Custom 6x9 camera
Mods, DIY & Lens Adapting

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

February 15, 2022

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.

30 Comments

  • Reply
    Matt Bigwood
    February 15, 2022 at 2:06 pm

    Great camera, photos and article. I wish I had the skill and technical ability to do something like that.

  • Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    February 15, 2022 at 2:08 pm

    A wonderful project and an excellent write-up. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Dirk Fletcher
      February 15, 2022 at 3:30 pm

      THANK YOU!!

    • Reply
      Martin gomez
      February 20, 2022 at 7:14 pm

      So cool I still use my Corfield WA67 with a mamiya RB 6×8 back I would love a 6×9 camera one day.

      • Reply
        Dirk Fletcher
        February 20, 2022 at 9:57 pm

        That’s a cool camera, a Mamiya 6×8 or a Horseman 6×9 back should work fine on that camera.
        Dirk

  • Reply
    TobyVPhoto
    February 15, 2022 at 5:39 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Lee
    February 15, 2022 at 6:02 pm

    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?

  • Reply
    Arthur Gottschalk
    February 15, 2022 at 6:06 pm

    Wow! Can you make me one?

  • Reply
    Dan Mountin
    February 15, 2022 at 6:25 pm

    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?

    • Reply
      Dirk Fletcher
      February 15, 2022 at 6:55 pm

      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.

      Dirk

  • Reply
    Phildjii
    February 15, 2022 at 7:40 pm

    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?

    • Reply
      Dirk Fletcher
      February 16, 2022 at 9:14 pm

      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.
      Dirk

  • Reply
    Russell Young
    February 16, 2022 at 12:44 am

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

    What finder are you using?

    That’s a beautiful camera.

    • Reply
      Dirk Fletcher
      February 16, 2022 at 12:57 am

      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.
      Dirk

  • Reply
    Bud Sisti
    February 16, 2022 at 5:48 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      Dirk Fletcher
      February 16, 2022 at 9:00 pm

      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.
      Dirk

  • Reply
    Graeme
    February 16, 2022 at 8:13 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    John Semarge
    February 17, 2022 at 1:28 am

    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

    • Reply
      Dirk Fletcher
      February 17, 2022 at 3:11 am

      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!

  • Reply
    Film Friday: Building a custom 6×9 camera using an old Zeiss camera and 47mm Scheider-Kreuznach lens: Digital Photography Review – TechReviewJournals
    February 18, 2022 at 4:03 pm

    […] a thorough post shared on 35mmc, Fletcher explains how this custom creation came to be after much thought, patience and elbow […]

  • Reply
    Alex
    February 18, 2022 at 5:04 pm

    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?

    • Reply
      Dirk Fletcher
      February 19, 2022 at 12:51 am

      I haven’t only because I’m more interested in creating creating and shooting pano in the normal lens area.
      Dirk

  • Reply
    Film Friday: Building a custom 6x9 camera using an old Zeiss camera and 47mm Schneider-Kreuznach lens: Digital Photography Review
    February 18, 2022 at 8:10 pm

    […] a thorough post shared on 35mmc, Fletcher explains how this custom creation came to be after much thought, patience and elbow […]

  • Reply
    Film Friday: Building a custom 6x9 camera using an old Zeiss camera and 47mm Schneider-Kreuznach lens
    February 18, 2022 at 11:43 pm

    […] an in-depth article shared on 35mmc, Fletcher explains how this custom creation came about after a lot of thought, patience and elbow […]

  • Reply
    Movie Friday: Constructing a customized 6×9 digital camera utilizing an outdated Zeiss digital camera and 47mm Schneider-Kreuznach lens: Digital Pictures Evaluate | Universelol
    February 21, 2022 at 7:38 am

    […] an intensive publish shared on 35mmc, Fletcher explains how this practice creation got here to be after a lot thought, persistence and […]

  • Reply
    Peter
    March 19, 2022 at 7:43 am

    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.

  • Reply
    Duncan Gruer
    July 22, 2022 at 5:03 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    Dirk Fletcher
    July 22, 2022 at 5:43 pm

    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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.

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

Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-Free Experience -Click here to find out more
+