If you’ve been shooting Polaroid cameras for some time, you’ve probably come across this defect at some point:
Recognize it? Weird underdeveloped marks, usually on the side, all in a row, like some sort of… roller caused them. Yup, you guessed it, that’s indeed a roller issue. And the majority of the time, some simple cleaning will fix it right up.
Before I understood exactly what the roller did, I had given up a few of my favorite cameras for dead, including my cherished Polaroid Impulse AF. During ejection after exposure, the Polaroid camera pushes the image through two rollers that trigger development as the image pops out the front. When there is dirt or gook on the rollers, they don’t evenly pressure the image, causing undeveloped spots to appear.
Usually the culprit is chemicals that have leaked out of previously shot images. Expired Polaroid film and early Impossible Project film are particularly prone to chemical leakage, and I have used a lot of both over the past few years. Cameras I used often quickly became gummed up with a gray corrosive paste. This paste dried out and created the roller error with future photos.
So what is a instant film fan to do? If you’re aware that some of your photos are leaking paste from the back edges of the image, it’s easiest to clean the roller while the paste is still wet. Just get a paper towel, wet it a little, open up the front and clean that paste off of the rollers. It’s fairly painless, and it’s what I do now. However, if you let the paste dry, it gets a little more difficult. You’re going to have to find some hard plastic to scrape that dry goo off. Be patient, it’s a time consuming task, but when you’re done, your camera will be back to running like new.