Building a camera

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by Nikanon, Jul 16, 2009.

  1. Nikanon

    Nikanon Member

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    I have decided to make use of my summer fully so when i have those 2 hours or so before work (like right now) where theres not really enough time to get fully into developing, or go shoot and still get ready to work, i can build a camera. Id love to have an 8x10 camera but thats probably a bit unlikely as parts will cost more and such. Being cost efficient i have decided to make a 4x5 camera ( i already own two lenses ill just use the one im not using for my other camera), does anyone have any useful tips, or information they can supply on how i can keep the cost low and the results high?
     
  2. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Have a look through this site for inspiration: http://www.raymentkirbycameras.co.uk/

    Especially the 'Workshop' section.

    I have my interpretations of some of his ideas drawn up on CAD if you are interested.



    Steve.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 16, 2009
  3. ragc

    ragc Member

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    Nikanon: I built my 8x10 in a few weekends. I set out NOT to make it a perfect piece of furniture, but to make it usable and portable. I used common hardware store components, mixed my hardwoods (oak and mahogany) and folded my own bellows. All in all I probably spent $200.00, and buying an old 8x10 on the auction site would have been hard for that amount.

    The camera is a hybrid monorail. My focusing mechanism is a wormgear based on the Chamonix's (I own a 45N-1), but simplified. I decided the front standard was to be fixed and the back move, which eliminates wide angle issues with the rail. I added a stabilization strut to lock the camera after achieving focus, as the track has a little give, and even though it locks down fine now, I'm counting on future wear. I could have added front swing, but since I do mostly landscape work I did not include it. All my hardware is from ACE hardware, including the spirit levels and window lock lensboard retainer and back retainer. The springs are hacksaw blades with the teeth ground off.

    If you fold your own bellows (it really is easier than it sounds) do line the corners - there is a set of instructions on the web that is very good except for the suggestion that you can leave them unlined. Use as stiff a cardboard as you can, and as thin a light-tight fabric as you can. I recommend taffetta or fake suede fabric.

    It is a pleasure taking out a camera you designed and built yourself! And yes, it works very well, and is as easy to work with as any of my other LF cameras!

    These images were taken before the final polyurethane coat went on...


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    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 16, 2009
  4. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    There are many resources here and on the web. Do not let anyone tell you you can not do it. I built my walnut 11x14 and 8x20 with hand tools in my apartment. Build an 8x10. You can find parts for cheap on e-bay. You will not regret it.

    Jim
     
  5. claudermilk

    claudermilk Member

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    I'll add another vote for this suggestion. In fact, I am right in the midst of doing exactly this. I've gotten my own CAD work done--while the site gives a lot of great information, there's holes left for you to fill in on your own.

    I've just started a warmp-up project building myself a router table to help with the precision routing needed for the camera. Most of my materials are on order, so I'm waiting for supplies to arrive. The places I've found to be useful for supplies are McMaster-Carr, Smallparts, Lee Valley Hardware, and Online Metals. I also found Reid Supply invaluable for CAD models of harware that McMaster was missing, and Rush Gears site was awesome for getting a pinion gear CAD file.
     
  6. DannL

    DannL Member

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    I found inspiration for building my first 8x10's at the following web site. I had no drawn plans to follow, but having accurate pictures of classic equipment really helps. The site's left-hand menu covers cameras of many classes.

    http://www.fiberq.com/cam/index.htm

    One thing that helped to get things going was to build the camera around a standard film holder.
     
  7. eworkman

    eworkman Member

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    If you want a camera, ragc has it right- don't obsess over making it fine cabinetry- unless you are good at that- make it good enough to work and use it. If you keep it simple it should go well. I set out with an idea and picked at it for , well, years. So I got it done and shot a coupla negs and that revealed a lot about my idea and my skills, and lack thereof- but it worked. I found out a lot about the difference between my ideas and my skills. I found what I really wanted and am almost done revamping , so "real soon" it will not only work, but work as I wanted it to- and better. I thought I would use standard springbacks- only to find that they are not standard, so the last task is to finish an 8x10 springback that works, and studying how a standard film holder works has been a really valuable lesson, per DannL's message. But you see, as I have fought this project to a draw I have applied the lessons to a 7x17, and that includes film holders and a springback. The worst part is not starting. And don't worry about doing a part or parts over, each try is easier/better. There is an old saying--"Never build a house until you have built one" It need not apply to building a useable camera.
     
  8. ZachInIsrael

    ZachInIsrael Member

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    I think next summer I may try to build something, probably a 4x5 as I already have a lens and film holders etc. What tools do you need to do this?
     
  9. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Hi,

    I have one lens from agfa isolette (85mm f4.5), that is from folder camera medium format 6x6.
    Is it possible to use this lens in larger camera format, like 4x5 (that are home made)? Or I need to buy lens for large format?

    thanks,
     
  10. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    That lens will not cover the full 5x4 frame but would be o.k. for setting it up.

    I have had some success with lenses from 6x9 format cameras which should theoretically not cover the format but when stopped down, do just about cover it.

    I have used a 105mm lens from one of the later plastic bodied Kodak 6x9 folders and a similar lens from a Zeiss 6x9 folder.

    To get the benefit of a view camera with movements though, you will eventually want a lens designed for large formnat use.

    Another source of cheap(ish) lenses is the European format 6x12 cameras which crop up on ebay. I have one of these which came with a 135mm Zeiss Tessar. Stopped down, this works o.k. with limited movements although in theory, it is for a slightly smaller format.



    Steve.
     
  11. ragc

    ragc Member

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    An interesting experiment with such lenses of reduced coverage would be mounting them in pairs for stereo photography. Of course the dual shutters required complicate the setup unless one were to use the "hat trick shutter" with longish exposures.
     
  12. Perry Way

    Perry Way Member

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    I stumbled upon this thread kind of late. I appreciate the links that were supplied. I noticed that nobody provided any links to bellows construction. So, here's my feeble attempt to add value to this thread with the research I've already done on the matter, below. By the way, I've been planning to make a bellows enabled pinhole camera, so that I can go from wide angle to normal with the same camera by adjusting the pinhole's distance from the film plane. So for that reason I have these bellows links:

    this one is, I believe, the best one for making square bellows with nicely formed corners/edges

    this one is good for tapered bellows you can also find other pages on his site which are about camera making, pinhole camera making, etc. this guy is like a MacGuyver. maybe not the best looking, but surely a scrappy guy who can show you how to make something useful, which is afterall the most important factor eh?

    this is a link to a page listing all the known camera builders on the internet I've had a look around on some of the pages. there are hours and hours of web-surfing off of that page.

    specific instructions with photographs in a PDF file you can download for making Isolette bellows (for that old folder). same guy but here's a 4 x 5 camera he made with rudimentary tools and supplies. again, looks are secondary...

    I hope these links are useful for some. I'm setting about to make square bellows with the nice corners. Just got all my supplies in order today. I couldn't find blackout fabric in black. Rather it was white, intended for use behind draperies. That's alright, I'm going to spray paint the inside fabric with matte black paint, which I also got. I'll leave the exterior in white. I just have to work out the details on the dimensions (accounting for the film back size particulars) and a way to steady the front and back boards so that it can be locked down with no movement. Once I get the dimensions part worked out, then I'll start on the bellows.