The quest for better resolution is ongoing, with photographers never quite satisfied about the ending result. Most of them spend all their money on better, more modern equipment, while others take upon themselves the task of building cameras from scratch. Dieter Schneider is one of them. A wet plate photography enthusiast, he’s focusing all his energy on building large format cameras that will allow him to go back in time and capture that feeling of nostalgia. His last achievement was a large format plywood camera that’s hard not to envy.
Large format cameras were popular in the 40s and 50s as they helped journalists complete their story with hard evidence. In press, quality pictures were always on demand, so this camera’s 4×5 inches (102×127 mm) image size (versus the 1.0 x1.5 inch/24×36 mm frame of 35 mm format), was ideal. At 16 times the total resolution of a 35mm camera, it retained a high level of detail. No wonder artists took landscape, advertising and fine-art photos using this sort of camera, a process most photographers respect and admire even today.
Plus, it’s an extremely flexible camera that gives the photographer a chance to choose his perspective and increase the apparent DOF. The front and the back of the camera (standards) can be lifted up or shifted down, moved to the right or left to make trippy, architectural photos.
Dieter Schneider, though, is using it in wet plate photography (a process that implies coating, exposing and developing the material in a maximum of 15 minutes) and likes to make his own equipment:
“I have built large format cameras before but never with a cnc machine and never in plywood. Birch plywood is beautiful, light weight and affordable. I do use several other tools as well but the main structure of the camera is cut using the Shapeoko cnc. This is also the first time I try to cut brass with it, and it was no problem (even with a tiny 1.8mm bit)”
See the first part of the process above and the final result here: