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Homemade 4x5" Camera

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Well - its been a long time coming - but here are details of the 4x5" camera I (Roland) have been working on between January 2002 and December 2002. In many respects its the big camera related project of 2002.

Its been loosely based on wooden field/stand camera of the Victorian age, but uses a few more modern components - if not particularly advanced designs.

Photo of 4x5 homemade camera - ready for use


Lens Type

Kodak (uncoated) Anastigmat

Focal Length

5" (127mm)

Maximum Aperture


Film Type

4x5" sheet/plate/paper or Type 600 Polaroid

Picture Size

Upto 4x5"


8 speed Compur Dial + B + T

Flash Sync


Self Timer




Weight (with ground glass and lens panel)


All pictures of this camera taken with an Epson PhotoPC650 camera.

The current lens and shutter and taken from a 1920s Kodak Series III folding rollfilm camera. The camera was purchased very cheaply in non usable condition, but the lens and shutter were okay after a little clean. The lens/shutter are designed to stay attached to the lens board. The lens board itself is attached by 3 quick release screws so it can be changed for another if a different lens/shutter is required.

The other major expense were the 5x4" double dark slides which are 1950s examples originally from a MPP Technical camera. These were bought 2nd hand from a dealer.

Unfinished pine is the wood used for the main body. The focusing rail is a one foot length of 15mm copper pipe used for water plumbing and the lens board is made from hardboard. The bellows is a sandwich of paper, felt and cardboard inserts to give it shape.

Back view showing ground glass fitted

As the focal length is quite short for the size of camera - the lens has to be racked back  all the way to achieve infinity focus

Back view showing ground glass fitted. This is just a piece of glass from a 6x4" picture frame with scotch tape applied and cardboard to bulk it out to the same distance as the film in the filmholder

As the focal length is quite short for the size of camera - the lens has to be racked back all the way to achieve infinity focus.

The hose clip around the copper piping is secured to the feet of the front standard. By tightening this clip the front standard will no longer move freely up and down the pipe so focus won't accidentally slip.

Still life picture of bottles in the Kitchen

Closeup of bottle lable

First test pictures were done on Type 600 Polaroid film - but rather better results were obtained using 5x3.5" pieces of Ilford Multigrade II paper loaded as if they were sheet film. The exposure for this photo was 15 seconds at F6.3.

This is a small segment of a 1200dpi scan of the paper negative showing the bottle label. I wasn't particularly focusing on this - but it does show the camera can record quite fine detail. The actual area of negative used is about 6mmx5mm. It also shows that with such big enlargements - dust on the scanner really becomes a problem!

HERE for other pictures made with this camera.

HERE for info on making the frame.

HERE for info on making the bellows.

If you are interested in building a camera then a resource worth knowing about is the Cameramakers group on Yahoo. This is the new home of the former an email based list and usually has lively discussions on all aspects of camera making.

Early days for this camera yet - but I expect to try some Ilford FP4+ film and I'll also expand this page to include some more construction details. Currently in the process of fitting another junk lens. As this has neither shutter nor aperture control - these is proving to be a bigger challenge than the original Kodak/Compur.

I have also obtained other lenses/shutters which could be useful in camera building. Click
HERE for more details.

Got a question or can't find the info you are looking for? Click HERE to contact us.

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All text and images Copyright © 2000-2011 Roland Givan, unless otherwise stated. All Rights Reserved.

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