Large Format style movements on a Nikon DSLR body? yes we can!

30 07 2014
Frankenstein's Monster in all its glory

Frankenstein’s Monster in all its glory

Here’s a project that I have been working on for the last couple of years. My idea is to use a Fuji GX680 camera body, to take Mamiya 645 lenses, and a Nikon DSLR body. Why all the contraption? Well, back in the nineties Fuji made the GX680 medium format studio camera – this was the only 6×8 rollfilm SLR with camera movements, just like a large format camera. While in theory it is possible to mount a 645 format digital back on a GX680, I thought to myself ‘why not slap one of my existing Nikons on’ – just a proof of concept really.

So hacksaw in hand, I removed the camera body in its entirety. Just the front standard, twin rails, and wideangle bellows remain. The idea is to mount a Mamiya 645 lens in a custom lens board, into the front standard. The reason for the 645 lens? It’s totally mechanical, and will cover a 35mm sensor even with lens movements applied. The front standard offers lateral shift, rise and fall, tilt and swing. Some of these movements may not be as useful as one might think, because unlike a large format 4×5 camera, the film plane (or sensor, in a DSLR) can’t easily be made to mirror the position of the front standard…..but I can experiment, and that’s the real reason for building this monster.

So I’ve got the basics, and just need to source a custom lens board (the lens will be mounted in a Mamiya 645 extension ring, set into the board). And some means of attaching a Nikon to the rear of the bellows. I’ve got an old BR2 reversing ring, which will mount to the body just fine. In my gleeful ignorance, when removing the camera body, I did overlook the need to have the body mounted securely to the frame, but I think this is not too difficult to overcome.

All the Fuji and Mamiya parts were sourced from Fujiya Camera in Nakano. Can’t recommend this place highly enough. I’ve been shopping here for the last 16 years or so, and have seen a few changes (expansion). They now have 3 separate buildings, all within a couple of minutes’ walk. One store for used (and some new) cameras, lenses, and bags. The ‘Junk Store’ opposite – crammed with used accessories, and hundreds of ‘junk’ cameras and lenses. And now they have another store filled with tripods, and studio lighting gear. Most of the graded items have a 6 month warranty, and in all this time I’ve only needed to call on that warranty once. And that lens was back in my hands in under a week, and with a new 6 month warranty! Now that is service!

If you are ever in Tokyo, I highly recommend a visit to Fujiya in Nakano. I’ve seen buyers from KEH in there; every morning there is a queue of twenty to thirty dealers waiting for an hour, to snap up the bargains. But you can still source some fantastic deals. Bought my old Lowepro Trekker there a long time ago – three thousand yen – a bag that at the time retailed around ¥15000. So, happy days.

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