Building a €25 large format camera

I wanted a project for my vacation, so I decided to build a large format camera.

It has a sliding piece of cardboard for a shutter, a fixed aperture of f50 and two fixed focusing distances – one for portraits and one for landscapes. The images are framed by placing the camera in front of the subject and hoping that the 170mm lens catches everything. The achromat lens is slightly wide angle on the 5×7 papers I got for cheap off EBay. Everything is housed in a very crooked wooden box, and the top is covered by a sleeve of light proof fabric that lets me change the paper while in the field.

Future horse. Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe #3 paper in Maco EcoPrint 1+50.

Future horse. Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe #3 paper in Maco EcoPrint 1+50.

The camera lacks a tripod mount, so every picture seen here was made with the camera resting either directly on the ground, on a park bench or other convenient platform in the environment.

Reader. Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe #3 paper in Maco EcoPrint 1+50.

Reader. Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe #3 paper in Maco EcoPrint 1+50.

The aperture is a piece of a soda can with a hole drilled through it, the lens cost $7.50 + shipping from Surplus Shed and the crooked wooden box cost about twice as much from a local home decoration store. The light proof fabric was the most expensive part, especially since it wasn’t really light proof and I had to redo the sleeve in two layers to prevent unintentional exposure of the papers. An elastic band holds the sleeve shut. There’s a black plastic bag on the inside where I store a couple of sheets. Beyond that everything is cardboard and tape.

Jungle.  Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe #3 paper in Maco EcoPrint 1+50.

Jungle. Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe #3 paper in Maco EcoPrint 1+50.

The construction is simple and easy to change. I see the camera as a prototype for a larger one that will be more solid. But it is very easy to modify and test things on a camera made of cardboard. The first sample seen above was taken when the film holder was still flat. But to make the images sharper I have curved it slightly, which should help a bit, especially along the horizontal middle of the pictures.

Recurring concrete.  Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe #3 paper in Maco EcoPrint 1+50.

Recurring concrete. Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe #3 paper in Maco EcoPrint 1+50.

I’ll keep experimenting with this camera for a while, and when I feel more confident about the idea I’ll make a larger one, perhaps for 14×11 size paper.

Ball.  Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe #3 paper in Maco EcoPrint 1+50.

Ball. Ilford Ilfospeed RC Deluxe #3 paper in Maco EcoPrint 1+50.

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This entry was posted by Wilhelm.

6 thoughts on “Building a €25 large format camera

    • Thanks! Yes, I think it’s mostly due to the small aperture. As we approach a pinhole camera any construction will work. 🙂 The trade offs are long exposures and large depth of field, which might be advantages in some applications.

      But it worked well enough that I have started looking closer at building the larger version. Now it is mostly a matter of figuring out where to buy a large sheet of board, and how to transport and cut it. I’d really like to build out of wood, but I also lack a workshop and most of the tools I predict that I’d like to use.

      • Well, I hope you figure it out a post your experience….I may on day follow in your footsteps.

      • I’ll report on any progress made here on the blog.

        It is infuriating really, I have the lens ready and even a tripod socket. All that’s missing is material for the camera body itself. 🙂

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