Custom 6x9 camera

A Custom Compact And Affordable 6×9 With A Heart For Travel – By Dirk Fletcher

I’ve built a bunch of conversions out of a vintage folding Zeiss 520/15. Most of these 6×12 cameras end up with a  65mm f/8 lens.  It wasn’t until I was commissioned to build a similar 6×9 camera that the format caught my attention. The client wanted  a 65mm to get the feel of his 28mm lens on a 35mm camera. Here is the camera I came up with for him.

Once I complete and delivered the camera, I realized how much I really liked the Zeiss 6×9 body. The 6×9 fits in a digital camera bag easier than a similar 6×12. This led me to build one for myself. I was unable to find a clean donor body.  With paint striper, the leather and 80 year old paint and an all silver conversion became an idea. 

Finding a clean and usable 47mm lens proved to be a bigger challenge than I was expecting. When I build the 6×12 conversions, the donor camera bodies are hard to find. Clean 65mm f/8 Super Angulon are quite plentiful. After almost six months a super clean 47mm f/5.6 Super Angulon surfaced and I was in business. Not all custom cameras come together looking this good. Some better looking than others, this one is a rare looker! In addition, it fits in a camera bag beside its modern digital counterparts perfectly.

The John Robert Dam in Albuquerque
The John Robert Dam in Albuquerque
Bridge Underpass in Carmel Indiana
Bridge Underpass in Carmel Indiana photographed with a custom built 6×9 camera.

Liking my personal chrome camera so much that when a clean f/8 Super Angulon presented itself,  I had to buy it. Using my camera as a template, I emerged from my shop with a shadow of its shiny chrome brother.  Both cameras are ‘scale’ or ‘zone focused’ with helical focusing mounts between the Super Angulon and the body. I’ve mounted an Arca plate perpendicular to the camera body which serves two purposes.  It keeps the camera body flat when sitting on a flat surface but equally important, it keeps pressure off of the helical when the camera is stuffed in a camera bag. The camera gives you eight frames on a roll of 120 film. Film advance is via  a red window on the back door. Because of the red window advance, 220 film cannot be used.

All of my recent custom cameras use the same low profile accessory shoe for the finder.  The spring accessory shoe holds the viewfinder much tighter and more secure than a flash shoe.

As a finishing touch, I remembered picking up a 49mm Linhof branded chrome lens shade.  After a quick search (and ordering a 40.5 to 49mm step up ring on Amazon which is SO much faster than waiting for one from eBay to show up) the chrome shade on the chrome lens with everything else on the camera blacked out looks really good. Instead of painting the lens board I covered it with with black leather so it would match the camera even better.

Overall view of camera

Top view of 6x9conversion47mmSA

Rear view of 6x9 camera conversion
Rear view of 6×9 conversion

Indoor view of 6x9 conversion

Custom 6x9 camera test shot
Custom 6×9 camera test shot
Traveling 9/11 memorial
Traveling 9/11 memorial Photographed with custom built 6×9 camera.

Construction of 6x9 conversion

It’s a terrific little camera designed to be shot alongside a modern digital system. Of course, it holds its own in the driver’s seat as well! I shoot film alongside digital and work to make my film cameras as simple to use as possible.

Some of my other medium and large format cameras can be seen here.

I’m so happy to see a refreshed interest in film cameras. I kinda wish the prices of older film cameras wasn’t going up along with the interest. Shooting film is in my dna, I’ll always shoot it in some capacity.

Thanks for reading, you can see additional imagery on Instagram

Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-free Experience

There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:

Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you'll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).
Subscribe here.

Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.

About The Author

33 thoughts on “A Custom Compact And Affordable 6×9 With A Heart For Travel – By Dirk Fletcher”

  1. This is a beautiful looker. I have a Voigtlander Bessa 69 and it’s one of my favourite cameras.
    I’ve always wanted a more modern version and this one looks like my dream.
    Thank you. Nice work.

  2. Dirk, what a cool article and what unique cameras. Do you make these cameras just for yourself or do you work on a commission basis? While I saw images of all the custom cameras on your website, there was no price list or place to shop for one if a person was interested? What kind of pricing are we talking here for a wide 6×9 or a 6×12 panoramic model?

  3. What a beautiful camera! Your skills are exemplary!

    Would some of the Russian folders and lenses be good donors? As someone who is very new to the custom camera world and fascinated with your builds, (I clicked on the link to you site and looked at a couple of your builds), I’m interested in your thoughts. While not of the same quality as their German counterparts, I’d think that from a cost standpoint, Russian donor hardware would be a great place to start experimenting with. What do you think?

    1. I’ve never worked on one of the Russian folders but there is no reason that it wouldn’t work. If you can find one with a bad lens there is no reason not to give it a try.


  4. You cameras —and pictures— always inspire me! I still have to finish building my Super-Anguslo (A Nimslo 3D body + 47 /5.6). The hardest to find now is a matching helical as the 47 only needs a 2.5 mm extension. Where do you find yours?

    1. The cool thing is in the last couple years some affordable helical options became available. I think we have the telescope world to thank because before these popped up helicals were $300-$400 bucks! My normal combo that most cameras use is a M58 to M58, 17mm-31mm helical, from eBay. You have the option for brass or ‘not brass’ but the price is only a couple dollars more for the brass so I’d go with the brass one. You can then use a 58mm Cokin P flang for the camera side and a 58mm filter filter stacker for the other side. For the 6×9 cameras the helical had to fit inside the height of the camera (for the 47mm to achieve infinity focus) so I needed to find a smaller helical. I ended up using a m52 to m42 as a 52mm Cokin P flange was available. The m42 filter stackers aren’t made but you can find a metal m42 screw in cap nit it’s super deep. I’ve been able to cut the cap down in height without ruining the threads that are still needed to screw into the front on the helical.
      Hope this helps, good luck with your project, I’d love to see a pic when it’s completed.

