Jon Grepstad
    Large Format Photography

On 1st November 2015 my website will move to

Now available free of charge online:

Jon Grepstad: Building a Large Format Camera.

ISBN 82-993938-1-7

Plans and Instructions for Building a 4 x 5 Monorail Camera.
Second, revised edition. Oslo, Norway 2000.

My book Building a Large Format Camera is an 85 page manual with instructions and plans for building a 4 x 5 in. monorail camera with friction focusing. The book has 30 step-by-step drawings, 23 sketches and 11 photographs, a wealth of references to relevant literature and numerous useful addresses in the US and Europe. Most drawings are to scale.

The first edition of my book appeared in 1996. For the second edition, which was published at the beginning of January 2000, 20 new illustrations have been inserted in the text, 10 photos of the camera have been added, more sources of information on bellows-making have been included, and the literature and references have been updated. I have also added as an option a more sophisticated ground glass frame design and also a few paragraphs on scaling the plans up for an 8 x 10 camera.

Materials: Hardwood, brass, rail. Skills needed: Average woodworking skills. The camera has been designed so that it does not require very advanced skills or tools to build. Tools: Electric drill, various handsaws, miter box, c-clamps, files, carpenter's square, other ordinary tools. To be bought: Standard bellows (may also be handmade), ground glass (you may also make your own ground glass), lens.

My book can now be downloaded free of charge here:

The measurements in my manual are metrical. Noah Kelly has kindly converted all of the measurements on the materials list to imperial (inches): Please note that my book is copyrighted and cannot be uploaded to other websites without my permission.

Camera features:

  • Front Tilt (limited only by bellows)
  • Rear Tilt (limited only by bellows)
  • Swings (limited only by bellows)
  • Lateral Shift (40 mm or 1 3/4" off center, may be customized)
  • Front Rise (50 mm or 2", may be customized)
  • Front Fall (25-40 mm or 1-1 1/2", may be customized)
  • Rear Rise/Fall (none)
  • Maximum Extension (depends on bellows)
  • Weight (approx. 2,5-3 kg or 6 lbs, depends on materials)
  • Repositional Back (Vert/Horiz)
  • Size of camera proper, with optical bench removed (approx 25 x 25 x 10 cm or 10" x 10" x 4")

A few drawings from my manual:


1 Large Format Cameras
    1.1 Benefits of Large Format Cameras
    1.2 Drawbacks of Large Format Cameras
2 Designing and Building a Large Format Camera
    2.1 List of Materials
3 The Basic Outline
4 The Construction Process
    4.1 The Front and Rear Frames
    4.2 The Lens Board
    4.3 The Spring Back
    4.4 Lock Mechanism for the Lens Board
    4.5 Lock Mechanism for the Spring Back
    4.6 Standards
    4.7 The Optical Bench
    4.8 Mounting the Lens on the Lens Board
    4.9 Attaching the Bellows
    4.10 Finishing the Wood
5 Testing the Camera
    5.1 Testing for Light Leaks
    5.2 Testing Focusing
6 Appendices
    6.1 Making a Ground Glass
    6.2 Making a Bellows
    6.3 Making a Camera Case
    6.4 Step-up Adapter for the 5 x 7 Format
    6.5 Scaling the Plans up for an 8 x 10 Camera
7 Notes on Lenses for Beginners
    7.1 Covering Power of Lenses
    7.2 Normal, Wide-Angle and Telephoto Lenses
    7.3 Buying a Lens
8 Operating the Camera
    8.1 Loading Film Holders
    8.2 Taking Pictures
    8.3 Exposure and Bellows Factor
    8.4 Depth of Field, Hyperfocal Distance, Circle of Confusion
and Depth of Focus
    8.5 Camera Movements
    8.6 Developing Sheet Film

Addendum: A More Elaborate Ground Glass Frame
Pictures of the Camera
Literature and References
Addresses (US, UK and Scandinavian)
Conversion Table

Figures (Drawings)

The measurements in my manual are metrical. A conversion table is included at the end of the book.

Freeware and shareware conversion programs are found here.

Last updated 24 November 2011.

© 1996 Jon Grepstad

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