View Full Version : Home Made View Camera

18-Nov-2008, 14:08
How many of you have made your own view camera? I'm looking into making a wooden 8x10 field to shoot paper positives with. If you've made a view camera before, I'm really interested in what the process was like, and how the finished product came out. What were some difficult aspects? Roadblocks? What did you use for hardware?.

If you've ever made a view camera, of any size, what was the process like? Was it fun? And what did it cost you in time, and money?


18-Nov-2008, 15:11
have a look here:


those are my homebuilt cameras.


18-Nov-2008, 15:15
Geert, I'm curious what is the approximate cost of building a camera like this one you've made? (http://sheetfilm.be/cams/8x10web/)

18-Nov-2008, 15:19
Yeah, those camera's look excellent. I also am wondering the cost, and what hardware you used.

Eric Woodbury
18-Nov-2008, 15:24
I've built 4 large formats to date and I'm now working on a 4x5. I've always made them based on the tools I have at hand, mostly wood. Three of them had bellows and I ordered these ( I won't use that vendor again. Material was too stiff and got almost hard in cold weather.) None so far had a focusing rack, but the new one will and the hardware will probably come from McMaster-Carr. Nuts, bolts, screws, knobs, etc. are not that hard to find. The springs for the ground glass have always been the biggest problem for me, so I either buy replacement parts from other cameras or buy an old camera and part it out. The new one will consider the darkcloth as part of the camera and be designed to accept a darkcloth easily and with a perfect seal.

The way the back of the camera and the rear standard attach to each other have been a concern before and will be again. I don't really like those sliding things that most cameras have. Then again, my first 4x5 had a rubber band to hold the back on and that worked okay, but needed to be changed before the rubber split.

The first camera I did were either for fun or because I had more time than money. Now I want a camera that I can't seem to find on the market. My design objective is clear.

If you are not familiar with mechanical design, consider making a cardboard or foam core model first.

18-Nov-2008, 16:56
Hi suchar, joncapozzi,

less than 300 Euro (not dollar...) for the 8x10 and 7x17, including filmholders for the last. Bellows for the 8x10 are from ebay (very lucky with the price...) and for the 7x17 I built them myself.
The cost only applies to the final cameras. I made quite a few cameras before these, but I count the investment as learning money...

If you decide to build your own camera, then you should regard it as fun and not to save money.

The 7x17 as you can see it does not exist anymore in that form. I rebuilt it so it fits on the same base as the 8x10. You can see more of that on my flickr account:

I used hardwood. Metallic parts are aluminium and only the back is geared with rack&pinion. The front extension is of the sliding design, even before I first saw it on the back standard of the Shen Hao.
The focussing rack is not metal but Delrin and still holds after almost 2 years of use (about 500 exposures in studio and in the field).
To help you with the scale, the lensboard of the 8x10 is 6 inches (152mm) square and the mounted lens is a classic Symmar 360mm.

The backs have swing, tilt and shift. The front only has rise&fall. Main reason for this is the max. bellows extention: 770mm. I don't like to run to the front of my camera to apply some shift to the front standard. Now I can do all I need with the back.

Building a camera is one thing, but don't forget the cost of lenses, filmholders, sturdier tripod and tripod head to accomodate them.

You also have to have the tools to build them: tabel saw, drill press, router (I have 2: a table model and a Dremel for the very small work), and LOTS of clamps - see pictures of glueing the film holders.
The most difficult/precise work is building the back: T-distance is rather critical (but less when you move up in format).

Upcoming winter, I'm going to build some wet plate holders to fit on a standard 8x10 back for a friend.

I also have a 50x70cm bellows lying around... I guess that I will build a camera around it when I finally have my own studio, hopefully next year.

Kind regards,

18-Nov-2008, 18:15

great work! i just met a guy who lives about a hour north of me. he has some real beautiful cameras as well. he made himself a very beautiful 3.25x14inch skyscraper camera. cool stuff...i wish i had the skills and tools........

Jim Fitzgerald
18-Nov-2008, 21:06
I've hand built an 8x20 modeled after a Korona and an 11x14 modeled after my Zone VI 4x5. If you search for parts cameras on e-bay and use the resources like Mc Master Carr and in my case Western bellows for the 8x20 you should be able to do it. I built both of my cameras out of American Black Walnut with hand tools in my apartment. They are not precise extremely rigid cameras like the well known brands but when you build your own you learn a lot about the process and it is a labor of love. If you are patient you can find parts off of e-bay for great prices. I got the back for my 11x14 which is a Deardorff 11x14 full back for 125.00. The bellows I got off of the bay for 100. If you build a 4x5 it will be cheaper than what I built. Don't forget holders film etc.,etc. I also built two tripods out of Walnut for my beasts. If you have good woodworking skills you CAN do it. My 8x20 took 1 1/2 years and the 11x14 took 10 months. I was in no rush to build them which is very important. Work from inspiration and it will be fine. You can see me and my beasts!


