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Thread: Building my first camera...

  1. #1
    Landscape Addict
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    Building my first camera...

    Well, as some people know already, I'm starting to build my first camera..

    Here is the plan.

    4x5 point and shoot based around my 75/4.5 Rodenstock Grandagon-N

    The Story...

    Well, I got into LF about 6 months ago, I rushed into the purchase of a Linhof Kardan Super Colour ST. Being a Linhof, I trusted that it would be a good quality camera, and by all means it is. The problem is that I am landscape shooter, and a 2ft long 6lb+ metal camera is not fun on long walks into the wilderness.. In an attempt to lighten it up a bit I modified it by cutting the rail in half. Its now suited for lenses between 58~65 and around 180mm.

    I've used it a few times since shortening it and I must say its much nicer to use, but the size and weight are still restrictive.

    I have a jewellery box here that is 6x6x2.5" I have the revolving back off the Kardan I can use.. So basically if I light tight the box, add about 12~15mm to the depth of the box and stick the revolving back onto it, its pretty much a done deal...

    My other thought was to make a relatively fixed focus 4x5.. In short, a U shaped aluminium bracket that attaches to my tripod head that I can bolt the front and rear standards of the kardan attached (including bellows.) If I held the front standard in a slot so it can move forward and backwards for basic focus. I would also be able to easily add front tilt to the camera. That would probably be the easiest option. Although a point and shoot (for the type of photography I do) would be favorable.

    Anyone who has made a P&S with a 75mm lens, could you please let me know how you went with hyperfocalality. I find with my lens on the monorail, I can only get 100% hyperfocality (1m to horizon) either at f/32 with a slight front tilt or at f/45. I do not particularly want to shoot at f/45, and it would be near impossible to accurately add a fixed front tilt to a P&S.

    Would I be better waiting until I have the money to buy something wider, a 58 or 47 XL for example..

    I did consider making this as a 6x12 or 6x17, but I have the feeling a 4x5 will be much easier to make..

    I've read a lot of the threads in here, and seen many of the cameras in the "show us your home made camera" thread... Impressive work from everyone. and its given me many ideas..

    I will add to this thread as I progress. Hopefully I will have a prototype in a week or two. Prototype will be made out of treated pine. Once I have something workable, I will make it out of teak or oak.

    I'll be back to post some pics in a few days with some raw materials and hopefully the start of construction.

    Oh, what do people recommend for strength and light tight boxes, half lap or box join? Or is it more a matter of aesthetics. I dont care what mine looks like as long as it doesnt leak light..
    Chamonix 045N-2 - 90/8 - 210/5.6 - Acros100 - Rodinal.
    Alexartphotography

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
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    Re: Building my first camera...

    Do you know anybody with 4x5 that you could put the lens on then focus on something at the hyper-focal distance. Then just measure the distance from the film plane to the back of the len board. You just build the camera to that measurement. Alternative some here could do that with there own lens (the same as yours) and post the measurement.
    If your making a prototype just make it 75mm from lens board to film and just start packing it out until its right.

  3. #3
    Landscape Addict
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    Re: Building my first camera...

    Yeah well I have my Kardan super colour 4x5 and the 75/4.5 in question, I know the distance to make the box already, as I've measured it all up.. It would be easy enough to do I am just trying to think if the 75mm is wide enough for fixed focus point and shoot.. Testing it on my 4x5 monorail I think maybe not.. but then I suppose until I try it, I wont know if it suits me or not...
    Chamonix 045N-2 - 90/8 - 210/5.6 - Acros100 - Rodinal.
    Alexartphotography

  4. #4

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    Jun 2008
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    Melbourne, Australia
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    Re: Building my first camera...

    Cannot see it being a problem, I have a 90mm on 6x17 which is built that way so a 75mm wouldn't be a problem getting the DOF

  5. #5

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    Wondervu, Colorado
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    Re: Building my first camera...

    wicked....great job

    have to add, though, that I have a stripped down Crown Graphic that weighs the same and can take lenses from 75-300mm. a dot of gold paint on the rails marks the default focus point for each lens and a wire frame view finder makes it workable as a point 'n shoot for each lens
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails front right.jpg  

  6. #6
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    Re: Building my first camera...

    I spoke to a local industrial plastics supplier and a CNC workshop and I think I'm going to get my camera machined out of ABS plastic or Delrin. Its light, rigid, solid black, easily machined and best of all... Cheap..

    I'm just drawing up plans now but given the price, it would be only too easy to have the camera body made, and then have interchangable lens blocks that fit onto it. I will make a block to suit the 75/4.5 maybe one to suit either a 65, 58 or 47 too...

    I will mock it up first using wood to make sure of the distances etc, but once its worked out I'll be sending off the template to the machine shop along with a hearty slab of Delrin.. If my plunge router went 12mm deeper I could probably do it at home.
    Chamonix 045N-2 - 90/8 - 210/5.6 - Acros100 - Rodinal.
    Alexartphotography

  7. #7
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    Re: Building my first camera...

