Construction Begins, Again

It’s another cold, snowy winter at MIT–perfect for spending your days in the warmth of the MIT Hobby Shop.

I’ve been working away at the next camera for the past month, starting with the base and the front standard, then moving to the back standard. In the meantime I’m teaching a medium and large format photography class at the Student Art Association. Teaching is fun, and with the MIT crowd I’m free to be as physics-geeky as I want. Heh.

As far as specifics of the construction, I’m using three different aluminum alloys, aluminum 2024, 6063, and 6061. Aluminum 2024 is the hard stuff, and I’m using it where I need threads. Apparently it’s harder than brass. Of course, the final anodizing process will harden it even more.

Anyway, here are some highlights of the construction thus far:

That’s a lot of clamps for a relatively small base.

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Building a Camera: Part Two

Yep. I’m building another one.

As soon as the first camera was finished, I immediately thought about countless improvements. The front standard was too shaky. The whole camera was too bulky and heavy. The bellows sagged. The knobs were not finger-friendly.

So I went back to the drawing board, this time with some inspiration from other cameras (especially Lotus and Ebony) I had seen since I built my first camera. My goals: reducing folding depth, reducing weight, stabilizing the front standard, and keeping it simple. I also added things for measuring the position of certain elements (like the the front swing and shift).

I then applied for an MIT Council for the Arts grant and received a generous amount of funding from the council (!!)–which included money for materials, as well as a lens and different types of film to experiment with.

My goal is to finish the camera by the end of May, and so far I’m well on my way.

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Meet Zaphod…

…the camera. He has two lenses, one in the front and one in the back–one of which can be tucked away, you know, when he just wants to look like a box.

So I’ve already taken my camera out for a few spins. The results thus far have been amazing. When I took my first two shots, I had no idea what to expect. I was worried about light leaks or focusing problems between the surface of the ground glass and the film. To my delight (and surprise), the first two shots came out close to perfect.

And now I really have to say…I’m addicted.

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Finishing the Camera

After spending nearly seven months on this project, I decided that August would be it. I needed to finish the camera before my photo class’ landscape shoot. So in one big effort to do that, over the span of one week I oiled the cherry, polished the brass, and plopped together some bellows (still looking for the right material, but blackout curtain, painted black, was what I used).

Keep in mind I was also working full time every day, so this was *not* an easy task.

I took a lot of shots throughout the night, mostly in an effort to create a time lapse video in the future. Here are a couple highlights:

All of the wood pieces are laid out. I spent an entire evening sanding each piece, first with 80 grit, then 100 grit, then 150 grit, then 220 grit sandpaper.

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The Final Bits of Construction

Here are some photos from the final phases of construction of the camera.

The font standard–a little buggy but it works.

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A Teaser…

After pulling an all nighter on *Friday* night, folding the bellows the morning of my first shoot, and attaching the bellows on location, I’m pretty exhausted. I just finished developing the film last night–my first two shots!–and it looks fantastic! No light leaks, and it’s just beautiful.

Anyway, here’s a few quick photos from my first shoot. I’m trying to compile more detailed posts of the last part of the construction process as well as the assembly of the camera. I’m just extremely busy right now…but hopefully I can get *some* work done on the train to DC this weekend.

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The end (yay) is near…

It’s been an awfully busy summer. I have TONS of photos but little time to write up a blog entry at the moment. I spent the first few weeks of the summer moving into a temporary room (they kicked me out of my old room, as it was being abated). Meanwhile I painted my new room, built a giant loft, and baked Dalek cakes. All this while taking two photo classes and working a full time job (HAH…relaxing summer, riiight).

Anyway, I’m setting an ultimatum for myself with this post. Expect an entry within the next week on the finishing (yay) of the camera. Hold me to it.

I just finished applying Danish oil to the cherry wood last night, and the camera looks spectacular. Tonight I’m polishing brass, and over the rest of the week I am re-making the bellows (the first bellows were a bit too stiff).

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a closer look

Last Wednesday I woke up rushing to turn in my 6.002 p-set. Since it was a pre-lab I needed a copy of it for reference, and I didn’t feel like scanning it and being 15 minutes late to recitation. So I took out my handy Nikon D70 and took some quick shots of the pages.

I got to the last page…*chunk..ddddrrrr* *flisp* *flisp*

The. Shutter. Is. Not. Opening.

Mirror. Not. Flipping.

Camera. Broken.

Yeah…how anti-climactic is that? The last photo you ever take is a .002 pre-lab. I knew you were dangerous course 6! Psh.

Anyway, while the camera is off to Nikon to be nursed back to health, I’m borrowing The Tech’s d300 (drool) to document the building of my 8×10.

Macro shot, anyone?

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wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey

There is very annoying thing that happens to a project as you start closing in on completion. All of a sudden all these little nit-picky details that each take at least 30mins to do pop up. Like hey…I need to cut slots, I need to cut screw holes, I need to recess the wood here, I have to mill that..

What consoles me is the fact that, hey, this thing is starting to look like a camera. I seem to have this crazy idea that I’ll finish it during finals week—my two finals are on Monday, so once that’s over I’m freeee! But, no, I really mean finishing…as in finishing the wood…polishing the brass.

Hey, I like to be optimistic. If it doesn’t get done? Well, I’m signing up for a year membership to the hobby shop anyway.

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Machining Brass

Perhaps the most time consuming part of this whole endeavor is milling, drilling, and filing all of the brass pieces. It definitely puts a whole new perspective on things when you start looking at all the little pieces of machined metal all around you. Although most of that work is automated now, it really makes you wonder how anything got done back in the day when files were the most readily available thing.

Making a hole in a piece of brass takes three steps. First, you need a center bit to drill a small hole right where you want it. For most of my pieces, precision isn’t necessarily required, so I’m eyeballing hole placements with a drill press and some scratch marks to save time. When precision is required, a milling machine is definitely needed.

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