Modify a 35mm SLR to make square images?

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by jimsphotoart, Jul 2, 2011.

  1. jimsphotoart

    jimsphotoart Member

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    I have been using my 35mm Pentax in the horiz format and cropping the sides in printing to create square images. Was wondering if anyone knows how easy or difficult it is (or of it is even possible) to modify a body to not advance the film as far, thus enabling more shots on a roll of film.

    I would assume if it could be done at all, the more basic a camera was, the better (no problem with that). I currently have a Pentax P3 with a manual film advance lever.

    Again, I don't mind shooting the way I do know but I assume I could get almost 50 shots on a 36 exp roll if it could be done.
     
  2. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    First, you would have to modify the film advance mechanism to take up a shorter length of film per frame.
    I don't know how it would be done, if it can even be done.

    However, over and above that, you would have to modify the aperture plate in front of the film gate to a different size.
    That is what I believe the most difficult part of this project would be, assuming that the film advance mechanism can be modified without completely rebuilding it from scratch.

    I suggest you try to find yourself a nice medium format camera that takes 120 film. Many of these cameras have square frames. My Yashica Mat does.

    120/medium format film is nearly as easy to handle and process as 35mm and, as a bonus, the images are a little more than four times the size (by surface area) of the 35mm frame.

    If you make good photos in 35mm, with a bit of practice, you can make images that will knock your socks off with a medium format! :w00t:
     
  3. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I agree with Worker 1181 it would be easier to go with a TLR.

    Jeff
     
  4. Matthew Rusbarsky

    Matthew Rusbarsky Member

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    There were a very few 35mm square shooters. The Zeiss Tenax and the Robot come to mind. A simple camera like an Argus A can be converted to 24x24, but not a camera that advances and cocks on the same stroke.
     
  5. Monito

    Monito Member

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    You could make a square film gate that would fit inside the 24x36 film gate and attach it with plastic "wings" to the sides. The wings can be glued flat to the surface that is between the film rails. There's enough clearance there for a thin plastic wing.

    Don't forget you'd have to also put a mask on the viewfinder ground glass. But you would not have to modify the film advance if you were willing to sacrifice some film for blankness between frames.
     
  6. jimsphotoart

    jimsphotoart Member

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    Thanks everyone for your thoughts. I actually shot medium format for years (had a traditional studio) but I consider myself semi-retired now and shoot street and some street fashion.

    I just like the idea of creating square format pics and certainly don't mind doing it the way I have been doing it (with the cropping). I figured it might not be possible- I just thought that if there was an easy way to alter the film advance mechanism in a manual camera, it might be a way to get more shots on a roll.

    I'm not really complaining about the cost - I shoot b/w exclusively and do all my own processing, just hate wasting the film if I don't have to.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    You are a decade or two late - 126 film would have been perfect for you, especially if you had something like an Instamatic Reflex.
     
  8. paul ron

    paul ron Member

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    Mark the view finder to your square then crop square on the enlarger

    ... OR....

    Mask the film gate like they do on some old 6x12s n 6x9s using an insert.

    .
     
  9. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    First it's not an easy thing to modify the camera to shoot 24x24mm format so that you can shoot 50 frames out of a 36 exposure roll. So I think you would need to define your need and do things a bit differently.
    1. If you simply like square pictures then cropping is easy like many have said.
    2. If you want to avoid changing film so often may be try to roll your own and get about 40 frames or may be trying to find thinner film so you can have longer roll.
    3. If you simply want to save money then the saving isn't worth it.
     
  10. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Or better yet the Rollieflex SL26!
     
  11. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Some thin card to mask off behind the shutter for 24x24mm images, just more empty space between frames. Some black tape to mask the mirror carefully so you only see square composition in the view finder, or mask prism above the mirror. Simple.

    Or even just mask the prism or mirror, and not the back, just center crop later.
     
  12. Paul VanAudenhove

    Paul VanAudenhove Member

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    Masking the negative to a square would be the easy part, as others have suggested. Converting the wind lever to advance less film, while cocking the camera, would be the tricky part.

    Why not just hunt up a half-frame camera instead? I have a half-frame Zeiss and it's a jewel to use.
     
