Ann R. Thryft

July 23, 2013

3 Min Read
3D Print Your Own Analog Camera

3D printers are being used to print a huge variety of objects, including customized personal electronics, a prototype hybrid car, and eventually, tools for astronauts. Now, a recently graduated design student has used a 3D printer to make an open-source working 35 mm analog camera, and so can you -- he's posted all the files and instructions online. You'll have to supply tools and the lens.

Leo Marius designed and built the Open Reflex camera on a MakerBot Replicator 2X 3D printer as part of his graduation project in design at the Saint-Ettiene School of Art and Design in France. Files are available on Thingiverse and a wiki so users can contribute their design tweaks. Instructions and files are both available on Instructables.

Marius has made source files available under the terms of a Creative Commons By-Sa-style license, which allows users to modify the files to add features or make improvements. He's also used tools and items he says are easily available "in the nearest fablab."

Click on the photo below to check out the Open Reflex camera.

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The step-by-step instructions given at Instructables and on Marius' Open Reflex wiki are very clear and appear to be complete, including tools and supplies needed, as well as a few tips. The wiki, where he gives an ongoing work-in-progress status, says he's compiling an illustrated set of step-by-step instructions for printing and assembling the camera that will be available in a few weeks. To build your own Open Reflex camera, you'll need several tools, including a RepRap-type 3D printer that uses ABS plastic, a CNC cutting tool, and about 25 Euros worth of supplies.

The camera's design includes a finger-activated mechanical shutter with a fixed 1/60s exposure, and a mirror viewfinder. It can accept any lens with its custom mount ring. Open Reflex has been designed so it can be printed in a modular fashion, making builds and modifications easier: the film receiver, shutter, and viewfinder are separate modules that snap together. Each module consists of several parts, and all parts can be printed without the need for support material.

What we've just told you is all the good news. The not-so-good news is how long it takes to print and assemble the camera, and how difficult it is, at least for some, to take a single picture.

Marius says that printing all the pieces requires about 15 hours and assembly can be done in about one hour. That sounds grueling to me, at least all the printing. His instructions also include details for taking a picture, which requires eight separate steps. For those used to point-and-shoot cameras, those eight steps may be daunting or irritating. But for those of us who (gasp) still use analog cameras, it's business as usual.

Marius says if there's enough interest, he may crowdsource funds to build a few and sell them for around 50 Euros each. He's also working on an updated version of the camera design.

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About the Author(s)

Ann R. Thryft

Ann R. Thryft has written about manufacturing- and electronics-related technologies for Design News, EE Times, Test & Measurement World, EDN, RTC Magazine, COTS Journal, Nikkei Electronics Asia, Computer Design, and Electronic Buyers' News (EBN). She's introduced readers to several emerging trends: industrial cybersecurity for operational technology, industrial-strength metals 3D printing, RFID, software-defined radio, early mobile phone architectures, open network server and switch/router architectures, and set-top box system design. At EBN Ann won two independently judged Editorial Excellence awards for Best Technology Feature. She holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Stanford University and a Certified Business Communicator certificate from the Business Marketing Association (formerly B/PAA).

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