View Full Version : Interest in lens boxes

paul owen
5-May-2001, 08:05
Dear All I've been trawling through the archives and there still does not appea t to exist a suitable storage box for our LF lenses when shooting in the field. I continue with my Domke wraps and I know that others still use their "ZinG" pou ches. I am aware that a US company (www.filmholders.com) make a padded, zip-up p ouch. What we need is a strong, lightweight, ABS box with moveable partitions t o carry LF lenses, either singly or in pairs. I have taken the liberty of conta cting Mike Walker (of Walker camera fame) and mentioned this "gap" in the LF mar ket. I wonder how many contributors/readers of this community would be interest ed in such an accessory, if it were made commercially available? Regards Paul

Chad Jarvis
5-May-2001, 12:50
Based on my own experience, I would say that backpackers would most likely not be interested in such an item, while studio/out-of-the- back-of-the-car types might love it. But don't take what I say as gospel... I live for Ziplocks and bubble wrap.

paul owen
5-May-2001, 16:23
Thanks for the comments Chad. I envisaged a box (or rather a shell made from ABS) that would only measure approx 4"x4"x10" (wxdxl) and would be suitable to slip into either a holdall or a backpack. Slots on the inside walls would accommodate lens panels and it would require only minimal foam padding. From previous postings it would appear that backpacker/climbing packs are best suited to carrying heavy loads over any distance. The big problem appears to be how to store LF gear in these packs. Camera bodies and film holders/backs are easily stowed but I would worry about letting lenses rattle around . A box such as I describe would certainly encourage me to use such a pack for my equipment. All comments greatly received. Regards Paul.

Michael Kadillak
5-May-2001, 18:56
Excellent idea. I have spent quite a bit if time in pursuit of such a lens box and would be pleased at a solution. The slot for the lens board to fit into would be great as a loose pack is very inefficient.

I solved my problem temporarily by purchasing a Pelican hard shelled plastic case that I can fit my Canham metal 5x7 and three lenses into. While it is great on the airplane and for short walks, it is not for the medium to long hikes. I even ended up going to the Container Store and trying to modify one of their small boxes. No cigar. I would be very interested in participating in your efforts in any way possible. Thanks

John Lehman
5-May-2001, 20:26
Interestingly, Feiniger in his book _Advanced Photography_ mentioned this same "lack" 50 years ago, and gave directions for making your own. I made several out of hardwood plywood, and even use one for backpacking

Robert A. Zeichner
6-May-2001, 20:59
Well, this is a problem I've been trying to solve for quite some time. A couple of things I've discovered is that anything with Velcro can be a source of frustration if there are materials in your case/backpack that Velcro sticks to. Another problem is that if you encase a multiple of lenses in one container, there is the good possiblity of dumping a bunch of expensive stuff in one shot. One thing I've started to do lately is to use some Rubbermade storage containers with pieces of closed-cell foam glued into the caps and bottoms with aquarium cement. I've been experimenting with front mounting of barrel lenses in large shutters and these little plastic containers are a perfect size for those lenses. This is convenient because I can now see what lens I'm reaching for. This method also offers some pretty tough protection from droppage as well as a good seal against sand and dust. I've just about given up on commercially manufactured cases for photo equipment. Not to say I haven't had some good camera cases, but mass produced stuff often has to meet so many non-use related criteria to be a commercially feasable product, that somewhere along the way, it usually ventures away from the designers original idea. The other issue too, is that everyone works a bit differently and it's tough to design a universal system that meets all users needs.

Richard Stum / Kinesis
6-May-2001, 23:14
As a bag maker and a large format shooter (Sinar -- commercial "car travel" typ e shooting) I have also wondered what would the be ultimate solution. The problem with the ABS or HDPE plastic case approach is the slight weight increase over straight foam. According to the above comments, the people that want or need this type of container are the those using it in the backcountry and this g roup needs the weight savings. Would the ulimate container be a long case for serveral (3-5) lenses stacked end to end or a shorter 1 or 2 lens version? Would the partitions prevent the lens board from shifting, or would the partitions be foam and just pad between the front and rear elements? We make some quality long lens (for 35mm 300/2.8+) cases and possibly the same materials may work for LF lenses.

Struan Gray
8-May-2001, 06:11
I prefer to backpack with individually-protected items, since that gives me the option of slimming down the packaging as well as the product. I tend to make or adapt my own cases as commercial products never seem to be quite what I want.

My generic design has a thin-walled plastic outer case for a degree of crush protection and (important in winter, when lenses share my pack with crampons and ice tools) puncture resistance. The inside is then lined with closed-cell foam cut to shape and glued if necessary.

