Building my own camera.


Dear readers,

During my, short, time in Scotland I came across a ‘build your own working twin lens reflex camera’ kit. Which looked really cool! So, I decided to buy it and give it a try.


I’m really into photography and filming and I’m always trying to improve my skills. I felt that, by building my own camera, I would get a better understanding of how it works. Which would help me improve my skills because now I truly understand the basics behind the camera.

Camera parts

The kit came with a lot of different parts and a manual of how to build it. The camera is build in 76 steps. I read and watched a few tutorials online and most people build their camera in approximately four hours. Those people did have more experience with building stuff like this, whereas I didn’t. I ended up building my camera in two to three days. Mainly because I wanted to take it slow so I could enjoy it more. I also wanted to take the time to understand why. Whereas most people just follow the manual without thinking or questioning anything. I always question everything!

Twin lens reflex camera

Once finished building the camera it was time to start shooting. I already bought some film before I actually opened the box and started building the camera. The box mentioned that it didn’t include film. It also said that the camera needed 35mm film.
So, I went online and bought two different types of film. A box of three film rolls with an ISO of 100 black & white and a box of three film rolls with an ISO of 800 color.

Once I completed the building of the camera I saw a text, in the manual, that said they recommend 35mm film with an ISO of 200 or 400. Which was exactly what I didn’t buy.

*Quick information for people who don’t know what ISO is: ISO is the light sensitivity. The higher the ISO the less light you need for a good photo and the lower the ISO the more light you need for a photo.

Image you see through the viewfinder.

Image you see through the viewfinder.

The fact that I bought the wrong ISO film made me a bit nervous. For those wondering why I didn’t buy the correct ISO after realizing I bought the wrong one; film is expensive!

The only 35mm film with an ISO of 200 or 400 I could find was almost €8 per film roll. Whereas the ones I bought were around €15 for three rolls of film.

You can also influence the ISO with the aperture and shutter-speed. Since my camera had a fixed aperture I decided to use the shutter-speed to improve my photos. I could easily make the shutter-speed longer by letting the shutter release lever come up slower. Which allowed me to let more light into my camera. To make it possible to take photo’s with an ISO of 100. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.

To make the 800 ISO work I decided to take photo’s in darker spaces or when the sun wasn’t shining bright.

Lomography earl grey

Another thing that wasn’t working in my favor was the fact that the photo counter wasn’t working. You have to wind analog film after you take a photo so you can take your next photo, unless you want double exposure. Every analog camera comes with a counter that counts for you how many photo’s you have taken. It also tells you when you can take your next photo without having a overlay with the previous photo.

Well mine wasn’t working because the the counter gear lost the film every half turn. And because film is light sensitive I couldn’t open my camera up to adjust this. Which meant that I was taking photo’s on the fly, not knowing if I took them correctly or if they would have a slight double exposure. Spoiler alert: I did both.

I shot all my photos within a week and brought them to my local developer. One set was developed in 10 days and the other one took two weeks. Which was frustrating not only because I wanted to know how they turned out. But also because they promised to develop the photos in three days.

From the ISO 800 I got 16 decent photos, out of 36. The other 20 were over exposed.

From the ISO 100 I got one single white photo and that took two weeks to develop. I assure you that I wasn’t happy that I had to spend €3.80 on getting this developed and printed.

You might wonder what happened to those 36 photos. Well, they were all under exposed which made them come out black. In other words I didn’t take any photos because there was not enough light.

However, I’m very excited to share the photos I did make with this camera!

photo colour iso 800 1.jpg
photo colour iso 800 7.jpg
photo colour iso 800 14.jpg
Collage of all 16 photos.

Collage of all 16 photos.

After receiving the photos back I wanted to shoot more. The photos above were a test and now I knew how the camera shoots so I could actually start my photography. Sadly, this camera wasn’t build for an intensive use and broke after taking two more photos.

So, I decided to look up 35mm cameras online and buy one. This because I still had a lot of 35mm film and because I got hungry for more haha.

I ended up buying the Diana mini. My sister has the Diana F+ for years now and makes such gorgeous photos with it. But, the Diana F+ uses 120mm film and since I had 35mm that wasn’t an option for me. That’s when I saw that the Diana brand also sells the mini which uses 35mm film.

Today I’m going to pick the photos I took with the Diana mini up and I might decide to also write an article about my experience with the Diana camera.

For now I would highly recommend building your own camera if you want to learn more about photography and how a camera works. However, I would not recommend building your own camera if you want to actually use the camera for photography.

x Julia