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The DIY Camera Project

This is going to be a longer posting... the short version is: While filming "Dog's Life - Episode 2" on last Tuesday, the crew surprised me with a "DIY Camera Kit" as a birthday present! Awesome! Thank you again, Lurinare, Yamavu, Karpour and Henrieke (who wasn't there but Karpour relayed her congratulations)


The model is called "Twin Lens Reflex Camera" - but I couldn't find a model code anywhere, only the resales PO number... and I'd rather not look that up on the net, because it would be impolite to see the price ;P

A thing to keep in mind: The box prominently says "made in China" - and while the model overall is in very good condition, some details show this fact.

The manual


The best indicatior for the Chinese origin of the kit is the instruction manual. It is (supposed to be) in English... but I switched over to just looking at the pictures and ignoring the text by step 2 :)
Here's some of the highlights:

  • Be careful to take sharp items to avoid inquiry.

  • Don't eat tiny parts like bolts etc. to avoid choke.

  • Don't see the sun view the viewfinder to avoid your eyes get damaged.

  • Make sure the screw is fixed tightly and not movable, and please don't hurt your fingers.

  • Make sure the spring B will not bounce offer during the installation as it is really too tiny.

  • Turn 6 screws on the front plate tightly, and turn 2 screws on one side of the front plate, and don't turn other 4 screws too tightly.


And my favorite is this little paragrah:

"Turning Screw"
(Please prepare one screw driver yourself)
Basically use 70% power to press the screw or bot and use 30% power to turn it. All screws are made of plastic, have grooves, big power will damage the screws easily and then camera can't work properly. The end of the accessory screw driver is already magnetized, but if the magnetization is weak, just take a magnet to rub the end of this screw driver in same direction for a few times.

One: None of the screws are made of plastic. They go IN plastic but are made of perfectly good metal.
Two: How can they tell whether or not my screwdriver is or isn't magnetized.

I'm sure there's plenty more but I get a headache reading the text...

The build


Building the camera was fun though. All problems aside, the kit did come with all parts and screws. It took me a bit longer than the advertised hour, because I took my cell phone camera to take pictures of each step as before/after shots.

While all the parts were there, some of them required a bit of ellimination to identify. Using a black and white photography on badly xeroxed paper doesn't make black parts easier to identify.
Overall there were only two little things that the manufacturer could have done better:

  • The side panel where the film roller axis are going into the camera should have three holes (transport, rewind and "counter") but there were only two. The third hole was covered by residual plastic which I had to cut out with a knife first. Not a big issue but hey... didn't say I should bring a knife to the camera fight... errr.. build!

  • The viewfinder is an actual top-down viewfinder, like you would see in a Hasselblad type of camera - only it has it's very own lens (hence the "twin lens" name). In order to see a focused picture, it requires a "focussing screen" i.e. a matted sheet of plastic or glass... only the one provided with the kit is clear transparent. So there isn't a picture showing at all. Had to cut up a plastic booklet envelope to replace it. Works perfectly now :)



How does it work?


The mechanics are rather simple. The shutter is a three-piece transmission so that no matter how fast or slowly you pull the lever, the shutter time is roughly the same (within mechanical tolerance levels).
There is no "aperture", other than a disc with a (rather large) hole in it that you can put either in front of or behind the film lens or leave out alltogether.
The "film counter" is actually a simple gear that makes a disc turn half way around every time a single frame is advanced. I recommend winding the film *every time* the shutter is pressed, otherwise there is no indicator whether or not a "blank" is loaded.
Advancing the film is done by just turning a knob that is directly connected to the film spool inside. Rewinding is the same, just with a different button.

The pictures...


Are still inside the camera. I'll post details once I have the first roll of film developed!

The experience


Everybody who is into photography will like the idea of a homemade camera that actually works and can take pictures in an "old school look". It takes quite a bit of practice to press the shutter lever without jerking the camera right when it opens... and of course the image quality doesn't compare to a modern day camera, even film based ones. Much less to the average digital camera of our days. But it is just what it is supposed to be: Photography with no strings and the least amount of technology attached! And to me it was a very nice and welcome birthday present!


Camera Kit (box)

Camera Kit (unpacked)

Camera Kit (Backside, open)

Camera Kit (front, finished)


So that's it! I'll keep you posted!

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