June 16, 2018

Finally winding this thing down??!!

For some time now I've been saying that I'm done building cameras but somehow or another I find myself chopping something into an oblivion in the name of art and exploration.  I've also continued to wonder what I should do with this blog... Since I've started traveling for work, I'm building (and hacking) up a lot less gear but shooting a whole lot more. A trade off that I enjoy immensely!
While this blog is used mostly to share my custom and one off cameras, imagery from my travels can be found on Instagram @dirkfletcher and more detailed images of my custom cameras can be found on Flickr herehttps://www.flickr.com/photos/dirkfletcher/albums

After finishing my last 6x12 / 65mm pano camera (my favorite pano lens/format combo BTW) I've been wanting to see how small I could make a 6x12 camera in the hoped it could ride along on trips. I really like how compact my 6x17 turned out by hacking two 6x9 Zeiss Ikon bodies joined into a one, an idea inspired by the Longfellow which I found here on Magnorma's blog. 

Joining 120 Zeiss bodies makes the camera smaller in hight then if you used a single 116 or 616 camera. It's not as tall as you don't need to shim the 120 film into the larger 616 camera body. The other thing that I really like is having the feed and take up film spools next to the film gate and not behind the film gate. While this adds an inch or two to the total width of the camera, I'd rather have the extra width instead of adding an inch or two of depth to the camera.

I already had one of the two of the 6x6 Zeiss 515/16 Nettars that was needed (which is probably what got me thinking about building this camera in the first place). Once I found a second donor body with a jacked up lens on eBay the Dremel cut off wheels started spinning! 

While I love the look and speed of the 65mm f/5.6, I really wanted to make this camera as small as possible so I thought I'd pull the f/8 Super Angulon from my super lightweight 4x5 p/s camera, at least for now. For a hot second I was thinking about the f/4 and f/4.5 65's that will cover 6x12 but ultimately didn't want the size, weight or expense.

I spent a lot of time researching helicals and ultimately found a fantastically lightweight and really solid solution at a super affordable price.  

My normal preference is the gen 2 Schneider helical as it has a giant nut that screws to the back of the helical from the inside if the camera. It is lightweight with both imperial and metric markings and even a great little focus tab to hang onto while focusing. The modern Schneider, Rodenstock and even Fotoman helicals are wonderful units but are both expensive and have a flange that needs to be surface mounted to the front of the camera with a metric shit ton of small hardware. I'm not a fan of of this approach, I'd rather spend the time to get the hole size perfect and just spin the bolt on and be done with it. 

In the case of this camera, using a 'full priced' helicals wasn't an option though as it is just too big around for the 76mm height of the Zeiss cameras I am using.  That was also the case with some of the hundred dollar eBay helicals as well, they are too big and would overhang both top and bottom of the camera too much.
I had long wondered about the m42, m58 and m65mm helicals w/o markings that are pretty pervasive around the net. After looking at a bunch of them (and a bunch of custom cameras that use them) I ordered an m58 with the hopes that I can use either a Cokin 58mm filter adapter or even a 58mm metal lens hood for the rear mount and a 58mm filter stacker cap for the front lens board.  

Two versions of these helicals are available, one with brass threads and a 'really good quality....just not brass...' version. I opted for the brass one which was still only 23 bucks. I wasn't sure if the lens would rotate or not (which would not be good) or if my mounting schemes would even work. I was super excited when it arrived (from China, just under all the new tariffs and sanctions...shew) and the threading on both sides worked just as I hoped it would.  

While the 58mm Cokin adapter threaded in perfectly, I found a generic 58mm metal lens hood that I flipped backwards and mounted to the camera creating an almost perfect backfocus distance for the 65mm Super Angulon. The lens needed only a bit of shimming for the infinity focus to land perfectly with the helical fully retracted. Not real sure how the front lens mount would work, I ordered a 58mm - 34.5mm filter adapter and a 58mm stacker cap as options for the front lens board. The stacker cap turned out to be perfect after drilling out the 34mm hole which was needed to mount the Copal 0 shutter.
The two camera bodies were joined internally with 90 degree aluminum stock. I cut the middle down to make room for the lens to clear while leaving a flange for the lens/helical board to mount. This was the opening where the original lens would fold out of the Nettar. The two back door halves used a thinner angled aluminum stock to join them together into a single hinged back.

