How I designed my Minature Polaroid Camera 3D Model in Cinema 4D

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I’m writing about 3D Printing for Creative Professionals and have decided to expand my blog beyond reviewing 3D Printers. I already wrote posts about 3D Printing Filament and 3D Printing & Design Software and now I’ve decided to cover actual 3D Design as well and share some of my own designs with you!

Last week I published my Minature Polaroid Camera Design on Thingiverse. In this post I’ll show you how I designed it in Cinema 4D and how I made it 3D Printable – which are two different things!

Background Story

I guess every creative has multiple interests, of which only one or a few are used for business and others are just spare time hobbies. My creative business activities have been centered around animation and motion design for the past 10 years. On the hobby side it’s now mainly 3D printing, but before that I was into  Film Photography – experimenting with old cameras and different kinds of film material and chemical processes. I particularly like the design of some old cameras and one of my favorites is the iconic Polaroid Land Camera from the 1970’s, known as the OneStep or 1000 model.

Back in 2010, when I was still working as a freelance motion designer, I took it upon myself to design an accurate 3D model of this camera that was sitting on my desk to send to my clients as an Animated New Year’s Wish:

I also made the complete Cinema 4D animation project file freely available as The Instant Camera Kit for Cinema 4D. It’s is still available as a free download from Captain Motion – the Animation Marketing Agency I co-founded in 2013. There’s even a Promo/Tutorial for the Kit – totally forgot it existed:


Download the Instant Camera Kit for Cinema 4D


Designing the Camera

Anyway, I was going to give you an idea of how it was designed. I won’t make this an in-depth C4D modeling tutorial, because there are enough tutorials out there, so I’ll just go through the process at a glance:

I used a technique called
I used a technique called Box Modeling to design the body as a whole. I sliced a simple cube up in divisions and started extruding parts until I got the general shape. After that I divided the mesh into different parts of the body – basically like the actual Camera is divided into different panels and parts.
I then used an algorithm that used to be called HyperNURBS but is now known by a name that better describes what it does: Subdivision Surface. This algorithm basically generates intermediate points between the simple geometry lines I made and smoothing them out. You can compare this to how Bezier Curves are generated in Adobe Illustrator. If you would put a cube into this algorithm, it would become a sphere. The more subdivisions are already present, the straighter the curve. You can see this effect perfectly if you look at the lens.
Finally I added some materials to the different objects and created textures for the rainbow strip and the print on the brightness knob. These are both procedural, which means that they’re not based on bitmap images but generated on the fly so they’re resolution independent.
After adding some fancy HDR Photo-bases Lighting and rending the scene with both Ambient Occlusion and Global Illumination you get something that looks very realistic. Render times are like 3D Printing with these settings: nice, but painstakingly slow!
After adding some fancy HDR Photo-bases Lighting and rending the scene with both Ambient Occlusion and Global Illumination you get something that looks very realistic. Render times are like 3D Printing with these settings: nice, but painstakingly slow!

Making it 3D Printable

After making the animation, the Polaroid Model had been catching virtual dust for a few years. Until I got my first 3D Printer early 2014. Most readers of this blog probably know that this was a MakerBot Replicator 5th Gen and that my first step into 3D printing with it didn’t end well (missed it? read it here), but that isn’t important for this post. At the moment I got the printer, my reseller only had Black, White and Red PLA in stock, so after printing the usual Thingiverse stuff I wanted to print something I designed myself with all 3 colors – and the Polaroid Camera popped into my mind.

I could have just exported the Cinema 4D model to STL, sliced it and printed it, but I wanted to optimize it for 3D Printing. I set a few goals for myself:

  1. It had to be printable without support material.
  2. It had to be modular, so it could be printed in 3 different colors on a single extruder 3D printer.
  3. It had to include a Polaroid Film as well, and one that could hold a square Instagram photo print.

After a few prototypes, I ended up with this design:

I made the
I wanted to keep the amount of parts as low as possible, so I made all the black elements on the front part of the body. The flat part in the middle will give the body some rigidity an let the film frame (not pictured above) slide in and out easily.

The parts can be printed without supports and all have a nice flat side to put them on:

All parts can be printed without rafts, although I did use a raft for the thin strip (upper right) because that one as very little surface area.

The Result

So that’s how it came together. I must admit that the fact that you have to glue the two body parts and the white face plate together isn’t the sexiest way, so I’ve decided to design a snap-fit version if the model get’s insanely popular on Thingiverse.

After a few size experiments I settled with 60% as an ideal gift size.
I couldn’t resist to make a Stop Motion video of the Polaroid Camera in “action”. I’ve designed the Picture Frame so it can hold a square (64 x 64 mm) print.

Now go and print it!

Print the model in 3D, your favorite Instagram photo in 2D and give it to a Photography-loving friend!


Download (and Like!) my Polaroid Camera on Thingiverse!

Want more Cinema 4D Modeling Tips?

3D Printing Design Tips for Cinema 4D

I’ll be posting more about making 3D-printable designs soon! Follow me on Thingiverse, Twitter or Instagram and be the first to know when!

Nick Lievendag

Entrepreneur at the intersection of Creativity × Technology — 3D Expert.