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From buying a camera to making your own: The Goodman Variant135

Insights | May 1st, 2024

About 7 years ago, I purchased a Nikon EM, and I was so proud of it as it was my nifty entry to the world of film photography. Like most, I amassed quite a large collection of camera-related “stuff” over the years, some I’ve forgotten were even there. With the advent of 3D printing, the next logical stage for an evolving photographer is to follow in the footsteps of Frankenstein and start mating random pieces of camera gears.

About the Goodmans

Dora Goodman is widely known for her work restoring and aesthetically upgrading vintage film cameras. In 2018, she unveiled her own camera design made out of machined wood. Later in February 2019, she released the Goodman ONE, a fully 3D-printable camera body. It was designed to be used as a medium format camera, predominantly to be used with Mamiya Press lenses against the study Mamiya RB67 film backs. She later enabled the project to be open-sourced, which led to the design community contributing to its popularity by adding various functionalities the original lacked.

The Original Goodman ONE prototype

Later that same year, the world was introduced to the Goodman ZONE, engineered for zone focusing (hence the name), and AXIS which used a bellow design allowing photographers to play with tilting and shifting. The ZONE’s body was the basis of my creation. The goal was to move away from my rather heavy Mamiya RB67 while maintaining the 6×7 format and compete with the famous Pentax67 105mm 2.4 lens.

Goodman ONE & Goodman Zone

Designing Variant135

The Mamiya Press was a rangefinder-type of camera, which means the lens’s flange can be positioned pretty close to the film plane. It also offered a variety of lenses, but I was not about to invest in a whole new set of lenses. As I had previously mentioned, there was a lot of loose gear around. So, I opted for the lens that made the most sense, my Schneider Kreuznach Xenar 135mm which would offer ample coverage on the 6×7 frame. Thus, the system needed some updates, such as the lens extension tube which would be finished with a M65 to M65 focusing helicoid.

Having figured out the lens situation, the rest was a matter of on-the-ground functionality. How will I improve using this in real life situations. So, I started by addressing carrying it by repurposing my handle/grip which was developed for my Mamiya C330 and Hasselblad 503Cx. Its goal was to offer a palm grip position while housing the shutter cable in a manner that reminds the user of an AR15 pistol grip.

The second part to address was the film back securing mechanism. The original body as it stood used stay screws to secure the back onto it. Meaning since it is a zone-focusing camera system, a method in which I am completely untrained, attaching and removing the film back would not be necessary. This did not suit me as I need to see the composition and ensure nailing the focus. So the logical step was to modify the Goodman body’s back to resemble that of the original Mamiya RB system by adding a locking mechanism. At the time of writing this, it works but is still wonky. Since they are printed in PLA, they get worn out and are rathe flimsy due to slim profile. The update I have in mind would include cutting the lock sliders out of 4mm FR4 sheets.

Putting it all together

The assembling is straightforward. Everything just screws into each other. Strangely enough, it is front-heavy but the overall package is less than half the weight of an RB67 system. There were a few items that needed to be purchased such as the polycarbonate sheet to fashion the ground glass, the M65 focusing helicoid, and a nice set of nuts and washers. While this is mainly built for my 135mm lens, the body still retains its modularity. So I will still be able to use the press lenses or even longer 4×5 lenses.

Hey, thanks for looking.

I enjoyed tinkering and making this. I am grateful for people like Dora and the community of photographers in the Facebook 3D printing space. If you are bored with where you are in photography and want to get a little creative with your gear, come on in an join the fray.

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