Not being particularly crazy about the finished steampunk look to the 6x17 camera back, I primed and painted these rails with satin black paint before bolting and epoxying them together, while it still looks a little hanky, it's nowhere as jarring as they are in silver...

As I have with other cameras, I've mounted an Arca Swiss plate perpendicular to the film plane. In addition to working with all my Arca style tripod heads, it keeps any weight and stress off of the helical when the camera sitting down. 

For the finder mount, I wanted the smallest (or lowest actually) cold shoe that I could find which turned out to be a really well machined part made by SmallRig. I had to do some finagling to get the door to close under it but it worked out real well and looks much more finished then the larger shoe with a big red knob.

After looking at 20/21mm finder options (which has the same angle of view as a 65mm lens on 6x12) I went with the Zeiss/Contax finder 21mm from my 4x5 point and shoot camera. I figured, I'd already swiped it's lens for this camera and even more importantly, it was already paid for!  If I didn't already own the Contax finder, I would have probably bought a Voigtlander 21mm finder. They are super bright and give a wonderfully clean image which is actually quite a bit brighter then the Contax finder. They are the best value in finders out there. 

After insuring the camera was light tight, I flocked the inside of the camera with paper backed felt to eliminate any internal reflections. 

Using a piece of (broken) ground glass I shimmed the lens out till I could see it was sharp at infinity with the helical fully compressed.  After shooting some transparency film to confirm the camera was focusing sharp at infinity, I was confident enough to index the helical for closer focus points using the same piece of ground glass.

I covered the lens board with some sticky back leather from HugoStudio and the camera is about done.

Weighing in at 885 grams, just under 2 pounds, it's a cool little camera that feels super solid, it's quick and easy to load and really fun to shoot. While it doesn't feel as small or light as I was hoping it would, it's a pound and a half lighter then the Horseman with a 45mm and a over two pounds lighter then the Linhof 6x12 Technorama. Also consider that the entire project was less then $500.00 out of pocket I really have nothing to complain about.

Thanks for reading, I hope this might inspire you or someone you know to try building one of your own.

September 14, 2017

Panoramic Comparison

For some time now, I have been curious too see how modern digital ‘stitched pans’ using tilt/shift lenses compare to traditional 6x12 and 6x17 film formats.
While the mental approach to shooting and stitching can be debated, I wanna see what I get at the end of the road and what each approach offers.
So here is what I did: I compared 3 tilt/shift lenses, two wide angle zooms, a prime, two traditional panoramic film formats and just for good measure, I threw in a 35mm Russian swing lens camera (two actually) and shot a couple sheets with a 65mm lens on 4x5.
The first three panos from the top were made by combining or stitching three pictures together from tilt shift lenses. For the first picture, the lens was shifted as far to the left as it could go (+/-12mm for the 17mm and 24mm, +/-11mm for the 45mm). The second shot, the lens was centered and the third was shifted all the way to the right. The three individual frames were then stitched together in Lightroom yielding a 6x15.079 pano.  The three lenses were the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L, 24mm f/3.5L II and the 45mm f/2.8. 
The next three shots were made with super wide-angle lenses and cropped the same 6x15.079 ratio of the tilt shift panos. These lenses were the Canon 14mm f/2.8L vII, the new 16-35mm f/2.8L III (on a 5D mkIV body) and my favorite little travel companion the EF-M 11-22mm on a mirrorless Canon M6 body.
The next two shots were made with traditional panoramic (film) camera formats, a 6x12 camera with a 65mm f/5.6 Super Angulon and a probably the most traditional or classic panoramic format, a 6x17 with a 90mm Super Angulon.
And just because I was interested to see how it would size up,  I shot with a couple Russian Horizon swing lens cameras and shot a couple sheets of 4x5 with my ultralight wide camera with a 65mm f/8 Super Angulon.
While the 6x12 and 6x17 cameras are a joy to use, the quality and precision that is afforded with modern tools just can't be beat.
It also should be mentioned that I knew exactly how the digital pans looked without heading to the post office to Priority Mail the film to the lab, waiting a day to drive to into the city to (pay money) get the film, bring it home to scan it and put it all together. Ironically, the film wasn't actually scanned, I used the same camera body to shoot a digital file of the film.  Full circle?

November 6, 2016

Lightweight 4x5

I had been struggling with this camera for a little bit, but it recently turned a corner and I really like how it came togetherIt looks great and it's function should be quick and precise which checks off all my initial objectives.  To complement the 65mm superwide point-and-shoot,  I have been wanting a similar lightweight camera in the normal lens realm with some movements but still compact and quick enough to conveniently expose a sheet here and there while shooting digitally.

