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Thread: Home made large format camera ideas

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    Home made large format camera ideas

    So recently, I had an idea to build an extremely basic and very cheap but workable large format camera. It won't have typical view camera movements like tilt, shift, swing etc. I was actually inspired by this video here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NW4dhOJVfzk&t=330s

    Extremely basic as you see but I wanted to take it a step further and have two standards with the front one movable for adjusting focus (though once again done on the cheap.) Though I may take a different approach to the ground glass. Ive never laid my hands on a film holder before but I would assume that the slot where the film slides in is very thin? I had an idea to place some ground glass in this very same slot in the dark slide for composing and focusing. That way, the GG would be on the very same plane as the film (when it's replaced with film.) Though I guess the glass would probably be too thick to fit inside? I guess one could try wax paper instead!

    For the two standards, I could cut wood to size or use something already made like two drawers or some cigar boxes. And have some material like black velvet draped over the top between them and raised with some kind of raised support to prevent it from sagging. On second thoughts, that wouldn't work - the raised support would have to be collapsible (too tricky to implement) so I'd have to make a bellows instead. I admit I'm really lost for ideas about the movement of the front standard and how to achieve this. I admit I'm not a handyman or a craftsman so it would have to be something very basic....possibly something that's ready-made but designed for a different purpose. Obviously, the movement would preferably have to be dampened with some resistance to make focusing easier. Though then again, once with a 35mm SLR with macro lens and extension tube, I used a row of sticks / pencils etc on the ground to roll the camera back and forth for focus. It was crude but it worked fine.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by tribal-warrior View Post
    Ive never laid my hands on a film holder before...
    Film holder construction is actually pretty complex. At least when you're getting started in building cameras, best to just buy a holder in whatever format you're interested in, and focus your attention on the camera itself.

    Lots of discussion of large format camera construction and repair in the DIY subforum of the Large Format Photography Forum:

    https://www.largeformatphotography.i...o-It-Yourself)
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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    ....Before large format users had film they used glass plates,.....until surprisingly recent times too. plate holders (or 'dark-slides' to use the right name) come usually in double sides to take two sheets of film but the older plate holder is usually only single sided. if you are able to find an old plate holder in the right size then you will only have to cut a rectangular opening as the plate thickness is very similar to the thickness of the ground glass focusing screen.

    Also, if you have difficulty in aquiring ground glass remember that you can easily 'frost' a piece of translucent sheet acrylic or other plastic by lightly scrubbing it with a dish scourer pad (the green plastic type) If the scourer is too abrasive then 'improve' the texture by lightly hammering the scourer on a hard surface until it's the way you want it. Ground acrylic will very similar to ground glass to focus onto and has the added advantage of being unbreakable when moving The camera about.

    Also, remeber that it can be advantageous to use rear focus as the image will not change size.......front focus obviously will change image size a lot as the lens to focus distance is changed when focussing.

    lastly, it might be worth knowing that 'Model Engineering' magazine here in the UK published a design for a large format camera a few years ago...it had full movements and was inteded to be easy to construct accurately (v.important) by the 'build-up' method of gluing simple pieces together to build up the various parts. I seem to remember that the design was named 'Koretka' or similar.....

    EDIT; it was 'Engineering in Miniature' magazine in 2002, see here (may have been in two issues);

    Engineering in Miniature Magazine, June 2002 Issue
    Last edited by Bugleone; 14th August 2019 at 12:07.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Also, Jon Grepstad's site on DIY cameras is a classic if you're looking for ideas, though some of the links have died over the years:

    https://jongrepstad.com/building-a-l...mera-builders/

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Thanks for the replies and links. I think Ive actually changed my mind about having two separate standards and may have a simple box instead. Ive read about some other peoples' projects where they've had a lens positioned a set distance from the film and calculated that at f22, they'll get depth of field from so many feet to infinity. So need for manual focusing in other words.