robert fallis
19-Nov-2008, 01:21
I've made four cameras, one 5x4, two half plate, and one 5x4 point and shoot.
I made the 5x4 with full movements, it was compleatly made of wood, and worked fine
but then I realised I just wasn't using all the movements, I mainly take closeup. and portraits, so I removed the movements and did not bother with movments on the half plate, which were built around a 300mm rusian industra lens, for the half plate 5x7 film has to be cut to fit the holders so I use paper negs, or cut ortho film to size.
I think the best bit was making the bellows, and the half plate prints have such detail.


John Jarosz
19-Nov-2008, 07:41
I second the idea of finding derelict parts cameras and restoring or building around them. The metal parts on those cameras usually survive, so it just a matter of makin the wooden parts. Even if a metal part is missin or broken there is usually a second example on the camera that can be used for a pattern. I built my 8x20 from two Kodak 2D cameras. APUG has a camera building forum with many pictures of different efforts (mine included).

I prefer to work with cherry or cuban mahogany wood, as they seem to be less brittle and less susceptible to cracks. Finishes very nice as well. Avoid any kind of luan mahogany.


Michael Roberts
19-Nov-2008, 07:49
I'm nearly done with an 11x14 (which I plan to add on a 12x20 expansion back later). I used my Kodak 2-D 8x10 as my basic design model, but I added front tilt and instead of geared focusing, I'm using friction focusing (u-shaped brackets that fit on the outside and underside of the double base rail).

I started with the bellows--found off ebay and built the camera from the inside out around the dimensions of the bellows and, at the back, around the dimensions of the film holders.

I used aluminum square tubing with wood cross pieces for the base rails (a double rail like the Kodak 2D). My first set of rails are 36 inches. I plan to make a shorter 24 inch rail as well for backpacking when I will only need shorter lenses. The base rail has no joints or hinges so it is very solid (you could stand on it, no problem). The base rail will be lashed to the outside of my pack when hiking.

My design is very simple, nothing as elegant or complicated as Geert's or Jim's. Also, the only power tool I needed/used was a 1/4" drill, and I only used that to make starter holes for screws. Bolts and anchors came from McMaster-Carr. Other than the bellows, all the other materials came from the local hardware store.

As for problems, I just tried to think about each step of the design very carefully and take it one component at a time--front and rear frames, front and rear standards, base rail, then the back and gg holder. One problem I ran into was building the back frame before I mounted the bellows on the front and rear frames. I had to use a smaller bellows frame than I expected to get the bellows to lay flat against the frame all the way to the corners, so had to build out from the bellows frame to my originally-expected dimensions for the inside of the rear frame.

I found it easier to design the camera completely in my head and take the construction one component at at time rather than draw it all out on paper--I must not have an engineering bone in my body.

It's taken me about a month, but that could have been compressed into a week if I could have worked on it full-time. The longest part is doing the staining and finish coats and sanding and waiting for drying between coats. Also, weeks spent trying to find a bellows I could use.

20-Nov-2008, 00:03
I've hand built an 8x20 modeled after a Korona and an 11x14 modeled after my Zone VI 4x5.... Work from inspiration and it will be fine. You can see me and my beasts!


Hi Jim! I met you at the Whitney Portal a month or so, it was a real pleasure and quite inspirational. I was amazed to see 3 LFers in one place at one time! I got my 4x5 two days later and have had a lot of fun with it. I hope I run into you again sometime in the Eastern Sierra. Beautiful cameras you've built!

20-Nov-2008, 11:03
No Matter how long it took or how hard it was to build, there is one thing you just can not replace is that sense of accomplishment in doing it yourself , Enjoy them well

eric mac
20-Nov-2008, 21:25
I've built a monorail 4x5 and also a 4x10 back for my Zone VI 4x5. I'm really having fun with the 4x10. I also have a 7x17 on deck if ambition strikes me this winter.

I have quite a few projects backed up, so only time will tell.


Jim Fitzgerald
20-Nov-2008, 21:59
Hi Jim! I met you at the Whitney Portal a month or so, it was a real pleasure and quite inspirational. I was amazed to see 3 LFers in one place at one time! I got my 4x5 two days later and have had a lot of fun with it. I hope I run into you again sometime in the Eastern Sierra. Beautiful cameras you've built!

Tim, nice to hear from you! Yes I remember. I have not printed the image from the set up I had but the negative looks good. I got several great images from that trip and I'm slowly getting them printed. Nice to see you got your 4x5. I know I love mine! I've been into the big neg's lately. Trying to get the carbon transfer process nailed down. Things are coming along nicely. Hope to see you again.