Several earlier iterations (i.e. fails) were smaller folding cameras but lacked the ability for quick and accurate scale focusingA couple attempts were cool though, my favorite was a Hasselblad bellows lens shade mounted backwards to the composite rear standard of the Ilford Titan pinhole camera.  While it was super lightweight and small, even the lightweight 125mm was wobbly.
My next attempt was a lightweight 4x5 shooter very similar to James Godman's genius 'binder clip' method of converting a Polaroid 110a for 4x5 use. You end up with a nice lightweight folding solution with a coupled rangefinderI'm not a huge fan of the Rodenstock 127mm.  It is compact and reasonably sharp but my bigger concern was having to forgo movements. Ultimately the images would not be much different than just shooting with a full frame Canon with the compact 40mm f/2.8 Canon.

So I was back to a more traditional field camera only not foldingThis is the second camera I've built using the brilliant composite rear standard made by master camera builder Mike Walker of the United Kingdom based Walker CamerasI coupled it to the front standard of a 2x3 Graflex which I've also used several times with great success. The movements are very positive and quite solid and with the metal construction and compact size, very rigidI'd be loosing the ability to fold the camera, but ultimately it seemed like the best option.

I cut down some large rectangle aluminum tubing into a fork like platform to cradle the Crown Graphic bed and cup around the back the Titan rear standard.  The aluminum came from a local scrap yard but if you don't have one in your area you can easily find this and other useful cuts of aluminum on eBayIt did take a several days of cutting and grinding to fashion it into the final piece so pace yourself, but it will be worth it.

In my early days of camera building, I used metal epoxy for everything, it set up quick, was sandable and held like a tank but once it set up, it's was there for goodThat last couple of cameras I've worked on I've tried an opaque black adhesive silicone caulk that holds plenty tight without being permanentA bit of this caulk and four well placed screws and the Century Graphic bed and Titan rear standard are one.  

I'd really love to end up with something a tad more compact, I had a gorgeously mint model D Busch Pressman that was quite compact and full featured but heavy as a cinder blockThe thought of slipping it and a couple film holders in my bag on a digital shoot NEVER entered my mind, that's how heavy it was.  I also feel like the extra space this camera will take up in a bag is decent a trade off for quicker operation in the field. This it totally worth it to me.

I was really stuck on the bellows, first using the 2x3 bellows joined to a larger set of 4x5 Graflex bellows with angled supports holding them to the camera.  This added a lot of unnecessary mass and weight to the camera.  Instead, I fashioned a spacer from small aluminum hobby tubing and sheet plastic to mount the larger 4x5 bellows directly to the back of the 2x3 front standardAdhesive caulk was secure enough to mount the bellows inside the rear standard perfectly. 

After shooting a light leak test the need for a handle or grip was painfully evidentMy first attempt was a barbaric combination of aluminum tubing covered in shrink tube and mounted to the vertical tripod mountWhile it was effective, it was both massive and quite ugly, taking up way too much room in a camera bag.  Falling asleep one night I had the idea to bend some aluminum over a round sub-straight to make an ergonomic and attractive handleThe flywheel of a bike trainer was the perfect size for the handleA beefy 1/4 20 shoulder bolt attaches it to the camera very securely.  
Adding a compact dome style lens shade, a modern Fotoman rangefinder (with the base removed and velcroed in place to reduce the cameras profile), the super bright 21mm Voigtlander finder and the camera is eagerly awaiting the arrival of some 4x5 CineStill 800T.  Chartpak graphic arts defines a frame line for the 125mm lens and inside the full 65mm (21mm) frame line.  

All and all, I'm delighted with how it turned outAn added bonus was how perfectly the 65mm from my point and shoot couples with this camera. Both lenses, the camera and several film holders fit in a small Domke bag quite well.

If you have any questions about the build or want to do one yourselffeel free to shoot me an email.
Thanks for looking!

October 28, 2016

Film vs. digital....again #?!>%*!

