Hero shot of the Alfie Tych Half Frame Camera
News & Events

New Half-Frame 35mm Film Camera from Alfie Cameras – Call for Beta Testers

August 3, 2022

Film photographers will soon be able to take part in a Kickstarter for a special new high-quality half-frame 35mm film camera that will allow them to extend the life of their now costly 35mm film rolls. That camera is the Alfie Tych.

The self-funded Alfie Tych half-frame camera, which includes multiple lenses, is designed and machined by Dave from Alfie Cameras (based in the UK) who named the family business after his son, Alfie. The camera was named from a play on the word Diptych, meaning two images side by side.

Alfie Cameras is looking for Beta testers ahead of the Kickstarter campaign. ‘Beta testers will be asked to provide feedback on the camera and help refine the product details ahead of the official launch. If you are interested in becoming a Beta tester you are requested to register your details on the Alfie Cameras website (www.alfiecameras.com).’ (source: Alfie Cameras)

Dave was kind enough to chat with me about his new camera as well as his background and what led him to create the Alfie Tych. He also gave me a video tour of his garden workshop which impressively includes a CNC machine (computer-driven machine tool to produce parts out of solid material). It was exciting to see behind the scenes and hear about Dave’s journey!

Portrait of Dave with the Alfie Tych

Image courtesy of Alfie Cameras

The Design Stage & Alfie Tych Materials

Having a professional career in design engineering and a passion for photography, it was a natural step for Dave to start working on his own product which began during the Covid-19 lockdown. He says he wanted to create a family business around film photography that would provide beautiful and inventive tools for photographers, tools that would allow them to create images in flexible ways while spending less time on a screen and having fun.

I asked about Dave’s preferred genres of photography, which are landscape and wildlife. He tells me exciting stories of photographing local foxes and even badgers, which you have to be very quiet around and likely only have one or two chances to click the shutter before they scuttle away. He also enjoys working on projects and tells me about using an Olympus XA2 to document family holidays on the Isle of Wight but also to tell the story of his workplace closing due to a company merger. You can see more of Dave’s work on his Instagram here.

We talked about one of the biggest benefits of film photography which is getting off that screen. In the same breath, we mentioned the rising costs of film and photographers’ attention being turned to ways to save money but still enjoy their passion. This is where half-frame cameras come in and why Alfie Tych is well designed to succeed in today’s economic situation.

Alfie Tych prototype with film on a wooden surface

Image courtesy of Alfie Cameras

Materials & Making

In the process of creating an early design, Nikon DX shutters were used, these cover half-frame nicely, and despite switching to a cheaper micro shutter the decision to make it a half-frame camera stuck. An added benefit of the new shutter is it is near silent in operation, making the camera a great contender for street photographers shooting on film.

The Alfie Tych is made from a few different materials and processes as there are both electrical and hardware components. The non-electrical components are part-machined and part-3d printed at the time of writing. These 3d-printed parts Dave has recently upgraded to machined aluminum pieces for the final prototype to send out to beta testers.

The electrical components include a circuit board which is first designed in CAD software and then manufactured using a photo etching process. Currently, the tiny surface mount components that make up the control circuit boards are soldered by hand, the final boards will however be assembled by “pick and place” robots.

Dave from Alfie Cameras working on the camera electronics

Image courtesy of Alfie Cameras

Auto & Manual Controls

The camera features both auto and manual controls. Dave mentions to me that he was inspired by an Olympus Pen half-frame camera he picked up in a shop. The one downside was that he couldn’t choose to use manual controls if he wanted to. This led him to design the Tych to have both. He wanted users like himself to have the flexibility of choice when it comes to exposure modes.

The Tych also has the flexibility of choice when it comes to lenses. There are three lenses Dave has designed and (drum roll) there is room for a fourth.

Pinhole Fun

The first lens to talk about is the pinhole lens. Pinhole cameras are some of the “simplest” cameras that are used to make images today. The only major parts of the pinhole camera are the pinhole lens” and the box of the camera where the film is placed within. No mirror, no shutter mechanisms, no electronics, only a device to control how long the pinhole is open to light. However, making the “lens” is not as easy as sticking a pin through a piece of material and calling it a day.

Dave writes in his blog on the Alfie Cameras website, ‘You need a clean edge to avoid strange artifacts on your image whether it be flares or blurriness. A thin material is essential as you don’t want to create a light tunnel for reflections, not too thin mind as assembly becomes a challenge. We looked at laser cutting, CNC machining and photo etching for our pinholes and in the end decided photo etching was the best option for the Tych.’

A sheet of manufactured pinhole lenses

Image courtesy of Alfie Cameras

Recycling F8 Lenses from Disposable Cameras

The next lens will be an F8 meniscus lens which Dave has repurposed from disposable cameras sourced from Analogue Wonderland. He says the Kodak Funsaver disposable cameras are the best options out of all that he has tested. He does have plans to try to recycle the leftover plastic from the cameras but that’s a project for another day.

Zone Sieve Lens

The most complex lens to make on the Tych is a Zone Sieve lens. This is the third lens that is designed for the camera. Dave talks me through the process and I am amazed at the wonders that exist within photography.

