This wooden DIY camera takes Rolleiflex-style photos with your phone

Aug 12, 2021

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

This wooden DIY camera takes Rolleiflex-style photos with your phone

Aug 12, 2021

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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If you like retro-style cameras and photos, but you’re not confident with shooting film, you’ll love this DIY project. Photographer and cinematographer Ryan Ao brought retro and modern together, blending a Rolleiflex-style DIY camera and a smartphone. I loved his invention so much, that I just had to learn more! So, I chatted with Ryan and he shared a bit of information about “Phoneiflex” along with some tips for building it and the photos he took with it.

The idea for this camera box has been in Ryan’s mind for quite a while. After six years of thinking about it, he finally made it and named it “FrankenSteamPunkSmartPhoneiflex.” The full name made me chuckle, but I love its nickname, too. So, let’s just call it “Phoneiflex.”

So, what was the idea behind this unusual camera box? Ryan tells me that he just wanted to shoot with digital cameras downwards like you would with an old Rolleiflex film camera. He shoots a lot of street photography, so this would be great for stealth street photography and candid shots. “That way I can capture emotional, decisive moments without ruining the moment because people won’t realize the camera is pointed at them,” Ryan says.

“Two of my favorite photographers are Henry Cartier-Bresson and Vivian Meijer, and they both mastered the art of the decisive moment and Vivian definitely used Rolleiflex cameras,” he continues. But why wouldn’t he just get a Rolleiflex and shoot film? Well, he doesn’t feel like paying for the cost of developing vintage film. I totally get this, considering how much the film and its development cost (at least here in Serbia)

Another reason for this approach is that Ryan wants to master shooting photos with his iPhone, without blurry backgrounds. He sees iPhone as a perfect tool for street photography since they are getting so high-quality.

Ryan uses an app called Argentum which allows him to have the viewfinder in square format and choose filters that emulate black and white photography. Sadly, it only exists for iPhone, but my fellow Android users could try one of these, perhaps.

There’s a catch with Phoneiflex, though: the viewfinder is upside down while shooting with it. However, Ryan doesn’t mind. “I always liked having the camera not up to my eye as the randomness plays into the artsiness,” he says. “I find that true about an upside-down viewfinder as well.” After all, when cropping and editing an image, turning it upside down helps seeing it in a different light.

Ryan has shared with us some of the photos of his build so you can also see how it’s done. Of course, it’s just a prototype and he plans to make some improvements with time. If you decide to make it, you’ll need some wood, a mirror, a power bank (so you can shoot all day), cords, and a strap. You can also use an Apple Watch as a Bluetooth remote trigger. If you turn your watch upside down, it can be your right-side-up viewfinder, too!

Another fun thing about Phoneiflex is that blurs the edges a bit, creating imperfections as some vintage cameras do. Ryan and I agreed that you can also get a sort of an in-camera filter if you forget to clean the mirror. :)

Take a look at the photos of the build:

And here are some candid shots Ryan took with it.

If you feel like building one of these on your own, make sure to share your results with us and Ryan. But if you don’t feel like fiddling with it, Ryan can make one for you. It comes with a battery bank, cords, lens cleaner cloth, and a strap. He will also customize it to your desires, like burning your name into it or anything you like. Make sure to check out Ryan’s work on his website, Instagram, and Facebook, where you can also reach out to him if you’d like him to make one of these Phoneiflex cameras for you.

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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15 responses to “This wooden DIY camera takes Rolleiflex-style photos with your phone”

  1. Jeremy Hoare Avatar
    Jeremy Hoare

    Pathetic…

  2. Tiktian Chan Avatar
    Tiktian Chan

    This is so dumb

  3. Glyn Eldiablo Parry Avatar
    Glyn Eldiablo Parry

    So not a ‘Roliflex style’ but more tired glass with imperfections.

  4. Leshy Lou Avatar
    Leshy Lou

    Isn’t there an app for that?

  5. Varga Szilárd Avatar
    Varga Szilárd

    what’s mean “rolleiflex style”? :)

  6. Olly Hitchen Avatar
    Olly Hitchen

    Any TLR would work and you could pick one up cheaply enough!

  7. Professor Gizmo's Workshop Avatar
    Professor Gizmo’s Workshop

    Wow… wouldn’t have expected such negativity in this post! Anyone who’s had the pleasure of shooting with a Rollieflex camera would appreciate this build; the best part, not only of the quality of the camera, was that you weren’t looking directly at the subject – you were looking down into the camera, which gave you a certain amount of anonymity; you could get more natural shots since you weren’t staring down the lens at the subjects. Sad that these statements are missing the point… and will probably argue about my comment as well…This is a creative build, and Mr. Ao deserves better than these remarks.

    1. Steve Novosel Avatar
      Steve Novosel

      You can already use a waist level finder with a MILC. Just use the flip-out screen on the back and you are good to go. I understand the DIY aesthetic but there are already many modern ways to shoot in this style.

      We are talking about WLFs here – there’s lots of cameras with WLFs, even 35mm cameras, and plenty of other TLRs and non-TLR cameras. It’s strange to call them “Rolleiflex-style” as when I think of Rolleiflex I think TLR.

  8. Charles Massi Avatar
    Charles Massi

    I appreciate the creative mind! Got some stuff lying around, what can I do with it? But, it’s more of a woodworking project than photography. Except for taking the pic. And, if you shot that photo with your Rolleiflex? I would say, good job, to my student on their first week of photography class in 1981.

  9. Sue Celis Avatar
    Sue Celis

    A couple from Canada recently sued a photographer who failed to deliver the photos of their 2015 wedding. The court found the photographer guilty, but also engaged in “deceitful behavior” and “unsavory business practices.”

  10. Kiwee Guatii Avatar
    Kiwee Guatii

    Call it what it is!!!…. It’s an iphone pointed down with a mirror reflecting the image into its camera!!!!.. there’s no shallow depth of field. No toggling with the focus. That person could have taken the same photos by holding the phone right up…. I love his creativity but don’t go bullshitting.

  11. lewisfrancis Avatar
    lewisfrancis

    Ha ha, got a kick out of this article and the name — thanks for sharing the project!

  12. pafoofnik Avatar
    pafoofnik

    Hmmmm, I can’t recall ever reading a more controversial article. I may lose sleep over this one–or not.

  13. Al To'Agui Avatar
    Al To’Agui

    Yes. For someone who is not familiar with photography – this looks easy and simple. (and it might be) Nevertheless, there is joy and pleasure in what this creative gentleman above describes – The ol’ legendary Rolleiflex photography style. I do agree with Professor Gizmo’s opinion and support. So please, a little bit of respect on either on this DIY project or the opportunity to have it done for you. If you do not like this project idea, skip it. Thanks for sharing

  14. Al To'Agui Avatar
    Al To’Agui

    Oh, Lord, please have mercy on all of those making negative comments about this project. There is still lots of retardation left on the planet.