DIY a 4X5 wood box camera.

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by kevin h. y. lui., May 28, 2007.

  1. Hello,

    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?
  2. 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 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

  3. How's about something like a fixed-focus, handheld setup with simple optical finder (door peephole!):
    Hobo camera at
    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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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?
  7. 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:

    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.
  8. Both B&H and Midwest Photo Exchange sell a "Bulldog 4x5 self assembly camera kit".
    <br> $328
    <br> $319
    <p>Just an idea. Might be worth a look.
  9. 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,
  10. 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
  11. I just finished a fixed focus 4X5 box camera. Very simple. Just a ( rather nice ) wood box with an old Speed Graphic spring back and a Leitmeyer Weitwinkle Anastigmat f/6.8 in a Compur shutter. Focus set at 19 feet, which is the hyperfocal distance at f/11. At smaller apertures, you would gain more apparent sharpness at near distances, as far distance moves out past infinity. Very simple and not much money at all. After all, the box portion is just a container to keep your dark in. Everything else you can get with careful shopping. I set it up so I can rapidly change to a pinhole if desired, too.
  12. Thaky you Glenn,
    Can you tell me the length of the box?
  13. Kevin, the depth of the box will vary with the lens you use. You will need to determine that by using a ground glass focus screen and and by the use of a hyperfocal distance scale for your lens' focal length. The depth of the box will be whatever brings your lens into focus at the distance you want to use as your fixed hyperfocal distance. I hope that makes sense to you. I'm not very good at explaining these things.

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