I have been dogged by this internal 'why film' conundrum for some time and it keeps coming up. Why do I keep coming back to film when I have the very best imaging technology available through my position with Canon? Is the extra time and expense and in many cases the hassle to shoot film truly achieving anything different or unique? Could this just my way of slowly mourning or honoring my film based roots?
I recently took a trip to Dutch Harbor Alaska to help the camera crew of Deadliest Catch as they prepared their Canon Cine EOS cameras for the rigors of Bering Sea. I took my work issued 5D mkIV and 24-70mm f/2.8v2. Arguably one of the sharpest and best combos available, the images I continue to get from this combo amaze me on a regular basis.
So why did I bring my 47mm 6x12 camera with me? My mental test for shooting film is this: will film solve a problem or achieve a look that I simply can't do digitally? I love my M6 Leica, it's a joy to shoot with, simply advancing the film with its precision German inner-workings is enjoyable but DXO film pack has made the time and expense of shooting 35mm film virtually unnecessary.  The 6x12 camera has a wonderful look, the pull and gentle falloff of the 47mm Super-Angulon creates wonderful images but does carrying two completely different formats dilute each other?  

I have a 35mm Noblex, a modern swing lens camera in same vein of the Widelux.  I'm mostly interested in its ability to expand or compress motion. With its spinning drum and curved film plane, this is something that simply can't be replicated or mimicked digitally. In this shot I'm panning with the go-carts but the drum is turning the opposite direction. 

I often wonder if carrying only a single system or format helps you (or forces you) to create stronger and more powerful images instead of your mind constantly weighing the pro's and cons of each system. It certainly doesn't hinder photographer extraordinaire Sylvia PlachyYears ago, I spent six days shooting alongside her in Rizho China.  She had what we came to refer to as her Mary Poppins bag. A nondescript bag with an M6, Widelux, Nikon F2, Holga, Rollieflex and an XPan. Her only digital camera was a lowly Digilux which in all honest got very little love. What she created with this bag of tricks was beyond phenomenal! All of here gear was as well worn as her Widelux that she's shooting here at dinner.  

In 2014, Harrington was fortunate enough to host a set of David Burnett's prints from the Sochi Olympics. It was a mix of digital (from a gen-1 5D no less) 2 1/4 and 4x5, I spent a lot of time with these images and each image was genuinely benefited by its format. I am truly grateful that he is helping to keep an interest in 4x5 (and film in general) alive. Without a doubt his images and Sylvia's images are so compelling because of the gear they are using, but it's really their comfort and familiarity with that gear that is allowing them to masterfully create their pictures.

While gear surfers and hipsters are quick to adopt classic, vintage and other old school tools, it is the years of use that create the imagery we have come to expect from these masters, not the tools themselves. 

my first ever 'fan-selfie', I had to do it:)
Oddly, the perfect timing award award needs to go to Mr. Burnett who I finally met in person (just after I wrote my first draft of this) when he wandered into the Canon booth last week at PhotoPlus. Nothing beats meeting a lifelong idol and finding he is just as incredibly cool in real life as he is in the cyber-verse. Just as geeky as I am, he was interested in my DIY cameras, the forthcoming CineStill 800t 4x5 film and other cool gear centric stuff, film and digital. While I didn't have dinner with him, I can certainly check that box on my bucket list.     Chris Usher, you are next ;)

July 4, 2016

Ultralight 4x5 point and shoot

A couple years back I was excited to hear about the new Travelwide 4x5 camera project.  I loved the concept just as much as I loved how it was making its way to the market. Unfortunately, the wait for it to materialize in my mailbox was excruciating! So I did what any half crazy camera builder does, I headed down to my workbench and started looking around. 

The lightweight plastic and composite construction of the Harman Titan pinhole camera (made by Walker Cameras) looked like it would be the perfect candidate for a donor camera. Upon closer examination, I found the distance from the end of the cone to the film plane was a perfect match for a 65mm f/8 Super Angulon. While there are sharper and faster options out there, the old school, single coated f/8 SA has a unique look that makes the extra effort of shooting sheet film again totally worth it. The perfect balance of sharpness and falloff, at f/22 this lightweight lens is gorgeous lens for a 4x5 wide angle point and shoot.

Since the camera would be primarily be shot hand held, I made a grip from some aluminum tubing that I covered with adhesive shrink tube for added grip. Two bolts secure the grip through the cone of the camera.  I added some black adhesive caulk to ensure a tight fit with the zero wobbling and finished it with a Canon hand strap. Since you load the film holders and operate the lens with your right hand the hand grip and strap on the left side is nice. 

Not planning on using a any of the interchangeable lens cones that are available for this camera, I used the black adhesive caulk to secure and strengthen its mount to the camera. Lastly, the entire inside of the lens cone was covered with the same paper backed flocking that I use on almost every camera I build. It helps keep the camera light tight but more importantly reduces internal reflections. 

