This 3D-Printed Film Camera, Made From $25 in Parts, Captures Images Well Above Its Weight Class

Built as a first project by someone "with no design or engineering background," this camera is a truly inspiring build.

Pseudonymous maker "elelcoolbeenz," hereafter simply "Beenz," has tackled an ambitious first design and engineering project with self-admittedly zero experience: building a 3D-printed fully-functional medium-format film camera, entirely from scratch.

"My goal was to design a camera from the ground up without using pre-existing camera parts," Beenz explains. "In the past almost-decade, I only found two cameras featuring original shutter designs: the OpenReflex and the SLO. While I thought these were incredible, they seemed to be more proofs of concept than working cameras. So, with no design or engineering background, I took a crack at it."

Typically, most home-brew camera designs either use digital sensors behind commercial lenses, a simple pinhole design, or salvage the more complex parts from scrap cameras. Beenz' design, by contrast, uses no camera parts they didn't design themselves — bar a single-element meniscus lens, acquired from an optical surplus store. "I knew the lens would be the one part I couldn't make myself (not a good one anyway) so I restricted myself to a single element," Beenz says.

"The shutter is a two-way magnetically locking rotary sector shutter with a speed of around 1/100s," Beenz explains. "I’m not a camera maker (I mean I guess I technically am now, but whatever) so most of my decisions on this were made on the basis of 'well this seems like the logical way to do it.'"

The camera's output is impressive, given Beenz' inexperience and the extremely low cost of its parts — not counting the two years of effort that went into its design and construction, of course. "Lens element $4, about $1 worth of magnets, $2 worth of elastic, $2 worth of leatherette, $1 of epoxy, probably $5 altogether in screws, half a spool of PLA so like $10 there, maybe 25 cents worth of foam. Staples, bingo chip, and hair ties I had on hand… so looks like around $25 give or take," Beenz says of the estimated cost.

While more information is available on Beenz' Reddit post, though, you won't find design files. "I just finished the two year process of making this thing. I’m going to enjoy having it to myself for a little bit and creating my own body of work with it," Beenz says of his decision to keep the design files private for now. "This project has been my baby. I didn’t do this just to say I made a camera, I did this to make a camera for myself to shoot with."

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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