Before Lomography Konstruktor, there was another DIY film camera kit. This “other” kit had two lenses rather than one, but it was a real chore to successfully assemble. Learn about the Fotodiox DIY TLR camera kit and see if its tempting price tag warrants your wallet.
Kudos to Lomographic Society International for designing and marketing the world’s first do-it-yourself (DIY) single-lens reflex (SLR) camera kit, Konstruktor . This kit hits the mark for supplying film users with a low-cost, versatile, entry-level camera. If you’re cash-strapped and needing a cheap(er) DIY camera fix, however, you might want to consider adding another lens to your DIY equation.
The Fotodiox DIY Twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera kit sports a shape that is vaguely similar to the Lubitel 166+, but that is exactly where all similarity ends. After you’ve spent the better part of a couple of hours, you will have assembled a functioning plastic-lens TLR camera, but not a precision photographic instrument. But sitting at a retail price that is less than twenty bucks, who can complain?
Sold with a $17.95 USD suggested retail price, the Fotodiox DIY TLR camera kit can usually be purchased for anywhere between $15 and $16 USD. This is a great bargain for beginning users who want to test the film waters before taking the big plunge.
Available on Amazon.com as: “Genuine Fotodiox DIY Lomo Camera, Twin Lens Reflex, TLR Camera Kit (68 Pieces, with Detailed Instructions, Uses 35mm 24 Exposure B&W or Color Film)” this kit has a name that is much bigger than its price. I try to buy at least one of these kits every time I place an order with the big A. In fact, I’ve now started the habit of buying several of these kits, building them myself, then give them to artists who are interested in sampling the Lomo process.
Why do I build these kits for other users and not let them assemble the camera? Because this kit is very hard to build correctly and successfully. Case in point, I recently was instructing a group of youngsters on an introduction to film photography. As a tool for the class, I gave each of them a Fotodiox DIY TLR camera kit. Well, the results were disastrous; and that was not the fault of the kids. A supposed two-hour assembly took over 4 hours. Luckily, when all of the cameras had been assembled, everyone was able to shoot and develop one roll of black and white 35mm film.
- 60+ pieces
- small Phillips-head screwdriver is required and not supplied
- about 2-4 hours assembly time
- uses 35mm film
- no batteries are required
- camera shoots portrait/vertical exposures when held at waist level
Armed with a single shutter speed and an even simpler “use or don’t use” aperture disk (that can also be optionally installed behind or in front of the single element lens), the Fotodiox DIY TLR camera is focused via a linked viewing lens and taking lens arrangement (once again, similar to the arrangement used on the Lubitel 166+). Rounding out the rest of this camera’s robust feature set (“robust feature set” when you consider this camera’s price tag) is a tripod socket, neck strap lugs, and a clever film transport system. As simple as these features might sound, there is at least one big construction “gotcha” that could mess up your entire assembly:
Complete all of the assembly steps 1 through 3.3 exactly as illustrated in the Fotodiox camera assembly instructions. In Steps 3.3 and 3.4, replace all references to spring D with spring C and all references to spring C with spring D. Got that? Whew; yup, while the written instructions are a bit confusing, the illustration in Step 3.5 is spot on for how the shutter assembly should be built. So, in other words, “look at” and don’t “read: the instructions.
Once you clear this terrific hurdle, the rest of the assembly should go smoothly. In fact, the basic shooting information at the conclusion of the assembly instructions is a pretty good introduction to the Fotodiox DIY TLR camera and rudimentary film photography.
Once you’ve built the kit and you’re ready to test the camera, just drop a roll of 35mm, 24-exposure film (you can switch to 36-exposure film after you’ve mastered this camera) into the lower cassette compartment of the Fotodiox DIY TLR camera, engage the tapered film tongue into the upper compartment’s take-up spool, close the back, and advance two frames of film. Now treat your new camera like you would any other Lomography camera. The only big difference, however, is that you can build several of these kits and leave film cameras on your kitchen drawer, on your desk at work, in your automobile, and strapped to your bike. All without leaving you in the poor house: now buying an adequate supply of film and development, that’s a different story.
In a future blog entry, I will upload some photographs exposed with the Fotodiox DIY TLR camera.