The home-brew pano rig…

Years ago, I converted a huge plate camera to 5×12″ service. I was infatuated with panoramas, and the 5×12 was feeding that. Unfortunately, the camera was heavy, unwieldy, and expensive to shoot. I sold it off, but still had a desire to shoot panos.

Someimte in late 2008, I started pondering on a pano head to use with my Canon 20D. They’re neat, look fairly easy to use, but were expensive, even on the used market. I had pieces of aluminum on the garage, and figured anything I’d make couldn’t be so bad as to be worthless, so I got working.

I can’t remember what design I borrowed, but the first rev of the home-brew pano rig turned out fairly well, and completely functional:

In use, everything was fine. I’d done a bit of research on entrance pupils and setting the thing up (which is lost in the ether that is my memory now) and I ended up with panoramas that needed little, if any, cropping. But the aluminum stock was thin, the camera set too high, and the mount a little insecure. All this made for a wobbly, slow rig to use.

Rev. 2 of the design came about with thicker aluminum, more care in placement of the entrance pupil (specific to the lens I was using, a 17-40L) and better hardware.


This was, and still is, golden. A joy to use, sturdy and stable. I got crazy shooting panos for a long time:

Even got the kids involved for some creative photo shooting. As usual, they were good at it:



I’ll admit to feeling stagnant lately. In looking for some large format gear in the drawer today, I pulled out the old pano rig. Made a few modifications to it – cut down some of the 1/4-20 bolts to make attaching the camera quicker – and even cleaned the sensor on the 20D. I think it’s time to take the rig out again. May be just the thing to pull me out of this rut…


Seneca View 8×10 – Front bellows frame…

After much hemming and hawing, I actually got a little work done today. Two things need to be fabricated on the 8×10 – a new front bellows frame (the camera was missing this when I bought it) and an extension rail. I scoured the shop for some time today, and finally found a piece of appropriately-sized oak to make the bellows frame. It needed dimensioning, which was done solely with the thickness planer. I didn’t take note of any dimensions, though, rather fitting the piece to the space needed:


After cutting the pieces to length (5-1/2″ each) I laid them out to make sure the opening would be sufficient:


The pieces are joined with my favorite half-laps. Quick to set up with the horizontal router table, though a little dicey cutting on thin pieces:


I ended up nibbling away the waste in small bites, taking four or five passes to cut the entire joint.

The joints, cut:


And with the pieces mated. Everything looks good.


I’m a big fan of polyurethane glues for most applications where strength and permanence is paramount. I always wet the surfaces a bit, as the glue needs moisture to cure. Small joints like these only require spring clamps to hold them tight while the glue sets:


After a few hours, I’ll remove the clamps and let the frame sit overnight. Poly glue creates a foaming squeeze-out which cures hard. It’s easily removed with a sharp chisel.

Now I need to measure exactly the final draw with the extension gear racks in place, and ship the frames off to Wales for bellows fabrication.

Seneca View 8×10 – Just when I thought it was over…

Okay, I’m all over the place these days. Was ready to get rid of the 8×10 project and buy a lens to cover 10×12. Found that I had an old process lens that’s insane-sharp and covers with room for tons of movement. Done. Then hit a crisis of sorts with large format in general: Becoming stale, not spending enough time actually shooting for creativity. So, I sold the Super Speedex and used some of the proceeds to purchase the Pentax 645, which gives me more creative options due to the availability of other lenses. Start scouting for another lens. Then spend a day contact printing 10×12 negatives. Find that I really enjoy having a traditional print in my hands, and that 10×12 is still too large for casual, spontaneous shooting. Want a new woodworking project – have a wine cabinet planned, but something shorter-term would be fun.

Re-enter the Seneca 8×10.

I’ve pulled a board of maple from the pile, which will become the rear extension rail. The woodworking is going to be pretty straight-forward. What’s going to be a (fun) challenge is the precision that must go into the alignment of the new parts with the old. Should keep me occupied for a little while.

So, the 8×10 is back on. Egad.