DIY 6X9 camera


Parts used:
Schneider-Kreuznach Angulon 65/6.8 with Synchro-Compur shutter
Zeiss Ikon Nettar folder with a broken shutter
A faulty Canon FD 50 mm lens
3 mm plywood

I first removed the bellows, its hinges and the door, then filed away all protrusions inside the chamber.

The most difficult part of the project was to modify the Canon helicoid to fit my DIY camera. I began by disassembling the lens, choosing the necessary parts and then figuring out what could be done with them. First of all, I had to make it shorter so that the rotating barrel would not cut off the corners of my image. I did a 1:1 drawing and decided that if cut short enough, the helicoid would work just fine.
I managed to get it down to a length of 16 mm like the Fotoman helicoid I found on their website. Of course the inner diameter is smaller, but the light is still able to reach the corners. And I just saved $220.
I built the lensboard into the rotating helicoid barrel using the metal board from the Zeiss shutter, so it moves properly back and forth when focusing.

The rear thread of the helicoid is connected to the rotating barrel by a small plastic thingy that allows the barrel to travel but remain in contact with the rear thread. If you try to modify a helicoid like I did, take good care to trim it exactly right. If it is too short, you risk losing contact when close focusing. Too long and it will be stuck between the threads and prevent movement of the lens. A bit of filing did it for me. But I learned the hard way that it’s always better to file too little than too much.

Then came hours of thinking, staring blankly into space, filing metal and making measurements with my new friend, the digital caliper.

The chamber was made from plywood that I took from the bottom of a wine box. It is fastened in the body with simple wood glue from the shelf and painted with strong black paint. Inside the corners of the box I mounted four square wood blocks to receive the screws from the front board.

I drilled a hole in the front plate and mounted the rear of the helicoid tightly with glue. It feels pretty solid, but structurally it’s probably the weakest point of my project.

One issue: The Angulon does not have a cable release thread. It’s proving semi-difficult to mount one next to the lens, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out soon.

Total cost: Appx. €100, 80 of which went to the lens.

Bits & pieces

Modified Canon helicoid with the lens attached.

Checking that the box parts fit.

Painting the plywood.

Almost ready for assembly…

Installing the box and the front plate.

Loose sketches.

1:1 drawing done to confirm that the rotating barrel will not cut off the corners of the image. You know, science…

Ideas for the helicoid mount. Used glue instead.

Checking infinity…

And  here she is…

Belly of the beast.

Bubble level added. Ready to go.

I finally managed to install a thread for the cable release. Yes.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited to see if I had managed to construct a working camera for myself. I loaded a roll of Plus-X 125 in it and went outside for a few random shots in the snow storm. Am I happy with the result? You bet.

Developed in D-76 and scanned with Canoscan 9900f and a bit of postprocessing applied:

Here’s a shot from tonight. Fomapan 400 exposed at 1600 and developed in HC110 B for 7 minutes at 20 degrees, 1 minute stop bath, 9 minutes in the fixer. Scanned in 800dpi with Canoscan 9900f. Only B&W converted in channel mixer.
I’m surprised that it’s not grainier. I’ll definitely try pushing this film further.

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