Hack Your Own Analog Camera

We remember making pinhole cameras as kids out of cigar boxes. The Focal Camera website wants to enable you to make sophisticated cameras from a selection of building blocks. We’re talking cameras with film, not digital cameras (although we wondered if you could mount an image sensor… but that’s another hack).

The modules do require access to a laser cutter, and you’ll need to scrounge or otherwise acquire things like mirrors and lenses. The site has advice on how to hack things like first surface mirrors out of cheap items like acrylic mirrors.

The intent is to be able to build up your own cameras from the modules. They do have a pinhole camera, in case you are nostalgic, but you could also build SLRs, large format cameras, or even stereo cameras. Not all the modules are ready yet, but there are several example cameras and pictures taken with them on the site. Like most building blocks, the real treat will be when users begin to combine them in unexpected ways.

There have been build your own SLR kits before (see the video) but those have been pretty much assembling a single camera design, not a modular building block system to start your own designs. While pinhole cameras can do a surprisingly good job, the prospect of building a real complex camera is appealing on several levels.

8 thoughts on “Hack Your Own Analog Camera

  1. If you wanted to use the lenses with a digital imager you could always pull a more sophisticated version of the $5 microscope. (Cell phone camera with a small laser-pointer lens and a focusing mount) Figure out a way to mount the phone and you’re golden.

    1. It’s actually pretty easy to do. B&W developing can be done in the kitchen sink with about $30 worth of equipment, and scanning film is a decent alternative to darkroom work, without the space requirement.

      1. You can do color in a good sink, as long as you can hold a sink full of water at around 90~100F after loading the film in a changing bag.

        The fun part is using the wrong chemistry, or hacking the development process (instant coffee, washing soda, and vitamin C tablets will develop b&w, and push asa100 to about 400 without messing up the grain).

  2. Spaz Stix Ultimate Mirror Chrome paint on glass or anything smooth as glass will make a mirror finish. Rustoleum has a mirror paint that’s as good (costs less and comes in a larger can) but it will not work on styrene like the Spaz Stix paint.

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