Zone Sieve lenses are created so that lightwaves interfere with each other giving the images a rather dreamy look. First, the lens design has to be created to be a specific pattern that will achieve the desired look. Then it is photographed with panchromatic film with deep blacks. The most important part is getting the scaling right. This film is then used as the lens and acts like a filter.

Alfie Tych PC lens single and double exposure

Example Image – PC lens single and double exposure – Image provided by Alfie Cameras

Fourth Lens Developments

There is space for a fourth lens which Daves hopes will be made from glass optics. However, this process requires a partner to manufacture the glass lenses. Dave has found one in the USA, but the process is slower so this might be something in a future version of the Tych.

At the time I talked to Dave, he was finishing the final prototypes with the three lenses to be able to provide to several beta testers. These beta testers will try the camera, provide feedback, and also share the word on social media channels.

Kickstarter & Future Plans

Right now, Dave’s plan is to have two versions of the Tych available as part of the Kickstarter. The first will be a simplified version to be able to make it available at a lower price point. However, when you think about all that has gone into designing and producing this camera, as well as the longevity of the materials used, the camera is a high-quality, artisanal, well-engineered product. It is meant to last. There will be a fully featured version for a higher backing level for those that want the full-featured Tych camera.

If you have been lamenting the modern-day non-production of new film cameras by manufacturers that aren’t plastic or disposable, this is your chance to support the Alfie Tych project and family business.

Dave is exhibiting the Alfie Tych at the Birmingham NEC Photography Show this September 2022. Be sure to stop by the Analogue Spotlight pod section where you can talk to Dave and check out this brilliant new half-frame 35mm film camera!

To stay updated on Alfie Cameras’ journey, follow their social and internet links here: Web, Instagram, Tiktok, Facebook, and Twitter!

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  • Reply
    August 3, 2022 at 11:51 am

    It’s impressive, with modern tech, using Nikon shutters is a genius move too. But… All that engineering, machining effort to be wasted on pinhole/zone sieve/disposable lenses? With street photography in mind? Half frame with a decent lens already doesn’t have great quality, but that feels like a waste. How about making it interchangeable? L39 mount or adapter to M42 maybe could work well.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 3, 2022 at 5:01 pm

      Maybe one for the future… don’t forget, this is the first new pocket film camera with a proper shutter to hit the market in a long time! We can’t ask for everything straight off, just encourage those doing this sort of thing to do more!

  • Reply
    August 3, 2022 at 4:45 pm

    i wonder if this one will be deleted too

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 3, 2022 at 4:59 pm

      The article? Or camera – sorry, I don’t follow?

  • Reply
    Dr. acula
    August 3, 2022 at 4:57 pm

    Love this. Great to see people making things. Really hope to see this become successful.

  • Reply
    August 4, 2022 at 12:42 am

    Absolutely fantastic. How exciting. I’m definitely going to be putting my name down for a beta version. This ticks so many boxes, I really hope that this is a huge success, with more to follow.

  • Reply
    Jesse Holland
    August 4, 2022 at 8:13 am

    I for one at wildly excited about this project. I love half frame as a concept in saving film, and related to that a way to really stretch out a special single last roll of something for example. The idea of the lens turret design is cool and I would almost suggest having exactly that but also potentially have a tier for “tinkerer” or something with a replaceable turret that users could hack their own lenses in…just a thought and I think this is insanely cool!!

  • Reply
    John-Paul Menez
    August 4, 2022 at 4:59 pm

    Very cool. There’s a spot in my bag this one.

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    August 4, 2022 at 5:53 pm

    I would think it hard to make a camera like this that could appeal to everyone from the getgo. Inevitably bold decisions have to be made about what the specs of the first version are to be achievable as we know, especially Hamish, that hardware is hard/ Then there is the need to grab the interest of the market or at least one part of it. With a business hat on I’d want to be sure I could get that version 1 out of the door. And *then * could think about widening it’s appeal.

    Personally I love the innovation that’s coming from makers in the film community. It’s something to be applauded and supported. Like most people price will have a role to play especially if it doesn’t hit all your buttons. Yes I’d like a better lens given the size of the negs but I’d also like something that was fun so look forward to the Kickstarter for this version.

  • Reply
    Ben Garcia
    August 4, 2022 at 9:28 pm

    This looks lovely! It’s great to see such optimism in film, and ingenuity. I don’t see any mention of apertures, other than the disposable camera lens. So automatic exposure is really referring to shutter speed?

    The lens turret is a neat idea; reminds me of Olympus’ O-Product. I wonder if various lenses and filters can be made so they’re removeable (screw-in) simply using a lens spanner. Dave could then have a variety of lenses available, and users could customize their turret according to their own needs.

  • Reply
    Film Friday: The Alfie TYCH is a new half-frame 35mm camera in need of beta testers: Digital Photography Review - Thepocketsqueeze.com
    August 5, 2022 at 2:32 pm

    […] As for how the Zone Sieve lens is created, camera designer Dave Faulkner tells 35mmc: […]

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