Homebuilt LF cameras

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Just curious as to how many of you, like myself, enjoy designing and building the large format cameras that we photograph with. I build mine not from kits, but from scratch sometimes using components from other cameras such as filmbacks, monocular viewers etc. Just curious as to how many other LF photmasochists are out there.

Bob Parsons

-- Robert Parsons (tedrow@rnetinc.net), March 26, 2002


"Just curious as to how many other LF photmasochists are out there."

Bob, we are all LF enthusiasts - that by itself makes ALL of us photomasochists (a term I use whenver I think of picking up one of my backpacks) of one sort or another.


-- Anthony J. Kohler (arbitrator@uneedspeed.net), March 26, 2002.

Tony, I know what you mean, but the awful truth is that you do not know photomasochism until you have built your very own 4x17 pinhole camera that uses what you think might be some kind of X-Ray film from the former Soviet Union that you bought on ebay and have no idea in the world how to expose or develop, and turns out to be completely insensitive to any shade of green. That's masochism! (No, I haven't done this, but my dad did. He's getting pretty good with that camera, too!)

-- Erik Ryberg (ryberg@seanet.com), March 26, 2002.

hi bob

i have been building a 8x20 camera off and on. this is the first one i have built, it is inspired by the mandelette post card cameras if the 1920s ( so i can load it up with a handful of film/paper and store the exposed "stuff" without holders, and without having to go back to a darkroom over and over again ..

if you don't already know about this group, check out:


they make and use cameras too ..:)


-- jnanian (jak@gis.net), March 26, 2002.

Bob, I know the feeling, I live and breath this stuff. If I don't have a camera project to work on, I don't know what to do with myself. Sometimes I think I'd rather play with equipment than take pictures. After building a 12x20 monorail camera from scratch, I constructed a 4x5 super wide camera, complete with home-made bag bellows. I also built an 8x10 Bender kit, but that's another story. I recently made a rotating 11x14 back for the 12x20 and have ordered film that should arrive by the end of this week. Between projects, I managed to put together some web pages with details and pictures. You may be interested, the URL is: http://home.earthlink.net/~samfidget/

-- Bill Underwood (samfidget@earthlink.net), March 26, 2002.

I've built a number of cameras but more than that have modified or simply taken apart a whole bunch...my next adventure is going to be trying to fix the shutter on an old folding polaroid camera. I love screwing around with that kind of stuff. While I'm at school, though, I don't have acces to a workshop, so I have to content myself with drawing up plans (if anyone's interested, I've recently drawn up pretty complete plans for a 5x7 field). One of these days I plan on building a 7x17, but that won't be for a while.

-- David Munson (apollo@luxfragilis.com), March 26, 2002.

Forgot to mention that while I was home for spring break last week I mad a new bag bellows for my Linhof with excellent results....not a hard project to tackle and it saved me several hundred dollars.

-- David Munson (apollo@luxfragilis.com), March 26, 2002.

Bob, I recycled one of the boxes my computer came in into a 12x20 pinhole. I hope to build another out of wood someday.

-- John Kasaian (www.kasai9@aol.com), March 27, 2002.

I am constantly amazed by how resourceful and mechanically proficient the members of this forum are.

I read many posts that go something like, "I was hiking when I found that the neighbor's child had used a hole-puncher to aerate the bellows on my 8x10, so I used some pebbles and a swizzle stick to repair the thing in the field. It's better than new, now."

I wish that I had that kind of ability, but I have a hard time getting the plastic seal off of a jar of peanut butter, let alone building LF cameras.

-- Matthew Runde (actorm@hotmail.com), March 27, 2002.


I think building cameras is just a natural extention of the craft of LF and a lot of us build them to suit our tastes and wallets.

I shoot panoramas and had to modify an enlarger to take the long negs which are 2 x 13" long. Having done that I thought, why not a camera to max out the enlarger which is 4x13. I dug out some 3mm cardboard and leftovers from making bellows and other bits and taped and glued a camera together, cost me just under $10 (already had a lens) and it shoots incredible negs. I should point out here it's a single shot point and shoot inspired by Gordon Marks Hobo.

I'm also part way through building a giant swing lens camera, takes a 16 x 48" neg, should be finished later this year.

The good thing about building your own gear is there's no rules....build them to suit yourself.

-- Clayton Tume (clayton@bigshotz.co.nz), March 27, 2002.


We are out there. I just built a 8x20 camera that takes Korona holders. It has tested out fine and promises to be my spring/summer workhorse. I'm not a master woodworker, but I did OK. If you don't want something really fancy, building a view camera is quite easy. I had ideas to improve my design the minute it was finished. I guess Iíll have to build another one.

-- Linas Kudzma (lkudzma@compuserve.com), March 27, 2002.

I'm fiddling with things all the time. I've built several parts for my 8x10 but the real challenge is a 16x20 my friend and I are building this year. We started that project when someone gave him a 42" artar. I would guess that about half the large format users are tinkerers in some form or another and that a fair share of the established camera makers such as Wisner, Phillips, Canham et al, started as builders of one offs to suit their own needs. It would be interesting to here from some of them about why they started making cameras.

-- Kevin (kkemner@tatesnyderkimsey.com), March 27, 2002.

Bypassing the obvious? Building a camera is the easy part! Building something to hold the film has got me daunted to the point that I wouldn't bother with the easy part. I was in a junk shop the other day and found a big box of 7X11, (half plate 11X14) and 6 1/2 X 8 1/2 (full plate) film holders and would've bought them to build a camera around if the price had been fair (means really cheap). I'd build a 5X12 tomorrow if I could find holders! Building the holders is beyond my fairly meager abilities. And prices for others to spend those hours building them are equally daunting. Anybody seen a big box of 5X12 holders for sale? at a "fair" price?

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@lnett.com), March 27, 2002.

I'm currently building a 4x5 view camera out of aluminum and zebra wood.It's about 75% complete. I was going to make the bellows, but I think I'll buy it from Camera Bellows. It's looking good so far. I can't wait to try it out.

-- Dennis Gazso (dgazso@southbendnc.com), March 27, 2002.

There's lots of us out here building LF cameras. Have a look at this links list for just a few. http://www.keinaths-fotohomepage.gmxhome.de/LF/lf-links.htm Even I'm on this list. And if you are really keen, there is a cameramakers forum at http://rmp.opusis.com/mailman/listinfo/cameramakers

-- julian bell (j.o.bell@chello.nl), March 27, 2002.

You will find a number of homebuilt LF cameras here: http://home.online.no/~gjon/jgcam.htm

I have a View Camera Construction FAQ here: http://home.online.no/~gjon/lffaq.htm

Jon Grepstad

-- Jon Grepstad (gjon@online.no), March 31, 2002.

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