Building a Large Format Camera

Jon Grepstad: Building a Large Format Camera. ISBN 82-993938-1-7

Plans and Instructions for Building a 4 x 5 Monorail Camera.
Second, revised edition. Oslo, Norway 2000.

jon grepstad, large format camera

My book Building a Large Format Camera is an 85 page manual with instructions and plans for building a 4 x 5 in. monorail camera with friction focusing. The book has 30 step-by-step drawings, 23 sketches and 11 photographs, a wealth of references to relevant literature and numerous useful addresses in the US and Europe. Most drawings are to scale.

The first edition of my book appeared in 1996. For the second edition,
which was published at the beginning of January 2000, 20 new illustrations
have been inserted in the text, 10 photos of the camera have been added,
more sources of information on bellows-making have been included, and the
literature and references have been updated. I have also added as an
option a more sophisticated ground glass frame design and also a few
paragraphs on scaling the plans up for an 8 x 10 camera.

Materials: Hardwood, brass, rail. Skills needed: Average woodworking
skills. The camera has been designed so that it does not require very
advanced skills or tools to build. Tools: Electric drill, various
handsaws, miter box, c-clamps, files, carpenter’s square, other ordinary
tools. To be bought: Standard bellows (may also be handmade), ground glass
(you may also make your own ground glass), lens.

My book can now be downloaded free of charge here:

The measurements in my manual are metrical. Noah Kelly has kindly converted all of the measurements on the materials list to imperial (inches):

Please note that my book is copyrighted and cannot be uploaded to other websites without my permission.

Camera features:

  • Front Tilt (limited only by bellows)
  • Rear Tilt (limited only by bellows)
  • Swings (limited only by bellows)
  • Lateral Shift (40 mm or 1 3/4″ off center, may be customized)
  • Front Rise (50 mm or 2″, may be customized)
  • Front Fall (25-40 mm or 1–1 1/2″, may be customized)
  • Rear Rise/Fall (none)
  • Maximum Extension (depends on bellows)
  • Weight (approx. 2,5–3 kg or 6 lbs, depending on materials)
  • Repositional Back (Vert/Horiz)
  • Size of camera proper, with optical bench removed (approx 25 x 25 x
    10 cm or 10″ x 10″ x 4″)

Jon Grepstad Large format cameraMy camera in the field.

LF camera backThe camera folded is about 25 x 25 x 10 cm.

LF camera backMy latest design of a ground glass frame.

LF camera back Two designs of a ground glass frame. The version to the right was my original design (used in the first edition of my manual). The version to the left is a more sophisticated design (included in the second edition of my manual).

LF camera back My latest design of the camera back and a ground glass frame (film holder inserted).

LF camera backMy first design of the camera back and ground glass frame.

optical bench 2The optical bench consists of an aluminum rail,
two sliders and a tripod block. The optical bench in my book
is based on friction focusing.

optical bench 1The optical bench – bottom view.

LF camera backClose-up of the camera back.