Instructables
Picture of old fashioned view camera
Today i am going to reverse engineer a camera i made several years ago{pre instructable era}.
This camera features solid maple construction, full tilt and shift capability,screw driven focusing rack,
and a 100 year old ebay lens.
 
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Step 1: The story

i like stories.
well i have always wanted a view camera but raising children puts a serious drain on ones finances especially if your career choices arent as lucrative as some so therefore i could never afford one.
many moons ago a friend of mine who shared the same wish and i got brainstorming about how to do this.
rather than put together some slapdash contraption{some experiments were tried but then scrapped}
we decided to go all out and make nice cameras.
he wanted to make a nice monorail type 4x5 camera a good choice since he has a lens from a more modern camera and some 4x5 film holders.
i wanted to make a field camera type{folding preferably but this one doesnt fold}.
the rough design was eyeballed from a 1904 reprint of the sears roebuck catalouge from the local public library and a few that i saw for sale on ebay
after working out a system to make a bellows{see previous instructable. http://www.instructables.com/id/EDITKGPCR7EP28788U/
i bought an old lens on ebay.
what i ended up with was a beautiful little anso lens that came from a 4x5 camera{it also came with a busted shutter and a mildew problem but we got around that}.
so once the designs were chosen we needed to work out how to build it and where to score some good wood.
we decided to use a modular stick and box joint type of contruction{kinda like a pile of jenga blocks lol} as for wood my buddy had a well seasoned hunk from a maple tree under his shed.{i think it still had bark on it lol}
after much mincing planing and tablesaw work we had a pile of 1/2 x3/4 inch sticks of various lengths we also had some that were 2 x3/4 too to form the sides and other solid bits.
at this point i took my pile of popsicle sticks home and started to assemble.{note my bud has a much better equipped workshop than me and the use of his tablesaw router and planer have made most of my projects so much better. he is also better at the fit and finish department too but he never smacked me for my indifferent carpentry thanx dave}
mdhalprin10 months ago
You've got some brilliant stuff here, Lenny! I build my own cameras and also do chain mail, so I have to ask two things. First, where did you get enough metal coat hangers to make mail!? Wow! Are the resulting rings sturdy? And second, my photo buddies and me were trying to figure out how to draw the silver out of old fixer and use it -- how do you draw it out of the solution and make it usable? Keep up the great work!
quepez4 years ago
que bella camara esta muy rifada
vandal11385 years ago
I don't believe you. It is a hand grenade. And I'm gonna tell.
lennyb (author)  vandal11385 years ago
shh dont tell man. ill give ya a candy.
ooooh, candy......
h4rk4t6 years ago
you are my epic hero thanks for the inspiration and bringing back the meaning to innovation and amazing! You should post a picture of your shop... or tools of trade. It would be interesting indeed.
lennyb (author)  h4rk4t6 years ago
lol thanks for the kind words but my shop is just an overcrowded garage or basement or sometimes even the front porch.{usually its a horrible mess} i rent so i dont have a permanent shop {though the one i have right now is ok} there are projects from 6 different houses represented above and the ones i have lined up to do next will bring it up to 7. as for tools they are a hodgepodge of old stuff i mostly got at yard sales with a new ones bought as needed. when i need something i dont have {lathe, welder etc} i call on my large circle of family and friends {and they call on me too} between us all we have a complete setup.
jtobako7 years ago
Odd question, but is the image on the ground glass bright enough to get a digital picture? I can't have a darkroom (expense and kids) but I've been wondering if I could rig a box around the film carrier with a digital camera in it instead of film and take a picture of the glass.
You definitely could! Look for something called a T-mount (cheap on surplusshed.com). It is basically an adapter for your brand of camera (if you have an SLR that is) that lets you screw on old threaded t-mount lenses. I cant remember the thread size, but you could find it pretty easily. mount a similarly sized and threaded piece of pipe or whatever to the rear standard the same way the lens and lensboard are on the front. screw your t-mount to the pipe and attach your camera. now the whole camera becomes your lens! wanna know the f-stop? (roughly) focus on something FAR, FAR, and away measure the distance from the sensor to about the midpoint of the lens. then measure the diameter of the lenses aperture. Divide the F ocal length by the aperture diameter (aka the aperture STOP) and voila! an f/Stop that should be close enough for government work. Now make sure your camera is on Manual and just use your shutter speed to control your exposure. if its too bright a range, slap a couple of netral densities filters on. Oh yeah if the lens already has the focal length listed use that, but by using the other method you can use ANYTHING just about anything for a lens. oh yeah...beautiful Camera!
get a 4x5 polaroid back. they're about $100 on ebay. to answer your question - you theoretically could take a picture with a digital camera but it would be a pain in the ass, probably not work outside a pitch black studio, and require a long exposure time
gmoon bradbane7 years ago
Any spring-loaded back will work with a Polaroid back or a standard film holder. I doubt you'd want to fix a polaroid back to the camera permanently.

