Engineer and photographer Yuta Ikeya designed & 3D printed a 35mm movie camera


It’s one thing to build your own photo camera. While not necessarily easy, the core components are relatively straightforward. A homemade movie camera, on the other hand, is much more complicated. We’ve previously seen the inner workings of a 16mm film camera in slow-motion, and it’s easy to see how complicated it is to create a film transport mechanism and adequate shutter. But the idea of a DIY movie camera wasn’t too daunting for Yuta Ikeya, an engineer and designer who wanted to design a lightweight, affordable and easy-to-use 35mm movie camera.

Ikeya is interested in analog cinematography and, as a film photographer, he knows that shooting film movies would be prohibitively expensive, especially for beginners. Super 8 film is widely available, but as Ikeya says, Super 8 doesn’t deliver high-resolution results. To address cost and quality concerns, Ikeya decided to design and build an analog movie camera that accepts standard 35mm photographic film.

Ikeya writes, ‘After building a few prototypes to test different mechanisms of transferring the film intermittently, I decided to go for the mechanically synchronized gear and cam mechanism driven by a single DC motor. The motor is controlled by Arduino.’ A half mirror splits the light coming through the lens, and the camera uses a rotary shutter that lets the user see the image frame in real-time through the viewfinder. This approach reduces the amount of light that reaches the film, but this can be addressed by using a higher ISO film.

The camera is built almost entirely using 3D printed parts. As for the film, the user must splice 35mm photographic film to make it longer. Splicing together 35mm photo film rolls is still significantly more affordable than purchasing a large roll of cinema film.

In an interview with Super8.tv, Ikeya said that the project took him about 18 months. Coincidentally, Ikeya’s camera works at 18 frames per second, as he was motivated by David Hennen’s 18 fps LomoKino footage. In fact, Ikeya first tried to build a motorized version of a Lomography LomoKino with a viewfinder, reflex system and lens mount. However, these modifications were difficult, so Ikeya decided to start from scratch.

Following his experience building his 18 fps 35mm analog movie camera, Ikeya now wants to work on a 24 fps – or faster – camera with stabilization, an improved viewfinder and a more compact form factor. When asked about his choice to use 35mm film, Ikeya replied, ‘The biggest reason is that I can use widely available photographic film stock. Back in Japan where I started this project, the lab to process ECN-2 is not common, so the choice was limited first of all. 16 mm seemed difficult for its availability of film stock as well. Also, it looked like so much hassle for me to achieve a high quality scan from Super 8. If it is 35mm film, the bigger image area can compensate for some imperfection of the result.’

To learn more about Ikeya’s awesome cinema camera project, visit his website and read the full interview over at Super8.tv.

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