Buulf Cameras: Thinking outside the box.
An earlier post requested photographs of homemade cameras. Here are photographs of my homemade or home modified ultra-large format cameras. I call them Buulf Cameras: “Butt Ugly Ultra-large Format”. If you are into fine wood working, lots of brass and traditional design, I suggest you close this thread now.
My design for the Buulf cameras came out of my frustration with my traditional field cameras in 11x14 and 7x17. My 11x14 Wisner is a very well made camera, which I like in most respects. But, it is not stable and free from vibration with long lenses, e.g. 890mm, and it has limited movements. My 7x17 Korona was old, the focus rails had given out and it was a PITA to use in a vertical orientation. I set out to design a camera that would be easy to use, easy to build--I.e. very little wood working and using off-the shelf parts, and one that I could use by myself in the field. The Buulf camera is what I came up with.
The photos below and in the gallery show the Buulf Cameras in 7x17, 12x20 and 16x20.
Photo 1 shows the component pieces: tripod, front standard, rear standard, 7x17 camera (modified Korona), 12x 20 camera (modified Korona) and 16x20 camera (completely homemade). I also have a 20x24, which is very similar to the 16x20, so it is not pictured.
Photo 2 show the hardware assembled. I set up the tripod, attach the monorail, and slide on the front and back standards. Note that I have three rails which I carry in my car, 24”, 48” and 60”. I choose the shortest rail which I think I will need. If I have to carry the camera a long distance, I strap the rail to the tripod with bungee cords and pack the standard and camera body in a back pack or wheeled cart.
Photo 3 shows the 7x17 body attached to the standards in horizontal orientation. The camera body attaches by tripod head quick release plates. To change to a vertical orientation, I release the plates, flip the camera 90 degrees and reattach.
Photo 4 shows the 7x17 body in vertical orientation.
Photo 5 shows the 7x17 with some movements. I have found that the practical limits on movements are from the lens and bellows, not from the hardware.
Photos 6-8 will be put in the technical gallery. I am learning new technology here, so be patient with me if it takes a little while.
Photo 6 shows the 12x 20 in horizontal set. Note that the same rail, front and back standard are used for all the cameras.
Photo 7 shows the 12x20 in vertical set.
Photo 8 shows the 16x20. My brother in law John Pottebaum is included to provide scale. He is 6’ tall in case you were wondering.
With this design, I can focus from the back of the camera--a major problem with really big cameras.
We just started harvest this week, so my responses to comments may be sporadic. But I look forward to your comments.
Allen, great job and thinking outside the box. Did you buy the bellows or have them made to order?
I posted to the gallery already about my name for them. I kept it more simple with B.F.C. as my thought on the subject. tim
P.S. What are you harvesting now?
So that's what a three-axis pan-tilt head is good for. Who'd have thought it?
How easy is it to work with front moves so far off-axis?
GREAT stuff, Allen! I've had similar ideas, and have been keeping my eyes open for a set of ULF bellows. I've been thinking of building a 16x20 with an 8x20 adapter using a principle similar to this, but you've taken things in a much better direction than I would have.
I had thoughts of building a full front standard with all movements and holding that in place over a monorail...but your idea to use the tripod head and post for movements is fantastic! Should I ever move forward with the project, I'll be sure to steal your idea.
Simply amazing Allen. Congratulations on an excellent idea and some wonderful cameras.
Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.
great ideas! nice work....thanks for sharing!
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Great examples of some adaptive engineering.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
That's a beautiful camera, at least compared to my Russian ULF, nicknamed "Olga" after the Russian women's discus throwers of the 1970's...
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
In a parallel vein, when I shot 11x14, and packed the puppy into the field, I abandoned my gigantic studio tripod in favor of a medium weight Linhof tripod. It held the camera securely at the height needed for a 5'8" photographer.
I used a lightweight Linhof tripod under the front standard.
It was far more secure than with any single tripod, and the longer was the lens, the better it was. It saved a LOT of weight.
The front tripod only must hold the weight, and restrict any desire the camera has to rotate arbout the axis of the main tripod. A cheesy little manfrotto will do fine.
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
Allen, great design, I actally thought along the same lines to build myself an ulf (i wouldn't cann your cameras buulfs...) camera before I came across a relatively cheap old wooden camera... but then again, i might think about converting it to this system...
Happy shooting !
Thank you all for your replies. The soybean harvest is in full swing. Corn harvest will start as soon as the soybeans are in the bin.
To answer your questions:
I bought the bellows for my 16x20 and 20x24 cameras on e-bay. The lens boards for the cameras are much larger than I would have made them if I had built or custom ordered bellows. But, the bellows from old process cameras are cheap and functional. The most I paid for a bellows was $120, so I adapted my design to fit the bellows.
The weakest design element of the cameras is the off axis front moves. Part of this is because of the above bellows discussion. I would have made the front of the bellows smaller, thereby minimizing the affects of the off axis movements. But, a major concern for me was cost. The total cost for the 16x20 is under $750.
Nevertheless, I have not found the off axis movements to be a big problem because I can focus the cameras from the back. I set up the camera in neutral position and then make the movements with the front that are needed. I then focus moving the back of the camera, as long as it doesn’t change the composition in a bad way.
I thought long and hard for a way to get axis tilts for the cameras in both the horizontal and vertical set ups. I couldn’t figure out a simple, effective way to accomplish this. I tried using a U shaped metal front on top of the tripod center posts. I found it to be too cumbersome to work in practice. Hence I scraped the idea. Any ideas on how to accomplish it are welcome.
Back to the fields to watch the “Waltz of the Combines.”