To keep the camera from noseing over an 100mm Arca Swiss plate was mounted perpendicular to the camera.  

I found a beautifuly clean black late model single coated Super Angulon set in a 0 shutter. The only drawback to the larger 0 shutter (a double aught is a near perfect fit) is you will need to carve out the front of the lens cone for it to fit.  I was a little worried that it would weaken the front of the camera but it turned out to be quite rigid. The lens was finished with a Canon W-50 shade from the Canon 35mm f/1.5 LTM, that needed a good amount of work with the Dremel and a hand file to cut pedals into the sides but It's compact size is a good match for the camera.  

For my tests I used an older Russian 20mm finder but ultimately wanted a brighter and more contrasty finder. After some late night scouring of the web, I found a Zeiss finder from the Contax 21mm f/2.8 at Used Photo Pro, the fantastic used camera arm of Roberts Camera at an equally fantastic price. It had some scratches on its titanium finish but the glass was clean, after a bit of steel wool and a couple coats of satin black paint it looked like it was made for the camera.  As I've done on other cameras, I used a dab or two of the black adhesive caulk on the accessory shoe to make sure the finder stays affixed to the camera while it being stuffed in and out of bags and backpacks.  

To finish off the camera, an older wooden film holder was cut out and the center was replaced with a piece of ground glass to serve as a proper focusing screen. Mostly for times you were on sticks and wanted to compose your images more deliberately but to be 100% honest, the camera feels so good handheld, the ground glass adapter rarely gets used. It is nice to have the option if need be.

The entire conversion is pretty straightforward and you end up with a compact little camera that yields gorgeous 4x5s. So far I've mostly been using Provia but I'm super excited to get 25 sheets of CineStill 800T later this summer. If you wanna build one and have any questions feel free to reach out, I'll try to help however I can.  

I have a super lightweight 4x5 field camera with moments in the works, but it might be a while till its done and posted. With my new position with (the greatest camera company in the world) Canon USA this will be most likely be my last camera and my last post for a while. Canon is getting most of my attention these days.

Thanks for looking!


March 7, 2016

Finally, the perfect Leica Handgrip / M-Grip for the Leica

super compact and more functional version of the Leica Handgrip M or GMP M-Grip
Maybe it's that I'm getting older, I'd like to think that I'm getting wiser but recently (that's the last two years or so in my world) I've been working to make my gear (and my stuff) smaller and lighter while doing more.  I pulled the large battery grips off my full frame Canons in favor of smaller Arca Swiss mounts, I just finished a beautiful composite 4x5 point and shoot camera (I'll be posting it soon) and I'm working on what I hope will be the lightest full feature 4x5 camera out there.

Less is more. More slows you down, when you carry less you think more and shoot less too. If everything aligns properly you'll emerge with better, more compelling and more interesting images.  A group of fellow photographer/friends are doing a picture a day project throughout 2016 and someone who couldn't commit to the project said something that stuck with my, 'if your goal is to create interesting images...'  forget the rest, that statement really stuck with me and I suspect the others in the group.  Days have passed where I haven't shot a frame, then all at once, creativity flows through my veins and I'll shoot several images on my theme in a single day.  If I was carrying a large camera or a ton of gear, I this wouldn't be practical or even possible.  But downsizing everything has payed off big time.  Because I've stuck with an M6, I can carry it over my shoulder or in my backpack just about everywhere I go and it's at the ready when the situation presents itself.
even my backup 'trunk-tripod' has an Arca-Swiss clamp
Nice, I've downsized everything except my words, sorry...lets talk about the Leica grip.  A while back I bought into the Arca Swiss Quick release system, super fast, crazy solid and easier on my gear then wrenching it on and off the sticks all the time.

Which brings me the grip. I've always had a Leica or at least it seems that way, first got an M2 as a student at University of Missouri St. Louis, upgraded to an M4-2 when I was at Brooks, added an Abrahamsson Rapidwinder and used that combo for years before upgrading to a gorgeous M6 Panda, the same camera I'm using for my 2016 picture-a-day project.

Shooting film today is completely different then it was ten or fifteen years ago before digital was the norm. You shoot film slower, more methodically, it's precious...it's expensive! Motor drives really aren't as critical as they used to be, if you need to shoot quick, digital is better or more economical for sure. I still have a winder on my original F1, the electronic shutter release is smoother then the manual shutter release, I feel my images are sharper with the winder. While its nice to always have then next frame advanced, the added size and weight of the winder and 4 AA's is a downside, but sharper images makes it worthwhile.