  5. Much like my ancient Graflex XLSW with the 47 Super Angulon…

    What finder are you using?

    That’s a beautiful camera.

    1. Thanks Russel,
      The silver camera is shown with a 21/25mm Voigtlander but I actually swapped it with a 21mm Contax finder that is a bit larger but easier to use if you wear glasses. The 47mm f/8 camera is using a 21mm TTArtisan finder that’s quite nice.

  6. I have no doubt that these are great shooters, but first and foremost, I’m blown away by your sense of design and aesthetics. These are exquisite; congratulations on such beautiful workmanship!

    1. Thanks SO MUCH for saying that! I try to make them look as good as I can. For some conversions, I’ve tried different colors and combinations before settling on a finish for a camera.

  7. Dirk, I suspect the price will fall outside my budget and the last thing in the world I need is yet another camera but I have to know: Could you send me details please? I just want a ballpark figure. Many thanks for a very interesting article.

  8. Dirk- just curious, what’s the lighting setup on the first couple of images? It looks super nice, I’d like to photograph things like that. Cheers

    1. The technical description is this: to the left of the subject camera (and my left) is a 20 foot x 15 foot white reflector which is great to make both silver and the black cameras look good. Silver cameras need a large diffused white source if you want to get a smooth and even reflection in the metal. Behind the subject camera (on my right is a large white diffusion panel to soften hard light that is hitting the camera. Using a large panel also gives a nice smooth reflection across the top of the camera. If you look at my Flickr page, the older cameras were all photographed this way but the last few I started adding a silver reflector just to my left as I like how the black focusing helical looks with a little pop of hard light.

      Now the un-technical description is quite similar but MUCH more practical. I wait until the afternoon and put the camera I’m photographing on a tripod about a foot or two in front of my white garage door which gets full sun light in the afternoon. Use a white diffusion panel or scrim between the sun and camera you are photographing and bam, you are cooking with fire. If you are photographing something darkish add a 12 inch or 20 inch silver reflector to pop it up a tad. Usually the silver reflector is low and to my left so hard sunlight hits it. If you don’t have a scrim, a cheap shower curtain will work just fine and the bottom of a cookie sheet makes a fantastic shiny silver reflector. For smaller subjects, the inside of a take home food container with a cardboard on one side and aluminum foil looking is a fantastic reflector.

      If you look in the lens of most of the shots, you can see the garage door reflected, lol!

  9. Pingback: Film Friday: Building a custom 6×9 camera using an old Zeiss camera and 47mm Scheider-Kreuznach lens: Digital Photography Review – TechReviewJournals

  10. That’s a nice result and a courageous thought behind it, not fearing to hybridize mechanical parts and historical eras. Congrats! Have you got a chance to compare the quality of the shots made with the Angulon lens you installed and the original Novar or Tessar which normally have the largest aperture of f4.5? In what sense the Angulon is different with a 6×9 or 9×12 film at the same aperture values, say at f8 or f11?

  11. Pingback: Film Friday: Building a custom 6x9 camera using an old Zeiss camera and 47mm Schneider-Kreuznach lens: Digital Photography Review

  12. Pingback: Film Friday: Building a custom 6x9 camera using an old Zeiss camera and 47mm Schneider-Kreuznach lens

  13. Pingback: Movie Friday: Constructing a customized 6×9 digital camera utilizing an outdated Zeiss digital camera and 47mm Schneider-Kreuznach lens: Digital Pictures Evaluate | Universelol

  14. This is one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen in photography gear for a while. Impressed that you not only made them look so good, but judging by the results managed the technical/mechanical challenges perfectly. Great job and great photos to accompany the story. Thanks for the work that went into it.

  15. The looks of these things are wonderful! I love that you are repurposing old folding cameras, which tend to be treated as junk, and turning them into beautiful instruments with great optics. What would be your perfect donor camera for a 6×9, and is there any value in building one with the facility to change lenses (LTM, say)? … accepting that you might only be able to do this while you’re changing films.

  16. I have thought about it, perhaps a 47mm/65mm would work if the sizing would work where the 47mm would be a point and shoot without a focusing helical and the 65mm used a helical. As I usually carry one film camera while shooting digitally, I generally like the film camera to be a single focal length. I’m loving my personal conversion which is the silver one with a 47mm f/5.6 lens with black and white.

  17. Very cool build – one thing, how do you determine /source the right type of helicoid to use for a particular lens?

    I shoot some 4×5 with a Nikkor-w 150mm and I’ve been meaning to try making a usable 6×9 camera with it for ages.


  18. How do you determine /source the right type of helicoid to use for a particular lens?

    I shoot some 4×5 with a Nikkor-w 150mm and I’ve been meaning to try making a usable 6×9 camera with it for ages.


  19. Honestly it was trial and error until I found a combo that’s works for the camera that I’m working on. I mostly build 6×12 conversions that use a 17mm m58/m58 helical, this camera uses a smaller m52/m42 helical to keep it within the opening of the camera. You can find them on eBay, I think they are initially made for telescopes but they work perfectly for custom cameras.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top