Build your own 489-megapixel DIY medium format camera for under $150
While uncommon, DIY medium-format digital cameras aren’t really a new thing. They’ve been around for years, with photographers hacking apart flatbed scanners for parts. Then they rebuild them inside something that vaguely looks like a camera, complete with a slide mechanism for the linear scanning sensor. That’s how this camera from Yunus Zenichowski works, too, but it looks a lot more finished than most.
Yunus has taken a lot of time and consideration into the design of his scanning camera to get things just right. And they’re still not perfect. Yes, it shoots massive 489 megapixels, but he says that it’s by no means a final design and that it would be difficult for anybody to replicate at the moment. A final version is on the way, but he has released the files for the camera in its current state.
Yunus says that he was inspired to create his camera after seeing this 140-megapixel scanning back camera from Ryan Kojima. The camera in its current state is based around an Epson Perfection v37 flatbed scanner. It’s a pretty old scanner that’s been obsolete in Epson’s lineup for quite a few years already. Even when it was a current models canner, Yunus says it was only around $90 new. These days, you can find them, and other scanners like them for $50 or less.
The lens, too, can be another place where you’re able to save money. Many scanning back cameras utilise medium and large format lenses to ensure they have an image circle that’s large enough to cover the entire path of the sensor. Yunus didn’t want to spend the kind of money that good medium and large format lenses typically demand. So, he went with a projector lens that covers it wonderfully.
The image quality isn’t the best through the projector lens and you would almost certainly get better detail with a lens for an actual medium or large format camera, but it produces an overall fantastic look. It also has the benefit of creating 16-bit files, potentially holding even more data than the 12 and 14-bit raw files most of our DSLRs and mirrorless cameras shoot.
The files for the 3D printable models are available to download from GrabCad. There don’t seem to be any files available for assembly instructions, code or schematics to wire this up, but I expect these will be coming when Yunus completes the design.
I’ve always wanted to have a go at one of these. Might have to see if I can find a couple of old cheap scanners!
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.