Photographer Builds the World’s First Autofocus 4×5 Camera

Photographer Aleksi Koski has created what he calls the world’s first 4×5 camera that is equipped with autofocus. Called the Conflict AF45, it uses a laser-based focusing system to create what is basically a giant point-and-shoot.

Koski tells PetaPixel that he designed the Conflict AF45 base on his experiences shooting large format film photography over the course of the last 15 years.

Built from a Passion for Classic 4×5 Press Photography

“My first camera was the usual Speed Graphic, that came with the Kalart rangefinder. I calibrated a few lenses to it, and shot it handheld,” he says. “After that, I modified mainly European 9×12 folders to my purposes and lugged around a case full of metal 9×12 sheet film holders as I was chasing the dream of the ultimate compact sheet film camera.”

Koski says that through photography school he tried to shoot everything on sheet film as his main interest was always 1930s press style photography.

“I really like the style of Weegee and the crime photography of that era,” he says. “4×5-inch was the main format for press photography. It only after that evolved into the current form, where it was only used on tripods.”

World's First Autofocus 4x5 Camera

Koski’s passion for hand-held 4×5 photography led him to develop a camera that he says solves all the inherent problems of shooting the format that he discovered through the years.

Modernizing a Classic

The Conflict AF45 provides an accurate and fast way to focus lenses as wide-open as f/2.7 and f/3.5. He also says that it gives accurate frame lines and the ability to use multiple lenses.

“You can calibrate basically any lens into the Conflict AF45 and have accurate frame lines for 4×5-inch film and other formats, like 6×12 roll film backs for example,” he explains. “It uses an extremely accurate laser-based focusing system, that has an accuracy of 2mm.

World's First Autofocus 4x5 Camera

“It has a motor actuated lens standard that moves the lens back and forth, enabling really fast and accurate focusing.”

Koski says another aspect of the camera that was key in the design is its ability to close focus, and wide lenses can focus down to 30cm or closer.

World's First Autofocus 4x5 Camera

“At one time, I had a 9×12 modified Patent Etui folder where I used the same close focusing method as Olympus XA4, that uses its camera strap as a measuring tool for 30cm close focus,” he explains.

“Close focusing was always something that is missing in rangefinder cameras, as rangefinders are not good at close distances. But the laser system is. Its accuracy improves the closer it gets.”

Koski says he designed the camera to be a serious tool and enable 4×5 film shooting to have a similar experience to shooting medium format digital.

“Instead of fiddling with the camera, you can concentrate on what you are actually shooting and the camera does everything for you,” he says. “My overall interest is basically a create a 4×5 camera that could be used even in professional settings alongside digital workflows, as I really think 4×5 offers something different enough to be interesting in the digital era.

“The sheer size of the film also makes it extremely good for modern hybrid digital/analog workflows where film is scanned and inkjet printed. It offers basically unlimited print sizes with qualities rivaling or surpassing even the best digital systems,” he adds.

World's First Autofocus 4x5 Camera
Captured with the Conflict AF45
World's First Autofocus 4x5 Camera
Captured with the Conflict AF45
World's First Autofocus 4x5 Camera
Captured with the Conflict AF45

“It also automatically calculates bellows extension compensations for close-ups and has a built-in light meter. It really tries to make the shooting process as fast as possible.”

Koski says that he designed it to work mainly with Gramatic type multi sheet holders that enable the photographer to shoot six to 10 sheets in fast succession.

While still a prototype, Koski says that it is fully operational. He envisions the finished product to have a carbon fiber body, but the current model is made of rough 3D-printed materials. For those interested in keeping up with the status of the project, Koski publishes updated information on his Conflict AF45 on his YouTube and Instagram as he approaches his final design which will have commercial availability.

Image credits: Photos by Aleksi Koski, Conflict Camera.