Wooden Wide-Angle Wonder Wows World

An old-fashioned film camera can be an extremely simple device to make, in that as little as a cardboard box with a pin hole in it will suffice. But that simplicity at heart leaves endless scope for further work, and a home-made camera can be every bit as much a highly-engineered object of beauty as its commercial stablemate. A great example comes from [Aaron Cré], whose desire for something close to a Hasselblad XPan panoramic camera led him to build his own equivalent out of wood.

The video below the break shows in detail how the wooden case is crafted, and how a lens mount ring sawn from a lens adapter is mounted on the front of it. He’s skipped making all the tiresome parts of the camera associated with winding and film transport and instead taken them from a cheap plastic snapshot camera. The original aspect ratio is stretched by cutting the guts of the snapshot camera apart, and extended to make a 75 mm long negative which also exposes over the sprocket holes.

The final camera is carefully finished to the point at which it really looks the part as well as taking those striking wide-angle photographs. We’re not photography buffs enough to identify the lens and shutter combination he’s using, but we can’t help envying him the results. Fancy making your own 35 mm camera too? Here’s another, in case you need inspiration.

9 thoughts on “Wooden Wide-Angle Wonder Wows World

  1. From description, lens is a Rodenstock 45mm f/4.5 Apo-Grandagon. It says it’s made for 6×9; but if used on that format, it would somewhat resemble an imaginary 20mm f/2 on a 35mm format. That said, this sort of lens is better performing at f/11 with just using the wider apertures just for focusing. Since it’s a shift lens, its coverage circle is actually larger than the 6×9 format. It may also have been made to cover larger formats even when shifted, at cost of quality, but I just read a quick advert about it.

    1. Being a shift lens explains the weird structure. I assume shift lenses tend to have pretty flat fields and that’s why it was chosen even though it wouldn’t be necessary on what’s essentially a crop format for it.

      1. I would expect this lens was picked partly for the shift distance given the mention of the x-pan and the quote from the description “Agnes-Pan is designed to be a panoramic film camera (24*72mm) which is wider than the Xpan (24*65mm) in order to be equivalent with 6×17 format camera (56*168mm) in an 1 to 3 ratio.”

        The Hasselblad X-Pan produced 24mm x 65mm results using regular 35mm film. 65 is the total width if you first shift 15mm to the left and then shift 15mm to the right with 35mm film. Not all lenses can actually shift that far, it varies. It looks like this one managed 72mm, which I ascribe to the large image circle of the lens. I’m not a film guy, but it seems much more reasonable to actually take such a wide photo by taking two regular shots with a lens shift in between than if there was no shift. I’m sure there’s stuff written about how it was originally done.

        1. Looks like the original was a single exposure with a mask for the normal 35mm mode, but if you can manage the join properly the other way requires less of your parts and better resembles the more optically correct of the two modern kinds of panorama – where you shift the lens around and then overlap the shots later. I suppose that would be too painful on film, but hey. Film takes a lot of extra work anyway :P (The other kind of panorama is to just turn in place taking multiple photos and let a program fix the geometry when stitching).

    2. $1200 used on ebay. $2600 new in 2006, about $5200 in 2023 dollars. Can’t find todays new price.

      That’s expensive glass to downgrade to 35mm.

      If you’re going to whittle the body out of wood, why not a medium format body?
      Large format? Maybe 4×3? Perhaps one that can take a CCD back?

      1. None of those would use regular 35mm film rolls to achieve their larger size. But this gets an ultra-wide 3 to 1 aspect ratio by using a greater area of the same roll of film instead of cropping most of the area of a wide angle image away. And I would hope it’s a good lens, which can also help justify the price. Plus, I mean, dual format also means you could just use it as a 35mm some of the time. I’m not a film guy, but it seems sensible enough within that niche.

        1. Is handmade 35 mm film really that much cheaper than handmade large/medium format? I’m sure it’s cheaper, doubt it’s any cheaper per area.

          He’s still ‘cropping’, but using a bad viewfinder. Bet he has to take extra shots to makeup for the missing upper and lower FOV.

          There would be nothing stopping someone who whittled a wooden medium format camera from also making a second back for it that fed 35mm film. I’d be surprised if someone hadn’t done that back in the days of film (on a commercial medium format).

          1. It looked like a regular reel to me. And it also looked like the image covered the whole area of the reel. What do you mean?

            Just go back to the X-Pan – the point was that you could, in the middle of a roll of regular 35mm film, decide whether to take *either* a regular image *or* nearly a double-frame. Or look at half-frame cameras – they still have the advantage of regular film, but they took smaller images to use it more economically for snapshots.

            As someone who uses exclusively digital, there’s tons of times I’ll stitch multiple images in software to make a panorama with a similar aspect ratio. You’re not *missing* the upper and lower FOV, you’re just doing a panorama specifically when you know you want a wider image at high quality. Of course, the original had a moveable mask https://www.japancamerahunter.com/2020/03/camera-geekery-hasselblad-xpan-ii/

            This one could technically use shifting like I implied elsewhere if they had excellent tolerances for the join, or it could use the large image circle that a medium format long-shifting lens is going to have to get it all in a single exposure, which would work much nicer like the original.

          2. The lens is projecting image above and below the 35mm film. The camera has a bad viewfinder. Framing will be tricky, to the point you’d be smart to take a second or third shot slightly higher and lower. At that point, you not saving money on film.

            You would have saved money back when 35mm film was mass produced, but now?

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