Chroma - The unique, 4x5 technical camera
I'm Steve Lloyd and this is..
What is a Chroma?
Chroma is a brand new large format technical field camera, designed from the ground up to meet the needs of photographers of all experience levels. It is built from high quality acrylic in a variety of colours, using highly accurate laser cutting to ensure consistent build quality and performance.
What can it do?
Built around a 4x5 modular principle, but similar to medium format systems, the Chroma film back can be swapped in a few seconds using integrated magnets to allow multiple mediums to be used. At launch, the Chroma will take standard 4x5 DDS film holders (none included with the camera). It allows the photographer full control of all front standard movements to aid creativity. Future plans include both a 6x12 medium format roll film back and a 4x5 wet plate back.
What is a 'Technical Field Camera'?
A large format camera holds the lens frame/lens within the front 'standard'. The two most common types of front standard for large format cameras are "Traditional" and "Technical". A "traditional" standard mounts the lens within a frame, connected to a pair of uprights using a single threaded bolt on each side. By loosening these bolts, the lens frame can be moved up/down (known as "Rise & Fall") and rotated forwards/backwards (known as "Tilt"). Whilst simple to manufacture, these types of standards can be difficult for new users as adjusting one movement can lead to changes in the other.
Large format photography is a rewarding process but can be equally frustrating! In contrast, a "Technical" standard has independent controls for the main movements which means that the photographer can concentrate on each movement without impacting another. Whilst these standards are more complex to build, their benefits in use are worth it.
In this render, the front standard has 25mm Rise, 45 degree rear tilt, 45 degree right swing and the focus bed is extended by 100mm to give a total length of approximately 250mm. The rear standard is also configured to add a further 20mm of rise. All of these movements are locked independently of each other, allowing for very fine control of perspective and depth of focus.
What's included with each Chroma?
Your Chroma camera will come with the following;
- Main Chroma 5x4 technical field camera in your choice of colour (selection can be made at the end of the campaign)
- Magnetic Ground glass plate
- 0.4mm Pinhole board, giving an F/225 aperture at 90mm so you can use your Chroma straight away with your own 4x5 DDS film holder
- Plain Linhof/Wista style lens board with your choice of Copal 0/1/3 hole. (There is no standard lens included with the Chroma so you will need to supply your own, according to your personal preference). The front standard will also accept existing Linhof/Wista boards.
- Standard black bellows
If you would like to back the campaign without purchasing your own Chroma, there are also ShootfilmCo Pin Badges and embroidered patches (made by my mum!) available. All support is really appreciated.
- The release Chroma will be built from 3/5mm laminated acrylic sheet. These give both strength, rigidity and unique colour options. The design shown in the launch video was a previous beta version but the black camera at the top of the campaign is the final 'Alpha' release.
- Choice of opaque gloss acrylic colour from; red, pink, blue, white, green, (matt) black, black, purple, yellow
- Embedded magnets within the front/rear standards and focus bed to provide tactile feedback for 'zero' positions on movements.
- Full range of technical movements on front standard and rise/fall on rear standard
- 40mm of rise / 40mm of fall with combination of front/rear movements.
- 30mm of shift each way
- 45 Degrees of forwards/backwards tilt
- Swing only limited by lens coverage and bellows
- Magnetically-fixed rotating interchangeable back
- Lightweight design with a total weight of 1592g (including ground glass)
- Very small dimensions;
when opened (mm) - 180x210x235
(180x330x235 with full bellows extension)
when folded (mm) - 210x180x117
- Will accept lenses from 65mm (with recessed lens board)- 280mm, with maximum bellows draw of 300mm.
- Multiple mount points for the front standard to accommodate different lenses and embedded magnets at 'zero' shift/swing position.
- Uses traditional Linhof/Wista type lens board (included)
- Uses standard 4x5 DDS film holders (not included)
- Standard 1/4" tripod mount point
- 0.4mm Pinhole lens board (included)
The Chroma does not come with a standard lens, this is to be supplied yourself and can be mounted into the included lens board.
Who am I and why am I doing this?
I've been a semi-professional photographer for 12 years, and have been designing and building custom projects for the whole of my life. Having grown up around railway modelling and crafts through my parents, myself and my brother spent our time building and racing radio controlled cars, boats, hovercrafts, planes and anything else we could come up with! As we got older, we moved on to building custom cars (full-sized ones!) and had a number of magazine features and articles.
