Homemade Camera, Part 1: The Birth of an Idea

It’s finally happened, a monster has been born.

Here’s a quick recap of where this came from ….

I had a brainstorm, or to be more PC: a ‘thought shower’, about using a flatbed scanner as a recording medium so I scanned through the back of a couple of 5×4 cameras with interesting results, enough to make it seem possible.

The Graphic View

The Crown Graphic


This gave way to this fugly monster:

The only problem was, all I was able to get out of the large monster was a series of badly captured mush.


It was fun and exciting to construct something so badly and beastly.

The scanner was an HP Photosmart all-in-one or jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, it isn’t great and can’t do transparencies.

I was mostly using 5×4 lenses like my Dallmeyer ƒ4.5 enlarger lens and the Schneider Krueznach Xenar, 135mm ƒ4.5 but primarily stuck with the Dallmeyer.

I couldn’t figure out how it went so wrong after the first 5×4 scans were so good.

To read more about this early escapade check out my previous post: Large Format Mediums.


Was it the lens, was the coverage not large enough? So I started browsing MWClassic’s early lenses 200mm-600mm section but I wasn’t sure what to get or what had the coverage for an 8×10 plate.

I was still initially thinking primarily of the scanner bed but starting to believe in perhaps making an 8×10 film/paper camera.

I tweeted out that I was looking for an 8×10 lens but not sure what I was looking at, Mat Marrash kindly replied and we had a chat about lenses and he very kindly offered to have a look.

He pointed out a lens that, ahem, was clearly marked as able to cover 8×10 and that it looked like a good deal; a Carl Zeiss 500mm Jena lens.

Bara-bing, it got snapped up immediately costing £150 including delivery.

Look at that thing sitting next to the Dallmeyer enlarger lens!

That’s the largest lens I’ve seen other than on telescopes; a pint of glass.


I didn’t hang around, it was rammed into the fugly frame I’d made earlier but scans still looked really bad. So bad I don’t have any saved!

It still didn’t look right so I decided to attempt to make an 8×10 ground glass using glass from an Ikea picture frame. This is where the fun really began.

I started with a bit of steel wool and Morrison’s own Cream Cleanser, a cleaning product for bathrooms etc. because it had a creamy consistency and I thought might help promote scratching, but only under hip-hop supervision.

It didn’t work so I opted for the sandpaper, now we’re talking! I realised that this was leaning closer to the Silicon Carbide I’d been reading about on forums like apug.org.

Like the camera I was about to make – it looked like shit but it worked.
I had’t been this excited for quite some time; now to test it.

I had a large empty box lying around after Anna’s birthday party that carried a Hello Kitty piñata, it was immediately sacrificed for the cause.

I used the other bit of board as extra support because the lens was so big and heavy.


Placing that glass against the 8×10 cut out shape on the rear was magical. Seeing the imprint of our utility room on the glass blew my mind and I thought to myself:

I can bloody well do this, I can make a real camera!

Return of the Scanner: this time I decided to tape the ground glass to the scanner bed to see if having that receptive medium close to the scanner glass will make a difference.

It did and the preview scan said it all.

It’s grainy, or rather ‘scratchy’, but it’s there.


le fin

Part 2 is here already.


8 thoughts on “Homemade Camera, Part 1: The Birth of an Idea

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