Cameradactyl: colourful, customizable 3D printed camera hits Kickstarter

Maker Ethan Moses has launched a Kickstarter campaign for a 3D printed 4x5 field camera

So much of technology is about moving ahead, progressing and improving on the past. Sometimes though, technology is used to pay homage to the past, which is exactly what Ethan Moses, a maker and amateur photographer, has done with his 3D printed Cameradactyl. The 3D printed camera, currently being featured through a Kickstarter campaign, is inspired by 4 x 5 field cameras, which originated in the 19th century.

“I have built cameras in the past, but always one-offs, out of wood and metal,” writes Moses on the crowdfunding page. “When I got a new 3D printer, I couldn’t help myself. I started designing and printing prototypes of 4 x 5 cameras that I could reproduce for friends and fellow photographers. I am a lover of classic mahogany, brass and steel field cameras, and my goal was to make an accessible and inexpensive alternative.”

Though he ultimately decided to do away with the more classic building materials, Moses has created a functional 4 x 5 camera which is made all the more exciting (and contemporary) by its colourful 3D printed components.

Though the Cameradactyl is built almost entirely from 3D printed parts, Moses does emphasize that the camera retains the functionality and most of the durability of a more traditionally manufacturing field camera. The result, as he succinctly says, is “a fun entry level camera” that maintains its “professional attributes.”

Among these professional attributes is the rack and pinion geared focusing rails for the front and back standards, front swings, tilts, rise and fall and rear swings and tilts. The 3D printed bellows of the camera are designed to accommodate lenses in the range of 90 mm to 300 mm. “I like using 150 mm and 210 mm normal lenses,” says the maker. “They allow for a good range of movements, and have the angle of view I prefer working with in this format.”

That being said, the $225 camera does not include certain necessary parts, including a lens of film holders, though Moses says these can be easily found online. For those unfamiliar with large format and classic cameras, Moses also recommends doing a bit of research into what type of lens would be the right fit for the style of photography.

Excitingly, because the camera body is fully 3D printed, the Cameradactyl can be fully customized. Had a hankering for a pink and orange camera? Or an all yellow camera? This could be your chance. (For the sake of quality, the lens board and film back are always printed in black.)

“I’m currently printing in eight colors, which when raised to the 10th power (# of print/part groups) allows for 1,073,741,824 possible color combinations, before choosing a bellows covering fabric,” adds Moses.

Since launching the Cameradactyl Kickstarter campaign on July 24th, Moses has already raised over $6,800, far surpassing his goal of $2,500. And though the early bird deals have all been snatched up, backers can still pledge $225 or more for first, second or third production batches. 

One thing is certain with the Cameradactyl: photographers won’t have to “say cheese” to get a smile out of their subjects with it!

Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault moved from her home of Montreal, Canada to the Netherlands in 2014 to pursue a master’s degree in Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. It was during her time in Amsterdam that she became acquainted with 3D printing technology and began writing for a local additive manufacturing news platform. Now based in France, Tess has over two and a half years experience writing, editing and publishing additive manufacturing content with a particular interest in women working within the industry. She is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM industry.

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