Project Log


2. Introduction and research

I first got the idea when I was surfing the web for some camera information I needed, exactly what I can´t recall. But I found this german company called Sinar which manufactures various kinds cameras, mainly for medium format applications. I thought the design of these cameras was really cool and I started researching how they worked, only to discover that they were essentially just simple view cameras. Only in a more sophisticated and fancy package than the old wooden box versions. One particular model called P3 really got my attention with it´s extremly analouge appearance and huge knobs. My second thought were something like: wouldn´t it be possible to build a camera like this with Lego technic parts around a really cheap lens and a bellow? Well at that point i just knew i had to try!

Thus the goal of this project is pretty simple, to build a fully functional camera from scratch that in the end can be used with either full format or medium format (probably medium format) negative film, and offer about the same functionality as the "real" equivalents do. I do not plan on obtaining flawless image quality but rather just understand all the physics and produce some at least decent pictures.

Medium Format Camera

The first thing to do was research of course. To start with: what do i know about cameras? Well I know I own a Nikon D200 with several accessories and lenses and are interested in photography. That was pretty much it. Next thing was then to find out exactly how a good old view camera works and what parts are involved in the process. There are pretty much three things in sush a camera, a lens, a ground glass (whatever the hell that is) and bellow between the lens and ground glass that allows focusing. After some further research on the internet and consultation of a friend that knows enough mathematics and physics to be considered at least slightly mad I felt I had a rough idea of how to pull this whole thing off.

I found tutorials on the internet on how to construct a bellow for the camera, and also a ground glass if I needed to. As for the lens I found a company called Zenit way up north here in Sweden that sells material for schools. And among their products they had a few simple single glass lenses and a ground glass, for use in physics classes I assume. I ordered one 100 mm and one 300mm lens element as well as a peice of ground glass, which is in reality nothing more that a peice of frosted glass. The rest of the mechanics for the camera should be built with Lego technic parts, including the aperture diaphragm and shutter. The fancy Sinar P3 above uses a digital back/sensor which costs shitloads of money, so I´ll build my camera to be used with traditional film, to start with medium format film on rolls. The next step was to gather up as much references and information that I could find on the type of camera i intend to build and to get as much knowledge as possible on all the features I intended to include in the end product.

Medium Format Camera

I quickly found quite alot of cool stuff and the primary feature I want my camera to have are the lens shifting capabilities that pretty much all view cameras have and which allows me to correct and twist perspective and focus in the images that hopefully will be produced with this camera. I will not go into the theory behind all these things here since it could easily take away the focus from the actual construction process of the camera. To find information on how tilt/shift lenses works is not harder than just typing the words in Google and press enter. The various shifting capabilities will probably be subject to experimantation and trial and error as i actually build the thing, there is all kinds of ways to move and tilt and rotate the lens and what I end up with I guess will be limited to what and how many parts I have to use.

Continue to chapter 3. Basic parts and materials