The Ondu Eikan 4×5″ Large Format camera has been an idea in the making for a decade now. Elvis Halilović harbored a deep desire to bring his vision to life for years. But he didn’t want to make just another 4×5 camera. With the Ondu Eikan 4×5, he hasn’t just brought a relatively affordable entry point for photographers wanting to step into the captivating realm of large-format photography. He’s also ensuring that the system is modular, lightweight, and has the potential to evolve in the years to come.
We’ve featured many large-format photographers over the years. Some of the cameras they used were self-made. Others were DIY tinkers who improved upon or personalized existing large-format cameras to their liking. If you’re not one of those types but have often harbored the idea of dipping your toes into this genre, the Ondu Eikan camera could well be your starting point. The camera is currently available for backing on Kickstarter, coming in three variations – Standard, Range, and Panoramikku.
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ONDU Eikan 4×5 Standard
As Elvis describes it:
Its modular design empowers you to make enhancements and adapt the camera to your evolving needs. Whether you’re a beginner venturing into large format imagery or seeking a lightweight setup, the Standard ONDU Eikan set is the ideal camera to start your large format journey
This model has a bellows range of 32cm, featuring a rear and front zeroing mechanism. If you’re unsure which model to take, it’s probably best to opt for this one. At USD $700 (Early Bird pricing), it offers a decent price point to experiment with large-format photography. Provided you’re absolutely sure you can commit to this genre, as the costs can quickly add up when you immerse yourself in it. At just 1.5 kg, this is relatively lightweight and easy to set up. You can add on an optional Lomograflok Instax Focusing Screen for USD $72.
ONDU Eikan 4×5 Range
Sharing almost all of the same features as the Standard, the Range has longer bellows and a rear sliding rail for an extra 10cm of extension. You can switch between the Standard to the Range with some work, but it’s not something that Elvis recommends you often do.
ONDU EIKAN 4×10″ Panoramikku
Keeping up with his promise of the ONDU Eikan being modular, Elvis also offers a 4×10″ Panoramikku edition. If large-format panoramas interest you, this might be the model to go for.
All three models are compatible with Linhof boards for lenses and standard sheet film holders (yes, this isn’t a digital camera, in case you missed that little detail). It’s also compatible with various graflock backs and is made of European Walnut wood and CNC-cut aircraft-grade aluminum. The bellows snap on magnetically to make shooting outdoors easier for you.
Why Shoot With Large Format Cameras?
We’re in an era when being able to produce images with the smallest possible cameras is a way of life. Cameras have gone from being something we’d hang around our necks to units embedded in devices that live inside our pockets. And in those tiny devices reside the tiniest possible sensors, packed with software and processing that massages the life out of pixels. Trying to make those images look passable. Or postable online, at least. Often we don’t even control the output of what those images will look like. An app does this for us, and we don’t get much say in whether it’s 100% true to life. And then there’s a whole bunch of people who want to randomly generate pixels using algorithms and pass them off as photos.
When you consider what it’s all come down to these days, practicing some of the earlier forms and methods of photography can act as a cathartic release. This isn’t a run-and-gun camera by any means. Nor is it going to make your photography workflow any easier. If anything, it will probably push your skills to the limits by making you readjust and realign your techniques. Film photography isn’t forgiving, and large-format photography amplifies that. Relish in the meditative nature of setting up the shot, carefully considering each element within the frame. Appreciate the art of patience in capturing the perfect moment but at a much slower pace than you’re accustomed to. The gratifying feeling that comes with holding a large format print in your hands is second to none in photography.
If you’re nuts about shallow depth of field, there’s nothing like large-format photography to help you explore this. Head over to Kickstarter to back this project if you want to experience a whole new world of photography. Designed and crafted in Slovenia, you can bring out the inner Ansel Adams in you by giving one of these models a go.