Still, I used to use type 55 positive/negative film, and the quality of the negative is very high (if you keep the rollers clean and unscratched on the pola back.)

I have no idea what polaroid film costs today--they have a virtual monopoly on instant photography (sued kodak to sink the competition) consequently the sales guys always said they never made money on polaroid products (pro products, anyway.) I haven't used a polaroid since I went digital--no need to proof the lighting setup with a digital camera....
trjames gmoon7 years ago
Put it this way - if you're worried about money, don't go the Polaroid route. About 40 shots of any of the 4x5 or 8x10 Polaroid and you're just spent an amount of money that could easily have gotten you a used darkroom setup. 4x5 black and white is around $60 for 20 exposures, 8x10 color is around $250.00 for 15 exposures. 6x7 stuff can still be had relatively cheaply.
gmoon trjames7 years ago
Looked in the old fridge film drawer, and much to my surprise, still have three unopened packs of polaroid 669 (3 1/4 by 4 1/4) for my medium format. Seem to recall that a box (double pack, or 20 shots) was about $22 or $24 USD, about 7 or 8 years ago. But Polaroid makes (or made) instant print film in 11x17 inch format, and even larger. Like the 8x10 format, the bigger sizes must use a motorized roller system. Can you imagine spending hundreds of dollars for a single exposure? I assume they had a test back with three or four smaller pola backs to fine-tune the setup before the 'big one.'
lennyb (author)  gmoon7 years ago
the stuff was always pricey. imagine yourself back in the 50s paying $1.50 per exposure and translate it to todays money {10 bucks would buy your grocerys for a week in the 50s}.it was definitley a keeping up with the jones`s sort of gadget. i seem to recall that a polaroid folding camera was $127us in 1967{from a nat geographic ad}. my god you rented a house for that in 67 that was bigger than some peoples income for a month.
If I had $100 to blow, I could have a darkroom and not worry about it : ) I guess our ideas of 'to expensive' differ : ) The darkroom is the box that would be the film carrier, deep enough for the digital camera's focal length.
lennyb (author)  jtobako7 years ago
i dont know i never tried it. might work though i guess it depends on how good your digital camera is for exposure compensation. you also may find a camera like this could be mated to a scanner to take super high res pictures. some people have made scanner cameras but it requires a certain type of scanner. if your camera can be set for film put the camera on the scanner bed and do a lores pass looking at a light bulb{or window} focus it at differnt places until you get a clear pic of the bulb
gmoon7 years ago
Nice-- home-built view camera with full swings and tilts! Very well done. Too bad about the film back, but I'm sure with your ingenuity, you'll make something to fit a standard film holder. (I have a ground-glass film back that converts a 5x7 camera to 4x5 film holder. The 4x5 part can be unscrewed. If you want it, it's yours--don't have a 5x7 camera.) Also, love the adjustable bass bridge. I'm thinking of something similar for a Teisco 6 string (big suprise--the pickups are sick on that thing, way underrated.)
lennyb (author)  gmoon7 years ago
thanks g i appreciate the offer but 5x7 is way to big for this guy. hang on to it you never know when the perfect pile of junk parts may fall your way. hey who ever tossed that strat you fixed might pitch a 1911 conley camera in the same place next winter lol.
gmoon lennyb7 years ago
The ground-glass and frame/springs are only 4x5, and are mounted on an aluminum plate that fits a 5x7 camera; basically so the 5x7 could use 4x5 film holders/packs. But I expect you'll come up with something...

hey who ever tossed that strat you fixed might pitch a 1911 conley camera in the same place next winter lol.
;) if I find one I will definitely post it here...
lemonie7 years ago
This is a very nice build, and I can't think of a better way to put it. L
lennyb (author)  lemonie7 years ago
thanks lemonie very nice of you to say so.