Turn a Monorail View Camera Digital by Attaching a DSLR

Digital view cameras can be quite pricey, but if you have an old analog view camera and a DSLR sitting around, you can combine the two cameras to make a DIY frankencam. Northlight Images has a tutorial for doing this with Canon DSLRs, and Nikon Rumors has a tutorial for Nikon shooters (either tutorial should work for you regardless of which brand you use). The resulting rig allows you to take advantage of the tilt and shift features of view cameras.

  • DamianMonsivais

    I hate this so much

  • Kaouthia

    There’s been 4×5 plates with Nikon mounts available on eBay for a LONG time.

    Problem is, you’re still shooting the same format, getting the same field of view (that is, a 130mm lens on a large format camera with a DSLR on the end looks the same as just shooting a DSLR with a 130mm lens – it doesn’t have the “normal” field of view that it would have on a 4×5 ground glass, negative or slide).

    The only advantage it really offers is the movements of the front & rear standard, which aren’t as obvious or as easy to control as a proper tilt shift lens (although rise & fall is handy), and you really don’t get that 4×5 look that you get with proper large format film or a large format scanning back.

  • Guest

    Still, you can pick up a 45mm/65mm LF lens (something closer to normal field of view for a full frame sensor) for a fraction of what a tilt shift lens would cost for a smaller format, plus you gain all the rear standard movements you miss with a tilt shift lens. I suspect there might be issues with focusing to infinity with the sensor having to be so far back versus where a sheet of film would be, but if one already has an LF system and can cheaply address potential problems, I’d think this would be an attractive alternative to a $2000 Canon TS lens.

  • Kaouthia

    Of course, you’re right, you can. Most decent large format lenses I’ve seen online are around £100-300, which is a damn sight cheaper than a PC-E tilt shift. But, you’re still gonna be spending a good few hundred on a decent view camera (£400-700) and another £130 on a 4×5 plate with a DSLR mount.

    So, you’re anywhere between £600-1150 (probably closer to £1150 going by the current eBay prices) with limited functionality as it’s not really designed for this size of sensor (as you mentioned about infinity focus, etc). Nikon PC-E lenses are around £1300-1400. If you’re going to go for this kind of investment, you’d be better off just getting the PC-E.

    If you already have the LF camera then I agree, as you said, you’d be able to do this pretty inexpensively. You’d already have the lens, and the camera, so you’d just need the adapter plate.

  • Guest

    You’re totally right. That said I’m inspired to try this out as I think I have everything right now that could work in a manner that’s a bit cleaner than the recommended jerry-rigging. A T-mount adapter could easily attach to a Copal 1 lens board which, on a sinar system, easily replaces the ground glass in a naturally light tight way.

    Results forthcoming…

  • ShaiS

    I have done it a few years ago using my Nikon D2x, It was fun but most LF lenses (not the new top dollar ones) just don’t have the resolving power needed for the small pixels.