August 10, 2018

CameraMods: Lomography Instant Back with LEGO and Polaroid Colorpack 80 lens

The lens is supposed to be a triplet. Plastic or glass. Mine is plastic.

It exposes at iso 3000 or 75, so I have to trick the electric eye two stops as I am shooting with Fuji Instax Mini film at iso 800.

Roughly two stop over or under.

At iso 3000 it uses the f45 aperture. At iso 75 it uses an f stop of 9.2, or so I've read.

To use the solid body Polaroid pack film camera you have to set up a battery.

I'm using a 3v watch battery tucked inside the LEGO cone/box.

I'll document the camera better soon. Plus scan some photos. I plan to make this my VACATION camera. We'll see.

June 25, 2018

CameraMods: Version 3 of LEGO camera

Version 3 features a little front foot that helps the camera stand on a table. (If you want to see ALL the version in one album, check out my Flickr. It's been a while since I've used it but I've fired it up again.)

It also uses electrical tape AND Renfrew Pro Tape inside to cover off light leaks.

Went outside in bright sunlight, came back with the following two images. Light leaks remained.

Re-assembled the lens board. I placed a foam o-ring between the retaining ring and the lens board. It looks promising. The image below was taken immediately after the modification.

What remains is an outdoor shoot under bright sunlight to really test it.

June 19, 2018

CameraMods: homemade Instax Mini LEGO camera in pieces

Awesome film-lens interaction, yes.
Good lens to film plane distance, yes.
Light leaks....argggh.

A night shot I took last night. It was on a tripod. I just forgot to focus. But at least it shows me where the leaks are. The hunt continues.

The LEGO camera looks like scraps of nothing when you take it apart.

Here's a detail of the Diana F+ instant film back.

I used black poster board, Renfrew Pro Tape, and some dollar-store craft foam to make the light seals. It's not quite right yet.

The Renfrew tape may not be light tight as I hoped. But it's nice and matte. May use it in combo with electrical tape to make the whole deal work.

June 18, 2018

CameraMods: Sighting a working Lego camera that shoots Instax Mini with a Diana F+ instant back, version 2

Cleaned up the look of the camera from version 1b. Plus, I think I've chased down all the light leaks. We'll find out soon enough.

One of the big improvements is I put a sight on it. It's not a viewfinder as it does not let me know the framing. It does let me know if I am pointing the camera properly.

It works with two front sights. The lower sight is zeroed at 4.5 feet. The upper sight is zeroed at 12 feet.

I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn't establish range or that even if I see an object through the sight, it does NOT mean that object is at either of those ranges.

What it does allow me to do is point the camera properly at the centre of what I wish to photograph at two particular ranges, ie 4.5 and 12 feet.

I did this by turning a used Instax Mini pack into a ground glass. You can do that as per this post.

I determined the centre of the image and then figured out when the sights and the centre of image align. Once set, measure the range and note it on the set of front sights.

Okay, more sweet, sweet mod shots.

Nice and neat on the outside....

Better yet, nice and neat on the inside. I really wanted to get rid of the vignetting and light leaks with this iteration.

And that's pretty tidy.

A good view of the rear and front sights.

The next job is to add a sports finder. Have fun shooting and have a great day.


Just took four exposures. Looks pretty good.

Vignetting only occurs on the left side. It's unavoidable as a single row of Lego encroaches into the image area.

The colours are good though. And the depth of field is just what you would want from a project and lens like this (1/10 sec at F/5.6).

The overly warm cast can be blamed on the white balance on the digi AND the lazy photographer/blogger.

My boy, Jack, took the last one. He wasn't quite set for a 1/10 sec exposure.

CameraMods question: I just can’t sent up focus point. Any advice how to measure distance between lens and film back?

 Piotr is in the UK.

After seeing my post and videos, he started building his own Instax Wide 300 camera mod.

Now he is setting up the lens. He wrote to me at vancouverbydesign gmail with this question:
Q: Hi JJ Lee:

Hope you are enjoying your weekend.
I’ve put the camera together.
I’ve got Mamiya Universal 100mm f3.5 lens.
Colour rendering is amazing, I just can’t sent up (the) focus point (sic). 
Any advice how to measure distance between lens and film back?
Thanks a million.

A: Hi Piotr:

To set the lens. Create a rough ground glass.
Use a piece of Plexi or clear plastic like the cover of a cd jewel case and sand it.

This acts as the ground glass.

Then, insert it into a cannibalized Instax film package. Now you have a ground glass that can work with your set up.

