A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
I have built cameras in the past, but always one-offs, out of wood and metal. When I got a new 3D printer, I couldn't help myself. I started designing and printing prototypes of 4x5 cameras that I could reproduce for friends and fellow photographers. I am a lover of classic mahogany, brass and steel field cameras, and my goal was to make an accessible and inexpensive alternative. I have tried to retain as much functionality and durability as possible with entirely plastic components. I think I've succeeded in making a fun entry level camera while maintaining its professional attributes.
This camera is based on a classic field camera design and keeps many professional camera movements. It has rack and pinion geared focusing rails for both the front and back standards, front swings, tilts, rise and fall, and rear swings and tilts. The bellows accommodates lenses from about 90mm to 300mm. I like using 150mm and 210mm normal lenses; they allow for a good range of movements, and have the angle of view I prefer working with in this format.
For those of you less familiar with large format cameras and accessories: The camera does not include a lens or film holders, you'll need at least one of each to use it. Ebay is a great resource for classic camera accessories. Because a large format camera is basically just a black box, the look and feel of your pictures will be mostly determined by your lens and your film or plate choice (and how you use it). You can use a 4x5 to create very high resolution, tack sharp corner to corner images, or extremely shallow depth of field, and just about everything in between. If you haven't used a large format camera before, I recommend you do a little googling into lens choices, and see what types are out there, and what different effects they can produce.
The camera body is all 3D printed, which lets me offer custom color schemes for each camera. That means you'll be able to personalize your camera and make it as understated or bold and wacky as you like. The lens board and film back are always printed in black, but there are 10 part groups that can be printed in other colors. For example, I'm currently printing in eight colors, which when raised to the 10th power (# of print/part groups) allows for 1,073,741,824 possible color combinations, before choosing a bellows covering fabric.
I'll let the first customer to order any given color scheme name it on CAMERADACTYL.com, and put up a link to your work if you would like.
The print groups include:
1. Rear Frame
2. Front Frame
3. Frame Carriers
4. Rear rails
5. Front rails
7. Swing arms, spindle carriers, and tripod mount
8. Screws and spacers
9. Focusing pinions
10. Ground glass spring frame
Each camera includes one lensboard, you can choose a Copal 00, 0, 1 or 3 size hole, or an undrilled board, which will have a small pilot hole for later drilling alignment.
Once each reward group fills up, I will send out a Kickstarter survey, where you'll be asked to specify:
A. A color for each of 10 print groups
B. A bellows covering fabric from what is available.
C. A lensboard hole size.
The camera is fully designed and ready to be printed. I've made about 10 working prototypes for myself and friends. I am hoping to raise enough money through Kickstarter to buy what is traditionally known as "a boatload of 3D printers." More printers mean that you will be able to get a customized 4x5 camera relatively quickly and inexpensively.
I am hoping that Kickstarter will be a good way to build and share other quirky and useful cameras with other photographers and camera lovers.
The camera is out of the design phase, which means I am ready to start printing orders, however it will take longer to print each camera than I would like. I will have to order and construct at least 10 more printers, which in itself could take a few weeks including the time I am waiting on printers to ship. Should this campaign go really well and I need, say, 30 printers, this could take a bit longer to set up. I will have a few reward groups, and will be able to fill the first groups' orders with the first batch of printers that are already running, but later orders could take some time to produce. I will indicate in the rewards section, what my delivery time estimates are, for each reward group.
FIT AND FINISH:
These cameras are 3D printed in plastic. Using this process, I can include some design elements that were not previously possible, or that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive to manufacture. It also allows me to make quirky cameras for a niche market, rather than mass market objects which require very expensive tooling. However, 3D printing has its own set of unique limitations and characteristics. Plastic is less durable than steel: I have beefed up many mechanical pieces to accommodate this. The pieces will not all have smooth finishes like wood or metal, or even injection molded plastics. In fact, each part is likely to have multiple surface finishes, depending on its orientation on the print bed. This means that each part will have some surface textural artifacts from its manufacturing process. I love some of the beautiful surface patterns created by the process, but want to make clear to those unfamiliar with 3D printing, that these are not solid smooth plastic parts like you would get from an injection molding process, like most plastic objects in our world. For detailed photos, please take a look at the last few images in the Production Prototype image gallery.
The ground glass is hand ground, which may not be as even and smooth as a commercially made ground glass from something like a Sinar camera.
The bellows are hand cut, (with a little help from a laser cutter for the ribs) glued and folded. This is a labor intensive process, and each bellows is a little different. I orient the outer fabric seam to the bottom of the camera, where it is less visible, but there will be a line where the fabric patterns do not line up perfectly, and some of the folds and corners are slightly irregular. The bellows are light tight, and really, really sturdy. They are probably the toughest part of the camera. They are nicer than any bellows that I have owned, and I have owned hundreds of cameras over the years. They are not always visually as neat and clean as a Sinar paper bellows.
I am buying fabrics for the bellows over the counter at the moment, and there is a chance that my supplier will run out of a pattern and not be able to order more, or have a long wait time to reorder. If this happens for a pattern that a customer has ordered, I will contact them directly, and offer other available fabric choices.
Inevitably camera users break cameras, drop screws and bolts and things down storm drains, get left on top of your aunts car while you're playing basketball with your cousins, and she goes to lunch without noticing, etc... I didn't design the camera to be a model, I use mine, and I want you to use yours, to be out in the world, and make real work with them. I expect that eventually, at least one person will break each piece of the camera. I have a camera graveyard that dates back to my high school days, including Nikons, Pentaxes, Canons, Kievs, Hasselblads, Zorki's, Bronicas, Mamiyas. You name it, I have probably managed to break it at one time or another. I absolutely hate it when repair costs make it too expensive to be worth fixing a camera. It is my goal to offer at the very least, individual print groups, if not individual parts for replacement (and further color customization) on cameradactyl.com soon after I fill all of my Kickstarter orders. I will try to offer all replacement parts at a reasonable price, but please understand that shipping a single screw eats up about $10 once I buy a priority mailer and pay a few percent for card services. The camera is simple enough that you can mostly disassemble it with no tools, in about two minutes, and completely disassemble and rebuild it with just an M3 hex key, in under 10, provided you don't spend an hour crawling around your workshop floor, looking for that dropped screw.
These are my production prototypes, I made about 10 of them, to mix and match colors for product photography. They are all multicolored and mixed color schemes, you WILL NOT be able to choose custom colors for these cameras, nor fabric for their bellows. You WILL be able to choose a lensboard hole size, I will custom print the lensboards for these before shipping them.