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The Focal Camera: An Open Source Modular Camera

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Over the past year, Dutch artist Mathijs van Oosterhoudt has been developing a new camera system. No, it’s not a high-tech digital system that’s intended to go up against the major camera companies. Instead, it’s an open-modular camera system that’s intended to teach people how to build complex cameras. Its name is The Focal Camera.

Van Oosterhoudt has been using his camera design to teach workshops, but now he has decided to publish all his designs for free on the Web to bring the knowledge and joy of cameras to a much wider audience.

“Even complex cameras can be made in simple ways,” the Focal Camera website says. It features a collection of module designs and instructions. The basic component is a central cube that serves as the “base module.” All other modules (e.g. 6×6 film back, ground glass, optical viewfinder, pinhole) can be combined with the base module in various ways to create different kinds of cameras.

Some of the modules available on the Focal Camera website.
Some of the modules available on the Focal Camera website.

Each module is designed to be lasercut out of a 3mm material. Depending on the module, you may also need other materials (e.g. a front-silvered mirror, some ground glass, a lens).

An early SLR prototype.
An early SLR prototype.
A camera modeled after the 6x6 Hasselblad.
A camera modeled after the 6×6 Hasselblad.
Looking through the ground glass of a viewfinder.
Looking through the ground glass of a viewfinder.

Once you’ve created the modules and combined them into the form you want, you can fix the body permanently and then seal it to block out light.

Here are some examples of cameras that have been created using Focal Camera modules:

Pinhole camera with shutter. Photo by Cihad Caner.
Pinhole camera with shutter. Photo by Cihad Caner.
Camera with guillotine shutter. Photo by Cihad Caner.
Camera with guillotine shutter. Photo by Cihad Caner.
This camera uses an old lens from a folding medium format camera. Photo by Cihad Caner.
This camera uses an old lens from a folding medium format camera. Photo by Cihad Caner.
A trichrome camera that splits light into red, green, and blue channels. Photo by Cihad Caner.
A trichrome camera that splits light into red, green, and blue channels. Photo by Cihad Caner.

Here are a few sample photos captured with Focal Camera bodies:

Photograph by Qianwei Tong.
Photograph by Qianwei Tong.
Photograph by Mathijs van Oosterhoudt.
Photograph by Mathijs van Oosterhoudt.
Photograph by Mihail Bakalov.
Photograph by Mihail Bakalov.

If you’d like to build your own Focal Camera, head on over to the website to find all the instructions and files you’ll need to get started.

(via Focal Camera via Reddit)


Image credits: All photos by Mathijs van Oosterhoudt/Focal Camera unless otherwise noted

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