Legotron, Mark I — 4x5 Camera made of LEGO bricks

{ed note: Wow! Hello people from all over the place! Below is my initial post about the Lego 4x5. I added more images and a bit more detail to a new post just now. Check it out here.}

Back in August of 2009, I blogged about having an idea of making a 4x5 out of LEGO bricks. Ten days later I'd made some serious progress on it. I started with trying to use the LEGO builder App on the computer to spec it out before I built it, but my mind wouldn't work like that, so I threw that out and borrowed a metric tonne of LEGOs from my friend Gregory. I made a couple of rounds of prototypes that proved to work well enough for my mind to think Hello World / proof of concept. Fast forward a bit and I got really busy and left the project sitting on a desk for just ages. A big hitch in the progress, other than being busy, was that I'd built just enough of the camera to realize I had to rebuild the main body to accomodate the film holder—a part I'd forgotten to plan for.

Fast forward something like a year, and I finally carved out time to restructure everything to fit the back and actually finish the super-low-budget "ground glass". This weekend marked the first time all the pieces came together! I took 4 frames on Sunday, two Monday, and processed them later that day. I got to scan them this morning and I am COMPLETELY FREAKING STOKED.

Here are the 4 frames I shot. I only took the time so far to edit the one of Ashley.

Ashley Johnson, of A Bryan Photo.

Stephanie, our friend Joshua helping brew beer (as well as drinking one), and Joshua and Kristin's kids.

I'll go into a bit of detail, for the nerds.

  • I have no clue how many pieces are in this camera
  • It's dimensions are roughly 7"x6.5"x7"
  • The main parts are a Main box, internal box, film holder/ground glass slot, lens board, lens.
  • The lens is a 127mm ƒ4.7 I got on ebay for ~40 dollars
  • The lensboard is two Plates deep and fits perfectly in the slot I built for it (though, I cut it down to one plate in the center to actually mount the lens).
  • Focus is achieved by sliding the internal box forward and backward.

The focus range is limited to roughly 3 feet to about 18 inches. It's good for portrait, but certainly can't focus to infinity. Mark II (once I get to that) should have a way better focusing range. I'm planning on making a pinhole lens board too.

The ground glass is just plexi, sanded with various fine grits. It's held in place by a film holder that previously had light leaks, but now has the aluminum center cut out. The fit is tight and I ran a line of liquid nails too, just in case.

I have plans for the next version already. I have a lot more knowledge now and can probably design more accurately in the LEGO App. I'm also going to do a lot of measuring to make sure I have a better focus range (on this version, I just started building on a whim). I'm sure lots of other little tweaks will find their way into the Mark II, but for now, I've got to shoot this guy as much as I can! I'm working on a cohesive project theme to shoot around. I'm open to suggestions too.

Below are images of the process that stretched out way too long.

First picture of early structure, 8/27/09.

The very next day the basic idea was done.

Clear shot of the lens board.

Still messing with it in September.

Didn't really make time to work on it for another 1.5 years. That's ridiculous. Actually, that's insane to me, that the idea is just now finished.

Before the lens board was modified and installed. I had to shave off the stubs on the front and the circle-y things on the back side of the plate to make it shallow enough for the retaining ring to fit on.

My friend House as seen through the ground glass this past weekend.

And the final product again.

A chair, as seen through the ground glass.