Moving forwards 20 years, I've spent the last 5 years building one-off custom film cameras. These have included;
- A real-wood veneered Polaroid SX-70
- A Konica Hexar-inspired Olympus 35RC - Featured at 35mmc.com
- My 'HolSlo', which combined a Nimslo 3D body with a Holga 120 lens for an ultrawide 35mm field of view - Featured at 35millimetre.co.uk
- My unique Polaroid 110A 5x4 conversion - Featured at ThePhoblographer.com
- My 'InsTLR', 3D-printed Instax Mini back for medium format TLRs - Featured at ThePhoblographer.com
I've always wanted to build a completely unique camera from a scribbled design on the back of a notepad to manufacturing the final product. The natural next step is the Chroma, which started as a chat in a pub with other passionate film photographers on a TalkPhotography.co.uk F&C meet and has come to this point 18 months later!
During those 18 months, I've been crowd-sourcing a wishlist of 'wants' and 'needs' for a brand new large format camera and have included the key features into my final build;
- Easy to use
After deciding on the priorities, I started by looking at materials. Traditional large format cameras are generally made with wood frames, but I wanted to build something unique and started to look at the use of laminated acrylic sheet instead. I've been fortunate enough to work with an excellent local design company in the UK (Personify Design) who have given me their time and experience to learn about the handling and laser cutting of sheet acrylic. After working through numerous assembly processes and sheet thicknesses, I've now found an excellent combination of strength, low weight and rigidity which, coupled with a large selection of colour options, results in a camera that's as unique as your photography style but won't get in the way.
How did I get to the final Chroma?
Over the last 18 months, I've designed and built numerous versions of the Chroma in a selection of materials. I've designed the whole camera myself, using 3D CAD software to model it on screen but there's no substitute for holding a physical design. I initially built the Chroma using MDF sheet as it's a low cost material that cuts well with the laser. My first design used an off the shelf macro rail for focusing and used an interlocking finger joint for disassembly.
That model proved my design for the size/general shape but the integrated rotating back added unnecessary weight and complexity so I moved on to an acrylic build using a 3D printed hinge for disassembly and a magnetic back.
This build confirmed that acrylic was the right material to use as it's strong, light, machines well and is available in a range of colours. However, the design was overly complicated with the 3D printed hinge and for usability, I wanted a technical front standard.
After the first build of this new technical design, I made some further refinements to reduce the weight further and make sure that all movements were are as smooth and stable as possible. This led me eventually the the 'alpha' build Chroma that I'm launching today.
Camera testing in the real world
I've been working with Rachel Brewster-Wright from the Sunny16Podcast and LittleVintagePhotography to put her early beta Chroma through its' paces on a rooftop in Birmingham (in December) which would be a challenge for any camera and photographer!
I've chatted with Rachel and Graeme about the Chroma and Rachel's thoughts on episode 79 of the Sunny16Podcast here.
What the campaign is for
Through several more design iterations, long hours at the laser cutter and a workshop/office full of Chromas I'm now ready to launch and need your support to purchase the materials and laser time to make Chroma a reality.
Through the design, I've built the Chroma to be a modular system that can be built upon in the future. On release, your Chroma will come with a standard back for 4x5 DDS and Fujifilm Quickload holders, and a groundglass plate with embedded magnets which snaps into place to keep both types of film holders secure and flat. However, I also have future plans for custom wet plate, 6x12, 6x17, 120 rollfilm and Instax Wide backs to be added. These will use the same magnetic mounting points so can be switched easily.
There's also a friction fit ground glass cover plate included to protect the glass when the camera is in your bag or when securing the film holder.
The design for the Chroma has come a long way since my first design 18 months ago and is now ready for full release. I'm really proud of the design and will continue to develop it, and its' entire ecosystem, for future upgrades. By backing this campaign, you will be purchasing a unique large format camera that is ready to go into production. The time and money I've invested into the camera over the last 18 months means that it is ready for production and I'm always happy to answer questions.
Risks and challenges
The camera is assembled using a number of 3/5mm acrylic sheets in various colours, which I have been purchasing in small volumes from a regular supplier. Whilst the supplier has confirmed that bulk purchases are possible, I have factored in delivery times for the materials in the expected shipping dates. Of course, material delivery is outside of my control so any delays will be shared via the campaign updates.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)