    Although I would like a view camera with movements one day, a big part of why I want to do this particular project is to be able to end up with a 6 x 17cm film image. As most people know, the cost of 6 x 17 panoramic cameras are absolutely insane (even second hand.) Getting a 6 x 17 roll film holder for an existing view camera is another option but still a bit pricey. A number of years ago, someone online suggested shooting 5 x 7 large format sheet film and cropping the images to 6 x 17cm in post. So that's one of the main reasons behind this project. A 90mm lens would obviously be ideal.

    There's also the option to build a 6 x 17 camera but this is a lot of work with so many parts involved. Ive seen other peoples' builds online with such cameras and it looks like a huge amount of work with a high degree of precision required for a number of components. Though like I mentioned before, I'm not a handyman and only have access to very basic hand tools. And I try to be accurate when I do woodwork but the finished product ends up being sloppy. For example, no matter how hard I try to saw straight, I end up sawing at an angle! Though a nice thing about a 6 x 17 camera is I'd be able to use 120 roll film and have a decent amount of film stocks to choose from, in particular slide film. Shooting on Fuji Provia 100F in 6 x 17 would indeed be really nice.

    Building a basic box-type 5 x 7 camera would be a lot simpler (though still a bit challenging for someone like me being a non-handyman.) The main disadvantages being the high cost of 5 x 7 film and the limited selection of film stocks available in this format. Ive actually tried to find out what films are currently available for 5 x 7 online but didn't have much luck. I assume there would be little in the way of slide films or perhaps none.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugleone View Post
    ....Before large format users had film they used glass plates,.....until surprisingly recent times too. plate holders (or 'dark-slides' to use the right name) come usually in double sides to take two sheets of film but the older plate holder is usually only single sided. if you are able to find an old plate holder in the right size then you will only have to cut a rectangular opening as the plate thickness is very similar to the thickness of the ground glass focusing screen.
    Yes I know about the old days where emulsion was coated to glass slides. Ive even heard of some cases of photographers not being happy with an exposed image and scrubbing the emulsion off the plate, re-coating it and exposing it again. And good suggestion about using old holders designed for glass plates.

    Though as Ive gone back to the idea of using a basic box design with no moving parts, I guess ground glass won't be quite as necessary. Since the lens will be a fixed distance from the film, I won't really need to manually focus. Though I would still like to accurately compose my images while viewing through the lens. In this case, simple wax paper inserted in a film holder may do. I might actually make a camera obscura first (with a pinhole) and see how well wax paper works with that for viewing purposes.
    Last edited by tribal-warrior; 14th August 2019 at 21:09.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    5x7 film: Plenty of B&W films to choose from, at a cost of about $1.75-$3.50 a sheet, occasionally more. No factory-cut 5x7 transparency film at all; you'd have to cut down 8x10 film, which costs $15-16 per sheet, in the darkroom. 5x7 color neg is available only via occasional pricey special orders, organized by Keith Canham, for Kodak Portra or Ektar film.

    Keep in mind that 120 Provia F is going to cost you about $8.50 a roll now, and you'd get four 6x17 exposures per roll. Including processing will roughly double that cost.

    I'm not a fan of fixed-focus large format cameras, especially if the negatives are intended for enlargement. The circle-of-confusion criteria assumed by the depth of field calculators you'll find online are too loose for my taste, and the depth-of-field numbers that they generate are correspondingly too optimistic. YMMV, but I'd find a way to test a medium format camera with a 90mm lens (for example, a Fuji GW690) by using it as though it were a fixed-focus camera and seeing if you can live with the results, before putting a lot of effort into building a camera that you might not be happy with.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    One other point occurs to me, if you're thinking about shooting 5x7" or 6x17cm on transparency film with a 90mm lens: you will most likely need a center filter for the lens, unless you can tolerate very substantial illumination falloff at the periphery of the picture.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Oh yea Ive seen some examples where hyperfocal focusing didn't produce quite the intended result. Though this guy used the same principle with his home-made 6 x 17 camera. And the resulting images posted online have a decent amount of depth of field. Though I don't know how they'd look as printed enlargements.

    https://petapixel.com/2014/08/25/diy...r-roll-of-120/

    I guess one could always stop down the aperture more than what is recommended to maximise depth of field.

