Status of Great Plains ULF Cameras ("Chinn cameras")
About 2 years ago I began to discuss the idea of building some new, lighter weight cameras for ULF that would be less expensive and include proprietary film holders that would open up ULF photography to a whole new group of enthusiasts.
About a year ago I began to accept deposits to build a handfull of these cameras. As the year dragged on I was confronted with several obstacles, not having to do with designing or building cameras but with changing my status at my regular employer, a hand injury, family issues etc.
I also got away from my original idea of building a couple of prototypes and sending them out for evaluation before ever really talking about it publicly. Instead I got caught up in trying to promise all kinds of things I was not ready or able to deliver on. In trying to obtain my goal of cameras and film holders about 1/3 to 1/2 the price of current offerings I began to pile up a rather impressive array of non-acceptable prototypes, scrap aluminum, plasitcs, and various kindling of walnut, cherry, mahogany and oak.
Eventually I built a very light, but not acceptable camera that I posted images of in the technical gallery. My goal of a positive locking back and top loading film holders has come to fruition and are the heart of the camera. The use of older designs to build a front standard with a screw rise to handle heavy lenses works extremely well, but the bed/rail/chassis was not acceptable.
So back to the drawing board and returned to using wood for the main frame and then going with an extension rail/bed that transports seperate from the camera. the rack slides into the main bed and is locked down after the front standard is slid into place. This rack which has a double extension is a hybrid of aluminum and wood, which gives me the stability I have been searching for at maximum extensions.
These changes continue to be made with my orginal goals of affordability, flexability in mind. With the new and final design I will still be able to meet my goals of 11x14 or 7x17 camera with 2 film holders in the $2300-$2600 range. Other formats relatively priced.
The top loading holders work well and I have tested them using both a hinged frame to hold the film in place and a very versatile double sided adhesive. The top loading holders will provide a nice flexability with the use of inserts to shoot smaller formats with the same holders, thus eliminating the need for extra backs.
I currently am trying to right the ship by returning depoists as soon as possible to individuals who have waited almost a year. I do not feel comfortable holding onto the money after failing on so many deadlines. As I said earlier it was a huge mistake to accept money for cameras when I was not even comfortable with a final design.
After I send out a couple of prototypes and get feedback the original folks will still get first dibs on the first cameras.
After that I will build a few cameras and see if there are any takers. People can base there decisions on the feedback from the prototypes and 30 days to evaluate the camera if they buy.
I will try to post some images of the prototype (un-varnised wood and non-annodized aluminum next week.)
I wish I could start the whole process over so the first time anyone heard about the cameras they woud already be a reality. But as they say "live and learn". I'm hoping the interest will still be there when everything is finished.