Man designs and builds an SLR from scratch


posted Wednesday, October 9, 2013 at 1:55 PM EDT


Have you ever wondered what goes on inside a camera? Most DSLRs are probably a bit too complex for most of us to really get our heads around, but what about an old film SLR? While complex, they're based on fairly straightforward mechanical concepts. One French photographer and designer decided to figure out what really made SLRs tick by designing and building one himself from scratch.

This project actually took place in 2010, but it's still an incredibly interesting build. It's photographed and explained in great detail in a forum post by the builder, who goes by the name Denis MO. As he explained it in the beginning:

- The aim is not to use pieces scrapped from existing cameras, except for the shutter curtain fabric, ball bearings and screws; I have already found a solution for manufacturing the mirror, the focusing screen and even the prism.

- This camera will not be a copycat of an existing camera, but a new design that allows me to use my workshop equipped with model-making machine tools. Of course, the design will be drawing from existing solutions, such as the focal-plane shutter of the Leica II.

The design is obviously influenced by mid-century cameras, and he seems to have based a number of its functions on Zenit cameras. Reading through the thread, you really get a feel for just how many independent parts need to be calculated, constructed, and made to work together in order to make a functioning SLR camera. It has to be lightproof, allow for accurate focusing, and have adjustable shutter speeds, all of which were designed, milled, and assembled for the build.

According to his estimates, it took approximately 500 hours to finish the build — an impressive undertaking, and a show of astonishing skill. 

The final product was named the DM-Flex, and might just be the only hand-made and machined SLR ever. And it looks like the man went on to tackle a rangefinder, too! Unfortunately, that build hasn't been translated into English yet.

(via DIYPhotography)