Skorj

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2009, 06:20:02 AM »
These images make me weak in the knees!  Beauuuteeful.

Well; that be swell! Thanks for the encouragement. Arigato!

calbisu

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #3 on: June 21, 2009, 06:36:17 AM »
That was a very nice and useful review, and well about your pictures... well actually were the ones that convinced me to buy a polaroid 195, I hesitated with the 600 se but being bulky and heavy I opted for the 195 as I would like to bring it to the street. I am still experiencing with the 195 but I am simply amazed by its capabilities, you can really obtain high quality shots. And well, shooting with Polaroids it?s a complete new world!!! : ) I just go to one place which I remembered for whatever reason and take one picture! ONly one! : )

Thanks Skorj! ; )

Skorj

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2009, 04:15:14 AM »
Thanks Skorj! ; )

Well, thank you too for registering, just to say thanks. Nice. Glad to see it was of help. Enjoy! Skj.


The Gentleman Amateur

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2009, 04:30:04 AM »
Thank you for a fascinating review, and a very beautiful set of images.  I've been thinking for a while about investing in a packfilm camera, but haven't been able to settle on a model to go after.  How would you say the 195 compares to something like a 110a conversion?

Skorj

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #6 on: July 16, 2009, 05:05:03 AM »
How would you say the 195 compares to something like a 110a conversion?

The 195 is a better camera I think over a 110A (and the other Pathfinders too perhaps):
o A lens that opens wider (f3,8 over f4,7).
o Faster shutter speed (1/500 over 1/300).
o One window for composing and focusing (if you change the VF combo).
o 195 SE has a better EV system, and the shutter / aperture functions are easier on a 195.
o Shutter release does not required long fingers, and it a lot more natural.
o It is smaller & lighter.
o They will be newer by maybe 10 or 20 years, and might last longer as a result (shutter and bellows for example).

The 110A and 120 are dual window RF & VF that you cannot change, and while the 110B has a single window, it still is f4,7 and 1/300. The only area the Pathfinder beats the 195 (for me anyway) it is a much cooler machine for shooting pack-film - it looks just glorious, so for portraits you get a nice reaction.

If you're into 4x5, then it is a whole different story, with all the Pathfinders beating the pants off most other machines... I hope this helps? Skj.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2009, 02:21:36 AM by Skorj »

The Gentleman Amateur

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #7 on: July 16, 2009, 05:03:45 PM »
That is very helpful - thank you!  I appreciate the detail & thoughtfulness very much indeed.  Whether I ever get up the nerve (and the cash) to actually buy one, who knows, but you are definitely inspiring me to think about it seriously! 

Could I just ask one more question - roughly what sort of price range would you expect to pay for a 195 these days?

moominsean

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2009, 05:15:34 AM »
probably the cheapest you will see a 195 go for is $190-$200. upper end maybe $400-$600 with some accessories. 18os usually go for $150-$250 depending on condition.
"A world without Polaroid is a terrible place."
                                                                  - John Waters


The Gentleman Amateur

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2009, 07:01:41 AM »
Thank you  - that's quite a big difference!  How does the 180 compare to the 195?  I noticed that Skorj decided against it relatively early on, but I'm open to different models - does it take all the same pack films?

filmwast

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2009, 08:57:51 AM »
Thank you  - that's quite a big difference!  How does the 180 compare to the 195?  I noticed that Skorj decided against it relatively early on, but I'm open to different models - does it take all the same pack films?

yes they will do,   the 195 will take square format also - but you cant get that anymore - even secondhand ive not seen any in a long time.

gothamtomato

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2009, 03:49:22 PM »
I was lucky enough to find a virtually new 195 years ago. I had told a friend who worked in a camera store that I was looking for one & asked him to keep his eye out. Before digital came along, these were highly prized for test shooting. When someone came into the store to sell two of them, he called me. The guy had had two for years (bought new) but only ever used one of them. I bought the unused one (it still even had the tape label on the strap).

I paid $600 and left the store with that feeling you get when you've scored a really great deal on something.

mb190

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2009, 11:36:50 AM »
I have the 190 with the electronic timer. The timer on my camera isn't very accurate and I want to do some tests with it. I know the timer starts automatically when you pull out the yellow tab but cannot find out for the world how it is triggered (I want to start the timer without wasting a photo each time). There must be something that's moved or pulled or whatever by the picture being pulled out, but what? Anyone who can help me out here?

Skorj

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2009, 07:07:53 PM »
The timer on my camera isn't very accurate and I want to do some tests with it.

Indeed. Sometimes as much as +5s in a minute...

There must be something that's moved or pulled or whatever by the picture being pulled out, but what?

Easy! There are two wires in black spaghetti that run from the timer to the 'yellow' tab exit door. A micro-switch is nestled between the door and the rollers, at one end. It can be manually tripped with a finger, or a small screwdriver. Being careful not to bend anything. The colored wires emerging from the end of the spaghetti at the trip switch give it away in an otherwise all-black painted, dark place. Opening the door with your finger to peer in may help see it.

