Turning a Portable Scanner Into a Large Format Camera Digital Back

If you’ve ever wondered if there are digital backs for large format cameras, the short answer is yes: the long answer is you can make one yourself.

Large format photography is not only still very much alive, but it’s also evolving thanks to crafty photographers who go the DIY route and give us more ways to work with it. Among the most interesting examples are digital backs for digital cameras — even for large format cameras. Read on if that sounds like something you’d like to try for a weekend project.

In the recent video below, made by film photographer and filmmaker Sean Anderson for Fotodiox, we are taken through a step-by-step process of converting a mini portable scanner into a “digital back” for a 4×5 large format camera.

For this project, you’ll need a mini portable scanner, a piece of glass, a piece of wood, 600 grit Silicon Carbide, and a 5×7 Fresnel Sheet. The process begins with taking out the glass from the scanner and turning it into a ground glass. Once that’s ready, you can reattach it to your scanner. Place the Fresnel Sheet on it, texture down, then tape it down with duct tape. This will allow a more even distribution of light onto the ground glass.

Next, tape the scanner behind where the film plane is supposed to be. While this setup won’t allow you to focus the camera to infinity, you can use it to shoot still life and close-up photography. Sean demonstrates how to shoot with it, making sure to set the shutter on Bulb. The resulting photos, while not perfect, have an uncanny film look to them — shallow depth of field, vintage look, monochrome tones and all.

The setup is not perfect, so Sean also has some recommendations for adjustments and options that you can do for troubleshooting and improving the setup as you see fit.

If you try out this project, we’d love to see your setup and results!

Check out the full resolution images on Sean’s Flickr page and the Fotodiox YouTube channel for more photography videos like this.

Cover image from the video