Check Out This All-Aluminum Handmade Medium Format Camera

You’ll wish you have the skills and the tools to make your own epic medium format camera

If you’ve been lurking around vintage camera and film photography groups, you’ve probably seen an amazing DIY medium format camera project recently shared by Lucus Landers. If you’ve ever wanted to actualy have the bragging rights to a polished camera you built yourself, here’s what it takes.

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A Homemade 4×5 Monorail Camera

the camera

All images by Lucus Landers. Used with permission.

Photographer Lucus Landers has been featured here before after building his own 4×5 Polaroid camera, and he’s made something else. According to Lucus, it’s a “4×5 monorail made out of laser cut plywood. The craftsmanship isn’t nearly the same level as the camera you wrote about but it is incredibly easy to make.”

Many, many photographers tend to make their own cameras when they want to go for a larger format than 120 film. These often result in pinhole cameras that shoot beautiful images aided by the creativity of the photographer.

Lucus tells us that these are some of the first large format images he has have ever taken. “They were shot on Delta 100 and trey developed in my parent’s bathroom. The look of the film is due to the boiling heat the film was developed in and the fact that they were originally developed for the platinum/palladium printing process that requires a much more dense, higher contrast negative.”

He continued to state the look of them isn’t perfect nor are they the best that the camera can potentially make, but the images are personally very important to him.

“They were the first photos I took on the first camera I ever made. Since then I have learned how take much better large format images and refined the technical process. But none of them carry the same weight in my heart.”

We talked to Lucus more about the homemade 4×5 Monorail Camera.

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The Building of A Homemade 4×5 Polaroid Camera


All images by Lucus Landers. Used with permission.

Photographer Lucus Landers recently graduated from Pratt Institute in the fall; and while there he worked with various mediums and processes in the photographic world. He’s a testament to the statement that if you give a photographer any camera, they’ll be able to create art with it after having worked in both the commercial and fine art world.

Yet Mr. Landers was inspired to create a camera of his own. With a natural curiosity for how things worked that started when he was a young lad, he later on started to tinker with his own devices. This DIY philosophy carried on into his photography interests, and he set out to create his own cameras. Indeed, he thinks there is no better satisfaction than shooting with a camera that you build yourself–further stating that he knows every little detail of that camera and completely understands how it works.

“The first one I built was a 4×5 monorail camera. I had never even shot a large format camera when I started working on it.” says Lucus. “By the time I was done I had an immense knowledge of the operations of the camera and the photographic process.” Lucus continued to state that building cameras is therapeutic for him and that he spends hours researching different processes and designs before stepping into a machine shop. There, he spends weeks trying different things and learning the tools. At other times, he needs to scrap projects and start all over.

Lucus loves the look and feel of large format cameras and the type of images they create; but they come with a caveat. Naturally, the larger the format, the tougher it is to work with. And indeed, Mr. Landers encountered this problem. “…They are so large and so complicated that taking a single image can take quite some time. This camera gives me most of the properties of a large format camera with few of the drawbacks.”

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This Polaroid Camera Was Converted to Shoot Large Format


All images by David McKay. Used with permission.

When it comes to conversion projects, one of the most common ones that we all see are transforming a camera into a Polaroid shooting version. But photographer David McKay did the opposite and instead converted a Polaroid camera to shoot 4×5 images. Inspired by the work of previously featured Lucus Landers, David was originally put off at purchasing a large format camera but when he heard about the DIY approach, he decided to give it a shot.

The results so far haven’t disappointed us.

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9 Homemade Cameras Worth The DIY Effort

Image by Lucus Landers. Featured in our post on his new monorail camera.

Image by Lucus Landers. Featured in our post on his new monorail camera.

All images taken from our original interviews with the photographers.

Think that creating your own camera is too much work? It isn’t at all. In fact, creating your own cameras can be fun and can give you an experimental and creative edge that make you think differently about the way that you see images. Most of these cameras can be large format–or as is the case of many of the photographers that we’ve interviewed, a custom format. Before you continue on, you should first check out this video that is an introduction to large format shooting. You’ll see what a photographer needs to do in order to get the photos that they want.

Here are some Homemade Cameras that you’ll get inspired by.

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