Word on the Street:
What is Duo? And why?
Once nearly ubiquitous, TLRs have been reduced to a tool used only by a small niche of photographers. This unique form factor provides a huge, brilliant waist-level viewfinder, no shutter blackout, and a quiet shutter. Most TLRs have been dedicated to medium-format and 35mm film. But what about Polaroids, that deliciously quirky instant film? Few production cameras were ever made that could shoot instant film, and almost certainly none were designed for it specifically.
Duo was designed to combine the timeless appeal of of instant film with the very special experience of using a twin-lens-reflex camera. It began as an idea in the realm of daydreams and sketches, eventually becoming two fully functional cameras built from laser-cut wooden parts. As it happens, its design happens to lend itself perfectly to easy construction as a kit. Duo is a unique camera that any patient photographer can build on a kitchen table.
My goal is to put Duo in the hands of the public, as a kit. These kits would contain all of the parts needed to construct the camera, including the laser-cut birch plywood parts, mirror, ground glass, and assorted hardware. All you need to do is provide a lens and a Polaroid back or roll film back of your choice.
Duo's core values
In today's age of buttons, control dials, and zillions of megapixels, we are reminded that a good camera must be easy to use. Moreover, a camera that you make yourself must also be a snap to construct. Duo's simple, no-nonsense design makes it a pleasure to use and build.
A camera is a tool - Duo's purpose is to create images, not sit in a trophy case. It was designed with field work in mind - a huge viewfinder, fast lenses, lightweight construction, and interchangeable backs make it a camera that you'll want to take everywhere.
Huge 97x97mm waist-level viewfinder, with laser-etched framelines
Lightweight, robust birch plywood construction (under 3 pounds)
Interchangeable Polaroid and roll film backs (with optional adapter):
Duo allows photographers to create Polaroid images like never before. Mamiya-Sekor optics (40mm equivalent) fill the entire 3.25" x 4.25" frame, and are fast enough to create luscious bokeh.
All major components (laser parts, mirror, ground glass, hardware) are made in or otherwise sourced from companies in the United States.
At a Glance:
Where we are now:
Rough sketches of the camera were made beginning in July 2012. Since then, the entire camera has been modeled in SolidWorks, which produces the templates for laser-cutting the wooden parts. This CAD model is constantly evolving to reflect changes in the design.
The first prototype was completed in October 2012. An extensive amount of testing was performed with this camera, lessons from which were incorporated in a second prototype, completed in January 2013.
Although successful, these cameras were just a proof-of-concept of Duo's design. Changes to the design and construction of additional prototypes will be necessary to ensure that the camera can be easily constructed with minimal frustration and only the most basic hand tools. Manufacturing techniques such as CNC routing and laser engraving are being explored to deliver the most "complete" kit possible.
Funds raised through Kickstarter will help to finance additional prototypes that will act as testbeds for new features and to generally improve the user experience. Feedback from fellow photographers has already been incorporated in the two existing cameras - additional iterations will help ensure that the finished product is of the highest quality possible.
One-off cameras are quite expensive. To make Duo available at a reasonable cost, minimum quantity requirements must be met to decrease the cost of the camera's constituent parts. Finding backers for this project is a sure-fire way to ensure that the product can be put into the public's hands at a reasonable price.
$9: POLAROID PRINT: A photo of one of the prototype cameras, shot on Fujifilm FP100C, with a note of appreciation on the back. US shipping only.
$209: BASIC DUO KIT: Just about everything needed to build Duo. Just add the lenses and Polaroid back.
- +$48 International Shipping
- +$20 Roll film adapter
$299: DELUXE DUO KIT (Limited 10): Nearly everything needed to build Duo, and more! Includes the Roll film adapter, stainless steel focusing knob. You may also personalize your camera with custom engravings of your choice on the viewfinder hood, and on the base of the camera!
$649: READY-TO-USE DUO (Limited 2): One Duo camera, ready to use straight out of the box. You must send the lens and Polaroid back to be fitted to the camera. US shipping only.
The kits will contain all of the necessary parts to build Duo, minus the lens and Polaroid back (see section below). This includes:
- Laser cut birch plywood parts
- Ground glass and acrylic cover with frosted framelines
- Front surface mirror
- Material for bellows and viewfinder shade
- Assorted hardware (nuts, screws, gears, wire, etc)
- Two (2) adapters for Polaroid backs
Just add a lens and Polaroid back
Lenses: You must supply a 105mm f/3.5 Mamiya-Sekor lens pair. These lenses were originally used in Mamiya C-series TLRs.
By removing a few screws and rings, the lens pair is easily and reversibly separated. These lenses are plentiful on the used market. More information on selecting a lens.
Backs and Media: You must also supply a Mamiya Press Polaroid Back or Polaroid 600SE Back. Minor, reversible modification is required to for use on Duo. With this back, you can use any Type 100 peel-apart film (e.g. Fujifilm FP-100C, FP-3000B). More information on Polaroid backs.
With the optional Roll Film Adapter, you can use any Graflex-type 120 or 220 film back. Many of these 6x6, 6x7, and 6x9 backs were made by the likes of Graflex, Horseman, Wista, Mamiya, and more. More information on Roll Film Backs.
Alright, so how do I build this thing?
The kit will be accompanied by detailed, step-by-step online instructions. The build process can be broken down into four basic parts:
1. Construct the frame: The wooden frame is glued together with help from a tab-and-slot design and laser engraved guidelines.
2. Fold the bellows and viewfinder shade: The bellows and viewfinder shade are cut and folded to shape from fabric and paper. The patterns for both parts and all required materials (minus adhesive) are included.
3. Finish it as you see fit: Acrylic, polyurethane, stain, plain-ol' bare wood finish - the sky is the limit. All you really need is some flat black paint to coat the insides.
4. Add your components: Add the lenses and film back of your choice, and you're ready to enjoy shooting with Duo!
The Official Duo Companion Blog exists solely to help backers understand the build process and its various intricacies. It contains helpful information for selecting a lens and a Polaroid back - check it out!
Risks and challenges
AVAILABILITY OF LENSES AND POLAROID BACKS: At the moment, the camera is limited in the types of lenses and Polaroid backs that can be used. Since the backer is responsible for supplying both of these items to complete a camera, the ensuing demand for these items could result in artificial inflation and increased scarcity of these 20-40 year old parts. The plan is to diversify the lens and back selection for the camera. Four variants of Mamiya 105mm lenses exist, and testing will be conducted to ensure that each of these lenses are viable options. Development of a 6x9 back attachment or an adapter for the upcoming Impossible FPU represent ways to ease demand on the relatively scarce Polaroid backs.
FILM IS DEAD??? (Or so they say): Production of instant film by Fujifilm will likely continue into the forseeable future. However, eventually the medium may be discontinued and stocks of the film will disappear. Diversifying the media choices by adding adapters and attachments will keep this camera usable well into the future. Creating additional demand for instant film may keep Fujifilm from discontinuing the media altogether - this seems to be the best and only way to prevent this eventuality.
WHAT IF THE CAMERA IS TOO HARD TO BUILD? Efforts are being made in the prototyping stages to ensure ease of construction and improve build quality. Slotted and keyed slots and laser engraved markings will help simplify positioning of camera elements. An illustrated guide and videos will detail the entire process of building, operating, and troubleshooting the camera.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (40 days)