I don't need the fast advance or added weight of the Rapidwinder so I picked up the Leica Handgrip #14405 (pictured above on the overpass) which is designed for most all Leica M film cameras except for the smaller CL or larger M5. Its a nice addition to the camera and ironically it will work with the Arca-Swiss system but not fantastically. The width is perfect allowing it to fit into the Arca clamp. It holds tight for horizontal shots and while I've used it for verticals, I'm constantly worried it will slip. Looking for a compact solution with both an Arca dove tail and handgrip, I was coming up dry. I found the original M-Grip from GMP products on eBay which I thought could be machined down but after a trip to the machine shop it wouldn't work.
the completed grip, Leica Handgrip M and the Really Right Stuff plate

My next idea was to remove the hand grip portion from the GMP grip and tap a Really Right Stuff B30 grip to accept the upright. The placement of the screws were off and in all honestly, I was surprised how big the B30 plate is. Being close to giving up, I thought I'd opt for a small Arca Plate and after some trolling I found beautiful and compact Acratech plate which additionally was less then $40.00!  The plate fits the bottom of the camera with half liner the protrusion of the Really Right Stuff and less height of the original M-Grip. Super small and rock solid on the tripod. I wish the 1/4-20 slot was not recessed but its the best plate out there by far.
it probably wont win a beauty contest but its a perfect match for the camera
Talking with friend, I noticed a grip for the Sony RX100 called a WAG-RX100 that's available on Amazon or eBay. It finally arrived a couple days ago and between my Dremel and a couple files, my M6 is FINALLY sitting pretty. I wish it looked more 'Leica' and less 'MacGyver', but it does exactly what I wanted, a grip that's smaller and lighter then anything commercially the is compatible with my Arca Swiss clamps. 
screws holding the handgrip between the plate and the Acratech plate 
You will need a couple cuts of sheet aluminum (available at the hobby store), stainless steel M2-4 (ironic right?) machine screws which are now available at Home Depot and you are in business.  
If you wanna build one and have specific questions just drop me a line.  In the meantime, I'll be emailing Scott Dordick, photographer, machinist and CEO of Acratech to see if can make a prettier version, you should too, here is the company email, I can't find a direct one for Scott: info@acratech.net

March 5, 2016

sad day for experimental camera builders :(

Yesterday Ric Globus, one third of the powerhouse known as the Globus Brothers, suddenly and unexpectedly passed while creating art in his Florida home. Many camera builders still look to the accomplishments that came from this powerhouse trio for inspiration. The SpinShot and Travelwide are just two recent examples that can be directly linked back to the Globus Brothers.
I was just getting to know Ric after he bought the Globuscope 4x5 that I refurbished and sold at the end of last year.  Through Facebook we chatted several times a week about cameras both new and old.  I regularly shared the cameras I was building with him and he was generous with support and encouragement. 

His passing is a loss for the photo and art community, may his creative curiosity and enthusiasm live on...

February 23, 2016

converting a classic Zeiss folder into a modern pano

Over the last year or so I've been working on this camera and it's finally (almost) done. I was reading a blog (I wish I can remember who's) and was surprised to learn that the D model Ikonta's had a film gate of almost five inches. Digging deeper I found lots of people cleaning up the lens and moding them into a 120 folder. Always having a crush on the 6x12 format, I thought it would be a perfect donor for a Linhof style 6x12 camera. Years ago, I built a 6x12 camera by grafting two 6x6 Graflex roll film backs together and putting a 65mm lens in a helical on the front, but its unwieldy stature and weight made it quite impractical, so it was never completed. 

The Ikon however, with film chambers next to the film gate (opposite the Graflex design where the rolls are behind the film gate) it could end up being much more like a traditional flat field panoramic camera in its look, feel and ultimately its usability.

