The camera has a fascinating history. It’s come a long way from its beginnings as a large box that required long exposures to what it is now, which is, often, an app on a smartphone. Sightings of actual cameras, even digital ones, are getting rarer as people rely on the high-resolution cameras now available on their phones. However, there are still, and likely always will be, people who appreciate a more old-fashioned camera. Some still prefer digital cameras, while there are purists who remain loyal to film. People still seek out vintage Polaroid cameras, and it’s still possible to find or even make pinhole cameras.
Alexander Gee is one of those who still appreciates a good film camera. They’re getting harder to find, though, so the hobbyist made his own. Sony is the only major imaging company that never built a film camera, but Gee has now done it for them, creating what is likely the world’s first Sony E-Mount 35mm film camera. Using 3D printing, electronics, and soldering, he created the LEX, beginning more than a year ago.
“I built LEX because I primarily shoot on Sony E-Mount with native E-Mount lenses, but occasionally I like to get out and shoot film for the aesthetic it provides,” Gee said. “At the same time owning two complete sets of lenses seemed expensive and bulky. Of course I didn’t want to sacrifice getting the full functionality of my lenses on my Sony A7ii. So instead of adapting film lenses to my Sony cameras I decided it would be better to adapt a film camera to use my E-Mount lenses. That way I could use all the great new glass that is being made like the Tokina’s Firin or the Zeiss Loxia range on all my cameras.”
He built his working prototype using the shutter mechanism from a Sony A7 and 3D printing the body of the camera with SLS nylon. The material is highly translucent, which is obviously not good for a camera, so he dyed and coated it to block any ambient light from entering the camera. He used metal casting for the camera’s winder knobs and assembled the off-the-shelf electronics both by hand and using soldering.
Gee has decided to make the camera open source so that people can build and customize their own, though he may sell a few through crowdfunding before opening up the design files. The camera works with any 35mm film, and it works well, judging by some of the photographs Gee has taken with it. It may have taken over a year, but the project was a success.
“LEX was also a learning project,” he said. “I wanted to learn CAD and designing a camera seemed like a pretty good challenge. Along the way I’ve also learned a huge amount about 3D printing, manufacturing, materials science, and I even built a mini foundry to make metal parts for LEX. The whole process was a lot of fun and now I only need to carry one set of lenses in my bag.”
Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[Sources: Engadget, SonyAlpha Rumors / Images: Alexander Gee]