    For the 6 x 17 format, I really wanted to shoot in colour. It sounds like that's going to be an awkward and expensive exercise in 5 x 7 so 120 roll film would probably suit me better. I was already fully aware of the 4 image limitation per film and the costs but they don't really bother me that much. I'm not sure if I'll be brave enough or have the patience to build a 6 x 17 camera one day. I guess what I could do at some point is buy a view camera and look out for a 6 x 17 roll film back for it.

    And yes, I knew about the need for a center filter for the 90mm lens. I know they are incredibly expensive though Ive heard sometimes, the price can be lower if you get one with a lens. By the way, would a view camera need special requirements in order to use a 90mm lens effectively? Would you need a certain type of bellows? Would a Speed Graphic be out of the question for mounting such a lens?

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    Senior Member f6cvalkyrie's Avatar
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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    P1 645DF with P30+/E-M1/GH2/G1 Full Spectrum & lots of lenses
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/f6cvalk...th/9226689839/

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by f6cvalkyrie View Post
    Nice but well above my budget. I also note that it's a monorail camera so would be pretty bulky to carry around. Not ideal when hiking and shooting landscapes.
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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by tribal-warrior View Post
    By the way, would a view camera need special requirements in order to use a 90mm lens effectively? Would you need a certain type of bellows? Would a Speed Graphic be out of the question for mounting such a lens?
    Most 4x5 view cameras, including Graphics, can focus a 90 to infinity with no problem, with the standard bellows. However, all of the 4x5-6x17 adapter backs are necessarily expander backs that introduce some extension from the rear standard. With some camera-plus-expander back combinations you can - just - get away with a 90, with others you'd need a recessed lens board or can't do it at all. In some of the difficult cases a bag bellows might help in making it work. However, only some field cameras have interchangeable bellows. The bottom line is that in principle the combination 4x5 field camera plus 6x17 expander back plus 90mm lens can be made to work, but careful research is needed to find out exactly which camera/back/bellows/lens combinations will in fact work.

    Budget is also going to be an issue with this strategy, if the linked V-Pan is "well above" what you can spend. Let's do a back-of-the-envelope estimate, assuming a Crown Graphic could be made to work - which still needs to be verified. It might be necessary to retract the lens to the in-body focusing track and drop the front bed. Very roughly speaking, figure $300 for a (used) camera body, $550 for a (new) 6x17 expander back, $300 for a (used) 90mm lens, and $300 for a (used) center filter. With patience and careful shopping you can probably shave a few dollars here and there. OTOH, if it turns out that a Crown Graphic won't work with the expander back, you would likely need to spend more to get a field camera that will.

    If you don't mind lugging heavy metal, working with a 120 instead of a 90 and being limited to a single shutter speed, this might be interesting:

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Burke-James...h=item59308610

    Another very economical alternative, if you don't mind an impressionistic look but are still eager to play with the format, would be to get a 120/6x17 pinhole camera.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Don't forget that the 90mm being discussed by Oren is a 90mm WIDE-ANGLE lens.......there are plenty of 90mm's that are standard lenses for the 6x9 cm format but do NOT have enough coverage for what you are trying to do!