Found an affordable camera with a damaged lens on eBay, I was off and running. Initially, I had planned to either Plasti Dip or paint the body with a textured satin black finish but after stripping away the 85 year old German leather and caustic adhesive, the aluminum body just looked too cool to be true. 
The first step was to shorten the 2 1/2 inch vertical opening to 2 1/4. Modern 120 film would need support to be flat when it was being exposed. Four custom aluminum brackets were mounted inside the former lens cavity to support two basswood strips that would be painted black.
Digging through one of my parts bins, I found what I think is a stage for an old MP4 Polaroid camera that looked like it might be a perfect lens mount. It was just millimeters short of the published hyperfocal distance for 47mm lens. Initially, I was going to use the lens in a helical but after finding this flange a point-and-shoot pano seemed inevitable. It turns out I needed less then a 1/16 of an inch, so a sheet of hobby store styrene was used to push the mounting out just a smidge. The savings in weight alone was exciting let alone not having to focus.

Once the lens was mounted to an aluminum bulkhead (that took forever to make), the body was sealed with black caulk, taped and covered in flat black paper Tuf-Flock/Velour available from Superior Seamless to minimize internal reflections.

Early 520/15's used 116 film but later models used 616. This camera had '616' engraved inside the door so I ordered a set of spool adapters from Holgamods but they did not fit. I shot Randy and email and he called see what was up. Being a huge photo geek as well, I sent him the camera and he called back indicating his 116 spool adapters were a perfect fit and the engraving was wrong. He makes adapters to use just about any film in any camera.  In addition, he makes a host of other Holga and Hawkeye mods, pinholes and a gorgeous Polaroid 110b conversion.

When I started thinking about this camera, I planned on using a Horseman lever advance mechanism from a 6x6 back for a fast and efficient film winding but the in all honesty, as the camera started to come together, I didn't want to mess up the super cool simplistic, steam punk look that was begining to emerge. And since you no longer needed to focus, using the red window to advance the film didn't seem like such a bad thing. The original red advance window didn't stand a chance against the high power paint striper the woman at Home Depot sold me, so I used a red film window from a Holga. The film spacing came from fellow camera hacker/builder Minh Nguyen (whom I've never met) but works perfectly:  3, 5 1/2, 8 1/2, 13, 15 1/2 and is dead on for six, perfectly spaced frames per roll...as long as you remember to advance after you shoot the picture ;)

Wanting a small and bright finder, I found an accessory shoe that would just clear the swing rear film door but not stick up as much as the locking Stroboframe accessory mount that is frequently used on similar cameras. The angle of view of the 47mm lens is very close to a 15mm lens on 35mm so a Voigtlander 15mm finder was siliconed to the accessory shoe. I like using clear or black silicone caulk to keep the finder put while still being fully reversible down the road. 

The cameras 1:2 format was masked on the finder with 1/16 inch black crepe paper tape by Chartpak. This or similar tape can be found as a decent art store or online.

With such a wide lens, almost any shade I tried was visible in the very corners of the frame.  Building the 4x5 Globuscope at the same time, I tried the clamp-on N
ikon HK-6 shade. It was perfect, giving a little bit of shading but more importantly giving the lens some physical protection while it's over my shoulder or in a camera bag. The HK-6 shade is made for a 20mm f/3.5 that's larger around then the 65mm SA so I made a shim by cutting away the inside of a Schneider push on lens cap to make up the difference.

The strap was custom made from some decent quality leather strap that was cut to size and terminated with black anodized screw posts. I got some shrink tubing from the electrical section of Menards and cut small pieces to just cover the brass screw post for two reasons: help the post from unscrewing and to keep the clanking down when the metal strap ends hit the metal camera body. Drawing inspiration from my dads favorite camera strap 'the Strapteer' I used a swiveling quick disconnect 'HOOK' from the German website leicagoodies.com for some additional functionality.

Two bubble levels from Geier-Bluhm were siliconed to the camera, the horizontal level is just below the finder so you can see it with the camera to your eye and a second level which serves as tilt and for both horizontal and vertical shots is siliconed in the groove of the Arca Swiss plate that juts out from the bottom of the camera.  The orientation of the Arca Swiss plate protects lens and keeps the camera from nosing over when it's placed on a flat surface. 

Lastly, I added a red ribbon to the rear lens cap to make it painfully obvious the cap was in place and similarly, I added a strip of red electrical tape to the front cap to help me not photograph the lens caps. 

I should mention that the actual horizon of the nuclear containment mound is curved, not the camera ;)
Sorry for the bad 'scratch scans' these are literally tests to check for focus and light leaks.  It's been a incredibly fun project and I'm super excited to start using the camera regularly. 

If you wanna build a similar camera and have any questions or hit any snags, feel free to drop me a line. More pictures of this camera and other cameras I've built or hacked can be seen on my Flickr page.