View Full Version : Idea for DIY 4x5 p&s...would it work?

9-Dec-2012, 14:52
Hi all,

I am a fairly experienced 35mm and digital photographer looking to move into LF. My budget is low and I would like to spend as little money as possible. I have an idea of building a point and shoot style 4x5 camera (based on a design like this http://www.flickr.com/photos/bensyverson/sets/72157594471970946/with/359107636/). I have a few questions.
-How do you recommend I mount the lens and shutter in the material that I am using? Would it be easier to just attach a lens board?
-How far must the lens be from the film plane to achieve infinity focus?
-Do I need a helical mount? Can someone explain the purpose of one?

One more question that I just have in general about LF gear is do all lenses come with a shutter? My understanding is that it is kind of one thing, but I just wanted to confirm.

I apologize for all of the newbie questions and appreciate your help,

Light Guru
9-Dec-2012, 15:41
I started off by building a 4x5 from a kit myself. One like this. http://www.ephotozine.com/article/bulldog-5x4-self-assembly-camera-large-format-review-7560

While it was an enjoyable experience building it i soon found out once I started using it that it left a lot to be desired when it comes to usability of the camera. I then started saving for a nicer camera.

Do a quick eBay search you can pick up a 4x5 rail camera for cheep.

Mike Anderson
9-Dec-2012, 15:45
Not to discourage you from your own DIY project, many here are waiting on this 4x5 P&S project, which looks very neat for targeted price of $100:


9-Dec-2012, 15:53
Some reading on the forum pages would get you a lot of what you want to know, but for now some short answers.
Last first- not all lenses come in shutters, some are mounted in barrel the barrel may or may not have an aperture depending in the lenses intended purpose.
If you buy a lens and shutter already mounted in a board, just build that board into your p&s.
The lens should be at the hyperfocal distance for that lens and the chosen aperture. This is something you have to calculate, based on the kind of photography you want to do.
A helical mount is not needed, but would allow you to focus at other distances than the chosen hyperfocal. You would then need some way to check the focus such as a rangefinder.
It really depends on what you take pictures of; check out nana sousa dias work in landscapes and at waters edge for landscapes.

C. D. Keth
9-Dec-2012, 17:01
To be perfectly honest, for what you would spend on a lens and hardware, you could be a little bit patient and get a pretty nice speed graphic with a lens. You don't need to spend more than maybe $200 to get a nice working one as long as you're not in a rush.

9-Dec-2012, 17:55
(based on a design like this http://www.flickr.com/photos/bensyverson/sets/72157594471970946/with/359107636/).

I'd not waste my time on that. Maybe get a Diana or Lomo camera. Unless your intent is 4x5 contact prints. Then you could more easily make a pinhole camera and see how that goes. Point and shoot does not work with 4x5 because usually you have to focus on the ground glass with a magnifying loupe. You could hand-hold with a powerful flash at f32 and get reasonable depth of field for zone focusing.
Another option would be to use a 55mm lens. But it would be a little crazy to mount a $2000 lens on a home made box.

John O'Connell
9-Dec-2012, 19:17
The project camera shown started with a helical mount, which isn't a cheap thing: you can blow $300 or more on one. Plus it uses a 90mm Angulon, which is wide but not really wide.

The homemade point and shoot concept makes more sense with a wider lens (I would like to build one with a 47mm or a 55mm, honestly) or with a bigger format. I'm occasionally on the lookout for wrecked 8x10s to build my big box camera around a 120 Nikkor.

Doremus Scudder
10-Dec-2012, 06:28
There are lots of press cameras with rangefinder focusing available used for $200-300. The kinks have already been worked out and they have a good track record. If I were going for P&S 4x5 I'd look for a lightweight Crown Graphic or the like (wooden instead of metal).



10-Dec-2012, 09:32
If you just want a cheap camera, then all the comments are correct, you're better off just buying something.

If you feel the need to make a better camera, then go for it, but it won't be cheaper than the cheapest camera you can buy, particularly if you find yourself without the appropriate tools already.

You can make a basic camera easily enough, but you have to question whether you'd be comfortable shooting with it since a large format camera attracts a lot of attention anyway, and obviously homemade solutions tend to initiate a different kind of conversation, which can get in the way of taking pictures, if you let it-

Regarding the helical, no, it's not absolutely vital, but ensuring parallelism between the lens board and the film plane is. P&S cameras often use quite short lenses, perhaps even shorter than those which can be accommodated on some of the cheaper suggestions above, so if you want a super-wide, then a P&S can be a good solution.

You might have a look at some of these pages, see if there's anything which might help-


Steven Tribe
10-Dec-2012, 10:02
Can't you find another abbreviation for Point and Shoot - P&S is surely reserved for Pinkham and Smith!
Messes up search function.

11-Dec-2012, 20:14
Thank you everyone for your answers! Since I am looking for a cheap option and something that I can build (I think that it would be a fun project) I still plan to carry through with my p&s plan. However, I am going to look for a wider lens (45-55mm ideally) as wells as not use a helical mount (too expensive). What are people's opinions on using a two box design (with one box sliding inside of the other to focus) vs. a plain old box?