From pinholes to front standards, ONDU is breaking ground on Kickstarter with their new modular large format camera system, the ONDU Eikan 4×5”. Anyone familiar with the company’s current pinhole camera products will know the craftsmanship is of the highest quality. Manufactured locally within 30km of ONDU headquarters in Slovenia, products are hand-made to last generations, something that is starting to feel novel in modern manufacturing. The new large format camera is no exception to ONDU’s quality promise featuring European walnut wood components integrated within an aircraft grade CNC-cut aluminum structure that has been designed as part of a modular expandable system.
The Kickstarter went live on June 20, 2023, and was fully funded by the 23rd. However, the campaign is running until July 27th so there is still time to back the project. There are three foldable and packable options to choose from starting with the ONDU Eikan 4×5″ Standard, moving up to the ONDU Eikan 4×5″ Range, and finally the impressive 4×10″ Panoramikku for panorama-loving photographers.
The Eikan Standard module weighs in at just 1500g, making it the smallest and lightest option of the three modular designs offered in the campaign. Elvis Halilović, the founder of ONDU cameras and long-time large format photographer, says the idea for the Eikan design was formulated gradually, but starting first with wanting to make a camera that was light yet sturdy. Having an alpinism background and lugging around much heavier equipment on climbing trips, something lighter was a must in a camera of his design.
“The first set of images I made were shot in the Dolomites in Italy carrying all of the heavy equipment up the 2000m+ mountain. From there I made a 8×10 camera for my personal work and made a small batch of images with it. This is where I kind of stopped with this format since I always wanted to make my own camera but somehow waited until I would come up with something different.”
The ONDU Eikan 4×5” Standard has a bellows range of 32cm with a rear and front zeroing mechanism that promises to take little time to set up. ONDU recommends this version for large-format photography beginners or for those who are looking for a portable kit that is easy to carry and use.
With a long feature list, the Eikan design has much to offer in terms of simplicity to use but also to kit out the camera. There are a few extra items needed such as lenses and sheet film holders. ONDU has created the Eikan system to be compatible with Linhof boards which opens users up to a wide variety of lens options. It also fits standard sheet film holders that are easy to get a hold of.
For instant photography enthusiasts, ONDU has made the Eikan compatible with Graflok backs such as the Lomograflok. Available as a campaign add-on, Elvis designed a proprietary ground glass screen for the Standard and Range modules for easier focusing when using the Lomograflok Instant Back.
Users can upgrade to the Range or the Panoramikku module for greater shooting capabilities. The Range features longer bellows and a rear-sliding rail that allows a camera extension of 420mm. While it takes a repositioning of 10 screws and 10-15 minutes to do so, ONDU says this is not recommended to be a daily change, although photographers could if they wanted to. On the other hand, they say it is much easier to swap from the Range to the Panoramikku regularly.
The Panoramikku is what it sounds like, a 4×10” panoramic large format module with an extra 470g. The upgrade includes new bellows and an additional rear standard.
Talking about size, the compact camera body measures 210x210x100mm including knobs. Without the knobs, the actual body is 185mm square.
“As far as I’m aware this is the first such modular folding field camera that enables such flexibility and modularity in a lightweight and sleek package” – ONDU Kickstarter Campaign
Elvis tells me he wanted to create something that was more accessible to photographers while maintaining the quality his company has become known for.
“You can see my “portable darkroom mk1” is quite something, and even with my hiking and alpinism background, it was a big undertaking carrying the 35 kilos up the mountains. This is my long-term mission to enable not just large format photography in general but also specific wet plate and dry plate techniques which are currently mostly reserved for studio environments. I think this medium deserves much more.”
On the campaign website, he talks about future plans to expand on the products available for wet plate and dry plate photography, starting with a lightweight system tailored to wet plate. Watch this space!
Follow this link to the Kickstarter to learn more about the specifications and features of the camera or back the project if this is something you are interested in! Units are expected to be sent out between November 2023 and February 2024. You can also follow ONDU for updates on Instagram and Facebook here and here.
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