Over the past decade or so, I’ve seen dozens of headlines for “fully 3D printed cameras,” and the one question that always got me to click on them was “how did someone 3D print a shutter?” What I found was that nearly all of these, as beautiful as they were, were either pinhole cameras or were adapting old medium or large format lenses with integrated shutters. So, with next to no design or engineering experience to my name, I thought I’d take a crack at it.
While researching for this project, I had found only three cameras using homemade shutters: Léo Marius’ OpenReflex, Amos Dudley’s SLO, and the homemade cameras of Czechoslovakian photographer Miroslav Tichy. The first two designs were fascinating, but required finger pressure through the full range of the shutter’s motion, which seemed like a recipe for shutter shake, and Tichy’s were made from garbage, so there seemed to be plenty of room for improvement.
After struggling to design for springs or rubber bands, what I wound up with is a magnetic two-way rotary blade shutter — a bit like older box cameras — with a speed of ~1/100s. The action feels a lot like a light switch. As I knew a functional lens would be too difficult to make by hand, I limited myself to a 65mm single-element meniscus from an optical surplus reseller. Here it is:
I was lucky enough that the end of this project coincided with a trip to Washington, DC, where I shot two rolls of ILFORD HP5 PLUS.
There is some obvious focus falloff around the edges of the frames, but I believe I’ve now corrected for some of that by remounting the lens element, so I’m eager to put another roll through it soon. While the photos may not be technically perfect, I couldn’t be happier with them. I may release the files at some point, but for now I’m just enjoying shooting with my very own, one-of-a-kind camera.
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