Do not worry about the variable nature of the timer, unless it is coming up really short. Your film will enjoy a bit longer dev time, but perhaps not too short... Skj.

mb190

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2009, 11:47:48 PM »
Thanks, Skorj. I found the switch. Timer isn't very accurate indeed, about +8 seconds in two minutes (I use Fuji FP-100C).
Another question, would you have an advice for a particular exposure meter to use with the 190?

Skorj

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2009, 01:04:50 AM »
Thanks, Skorj. I found the switch. Timer isn't very accurate indeed, about +8 seconds in two minutes (I use Fuji FP-100C).


No issues then! Peeling your prints at the wimpy meeeeep will be fine. No need to adjust or estimate anything.

Another question, would you have an advice for a particular exposure meter to use with the 190?


It depends if your 190 has an EV scale or not. If so, then an EV capable meter would be nice. If not then any small shoe-mounted device will suffice. I use a Gossen Digisix sometimes still:


Shoe-mounted, with both normal and EV-mode too. Here it is on a Pathfinder:


I've mostly replaced my metering for a non camera mounted device. To make accurate portrait metering easier, I use one of these (no need to stand next to a street subject to take an ambient reading):


It supports EV mode too, making semi-coupled shooting a snap. Unless you're a real retro-freak, avoid the period 190-matching Polaroid meters, as though some are still moderately accurate, because of their selenium cell driven meter, most are inaccurate and you'll probably end up wasting film. Skj.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2009, 01:15:22 AM by Skorj »

mb190

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2009, 01:46:03 AM »
Thanks again. My 190 has no EV scale but I found EV-tables on the internet so it shouldn't be a problem. I have 2 exposure meters but they are about 50 years old and not accurate (even with my limited photography knowledge I can see the readings are bull). I'll look around on ebay to see what's available. Thanks again.

Skorj

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #17 on: August 24, 2009, 04:36:10 AM »
My 190 has no EV scale but I found EV-tables on the internet so it shouldn't be a problem. I have 2 exposure meters but they are about 50 years old and not accurate (even with my limited photography knowledge I can see the readings are bull).

Well... I'd not bother with EV then, and stick to a new Sekonic or Gossen of some sort with regular shutter-, or aperture-priority modes. Good luck! Skj.

The Gentleman Amateur

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #18 on: August 26, 2009, 04:49:44 AM »
Just wanted to say thanks again for this - largely inspired by your review, I have now acquired a 195 and am in love with it already!

I have to say, I don't find the dual window thing a problem - the focussing seemed more precise than the all-in-one version on the 180 I tried out.  It's kind of telephoto-like - you can see really close up with it to focus, and then frame at your leisure on the other side - whereas on the 180, the little yellow square seemed a bit lost & invisible.  But maybe that was just the particular model I was looking at.

4square

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #19 on: April 29, 2010, 05:58:08 AM »
You can count me as another person inspired by this article and its beautiful photographs to buy a Polaroid 195. I've finally found and won one on eBay. It arrived just a few days ago on the same day as a big parcel of Polaroid film from The Impossible Project. My 195 is a bit rough cosmetically, but everything works and the lens itself is beautifully bright, clear and free from dust and marks, and the development timer on the back is amazingly accurate... not bad after over 35 years!

And today I sneaked out of work to take a few pictures during my lunch break. I used Polaroid 100 Sepia film and I'm very pleased with the results. The images have a lovely vintage look, but they are also amazingly sharp and detailed. Is was quite bright, and 100 Sepia is rated at 1500ISO, so I didn't get a chance to use the wide apertures necessary to explore the shallow depth of field of the f3.8 lens, but that is something I'm looking forward to trying.

I also bought a Sekonic L-308S light meter you mention to use with my new camera, and I'm very happy with that too. So simple and easy to use and most importantly, all my photos came out nicely exposed.

Now I can't wait to try the 669, 690, 664, 125i, 100 Chocolate and 100 Blue film currently sitting in my fridge (yeah... I went a bit crazy on film!!)

Chris.

tkmedia

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #20 on: May 02, 2010, 05:14:20 PM »
Since you created more demand, this review has driven the prices of manual polaroids way up!  ;D A few months back, I did see a Konica instant press sold in nyc for less than $80 on craigslist.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2010, 05:16:41 PM by tkmedia »
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Skorj

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #21 on: June 26, 2010, 06:03:16 PM »
Since you created more demand, this review has driven the prices of manual polaroids way up!  ;D A few months back, I did see a Konica instant press sold in nyc for less than $80 on craigslist.

USD80! That's a good price. You might be right about the demand too. I've seen the same... Skj.

jojonas~

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #22 on: September 01, 2010, 06:48:07 AM »
dream a little dream~ ah.. great review, skorj. I just hope those prices will lie on the cheaper side for when I decide to buy one. hehe

I've been wondering how you handle it though.. I'm guessing you hold it with your right hand with a finger on the red shutter button(is it even that?) and then let the left work around the controls here and there on the camera.
/jonas

Skorj

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Re: Review - Polaroid 190 & 195.
« Reply #23 on: September 01, 2010, 06:30:53 PM »
I've been wondering how you handle it though.. I'm guessing you hold it with your right hand with a finger on the red shutter button(is it even that?)
Yup! Fits really nice too... Skj.