    Well, A few phone calls and some quick sketches and the plans are currently at a CNC workshop along with a big slab of ABS plastic. I've basically made a 7x7" box that is 71mm deep, Its largely hollowed out (for weight purposes) asside from some gusseting on the front end to support the lens. It has a copal 0 hole so the lens mounts directly to the camera as opposed to using lensboards (and as such, limiting light leaks)

    The graflok back will be mounted in the rear, and the main base of it will be recessed 1mm (again, to limit the chances of light leaks.)

    with all the measurements being correct, this should be hyperfocal from about 3.2ft to infinity. Given the density of ABS plastic, it should come in at under 800g for the body alone, so maybe 1.3~1.5 with 75/4.5 and the graflock back.

    I'm having a 3/8 and 1/4in thread tapped into the bottom for tripods, a bubble level and a cold shoe will be fitted, as I intend to add a finder in the future.. For the time being, I will just compose on the GG as per usual.. I should have a firm quote sometime today and all things going to plan, they've said maximum of 2hrs between when I place the order and when the camera is ready for a test..

    As for testing. I will be shooting some 4x5 black and white (just cheap stuff off ebay) and developing it straight away. If anything, the camera will be a fraction of a hair too short (meaning close focus could be compromised a touch) but I have a series of shims for the lens incase that happens..

    Very excited at this point. I was given a rough estimate on price, and if the final quote is close to that, I'll be getting another made to suit a 47XL, and one for a 58XL for a friend...


    As for add-ons after its made, I will definitely be adding a pair of cupboard doorhandle lens protectors, possibly an anatomical grip (home made) Although, the grip might not happen, as it will make the camera heavier (by a fair bit) and much larger.. I'm building this camera primarily because I do alot of long walks into the bush with the camera. Saving size and weight is the key. I might make a removable anatomical grip on a L bracket that could be held on by two M6 bolts (threaded directly into the camera body). Allowing me to bolt it onto the camera for hand held use or for times when I'm not going far with the camera and would like the grip, or leaving it off to save space and weight for long walks.

    I might paint it some wacky bright colour.. I havent decided yet... Bright red or Yellow would be very... Different. Black would obviously look the most professional.


    Theres the current progress as it stands... I will let you all know how the quote goes and if production begins. Failing the CNC plastic route, the same design will be built this weekend out of pine, all the joints will be felt lined to block light... I would MUCH prefer it be made from plastic than wood, but if the price is too restrictive, then wood might be the only option.
    Chamonix 045N-2 - 90/8 - 210/5.6 - Acros100 - Rodinal.
    Alexartphotography

  8. #8

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    Apr 2012
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    Re: Building my first camera...

    (First post for me! )

    I'm looking into building my first LF camera as well, and have the same ideas as you - A compact P&S with a 75mm. So I'd really like to know how your project comes along, especially with the plastic CNC. I thought about making mine in aluminium, but it would probably end up being a bit too heavy. Plus I'd have to have it anodized afterwards. So plastic sounds like a great route to go! But I'm scared it would look cheap and be flimsy...? So if you have any info in the future, please keep us updated!

  9. #9
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    Re: Building my first camera...

    Welcome to the forums zthee.

    P+S 4x5 is the way to start I reckon. Having movements and all that other crazy stuff while learing how to load film and the correct process to exposing film just makes life hard... This sort of camera really simplifies things and lets you focus (pun, wether intended or otherwise I'll leave up to your imagination) on Loading, exposing and unloading film. It also allows large format photography in situations where a field camera or monorail camera might be a little difficult. Once you really have the hang of loading, exposing and unloading sheets and can do so without worry then playing with movements and a more technical camera might be worth it (says the guy who started LF with a fully featured monorail camera with more movements than any of his lenses can handle..)

    I got a final pricing back from the CNC shop and they want $585 to do 2 hours of CNC work on a block of ABS plastic... Thats not going to happen YET!

    I have constructed my camera out of wood (waiting for the glue to cure at the moment) As soon as I have all the construction complete including staining, light seals etc I'll post all the pics up.. At this stage the wooden version will do, if the wooden one works perfectly, then I will probably go and have the plastic one built..

    As for cheap and flimsy, ABS plastic is pretty darn tough. The walls were going to be over 1cm (1/2") thick, and this is the same stuff kitchen chopping boards are made of.... It would be practically unbreakable..

    The wooden one will still come in at under 1kg I would imagine, and be fairly resilliant. It may lack the finer quality of CNC construction though.
    Chamonix 045N-2 - 90/8 - 210/5.6 - Acros100 - Rodinal.
    Alexartphotography

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Apr 2012
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    Re: Building my first camera...

    Thank you!

    The biggest problem for me is that I can't start with just "easy" stuff. I always make it harder than it has to be. It's runs in the family.
    My first plan was to just build a wooden box, strap a lens to it and go! But then I revised the idea, and again, and again... and now I'm doing 3D sketches and hoping I can find a CNC machine that can do 3D stuff for me.

    It started out as just a small project to go explore 4x5! And now I'm stuck with this massive project! 2 cm shift up and down, plus a helical for focusing..

    $585! That's a bit too expensive IMHO. If it isn't a really complicated design?
    And chopping board plastic sounds like a great thing! I'll have to ask around and see if anyone has it available...

    I guess I should start making mine in wood as well.

    Thank you for you time and input! I really appreciate it. I'm really new to both LF and DIY in LF, so honestly I have like two hundred questions that I wanna ask. But I'll google some more and hopefully I can make sense of everything from ground glass thickness to flange back distance!

    I'd love to see pictures once you've gotten it all together!


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