  13. el wacho

    el wacho Member

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    there is a very good reason to continue as you are - by being conscious of the movable square you have to play with, you have the equivalent of the back rise and fall of a large format camera. i shoot 35mm square like this and i have the chioce of correcting or exagerating convergences.
     
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  15. jimsphotoart

    jimsphotoart Member

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    I do want to thank everyone for their thoughts and suggestions. The reasons for me doing this weren't very profound, I just thought, if it were possible without too much cost or work, that it would be a nice way to save a little film by not shooting full frames, knowing that I would be cropping out a definite portion of each frame.

    I don't worry about what I 'see' in the viewfinder as I always shoot (***these particular shots, not every photo I make***) in the horiz. position so my top and bottom are always used. I also understand the whole crop process in printing, etc.

    Not a big deal, I will just go on as is. I just thought that if there was an easy way to alter the film advance lever on an SLR I would do that and would have felt kinda dumb if it were possible and the only reason I didn't do it was because I was too lazy to ask.

    For me, I will consider this topic concluded. Thanks again!
     
  16. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Hi,

    I would first suggest getting an extra focusing screen and drawing crop lines on it with a ruler and thin-point sharpie. Then you can frame square format or the full frame. I don't think getting 14 extra shots per roll is worth the trouble of tearing into the camera and making a permanent modification. Make sure to draw the lines on the smoothest side of the glass, so the ink does not bleed through the fresnel or ground glass pattern.
     
  17. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    Get a Zeiss Ikon Taxona.
     
  18. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

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    OK so your reason is to save film if it's so if you don't mind using a little bit smaller format still by getting a half frame camera. You can get 70 exposure out of a 36 exp. roll. The cost of film photography really related to how many pictures you take rather than how much film you actually use. The saving for using less film is very little and I don't think it's worth the effort.
     
  19. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    If you can find an old 126 camera that used single stroke winding those shot 35mm film in square format. It might not be a berfect solution, but it is a solution.

    Here is a camera that shoots 2 photos per standard 25mm frame http://cgi.ebay.com/National-Geogra...t=Binocular&hash=item3a67a439b5#ht_500wt_1156 Yes, it is a toy, but it does something similar to what you want to do and if nothing else you could open it up and see how it does what it does.
     
  20. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    LOMO's got a new camera that allow winding/rewinding film. at random. You would have to determine how much to wind for the proper negative width, masking the negative aperture is kids play.
    Their suggested use for you hipsters out there is to give a streaked image.
     
  21. Someonenameddavid

    Someonenameddavid Member

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    Get yourself an Olympus Pen FT, or a Yashica samurai and get 72 pix on a 36 roll.

    I have a Pen FT but it is in England
     
  22. Andrew K

    Andrew K Subscriber

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    you can do it - I've seen a Canon AE1 Program converted to half frame. The easy part was to mask off the film aperture, The hard part was to change 2 gears on the bottom so the shutter cocked fully but the film only would through the correct distance. The gears were hand made. I was told it was made in Hong Kong in the late 80's or early 90's. I was asked to convert it to full frame. I gave them another camera.

    It's now in the collection of a friend of mine who is a Canon collector...
     
  23. onelog

    onelog Member

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    I grabbed a Smena-7 about 6 years back and loved how incredibly simple and mechanically mod-able it has been for me. The camera just has a basic wheel to advance the film and since it's been dropped in the past, there's not even really a stopper on it to tell you when you are done advancing. If you played around with that, ran a test roll through to see how many spins on the wheel would equal a square crop, and then go through the mod on the film plane to get the square, it should work!
     
  24. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    make a vignetter ... this sort of thing has been done since the beginning ...
     
  25. Tjibs

    Tjibs Member

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    Why not get a 35mm square camera like the Fujica Rapid S2?
     
  26. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    Of get a Konica Autoreflex T that is both half frame and full frame depending on the switch position. These are anvils, a real workhorse and the glass is quite good. Switching between the formats will make you lose a frame to prevent overlap but will save film.

    I was going to suggest getting something like an Exa or Exacta or a Pentax LX with the waist level finder and just etch the finder with square format, similar to some medium format camera screens when the camera can use difering formats. It would not save film but would allow you to compose in square format though the negative would be rectangular. The on printing you can print square or rectangular.