Many of us take photography for granted. Whether it’s a big fancy DSLR or the phone in our pocket, Photography is part of our daily lives. For some, that simple pleasure of just hitting the shutter isn’t so easy. One such person is James Dunn. James, now 23, from Whiston, England, has a potentially-terminal skin condition which prevents him from being able to use a camera.
James has Epidermolysis bullosa, a genetic disorder which causes his skin to be extremely fragile. Prone to blistering and in constant pain, James’ fingers started to fuse together when he was only 10 years old. Now, thanks to the BBC series The Big Life Fix and inventor Jude Pullen, James once again has the ability to pursue his passion.
You can imagine that such a condition makes it basically impossible to deal with the array of dials and buttons that exist on cameras today. Jude’s solution was the “Zocus”, a system that motorises the zoom and focus of whichever lens was mounted to the camera. This is then controlled via remote through the use of a tablet.
In the video posted to Facebook by BBC North West, you can see the joy in James’ face now that he can shoot again. Photography is a simple thing that can mean so much to a person.
Jude has documented the project on Instructables. He provides a complete list of parts, files for 3D printing, the software to power it all (currently iOS, but soon for Android), and instructions on how it all comes together.
Jude notes that while there are a lot of follow focus devices out there, this project presents some challenges.
- Both focus and zoom must be controlled button & dial-free.
- Turning the zoom ring on a lens is often far more difficult, (higher torque) than the focus ring.
- Many commercial follow focus rigs are operated via large wheels and dials, which James is unable to operate.
- Most follow focus rigs are also aimed at professionals and cost thousands.
- Very few (if any) existing potential solutions offer free apps which work with tablets & smartphones.
The cost is probably the biggest factor here. When existing solutions won’t work, throwing enough money at something, somebody finds a way to make them work. But this usually doesn’t help the population at large.
The Zocus electronics cost less than £90 (around $115), and a 3D printer takes care of most everything else. 3D printers are becoming extremely common now. Many of us know somebody who has one, whether we realise it or not. If you do decide to go with a commercial 3D printing service, Jude estimates the cost would still only be around £200 (~$255).
3D Printing has allowed some amazing advancements. Sure, many of them are still used to build toys. Some fill practical daily needs. But, most people probably spend more time trying to get them to work than actually printing. They do, however, create a whole range of possibilities for those with a vision to help people.
The software and 3D printable hardware is completely open source, allowing others to improve on the idea. It also allows people to adapt it to their own unique circumstances. You can find out more about the project on Instructables.
Has 3D printing allowed you to do things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do? What similar photography related 3D printing projects have you seen? Did you catch the full episode of The Big Life Fix? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.