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DIY a 4X5 wood box camera.

Kevin Lui , May 28, 2007; 07:33 a.m.


I want to try 4X5 camera and I want to make it by myself. I want to make it simple and extremely low-cost so I decided to use a wood box instead of bellow. (Make it like a Kodak brownie). I will also use semi-transparent paper insted of ground glass.

I know that I need a lens with shutter, film backs too.However, I don't know much about them. Can anyone suggest some very low-cost film backs and lens for me?


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Eddie Gunks , May 28, 2007; 09:10 a.m.

while you are waiting to acquire all the "extra" you may want to give pinhole shooting a try. once you have your box you can just tape in a neg or some photo paper. it will get you going till you get the rest of your stuff together. check out f295.org. lots of great info and a good DYI section too. also google pinhole designer for other info.

as for a lens, you can get a barrel lens with no shutter. they are cheap and work well. good luck


Jeff S , May 28, 2007; 10:47 a.m.

How's about something like a fixed-focus, handheld setup with simple optical finder (door peephole!):

Hobo camera at Bostick-Sullivan.com

A 90mm lens like an old Schneider Angulon (or Super Angulon, if you've got more $$) is a nice lens, it's tiny and can be had fairly cheaply. You probably do want to stick with wider lenses like this, as the greater depth of field will make focusing less of an issue.

John Shriver , May 28, 2007; 05:35 p.m.

For a cheap but fine lens, get a 3A Folding Pocket Kodak with blown bellows or other non-lens damage. The Rapid Rectillinear (f/8) or Kodak Anastigmat (f/7.7) lenses are just dandy, and will cover 4x5 fine.

Making a spring back is a little more exciting. You need a rigid frame, held only by the sides, setup to hold the ground glass at the "right" distance from the lens.

By the way, a 4x5 ground glass can be had on eBay for $15.

Minh Nguyen , May 28, 2007; 07:57 p.m.

Get a Kodak 616 very cheap on Ebay, the lens is good enough for experiment on 4x5, just little vignette at corners but you have a focusable box camera. Get a 128mm f 4.5 Anastigmat, you'll be surprised with the lens quality. Good luck

Kevin Lui , May 29, 2007; 12:22 a.m.

I have searched about old Schneider Angulon , most of them are quite expensive. Any other old lens with shutter?

I also want to know, if the lens did not comes with shutter, then how to control the exprosure?

Fixed focus sounds great. (Just make it like a 4X5 Kodak brownie) But what about the film backs? Should I make my own or buy the very old one?

Frank R , May 29, 2007; 12:36 a.m.

I started out two years ago with the same idea. I built a box camera after getting a nice 127mm Raptar from an old Polaroid 110. I learned a lot about camera building but I was never really satisfied with the pictures. But I got the bug and I moved on. Now I own five 4x5 and two 8x10 cameras.

Skip the semi-transparent paper (or wax paper) idea, very poor quality. Instead, use a picture frame glass from the dollar store and lay several strips of transparent tape across it. Cheap and a pretty good image. See what I mean here: http://www.rolandandcaroline.co.uk/homemade4x5/homemade4x5.html

The hardest part will be all the measuring and building.

While I learned a lot I would not recommend doing it this way. The cheapest way to get into LF is with a pre-war Speed Graphic. I have seen them go for $65.

Friedemann Pistorius , May 29, 2007; 04:24 p.m.

Both B&H and Midwest Photo Exchange sell a "Bulldog 4x5 self assembly camera kit".
www.bhphotovideo.com: $328
www.mpex.com: $319

Just an idea. Might be worth a look.

Kevin MacKenzie , May 30, 2007; 11:45 a.m.

You also may want to do a search on Bender Photo. They sell very reasonably priced view camera (4x5 and 8x10) and pinhole camera kits. The 4x5 is a cherry wood monorail with all movements front and back and sells for about US $340 (including ground glass) but no lens.

Also, you can grind your own ground glass. All you need it two pieces of glass and valve grinding past. If you google "make your own view camera" you will find a couple of sites explaining the process.

Hope this helps, Kevin

Joe VanCleave , May 30, 2007; 12:29 p.m.

For design ideas related to box cameras, you may want to check out this link to the George Eastman House online museum of antique photographic equipment. Lots of interesting ideas like nested box cameras instead of using bellows, for instance. ~Joe

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