The outer plastic tends to be tupperware/rubbermaid style containers, although for barrel lenses and smaller format optics I use cut-down PTFE fizzy drinks bottles. Foam is usualy from a camping mat, either 9mm foam cut down from a full-size mat or the 3mm stuff sold as tent underlay.

The very best plastic cases I have seen, and the ones I would prefer to see as the model for a commerical product, are those sold for handling and shipping semiconductor wafers. The minimum order number tends to be high though, so unless you have access to a fab or lab which is disposing of empties this isn't a solution for an individual.

My ideal case for 4x5 lenses on boards would be a clamshell type rigid box with locking clasps. An insert would securely hold the lensboard at the edges so that the lens itself was floating free. As an option, end pieces of foam would stop lens caps falling off and help prevent vibrations on thin lensboards.

It would of course be free :-)

paul owen
8-May-2001, 14:59
Thanks for some interesting replies! Struan's posting above comes close to what I envisaged. The reason I contacted Mike Walker, apart from the fact that he uses ABS to make his cameras, is that he also offers ABS clam-shell cases in which to store exposed sheet film (in sizes from 5x4 to 10x8). I'll keep this site posted of any developments. Regards Paul

29-Oct-2008, 20:18
I am an organizer fanantic, so I have been looking also. Guess what Ebony has hard lens boxes. I have not yet used them, so cannot offer an opinion on their functionality. Check them out mid page: http://www.ebonycamera.com/acc.html#Extension%20tube%20kits

29-Oct-2008, 21:25
Matt Blais pointed someone to the outdoor catalog of Cabela's...the fishing reel cases seem to work well.


Steve Hamley
30-Oct-2008, 06:51
What gap? For smaller lenses, the aforementioned reel cases work well, and for larger lenses, a Pelican-type hard case with the configurable dividers. A foam insert would also work well although I prefer the dividers.

Here's what I use for lenses on boards up to Sinar size:


With this insert:


You can choose colors and there's a good sale on now. Pelican and the others (storm case, etc) make cases to accommodate single lenses, like the one for my 360mm Universal Heliar, up to sizes that would hold every lens you have unless you're Jim. :D



Richard K.
30-Oct-2008, 07:22
Here is a custom air type case with moveable velcro dividers made for me several years ago by Strebor of Alberta, Canada. They are unfortunately not making custom camera cases any more :( , but perhaps Alan or someone can make one... Is that Ebony case for Technica boards or Sinar?


John Schneider
30-Oct-2008, 09:28
The very best plastic cases I have seen, and the ones I would prefer to see as the model for a commerical product, are those sold for handling and shipping semiconductor wafers. The minimum order number tends to be high though, so unless you have access to a fab or lab which is disposing of empties this isn't a solution for an individual.

While you can't buy a small quantity of new wafer shippers, there are a number of places selling surplus ones where you can buy onsies and twosies. I really the shippers were made with larger slots so that they would hold filters.

30-Oct-2008, 10:40
Except for the ABS part, you've described the PhotoBackpacker system.


I have two of the "long" boxes (1150-4), one carries 4 lenses and an extra spacer that I use to make a little "box" for a few tools, and the other I got to carry packet film, but now use for up to 8 regular 4x5 film holders and space for an additional lens.


30-Oct-2008, 10:57
I've used the Photobackpacker system for some time now and find it well designed. They have both single and multiple lens boxes that are very well made. The cases they have for cameras are also excellent. They really do a nice job of protecting your gear. I recommend them.
Dave B.

Don Wilkes
30-Oct-2008, 12:23
Last year, I made a prototype lens box out of foamcore for my backpack. My original plan was to use something like plexi, and cut grooves in the walls for the lensboards. In my prototype, I used double strips of more foamcore glued onto the walls of the box. It's been working well enough that I still haven't made a more "finished" version yet. The box itself is glued together, with the joints strengthened with foil tape, which also is used for the lid's hinge. Closure is via a couple of bits of velco. See crappy photos below (poor light, show shutter, new digital)

The colour scribbles are courtesy of grandchildren, who had used the foamcore for painting, before I recycled it :}

So, after an investment of almost nothing, and a year of being stuffed in my bag, it's holding up remarkably well. You could do worse than give this a shot, especially if funds are at a premium!

\donw in Victoria

Paul O
2-Nov-2008, 04:25
Hi Ron. Ebony and Photobackpacker came to the rescue! I've been using a pair of Ebony lens boxes for a year or so and they are excellent but if space is at a premium I use a PBP case.