Use it to adjust for infinity focus. The rig should have an adjustment. Though on a Mamiya Universal I don't know how to do that. (Actually, all Piotr has to do now is set the correct barrel length).



And here's what he sent back.

The view through the ground glass is so terrific. A magic window.

Looking forward to Piotr's finished product. Thanks for writing.

June 17, 2018

Video: CameraMods Lego camera in action, version 1b

The Lego Instax Mini camera with a Diana F+ instant film back.

A version 2 is on its way.

CameraMods: Lego Instax Mini camera with a Diana F+ instant film back

The Diana F+ cameras were my Father's Day gift from my boys and wife.

Of course what I really wanted was the pair of instant film backs.

Sorry about the dirty nail. I had to use electrical tape, which is gooey and horrible, and (discovery) Renfrew Pro Tape (for hockey sticks and surprisingly it may be light tight and NOT gooey and horrible) to chase down light leaks. Yay, Canadiana.

The under and over exposures I could blame on the slow shutter. But really the fault belongs to the photographer.

But  here is the camera as it stands so far. It's LEGO. It could change into a different configuration or form factor like *that* (finger snap).

It's the same lens that I used on my Instax Wide 300 mod. Obviously, I need more front cell focusing lens and shutters.

I have finished a pack of Monochrome. Have three shots of colour Instax Mini in the camera.

Some results. It's always good to show the bad shots. Just so everyone knows what they're getting into if they try it themselves.

Video of the camera in ACTION to come.

June 14, 2018

CameraMods: Mamiya C3 TLR plus two Diana F+ equals FRANKENCAMERA

The twin lens reflex camera you see on the top left is a Mamiya C3 Professional which I bought at a garage sale in May. It was a good day overall.

The Diana F+ Instant cameras I picked with my wife on Thursday afternoon. It's my Father's Day present. So good times came early.

The goal is to turn the TLR into an instant camera. The Diana F kits have Instax Mini backs. They have been reported to have build and jamming problem. But I feel I can tinker to correct those flaws.

I do want to use the Diana lenses as a viewing and taking glass (I know they're plastic).

Fifty-five millimetre for a focal length is a bit of a challenge. I'll have to build a lensboard with a shutter mechanism that is quite thin if I want infinity focus.

Mamiya had 55mm lenses for the system and they projected into the body nearly as much as they projected forward, it seems to me.

The toy cameras, when set up for the instant film, require a "correction" lens that fits in the body before the aperture and shutter. It corrects, I believe, for a longer length. The instant back pushes the film plane further back.

So there's hope. The only other concern I have,  okay, it's one among many, that the correction lens will interfere with the mirror in the top taking lens section properly called the viewer box.

Because the instant back, just like in the Diana, will most like sit further back (who knows what will happen to infinity focus), there is a chance I could mount the viewing lens more forward than the taking lens.

Another hope I have that somehow the correction lens distance to the aperture/shutter plane will some alter the focal length of the lens overall and therefore, once adjusted, to have infinity focus with the instant back (Instax back...who are we kidding?).

Wish me luck. Happy shooting. Have a great day.

Some more notes, it has occurred to me that I may want to try the camera as is.

Before I set out, I wanted to know the apertures. The lens has cloudy, partly cloudy, and such. But I needed to know.

This is what Lomography said:

If you’re a photo-whiz and are used to working with lens apertures instead of icons, we’ve translated the pictures on the bottom of your Diana F+ into photo-speak.
The cloudy aperture is f11, partly cloudy is f16 and sunny is f22. The pinhole is approximately f150.
 Elsewhere, I read the shutter speed runs at 1/60. So that's a start.

June 9, 2018

Xu PengXiang: the best camera modder I've seen so far

I come across his cameras all the time.

When I have a notion to put a certain camera lens to another unexpected body, I discover online that Xu PengXiang has already done it.

He's amazing and has pushed me to create the polished camera mods I'm able to do.

I believe he's a visual artist. He hasn't posted anything in 2018 yet on his website.

Nevertheless, if you're into camera modding at all, he's someone to watch.

June 7, 2018

Pinhole negs part 2: flash plus exposure time

Okay that makes more sense. Exposures 16 and 17, see bottom right were the two best exposures.

As I noted in my last post:

Frame 16: 1 x flash 180 secs.
Frame 17: 1 x flash + 120 secs.

The exposure value was 7.6. On my chart  EV 7 calls for 4 min and EV 8 calls for 2 min. So around 3 min is what we're shooting for.

To me it looks like the flash contributes 60 secs to exposure time. If we look at exposures 18 and 21, the two next best exposures (middle row left and middle row right), we get:

Frame 18: 1 x flash + 60 secs.
Frame 21: 2 x flashes + 30 secs.

