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Thread: Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2006
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    Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

    To anyone interested:

    I've been working on this project off and on for some months now, and finally got everything assembled. Here it is: a 7 and 1/2 pound 11x14 camera that you can build yourself for $250 or less.

    The basic design is similar to the Kodak 2D, i.e., a base rail consisting of two rails. I decided to use a 36" long base rail with no joints or hinges for extra stability. Focusing is by friction-focusing; both front and rear standards lock down underneath the rails by tightening knobs that tighten (clamp) the wooden rail-guides. I decided to use single knobs for both front rise/fall and front tilt to achieve a little more stability.

    Bellows found on ebay for around $50.

    Materials: mostly 2"x1/2"x36" balsa wood ($4.99 ea) from the local hardware store. Measured with metal ruler and cut with a craft saw. (And, yes, that's a 3lb lens on the front--no problem!) Yes, balsa wood is very fragile if it's thin or stressed in the wrong direction, but is surprisingly strong when 2" thick.

    Bass wood used on key stress points (pin placements, weight-bearing light-trap, lens board bracket support, etc.). Also, wooden washers made from craft plywood (cutouts from the hole saw from mounting smaller lenses) are used to spread the force when tightening the control knobs.

    Aluminum brackets for back and lens board holder.

    Lots of screws, mostly drywall screws I had on hand. Also, some 2 and 1/2" brass screws in the front and rear standard joints.

    Mahogany stain and five coats of poly for a hard, protective outer surface.

    Knobs from McMaster-Carr.

    The base rail is 3/4 square aluminum bar, 36", from Home Depot. Cross pieces are 1"x2" pine; cutting these was the only time I used the mitre saw (just to get the ends square). Extra tripod sockets in front and rear for optional extra stablization with monopod or spare lightweight tripod.

    Base rail weighs 2lbs; camera, 5 and 1/2lbs.

    Max bellows extension, 30".

    Front rise and fall, and front and rear tilt limited only by lens coverage (next version will have swing also).

    The GG is plexi with self-adhesive window film.

    I also used a 1/4" drill for pilot holes for all the screws to prevent splitting.

    If you are interested in building a ULF and have questions, let me know; I'll be glad to share what I learned on this project.

    Next up: a 12x20 extension back and 8x20 reducing back.
    -Michael
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Back (600 x 450).jpg  

  2. #2
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
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    Re: Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

    Well done. I have enough 6mm, 9mm & 12mm marine plywood to build most of that camera. Did you make the back? How did you get the GG located correctly? Finding bellows and an affordable lens would probably be the first step. Holders won't be cheap either.

    Interesting concept. I do have a suitable tripod!
    Wayne
    Deep in the darkest heart of the East Texas rainforest.

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  3. #3
    LF/ULF Carbon Printer Jim Fitzgerald's Avatar
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    Re: Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

    Michael, great job! Having recently completed my 11x14 Walnut camera which took 10 months I can appreciate your fine work. I would have never even considered Balsa for a camera. Very nice and simple design and isn't it nice when you find a cheap bellows for an 11x14. Mine cost twice as much as yours and I'm still thrilled at that. How does the camera do at extension with it tilted up or down at an angle? Looks very solid. I'll keep this in design in mind if I ever decide to build another one. With the 11x14 and 8x20 done I don't think I'll do another but you never know. Great job!!

    Jim

  4. #4

    Re: Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

    Are you making film holders to go in it? I think you could from what I see already. Great job!

  5. #5

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    Sep 2005
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    NJ
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    Re: Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

    wow, what a nice camera! It looks amazing!

    I too try to build a 11X14 stay at home camera. Your work is very inspiring.

  6. #6

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    Re: Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

    Thanks everyone. Wayne, yes, I built the back. I got the T dimension from the S&S final comp site (http://ssfilmholders.com/?page=critical_dimensions), 0.35". Since I have zero woodworking skills, I used the closest available craft wood dimension--three 1/8" thick pieces glued or screwed together. Comes out to 3/8" or 0.375". So, I'm off by about 6/10s of a millimeter. Close enough for landscape work, I think.

    TR, I've thought about trying to build holders, got some ideas about how to do it...but for the time being I bit the bullet and bought a couple of S&S holders so I could get out and shoot sooner rather than later.

    Alex, thanks. One of the reasons I posted was to let anyone who is interested know that if I can do this, you can too. You don't need woodworking skills or expensive tools.

  7. #7
    joseph
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    Jan 2007
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    New York
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    Re: Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

    That looks great, well done-
    and the weight is incredible-

    It's bulky, but considering how light it is, surely there is some way to get it out from time to time?

    joseph

  8. #8

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    Nov 2008
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    Atlanta, GA
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    596

    Re: Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

    Nice looking camera. Something like a polyester resin might be useful to add strength to your balsa components.

  9. #9
    Blair N. Blair Ware's Avatar
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    Toronto
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    Re: Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

    what an inspiration... looks like I have my summer(s) cut out for me.

  10. #10
    LF/ULF Carbon Printer Jim Fitzgerald's Avatar
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    Re: Ultra-light, DIY ULF Camera

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Roberts View Post
    Thanks everyone. Wayne, yes, I built the back. I got the T dimension from the S&S final comp site (http://ssfilmholders.com/?page=critical_dimensions), 0.35". Since I have zero woodworking skills, I used the closest available craft wood dimension--three 1/8" thick pieces glued or screwed together. Comes out to 3/8" or 0.375". So, I'm off by about 6/10s of a millimeter. Close enough for landscape work, I think.

    TR, I've thought about trying to build holders, got some ideas about how to do it...but for the time being I bit the bullet and bought a couple of S&S holders so I could get out and shoot sooner rather than later.

    Alex, thanks. One of the reasons I posted was to let anyone who is interested know that if I can do this, you can too. You don't need woodworking skills or expensive tools.
    Michael, let me know how much you like those big negatives when you see them? I have some woodworking skills but no shop so I built mine with hand tools in my apartment. I read on one of the forums a post that said you could not build a camera without all this equipment. Guess you can!! Let us see some photographs when you can.

    Thanks.



    Jim

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