U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | RE: Building 15x15 camera

RE: Building 15x15 camera

> Date: Wed, 3 Sep 2008 12:04:38 -0400
> From: zeesme@gmail.com
> Subject: Building 15x15 camera
> CC: alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca
> Hello all
> I just got an old Nikon barrel lens that throws an 18" circle and am
> hoping to build a 15x15" camera using it. I have an idea of how to
> build the film holder for it but am unsure of the best approach for
> the actual body and bellows (which I have no money to buy and will
> have to shimmy together). Does anyone have any suggestions on the
> basic design and or any online plans for such a camera? I'm hoping to
> get it built in the next two weeks as I'm enrolled in a semester of
> palladium printing... (exciting!)
> Thanks!
> -Zev

Time for a little math...

15" x 15" has a diagonal of sqrt(15^2 + 15^2) = 21.21" (21 1/4 for all intents and purposes).  Your lens doesn't quite cover.

Assuming no fall off at the 18" (not really realistic but a starting point), the largest square format it would cover is about 12 3/4" by 12 3/4".    But lets say the light fall off is objectionable past about 16" so in that case you end up with 11 1/3" inches for a square format. 

So, choices to be made:
1) Go with 15x15 and realize you will see the edges of the image circle.  Fun but might be bothersome after a while
2) Go with 12 3/4" square and live right at the ragged edge. 
3) Go down to about 11 x 11 and things will probably be pretty even (this is a WAG = wild-ass-guess by the way).

The simplest camera you could make to use this lens would be a fixed focal length box.  Depending on what you plan to use for film ("real" film like FP4+ cut down to size, APHS Lith film, B&W photo paper, etc) you could just skip the film holder all together and make this a one-shot-wonder.  You would need a dark room or changing bag to reload.

Or you could step it up a notch and make something along the lines of the sliding box cameras and holders found in

Primitive Photography: A Guide to Making Cameras, Lenses, and Calotypes by Alan Greene (amazon.com link is


You might find it in a local university library.  He also covers the making of simple film holders but with an emphasis on using them for callotypes. 

Another choice for nearly ready made plans is a set of books by Otto Dippold where he outlines a simple tailboard 1/4 plate camera suitable for wet-plate work.  But his basic plan including holder could be made to work for film and scaled as needed.  Root around over at www.collodion.com/forum (this search should help http://www.collodion.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=1983&KW=otto+camera) and eventually I think you will find Otto's contact information and how to get a copy of his books.

And one last thought, if you really want to do this on the cheap but still make nice big in-camera negatives, ditch the lens altogether and think pinhole camera!  Eric Renner's book is good.  So is some time spent browsing at www.f295.org.  And a jillion other web links on pinhole cameras.  If you dont' mind a curved film plane, perhaps one of the large novelty popcorn tins might work for you.  A little spray paint for the inside, a pinhole shim and a flexible refridgerator magnet for a shutter and you are off to the races.