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Bugleone View Post
    Don't forget that the 90mm being discussed by Oren is a 90mm WIDE-ANGLE lens.......there are plenty of 90mm's that are standard lenses for the 6x9 cm format but do NOT have enough coverage for what you are trying to do!
    I'm the one who suggested the use of a 90mm lens in this thread. Regardless of whether it's a wide angle lens in a particular format or whatever it's intended use, I think that the main things to take into consideration are the focal length and the size of the image circle that it projects onto the film.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Bugleone's point is that to achieve the required image circle, a 90mm lens has to be a wide-angle design - for example, a Super-Angulon or a Grandagon. A "normal" design in the 90mm focal length - for example, the 90mm lens offered for the Horseman 6x9cm press cameras - won't come close to covering.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Very true. I was only considering large format 90mm lenses that would be able to cover 6 x 17cm film.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Oren Grad View Post
    5x7 film: Plenty of B&W films to choose from, at a cost of about $1.75-$3.50 a sheet, occasionally more. No factory-cut 5x7 transparency film at all; you'd have to cut down 8x10 film, which costs $15-16 per sheet, in the darkroom. 5x7 color neg is available only via occasional pricey special orders, organized by Keith Canham, for Kodak Portra or Ektar film.
    Going back to the idea of a home made 5 x 7 camera with the plan to crop to 6 x 17cm, there actually is a way to produce colour images with cheap black and white film. But it has some drawbacks. Ive done the very same thing with 35mm film. And that is to expose three photographs with red, green and blue filters and then combine them in post. It works well and creates an interesting colour palette but it's generally suited to static subjects and scenes. Any movement will create a rainbow effect. I don't mind that effect for artsy kind of images but for panoramics, I would prefer a more faithful reproduction of the scene. Oh well...food for thought.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Ive just checked an online DOF calculator and noted that if a 90mm lens is focused at 13.8 feet at f32, depth of field will extend from 6.9 feet to infinity. I know this may not be accurate but just out of curiosity, how would you determine what distance the lens should be from the film in order to set your focus at 13.8 feet? So once again, this is contemplating the idea of having the lens a fixed distance from the film on a home made camera with no bellows.

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    Senior Member darr's Avatar
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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Here is a thread over at the Large Format Forum about building a portable zone focus for a Schneider 58mm Super Angulon and a 4x5 camera.
    Maybe not the lens you are looking at, but the procedure would be similar. I would follow the thread to see what ideas/methods may appear.

    https://www.largeformatphotography.i...-super-angulon
    Website: photoscapes.com
    Photo Blog: darrlene.com

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by darr View Post
    Here is a thread over at the Large Format Forum about building a portable zone focus for a Schneider 58mm Super Angulon and a 4x5 camera.
    Maybe not the lens you are looking at, but the procedure would be similar. I would follow the thread to see what ideas/methods may appear.

    https://www.largeformatphotography.i...-super-angulon
    That sounds very ambitious and very specific with the depth of field requirements. And a very detailed and comprehensive reply as well from the other poster.

    As for me, I'd just be content if dof extended from a random number of feet to infinity. Obviously, the closer, the better. That should probably suffice for most of my landscape photography needs. I actually worked out a very simple way of doing this after I logged off from the computer last night. Though it involves access to a ready-made view camera (4 x 5 etc) and a 90mm large format lens. Quoting the focused distance of 13.8 feet from the DOF calculator mentioned above, have the 90mm lens mounted on the camera and using a tape measure, place a largish object like a chair or table etc a distance of 13.8 feet or 14 feet from the camera's ground glass screen. Then with a loupe, focus on that object through the ground glass. Then once again using the tape measure, measure the current distance of the lens to the GG and write that down as a reference. Then set the exposure (making sure you select an f stop of f32) load a film holder, perform the usual sequence and take a photograph of the object (instant film could do fine here.) With the resulting photograph, examine the front to back sharpness with a loupe and / or scan the image and zoom in with Photoshop etc. If the results look good with decent sharpness throughout the frame (behind and in front of the object), it should be straight forward to replicate the same lens to film distance with a home made camera.
    Last edited by tribal-warrior; 23rd August 2019 at 22:07.

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    Re: Home made large format camera ideas

    Last edited by stephengilbert; 28th August 2019 at 07:02.

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