Ever wanted to build your own interchangeable-lens camera? Now you can!


posted Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 7:33 PM EST


As an enthusiast, getting out and taking photos is endless fun, but have you ever wished you could go a step further and build your own camera? Now you can, for very little money and not an unreasonable amount of effort.

With many other hobbies -- computers, model railroads, radio-controlled cars and planes, offroading, and so on -- the hardware is a lot more than just a means to an end. Getting your hands dirty and understanding how the hardware works by building, modifying, and repairing is a big part of the hobby. With photography, not so much.

Sure, we occasionally see folks making their own cameras, but if you want to go beyond the pinhole, it can take quite a lot of work -- and that's even if you have parts you can cannibalize from a mass-produced camera. Building a camera completely from scratch is simply a goal that's out of reach, for most of us. Especially if it features an interchangeable-lens design.

The LAST camera comes in parts on sprues, just like the model kits you built as a kid.

A new camera kit from the curiously-named Japanese company PowerShovel Ltd., who sell a variety of camera gear under the SuperHeadz brand, could change all that. The PowerShovel LAST Camera is a build-it-yourself film camera with two interchangeable lenses, and it's sold in kit form at a very reasonable price. (If you're in the US, you can pick it up from ChinonShop.com for just US$60 plus shipping. If you're lucky enough to live in Japan, it costs only ¥3,900 or US$40)

The LAST camera has interchangeable 25mm and 45mm lenses.

And what do you get for that? Quite a bit, actually. All the parts are on sprues, just like the model kits you likely made as a kid. Trim them from the sprues, assemble them, and you'll have a tripod-mountable 35mm camera with viewfinder, accessory shoe (a cold shoe, we're presuming), shutter button, bulb lever, winding crank and dial. You'll also have interchangeable 25mm wide-angle and 45mm standard lenses. There's even an adjustable slide door on the rear with which to intentionally cause light leaks, as well as the door through which you change the film, and on the top deck are attachments for a shoulder strap. And if you want to build on or repair the camera, you can buy spare parts separately.

You can pick the LAST camera up for just US$60, which strikes us as an eminently-reasonable price just for the educational value, let alone the pictures you'll take with it.

All things considered, it looks like a great holiday gift for yourself or the photographer in your life. We can't help but wonder, though, how long it will be before somebody shoehorns some digital camera guts into the LAST camera body. Raspberry Pi camera plus LAST camera body for under US$100, anybody?

More details can be found on the SuperHeadz website.