Homemade-ish Cameras | Ethan Moses

My name is Ethan Moses, I have been shooting film since I was a highschooler.  I have a very good friend to this day who taught me how to develop film in high school photo club, who drives me crazy, but I will be forever grateful for that small lesson which changed my life.

I worked as a photographer years ago, and quit that pursuit almost as long ago for more 'grown up' endeavors.  These days I broker, design, and build industrial electromechanical machinery and devices for work, but I've not shaken the bug in all these years.  I like to call my affliction camerabedies.  

About a year ago, I was taken with the many potentials of 3D printing.  I could make mounting blocks and registration gearing for potentiometer meters on a labeler for salsa jars on an industrial canning and bottling line, but also, I got up to some personal projects, which since eaten up much of my free time.  I have built a few 4x5 cameras and photographic accessories and started a small company since then: CAMERADACTYL.com.  I am not going to write about the technical aspects of producing cameras or starting a photo business here, I have done so in a few articles on EMULSIVE (here and here ).  Here I just wish to talk a little bit about taking pictures.  

I grew up in NYC and one of my very favorite things to do was just walk around for a day, basically from one pizza shop to the next with a dumpling place and maybe a subway in between, carrying my camera, waiting to be surprised by something.  These were always my favorite days, and favorite pictures.  I love taking pictures of things that surprise me, things I haven't seen before, things that make me chuckle.  I used to say that I like taking pictures of verbs more than nouns, something happening, a scene, rather than an object.

These days I live in Albuquerque, NM.  It's a car town, the pizza is bad, and there're no dumplings to speak of.  I spend much of my limited adult free time exploring the mountains and canyons and semi ghost towns of this state and the southwest at large.  No longer can I expect to find surprises around every corner, but I am still stunned by the landscape out here after all these years of living in the southwest.

I recently released a new hand held camera, the CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, and took my new camera on a road trip with my girlfriend around the eastern and southern portions of the state.  I also toted along a small pinhole camera (the 24Squared) from my friend Graham, who runs the Homemade Camera Podcast and the Frozen Photon Camera Company , where he makes small batch pinhole cameras and sells them on Etsy.  I really enjoyed having a (relatively) giant camera capable of exceptional detail, and a (relatively) tiny camera that makes dreamy memories on little squares of 35mm film.  

Even though I am deeply afflicted with camerabedies, and love cameras almost as much as pictures, I am not one of these people who needs to tell you how sharp my lens is, or how many megapickles I have scanned my film at.  I am a firm believer that what makes a good picture is what you point the camera at.  Sometimes I succeed at this, sometimes I fail.

Here are some pictures from the road trip, and a few pics of my camera gear.  

The Organ Mountains just outside of Las Cruces, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

The Organ Mountains just outside of Las Cruces, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Ruins of the Van Patten Camp, at Dripping Springs in the Organ Mountains, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Ruins of the Van Patten Camp, at Dripping Springs in the Organ Mountains, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Alomogordo, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Alomogordo, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Caballo, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Caballo, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Las Cruces between the Rio Grand and the Organ Mountains from prehistoric trackways national monument. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Las Cruces between the Rio Grand and the Organ Mountains from prehistoric trackways national monument. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

The Palomino Hotel, Tucumcari, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

The Palomino Hotel, Tucumcari, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

The Mule, Tucumcari, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

The Mule, Tucumcari, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Route 66 in Tucumcari, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Route 66 in Tucumcari, NM. CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5, Expired (1992) Plus-X, Kodak Ektar 127mm

Alomogordo, NM, shot with Grahams 24Squared pinhole camera.

Alomogordo, NM, shot with Grahams 24Squared pinhole camera.

Dog Canyon Campground, outside Alomogordo, NM. Frozen Photon 24Squared pinhole camera

Dog Canyon Campground, outside Alomogordo, NM. Frozen Photon 24Squared pinhole camera

Dog Canyon, NM. Frozen Photon 24Squared pinhole camera

Dog Canyon, NM. Frozen Photon 24Squared pinhole camera

Small pool in Dog Canyon, NM. Frozen Photon 24Squared pinhole camera.

Small pool in Dog Canyon, NM. Frozen Photon 24Squared pinhole camera.

Dog Canyon, NM. Frozen Photon 24Squared pinhole camera.

Dog Canyon, NM. Frozen Photon 24Squared pinhole camera.

Dog Canyon, NM. Frozen Photon 24Squared pinhole camera.

Dog Canyon, NM. Frozen Photon 24Squared pinhole camera.

This is my personal setup, the CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5 Hand Camera with a 127mm f4.7 Ektar, an uncoupled, shoe mount rangefinder (prazia), which I rarely use, but comes in handy wide open at close range, and a working prototype of my soon to be released, shoe mount light meter, the BUTTER Meter.

This is my personal setup, the CAMERADACTYL OG 4x5 Hand Camera with a 127mm f4.7 Ektar, an uncoupled, shoe mount rangefinder (prazia), which I rarely use, but comes in handy wide open at close range, and a working prototype of my soon to be released, shoe mount light meter, the BUTTER Meter.

Some examples of different setups - colors, nosecones, and accessories, on my new camera.

Some examples of different setups - colors, nosecones, and accessories, on my new camera.

I also use this camera a bit, 90mm is a really popular focal length on this type of camera, but it's a little wide for most of the things I shoot these days. I cant wait to use this one when I'm back in a big city. I suspect it'll be great for shooting verbs instead of nouns.


I also use this camera a bit, 90mm is a really popular focal length on this type of camera, but it's a little wide for most of the things I shoot these days. I cant wait to use this one when I'm back in a big city. I suspect it'll be great for shooting verbs instead of nouns.

Grahams Frozen Photon Camera Co. 24 Squared Pinhole camera. It has a magnetic shutter/cover, and is totally indestructable. I throw it in the outside pocket of my backpack, and totally abuse it (sorry Graham!), it's never had any problems. Graham has released a longer nosecone recently which I am excited to use. this one is about 16mm, the new "lens" is about 30-32mm, which is more my style of shooting. I really do love the ultrawide and ultraportable-ness of this setup though.

Grahams Frozen Photon Camera Co. 24 Squared Pinhole camera. It has a magnetic shutter/cover, and is totally indestructable. I throw it in the outside pocket of my backpack, and totally abuse it (sorry Graham!), it's never had any problems. Graham has released a longer nosecone recently which I am excited to use. this one is about 16mm, the new "lens" is about 30-32mm, which is more my style of shooting. I really do love the ultrawide and ultraportable-ness of this setup though.

Grahams Frozen Photon Camera Co. 24 Squared Pinhole camera.

Grahams Frozen Photon Camera Co. 24 Squared Pinhole camera.


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Keep up with film photographer Ethan Moses on his website and Instagram!