And indeed they are slightly underexposed. I think we can safely say 1 flash on Yellow on the Vivitar 283 equals around 60 sec. exposure time. I good round number and usable for my purposes.

Pinhole plus time plus flash equals exposure experiments

First things first, here is a link to the Vivitar 283 manual. Which I should have read first.

I exposed a number of frames of Kodak Gold 200 through a 52mm f/175 pinhole camera.

I wanted to figure out how much a single flash contributed to the exposure as an unit of time. For example 1 flash (at a particular setting) = so much exposure time.

The flash was set on Yellow. Which was the lowest power setting. For some reason I thought it was the highest of the auto settings.

The range was 4 feet with the distance to the mirror being 2 feet. The film was 200 ISO. The f stop was 175. And I can confirm the aperture is accurate enough with a previous time exposure which exposed correctly at EV 8.1, at 200 ISO, for 2:02 secs.

In the experiment the EV was 7.6.

I had to reference my notes to frames backwards because for some reason I have more frames than notes. I may have done a few test exposures before taking notes and probably before I realized I could conduct an experiment.

Frame 14 and 15 were the test shots in which to took no notes.
Frame 16: 1 x flash 180 secs.
Frame 17: 1 x flash + 120 secs.
Looks like even in a low light interior situation, time makes a huge difference.

Frame 18: 1 x flash + 60 secs.
Frame 19: 1 x flash + 30 secs.
Frame 20: 1 x flash + 30 secs. (I know, I did this twice)
Frame 21: 2 x flashes + 30 secs.

Frame 22: 3 x flashes + 30 secs. A pretty good exposure.
Frame 23: 3 x flashes + 15 secs.
Frame 24: 2 x flashes + 0 secs ( 3 secs, enough time to fire two times)
Frame 24a: It's the last shot. 3 x flashes + 0 secs. (4 secs, enough time to fire three times). Similar in exposure to frame 23.

It looks like 3 flashes at 30 secs is a winner.

An EV of 7.6 calls for  3-4 minutes exposure time.

So let's shave off the 30 sec. That leaves us 150 to 210 secs. So each flash, at that flash's particular setting, is equal to 50 to 70 secs.  (I can't really say I have a good read on this. I will have to check the negs directly without scanning [I tried to scan all slides the same but the scanner may have tweaked between the sets of negatives]).

So if I had to expose something for a minute and a half, I could opt to flash twice or flash once and maybe expose for 30 secs. of time.

Which is useful if I don't want to be standing there all day.

As I look at the numbers more closely, the flashes contribution is a tad uncertain. In frame 18, the exposure is 60 secs. Leaving 120 secs left to be exposed. I used only 1 flash burst and yet the frame is clearly overexposed.

Frame 19 looks a lot like Frame 22, so I'm not really sure what going on here yet. I'll probably have to do another set of test to really figure things out.

Any how this works only at four feet. At eight feet, if somehow this numbers hold up, the  flash = time would drop to 12.5 to 18 secs. roughly.

But at four feet in an EV 10 situation (does it ever get EV 10 indoors under natural light), I could try popping the flash once and closing the shutter, just to see what I get.

In a pinch it would be safe to fire 4 or 5 flashes and not worry about time in a dark or indoor shot.

Early results from Vito B pinhole

There's lots to explain in these two images.
I used Kodak Gold 200 with the camera as pictured below:

The estimated f stop is 175. The focal length, again estimated, is 52mm.

I believe I have the correct f stop as the exposure on the roof vent shoot is good.
I don't remember if I took notes on that exposure.

But I did take proper notes of my FLASH exposures.
I will do a breakdown of that soon. The important thing to know about that is I played around with times of exposure and the use of multiple flash firings as a way of dealing with inverse square light drop off. The camera's distance from the mirror was two feet, just about, and four feet in total.

As far as initial thoughts, the focus is far softer than I had hoped.

The shoots did not feel pinholey as much as out of focus. I think using a larger format may bring out some of the qualities for which I hoped would come out.

There's lots of potential here but I'm not sure how to get best out of the pinhole yet.


And one interior with natural light only:

I did have full notes. The above image is taken with a Vivitar 283 flash set on ISO 25 on the purple setting (the weakest setting, but I'll have to research exactly what that setting means). The EV was 8.1. My chart suggested an exposure of 4 min 4 sec. I made this exposure at 2 min 2 sec.

Anyhow, it worked. My next post will more methodical about the exposures and the contribution of the flash.